Tag Archives: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Visitors Center

The Mall of America (MOA), located in the east side of Bloomington, is just one of the many travel treasures to explore by bike, when visiting.

Exploring Bloomington’s east side by bicycle for hidden treasures

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

The Mall of America (MOA) is just one of several travel treasures to explore when visiting Bloomington, MN. Along with many exciting activities at the Mall, venturing out on a bike can an make it easy to see more south metro attractions. With designated bike routes and commuter paths along the area streets, it’s easy to spend several days seeing the sights.

Bicycling to MOA from American Boulevard.

Bicycling to MOA from American Boulevard.

When visiting Bloomington, the MOA makes an excellent multi-modal gathering point to see all the treasures here. By starting at the MOA’s north parking lot and pedaling east, it is less than a mile and a half to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Center. Along the way, you can stop by the Northwest Airlines Museum to learn more about Minnesota’s aeronautical history.

If you like watching big planes land and takeoff it is fun to take the northern bike route to the viewing station at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. To the west, less than five miles, saddle up the family for a days adventure at the Works Museum. To the south along the Minnesota River Valley mountain bikers and hikers alike will find hours of fun.

Starting at MOA adds to the fun exploring Bloomington’s attractions

One of many bike parking racks at the Mall of America.

On the north side, one of many bike parking racks at the Mall of America.

A revolutionary place for shopping, entertainment, and attractions, John Emerson says it best, “I like using the MOA as a meeting point when biking around the south metro. It’s nice, and I can come a little early or stay after a bike ride and get some shopping in, or grab a bite to eat. Plus, getting to and from the Mall is easy with the bike-friendly sidewalks, access to light-rail and ample bike parking.” We agree with John, and the Mall makes the perfect multi-modal commuting hub to explore Bloomington on two-wheels.

From the Mall of America’s north parking lot, the sidewalk/trail running parallel to American Boulevard works well as a bike commuter route along the 494 Freeway strip. Once at the Mall you will find bike racks near most of the main entrances and lockers inside for changing clothes.

If you are coming in by Metro Transit (bus or light rail), use the lower ramp on the east side. There are plenty of bike racks next to the bus station to secure your bicycle. For more information see MOA services and map.

Northwest Airlines History Center Museum

Riding east from the Mall, a tour rider can stop at the Crowne Plaza Hotel where the NW Airline Museum is located.

One of the displays at the Northwest Airline Museum.

One of the many displays at the Northwest Airline Museum.

Located one mile east of the Mall of America the Northwest Airlines History Center Museum is worth checking out. Here you will find Minnesota’s home-town airline of the past. Visiting you will see over 4,000 aviation artifacts, from 1926 to 1998, to sift through. Plus, a gallery of photos hanging in the hotel hallways to enjoy as you make your way to the museum. It is easy to spend a couple of hours looking at the various collection here!

What you may discover at this home-town airline attraction

According to the Minnesota Historical Society’s review, you will find records on air routes, aircraft accidents, hijackings and more. Also, see information and video on Northwest’s involvement in World War II. In the airlines, correspondents section discover communications with aircraft manufacturers and aviators like Amelia Earhart. There are also newspaper accounts of the 1989 takeover of NWA Inc. and the company’s brush with bankruptcy.

To find the museum in the Crowne Plaza Aire MSP Hotel, at Two Appletree Square, take the elevator in the lobby to the 3rd Floor. As you make your way to the museum, enjoy the photos along the hallway. If the weather isn’t conducive for bicycling to the museum consider using the light-rail from the Mall of America. The Hotel is across the street from the 34th Avenue Blue-line station.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The castle-like presence of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Visitors Center.

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Visitors Center are overlooking the river and wetlands below.

A short distance east of the airline museum and across from the Hilton Hotel is the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Visitors Center. Its grand stature overlooking the river valley below offers a castle-like presence. Inside it feels more significant than the average visitors center, and it is. It has everything including information on the wildlife that calls the refuge home. In the theater and interactive exhibits, kids of all ages can learn about the wonders of the natural world. There are also several large murals that are made out of tiny pictures of animals that can be found inside.

Step outdoors, right behind the center you will find a stone observation deck with two telescopes. Here it’s easy to focus on flora and fauna across the river valley while relaxing in centers natural surroundings.

