Earlier this year I had the fortune to attend a conference that was hosted by the Radisson Blu Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, adjacent to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Whenever I attend a conference, I always stay on site, at whatever the headquarter hotel is. This trip was no different, but it was one of the best conference and accomodation experiences I have ever had!
Radisson Blu MOA has many things going for it.
- It is less than 10 minutes away from the MSP airport, and like many good hotels these days, offers a free shuttle in either direction.
- Probably the most unique thing: it is adjacent to the Mall of America, the largest indoor entertainment and shopping mall in the United States. And when I say adjacent, I mean CONNECTED. You can walk across a very short covered skyway to the 2nd level entrance to MOA, or in good weather, walk outside the lobby door and across the vehicle arrival circle to the first level of the MOA.
- It is still easy access to both of the Twin Cities, thanks to the Metro Transit Light Rail having a station at the MOA.
- a very good hotel restaurant and popular bar
- a state-of-the-art fitness center and saltwater indoor pool
- very comfortable and spacious rooms, well-equiped for the latest technology
- and, for conference needs, meeting facilities that are mere steps from the 2nd level lobby area… no long hallways to the far side of the complex
Having the Mall of America at your doorstep, is an amazing thing, whether you are a shopper or not. There are more than 50 restaurant and casual dining options available. And, of course, there’s endless entertainment for all ages by way of 12 movie theaters, the Minnesota Aquarium, a comedy club (House of Comedy), the Lego store, Crayola Experience, and most famously — the world’s largest indoor amusement park (over 7 acres!) Nickolodean Universe, featuring Fly Over America, and 27 other exciting rides and roller coasters. And for the shoppers, there are 520 stores! So, no matter if you need a drugstore, or to grab a bite to eat, or have to go shopping to buy something you may have forgotten when packing, I promise you can find it at the MOA. Need souvenirs to take back home to family and friends? There are TWO different Minnesota shops very close to the skyway from the Radisson Blu.
If the above isn’t enough, and you still need any more convincing that it’s one of the best options for a hotel in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area… read on for the details.
I stayed at the Radisson Blu MOA for five nights, so I got a pretty good sampling of experiences to be able to critically review this property. Sometimes when you stay only one night, things can happen, that aren’t the usual routine for a hotel, and that can tarnish an impression. I can honestly say my experience throughout my stay was excellent. From check in to check out, things were handled smoothly and efficiently, with one small exception — but that was more than made up for by all my other positive experiences.
What an entrance!
If you arrive after dark, as you pull up around the corner to the front entrance, you’ll be mesmirized by the blue glow of lights that illuminate the front of the hotel.
The first thing you can’t help but notice is the shallow but very long lobby area with a huge 2-story glowing wall in front of you. It’s not like anything you’ve probably seen before. There is a long check-in desk to the right, but to the left, you’ll see a waiting area that just begs to be sat in…. hanging woven basket-like pods, low hassocks, and a wall of fire invite you over, even before you want to get your room key. Lots of great photo opps here, including a mirror with the Radisson Blu logo and hashtag for your first selfie!
When I checked in, it was unfortunately after a long travel day with both a cancelled flight and a delayed connection. The capable clerk checking me in was quite sympathetic, and tried her best to make my arrival be smoother and faster than my transportation experience had been. Fresh flowers on the front desk definitely go a long way to present a welcoming feel when you’ve been on the road far too long. Unfortunately though (and surprisingly too), there is not bell service to help you with your bags to your room. They will store your bags temporarily however, if needed when you are coming and going to the airport.
Once you’ve secured your key, you can take either an elevator up to the second level (boring) but I recommend the escalator – which you don’t immediately see when you first arrive. You don’t realize until the desk tells you to go around the corner… behind that big wall facing you, is the magic moving staircase to slowly, and grandly, take you up and down to the main level of the hotel action. It’s on this level where you’ll find the bar, restaurant, conference facilities, and the skyway over to the Mall of America, as well as a VERY large table for meeting up with other folks or working alone at. You’ll also find a separate bank of secure elevators (key coded) to the upper guest room floors.
My comfortable and spacious Radisson accomodations
Upon entering my junior suite, the first thing I couldn’t help but notice was the sparkling black granite floor in the entrance area. I was already in a semi-trance from all the blue glowing lights, the warm and friendly service, the grand entrance ride up the escalator, and now this: some bling to make me feel loved and right at home. The room itself was large and spacious, with a seating area, a plush king-size bed facing out toward the view of the Minnesota countryside. There was a large executive style desk, with matching highback chair, and all the tech plugs and lighting needed to get a full day’s work done right there. I was thrilled there were so many plugs — I could charge my camera and phone, and charger, and also have my laptop plugged in, all at the same time. None of that having to switch devices out every few hours.
A huge, and I mean huge, probably 52″ wide screen, television was wall mounted, easily watched from bed, sofa or desk. What I really loved were the specific videos introducing me to the various hotel amenities. There was even a video interviewing the Executive Chef about using local Minnesota ingredients and how he features American heartland specialties on their menu. My curiosity was also piqued by the video I watched where the hotel mixologist demonstrated one of the house specialty drinks, a blue martini that turned color as it melted!
I recommend checking out these informative videos to find out everything the hotel has to offer. Repeatedly throughout my stay, whenever I mentioned some particular hotel amenity or service to a fellow conference attendee, I was always met with surprise, as they had not bothered to learn about where they were staying, and therefore had missed out on several opportunities and services to take advantage of.
Another reason to review the in house channel is to get more info on all the Mall of America activities. You can find details on the Aquarium hours, who’s playing at the Comedy Club or at the movie theaters, and a listing of all the restaurants available to dine at just across the skyway. Of course, you’ll also find the menu options for FireLake Grill, the Radisson restaurant on premise, and the hours for the pool and gym.
