Insider’s guide to Mall of America holiday shopping

With more than 500 stores, free concerts and coffee plus valet parking, Mall of America bustles all December.

Enjoy MOA’s festive Christmas season 

Feature & photos by Lisa Meyers McClintick
If you’re want to brave the crowds for holiday shopping at Minnesota’s Mall of America, there are plenty of reasons to join in the festivities.
Mall of America’s Disney store
Here’s what you should know to be a savvy holiday shopper at the Mall of America and to make the most of your experience.
Best bit of advice? Take a day or half-day off and make it fun. Why? Because some of the best services are Monday through Wednesday from 1 to 7 pm, which is this year’s MOA Holiday Happy Hour.

Make MOA parking easy:

If you can get your shopping done during Holiday Happy Hour,Mall of America offers free valet parking at the mall’s north entrance. Follow valet parking signs from 24th Avenue. Valet parking also is available from 7 pm to closing Monday through Wednesday and 10 am to close Thursday through Sunday, but it costs $10.
Besides not needing to troll for a good parking spot, you can text the valet crew to get your car and have it warm and ready when you’re ready to go.

Grab free coffee

Hair salon at Mall of America’s America Girl store.
Stop by one of five Caribou coffee locations in Mall of America and use the secret code (“Happy Hour”) for a free 12-ounce cup of coffee. It will give you the pick-up you need when shopping energy flags. If you’re really lucky, you might catch a surprise giveaway, free treats or gift cards given out by holiday helpers.

Sit with Santa

 Kids can visit Santa at the Sears Court from 9 or 10 am to 7 or 8 pm daily through Dec. 24 without any appointment. Avoid the 1 to 2 pm or 5 to 6 pm break times. You also can schedule a more intimate photo session with Santa through

Let the kids play Nintendo

 If you or your kids need a break or a distraction from the shopping hubbub, head to West Market Square for the Mall of America’s Nintendo Holiday Mall Experience. It’s a chance to try out its new 2DS, Wii U and 3DS XL, as well as sample new games.

Shop MOA, earn ride wristbands

If you spend $250 between late November and Dec. 24, you can earn two free wristbands good for all rides at Nickelodeon Universe. That, too, makes a great gift for grandkids. To get the Nickelodeon Universe wristbands, take receipts to the park’s north entrance. Wristbands must be used by Feb. 28, 2014.

Enjoy a new light show

 Grab a spot on the second or third floor overlooking Nickelodeon Universe to see the new Universe of Light show. The nine-minute presentation with lights, music and smoke effects runs at 7 pm and 9:30 pm Monday through Thursday, 7 and 10 pm Friday and Saturday and at 7 pm Sunday. Universe of Light is staged from Nickelodeon’s South Entrance.

Enjoy holiday songs and carols

Mall of America mirror maze
The Rotunda fills with music 10 am to 8 pm every Saturday throughout the holidays with a variety of school groups, church groups and professional musicians that make it festive to stop and take a break. You can grab seats in the Rotunda or watch from the upper levels that overlook it. Don’t miss registering to win a Goo Goo Dolls autographed Fender guitar and album or a necklace set courtesy of Chapel of Love.

Check for other MOA holiday events

There’s truly always something happening throughout December at the Mall of America, so check the events page. You can catch a booksigning by Minnesota Vikings legend Bud Grant, test out Anki DRIVE racing games, test out Canon’s PIXMA Facebook app or gather ideas for Bisquick holiday pancakes.
Read more about the Mall of America’s top attractions and enjoying a memorable holiday here with children.