Take a walk and get close to nature

If you are up for a walk and want to get close to nature, take a hike on one of the well-managed trails in the refuge. Walk at your own pace and stop periodically to reflect on the serenity of nature. As you explore some of Minnesota’s environment, you will find sitting areas scattered along the path to pause and reflect.

Long Meadow Trail

At some point, if you walk far enough, you’ll connect to a dirt road known as the Long Meadow Trail. This multi-use trail takes you up the river valley to the old Cedar Bridge and beyond. Along the path you will pass by fields that grow long grass; trees that now and then shelter you from the blazing sun; waterfowl floating in the wetlands; and a bridge that takes you over the Minnesota River. If you’re lucky enough you might even pass by an artist seeking inspiration from what’s around them and putting it on canvas.

Maps and Q-sheet make it easy to find these attractions from the MOA

With free admission to get into these two attractions, getting there by bicycle can add to the fun and memories. First, look at the map on pages 40-41 of the 2018 Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then copy the turn-by-turn Q-sheet for your next bike adventure to the NWA Museum and Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Center.

From the MOA Entrance on the northside!                                                                                         0.0 Cross the north MOA parking lot
0.2 Right on East American Boulevard (sidewalk trail or street)
1.1 Cross 34th Ave. NW Airlines Museum/Crown Plaza Hotel (SE corner)
1.3 Entrance to the MN Valley Wildlife Center (across from the Hilton Hotel)

If a Viking scrimmage is of interest, continue riding east                                                                See information here on bicycling to the new Vikings Training Camp for a game this summer.

The Works Museum can engineer fun for the whole family

Plenty of bike parking is available at the Works Museum.

Plenty of bike parking is available at the Works Museum.

A five-mile bike ride west of the Mall of America, in Bloomington, brings you and your kids to the Works Museum for some mind-expanding fun.

In the interactive Experience Gallery, your family can experiment with simple machines, structures, and shapes that have sensors and imaging and optical technologies. Your kids can touch, try and build as they explore how things work.

The Workshop in the museum is a new creative space for families. This space is perfect for the youngsters in your home. Especially for those who like to sew, build things, or create art — the ideal place for a bonding exercise with your child. In the art department classes will help you and your child produce a stop-motion animation video together. Another level allows you to create your own LED sign and there are many more classes to select.

The Works Museum is located at 9740 Grand Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55420.

Maps and Q-sheet make it easy to find the Works Museum from the MOA

Getting to the Works Museum by bicycle can add to the fun and memories when visiting with the family. First, look at the map on pages 40-41 of the 2018 Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then copy the turn-by-turn Q-sheet for your next bike adventure to this museum.

Please note – the following route offers a combination of roads with parallel bike/walk paths and quiet neighborhood streets.

From the MOA north side entrance to the Works Museum!                                                             0.0 Cross the north MOA parking lot
0.2 Right on East American Boulevard (sidewalk trail or street)
0.9 Left on 12th Avenue
1.2 Right on 82nd Street
1.4 West onto trail across Smith Park
1.6 Left (south) Park Street
2.1 Right on 86th Street
2.5 Left on 3rd Avenue
3.0 Right 90th Street (Bloomington Aquatic Center)
3.2 Left on Nicollet
3.6 Right on 93rd Street
3.7 Left on Blaisdell Avenue
3.9 Right on 95th Street
4.2 Left on Grand Avenue
4.5 Cross 97 ½ Street into the Works Museum

Watch the plans at the MSP Aircraft Viewing Station

The MSP Observation Area for those wishing to watch the big planes land and take off.

The MSP Observation Area for those wishing to watch the big planes land and take off.

Another fun opportunity to ride your bike from the Mall of America includes a visit to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Viewing Station.

From the MOA to the MSP Aircraft Viewing Station! 
0.0 Cross the north MOA parking lot
0.2 Right on East American Boulevard (sidewalk trail or street)
0.9 Right on 12th Avenue
1.6 Right on Diagonal Boulevard
1.9 Left on Bloomington Avenue
2.4 Right on 86th Street
2.6 Left on Old Cedar Avenue
2.9 Right 66th Street across Cedar Avenue
3.0 Left (south) Longfellow Avenue
3.5 Left Cargo Road
4.0 MSP Aircraft Viewing Station

Check here for more fun activities, attractions and hotels to bike to when staying or visiting Bloomington, MN.