The large bath included a separate shower and huge soaking tub, and good lighting at the sink. It was a bathroom that two people can function in at the same time. Upgraded toiletries and thick plush towels added to the luxury feel. Bonus points for the extendable mirror (with light!) mounted on the wall next to the sink, for closeup needs like putting in contacts or applying eye makeup.
What I loved most about my room:
The spacious layout, plush bed, nice linens, makeup mirror, and super efficient and spacious work area ticked off all my main requirements. But several more special amenities put this room on my list of top stays:
- a Nespresso coffee maker (with four different types of coffee) was easy to operate and made a pretty good cup of java early in the morning while I was getting dressed to head out for the day. Always a good thing! There were also both disposable paper cups and lids provided, as well as ceramic cups and saucers, both coffee and espresso sized. Great for a fast pick-me-up coming or going.
- a LIGHTED closet with drawers in addition to adequate hanging space, and the plush robes with slippers were a nice touch. (I’m a slipper gal!) No more losing your shoes in the bottom of the dark closet!
- the rain shower head in the WALK-IN shower stall, that also had a bench. Loved this, just like I have at home!
- and yes, that sparkly floor I mentioned in the beginning!
Needs were handled quickly and with care, (well– almost)
My first day I (when I was going around plugging in all my devices and checking everything out), I noticed two important lights burned out (one was half of a pair of bathroom sink lights), and also the outlet next to the bed that didn’t work. When I first connected my laptop, and had to sign in to use the hotel wifi, I saw that there were tabs for making room requests, including extra linens, having the room made up, and also maintenence. So much easier than having to call or go to the front desk for a request. I quickly entered the info about what was amiss in my room and needed fixing, and offered the time later that day I’d be out of the room. When I returned later, sure enough, all had been fixed while I was gone, including a new outlet installed, and a note and chocolates to say the work had been done. Later in my stay, when the coffee hadn’t been refilled, I used it again, and the problem was immediately handled.
The only real glitch I experienced at the Radisson Blu was upon my arrival. I had previously had my American Express credit card compromised, and a new card was overnighted to the Radisson so as to be there upon my checkin to use. When the clerk sent someone to go to the ‘secure room’ to get it so I could check in with it, I was asked to step aside and wait. Well, I waited. And waited, and waited. I finally went and sat down over by the fireplace. People came and went. The shuttle arrived, and left, and arrived AGAIN and I was still there waiting. I asked at the desk, and was told it was coming momentarily…and to be patient.
After almost 45 minutes, my face probably indicated I was pretty fed up. The bellman who had of course seen me sitting there forever, finally came over and inquired if he could help me. I told him what I was waiting on. He sauntered off, and within 4 minutes, yes, FOUR MINUTES, he returned with my FedEx envelope in his hand. Apparently the guy who was sent to get my package decided midstream — to take a break. Not good. A long day was unnecessarily even longer. I could not check in without that card, as it had to be run before I could be given my room key. So, it’s a good thing I really liked my room and had a good experience otherwise. But this is a good example how one very small thing – especially a first impression – can make or break a stay.
Award-winning Restaurant and Lively Bar Scene
The FireLake Grill and Bar were everything you want in a hotel restaurant. The main dining room was open all day: breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner — serving a creative and varied menu. There’s even a bargain late lunch combo featuring their buffalo burger that’s available up to 5pm, ideal for when you arrive after traveling all day and haven’t had lunch. Try one of the regionally grown or Minnesota inspired favorites like wild rice soup, cheese curds or the local walleye fish.
The FireLake Grill Bar scene is hopping, and also a place where you can grab a bite or small plate fare. It’s a fairly large space, in sections, so private parties can be held yet not take over the whole bar. Lots of high-top tables, a long row of stools at the bar, and plenty of booths for more private conversations or business, give numerous seating options. I attended two private events there, and was impressed with the delicious and creative hors d’oeuvres served. The staff was attentive and not only kept a large thirsty crowd happy with drinks and quick refills, but also kept the food platters refreshed and the tables cleared of used plates and glasses, not often the case at bar parties. Every time I passed by the bar during my 5 days at the Radisson Blu, there was a lively and social crowd enjoying themselves. Definitely not the dark lonely place you see in some hotels where there’s a solo drinker holding up the end of the bar and a bored bartender polishing glasses.
The Radisson Blu MOA definitely goes out of its way to make sure guests are comfortable, well-fed, and try their best to make their guests’ experience a good one. On one the first evenings before my conference started, the Radisson Blu even threw a special welcome party for the attendees, something none of us expected, but it was a great way to kickoff our Minnesota experience. In fact, you could say it was a perfect icebreaker…
Out in front of the hotel entrance, right where vehicles pull up to drop off guests, the Radisson had arranged for a cocktail hour, complete with a frozen ice bar with real fish and “snow” to complete our Minnesota experience, even though it was in May! We got to try the house specialty , that blue martini made with locally distilled spirits from J. Carver Distillery. They also provided a setup to have our photo taken in more “traditional” local garb (read: snow parka, hats and scarves), all while standing outside while it snowed on us — yes, in May.
After five days at the Radisson Blu MOA, you can now understand why I was sorry to check out! My expectations of the usual hotel comforts were far exceeded and the friendly and accomodating staff was the ice-ing on the cake. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to try out the pool or spa, or enjoy a full meal at the FireLake Grill. And, I’d sure love to return and take better advantage of the Mall of America. I guess I just need to book another stay at the Radisson Blu, don’t I?