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Much More Than a Suburb

By Todd R. Berger

Disc golf at Hyland Hills in Bloomington CREDIT Bloomington Convention & Visitors Bureau

It really doesn’t get more convenient for meetings and events in Minnesota than gathering in Bloomington. The city sits directly across Interstate 494 from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; is home to the largest shopping mall in the country, which is also the city’s biggest meeting space; and harbors natural areas on one-third of the city’s land area. And with construction of the largest indoor water park in the nation likely to be completed by 2025 and with Bloomington’s status as one of five cities being considered for the 2027 World’s Fair, the future shines for the fourth-largest city in Minnesota.

VIBE: “Bloomington [is] charming, but it also offers big thrills, which, of course, [we’re] talking about Mall of America,” Bonnie Carlson, president and CEO of the Bloomington Convention & Visitors Bureau, says, while admitting she borrowed the description from a recently visiting travel writer. In addition to the teeming mall and the urban feel to much of the city, “most of the properties back up to nature sites,” she adds. “If you can go out for a walk during your lunch break or something, it’s terrific. We had a meeting that was at the Hyatt Regency Bloomington-Minneapolis, and it was just lovely to be able to go out and walk around that campus. I think most of our hotels offer that option.”

TRANSPORTATION: The centrally located international airport borders Bloomington to the north, with hotel shuttles, taxis, and ride-sharing app services all offering a lift for the short ride south to the city. Two major freeways—Interstates 35W and 494—run through the city, and the Metro Blue Line light rail glides from Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis (where you can transfer to the Metro Green Line to reach downtown St. Paul).

The Metro Orange Line Bus Rapid-Transit express service has stations along I-35W, a highway that bisects the city and travels north to downtown Minneapolis, a mere 15 minutes away.

HOTELS: Bloomington’s room count totals 9,500 in mostly well-known hotel chains. The largest is the DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomington-Minneapolis South, which has more than 85,000 square feet of event space. Properties from Embassy Suites and Hyatt are sprinkled around the city. The Radisson Blu Mall of America and the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America bookend the north and south sides of the mall, allowing indoor access to the huge event spaces.

RESTAURANTS: Ciao Bella serves a fresh take on Italian cuisine prepared with regional ingredients. Hazelwood Food + Drink plates modern comfort food (think steak, walleye, and gourmet burgers), while Kincaid’s Fish, Chops & Steaks will place mahi mahi, lobster tail, or prime rib in front of you. You will also find fine dining and inventive cocktails at the Radisson Blu Mall of America’s FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, and you can devour the Smack Shack Original Lobster Roll at Smack Shack. Additionally, over 50 more restaurants call Mall of America home.

Radisson Blu Mall of America’s FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar CREDIT FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar

MUST-SEES AND -DOS: Carlson notes some of her favorites, “Normandale Community College has a Japanese garden. … It’s unique. Then we have Spruce Shad- ows Sheep Farm [and] Bush Lake Ski Jump, which is an active ski jump. We also have Hyland Hills, which is a [downhill and cross-country] ski area. They redid their whole chalet, and they host [events]; they do things in the summer like outdoor movies on the hill, and they have a grill in there where you can stop for lunch or a little happy hour.”