Beth Blair, the author of The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America, has visited MOA now that it is open to the public again. Here is what to expect when visiting the Mall of America during COVID-19.
Like many other venues across the country, in March of this year, the Mall of America (MOA) closed its doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The original plan was to reopen at the end of March, but the date was extended almost three months until June 10th. While MOA has space for 500 shops, roughly 150 stores reopened. Today, MOA appears to be settling into its new normal, as more stores and attractions reopen and shoppers return.
The Mall of America has a 50% occupancy limit. Therefore, MOA reduced available parking spaces by more than 50%. However, the Park Assist is a MOA parking garage game changer. The camera-based system helps shoppers find open parking places quickly with lights overhead aligned with parking places. Green lights reveal open spots, while occupied spots glow red. Blue lights show where accessible parking is available.
From the moment shoppers enter the Mall of America, the safety precautions and visitor expectations are clear. Freestanding touchless hand sanitizer greets customers at entries, and large signs remind guests to practice social distancing and point out the other safety initiatives in the mall, including reduced seating in the food courts and common areas.
Floor stickers provide one-way traffic guidance and social distancing reminders. Plexiglas dividers on cashier counters are used as safety barriers between employees and guests. Store occupancy numbers are posted at the doorways.
Fitting rooms are closed. However, many stores are offering extended return policies. In addition, MOA’s retail hours are reduced (now 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) to allow for disinfecting and deep cleaning overnight.
The Parental Escort Policy (PEP) (children under 16 must not be without a chaperone over age 21) is currently in place, starting at 3 p.m. and enforced daily.
In restrooms signs remind visitors to practice safe distances and utilize touchless flush devices, facets, soap dispensers, and hand dryers.
The most obvious safety measure is the mandated masks for anyone visiting or working at MOA. On July 25th Minnesota Governor Walz mandated that face coverings/masks must be worn in all indoor venues. The expectation is that masks cover the nose and mouth completely. Children five years and under and people with special medical conditions are exempt from the mask requirement. MOA does not provide masks for visitors, but many retailers offer masks for sale.
MOA’s largest attraction, the 7-acre Nickelodeon Universe theme park, reopened in August with limited rides and many common safety measures. Social distancing is on the forefront, as the park is limited to a capacity of 250 guests and masks are required for all park-goers (including on rides).
Normally guests can enter the park freely from several entrances, but that’s temporarily changed. For now, the only open entrance is on the north side of the mall under El Circulo Del Cielom, the Dora Ferris Wheel. All park-goers must purchase a 2-hour wristband. The good news is that the reduced number of people allowed in the park means limited lines at rides.
Entry into Nickelodeon Universe is on a first-come, first-served basis. If capacity is met, customers are put in a virtual queue that notifies guests via text when space is available.
The rides currently open are:
Diego’s Rescue Rider
Fairly Odd Coaster
Pepsi Orange Streak
Rock Bottom Plunge
SEA LIFE, with a 1.3 million gallon aquarium and the new Brave the Rainforest, reopened but with heightened safety measures similar to Nickelodeon Universe. Masks are required for all entrants age 5 and up and no more than 25% occupancy is allowed in the attraction. The best way to secure an entry is to purchase tickets online.
The Crayola Experience also reopened recently and has stringent guest expectations, including cashless expectations, clear bags for touchless security screening, temperature checks, timed entry, and capacity restrictions. Mask requirements start at age 3.
In our experience, the Mall of America is safe and (still) a fun place to visit. We suggest you follow safety protocols and enjoy the mall and its attractions. As stores and attractions continue to reopen, review Mall of America’s Now Open page to know exactly what retailers are open.