If you’ve never heard of a destination baby shower before, you’re probably not alone. But doesn’t it sound like fun? I can assure you that the one I just had at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, was an exciting and memorable way to wind down my travels and usher me into the next phase of my life: Motherhood.
What is a destination baby shower?
If you’re a travel junkie like me, you’ll find just about any excuse to hop on a plane and go somewhere exciting. And when it comes to big life changes, travel seems to be a big part of the equation. From destination weddings and honeymoons to out-of-town bachelor parties and even babymoons, the trend to combine travel with memorable milestones isn’t exactly new. So why not a destination baby shower, where friends and family join you for a weekend away to enjoy a little pampering and shopping for the baby?
Destination baby shower at Mall of America
So that’s exactly what I did. With my mom and a girlfriend by my side (and my husband Johnny Jet, who couldn’t resist joining the fun on the last day!) we flew to Bloomington, Minnesota for two days of total pampering and relaxation. Plus, there’s no sales tax on clothing or shoes in Minnesota, so what better place to do some shopping for baby?
You might be wondering what we could do for two full days at Mall of America but the truth is, two days wasn’t nearly enough time to explore all of the shops, restaurants, rides and attractions that are to be found on property. Mall of America is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world and has 520 stores, 50 restaurants and lots of attractions including Nickelodeon Universe, which has tons of rides and roller coasters (it’s the largest indoor theme park in the United States) and the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium.
Toronto to Minneapolis
Our journey started in Toronto where I was visiting friends and family. From there, I flew with my mom and friend Jenn Weatherhead Harrington, who pens the blog Travel & Style, from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Minneapolis. Excitement was high and we couldn’t wait to arrive! Upon landing, we were greeted by a driver who escorted us quickly and easily to the recently opened JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America.
JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America
Connected to Mall of America, this four-star property has 342 guest rooms and suites and is the newest luxury hotel addition to Bloomington. It’s just 11 miles from the heart of downtown Minneapolis and is connected to the Minneapolis Light Rail, making it easy to get into the city or to the airport. I loved that everything is gleaming and new, from the Scandinavian-inspired design in the lobby to the guest rooms, which offered all the modern comforts you could want, including a deep-soaking tub, an awesome shower and large flat-screen TVs.
While there are tons of food options inside Mall of America, if you prefer to stay closer to home, you needn’t leave the hotel. Under the experienced leadership of Executive chef Everton Clarke, Cedar + Stone’s menu is full of amazing dishes and is a stylish place to dine. Take a peek inside the hotel and at some of the flavourful dishes at Cedar + Stone in this slideshow:
Hotel attached to Mall of America
One of the things I like best about Mall of America is that everything is easily accessible … even your hotel. On one end is the Radisson Blu Mall of America and now, with the opening of the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America, there’s another option for visitors. So whether there are sub-zero temperatures outside (like the first time I visited) or scorching hot summer temperatures (like this time), you can stay perfectly comfortable inside the mall. Interesting fact: Despite the wildly varying year-round temperatures in Minnesota, Mall of America does not use a central heating system. Instead, the 1.2 miles of skylights throughout the mall combined with the body heat of visitors naturally heats the space!
Let the fun begin
The baby shower started in earnest the morning after our arrival. After enjoying a light breakfast in the Club Lounge at the JW Marriott, we headed straight to the mall. First stop: The Build-a-Bear Workshop to make baby’s first teddy bear! Together, we chose a bear, stuffed him, and gave him a name and a beating heart. The staff at Build-a-Bear really make the experience memorable, channeling all of their excitement into the creation of your bear. Whether you’re expecting a little one or have kids already, this is such a fun thing to do. My bear, who I named Bailey, even has a chip inside so that when you squeeze him, he says ‘I love you’ in a ridiculously cute voice. I can’t wait for my little one to meet his special bear that was made with so much love just for him.
Right across from the Build-a-Bear Workshop is David’s Tea, the perfect spot to pop in and sample some of their 150 types of loose leaf teas; they’re caffeine-free so perfect for mom-to-be. Once adequately hydrated, it was off to hit the baby clothing shops. There are lots to choose from. For budget finds, we checked out Carter’s Baby and Old Navy but if you’re looking for something more middle-of-the-road, there’s also a Baby GAP and The Children’s Place. On the higher end of the spectrum is Nordstrom Baby and Hanna Andersson but I absolutely fell in love with everything inside Janie & Jack. Despite being on the pricier side, the store had a great sale going on (60% off!) and the sale section had tons of adorable outfits for my little man, which I just couldn’t pass up. From onesies and rompers to shorts and tees for when he’s a little bit older, I could have outfitted him entirely in Janie & Jack.
There really is no shortage of baby shopping at Mall of America. We picked up classic baby books from Barnes & Noble, in particular A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, one of my childhood favourites. And Nordstrom offers one-stop shopping for baby, especially for some of those bigger items like a bassinet, stroller, car seat and play pen.
While shopping for baby was the most fun, there’s lots of shopping for mom, too! We checked out Intelligent Nutrients for essential oils and diffusers to create a relaxing environment at home, Destination Maternity for maternity essentials and the sprawling Nordstrom Rack for all kinds of things like clothes, diaper/hospital bags and comfy pyjamas. And don’t forget to swing by Ugg for the comfiest slippers your feet will ever meet. The women’s Dakota slippers are heaven and something tells me that during those sleepless nights up with baby, every comfort will be appreciated.
When you’re at Mall of America, shopping may be top of mind but there’s plenty more to do. Some of our highlights? When our energy started to wane (the walking distance around one level is 0.57 miles so we got lots of exercise while we were there), we stopped to refuel at Cupcake for sweet treats that are totally baby shower appropriate! And when our legs and feet really need to take a break, we headed to the full-service day and wellness Solimar Spa inside the Radisson Blu for a pre-natal massage for me and massages and manicures for my mom and Jenn. Once we were feeling completely relaxed and rejuvenated, we took the elevator down to FireLake Grill + Restaurant, which features lots of fresh Minnesotan-grown ingredients and expectant-mother-friendly foods.
As I mentioned earlier, Nickelodeon Universe is the largest indoor theme park in the United States and it’s so much fun for adults and kids alike. Unfortunately, expectant moms can’t go on most of the rides but your friends and family can and it’ll add a lot of fun to your destination baby shower itinerary. Besides, if mom-to-be is feeling tired, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a load off and sit and relax with an ice cream cone while everyone else takes turns on the rides. (Any excuse for ice cream, am I right?)
As expectant mothers know, we’re not supposed to carry anything too heavy. So if your shopping bags start to weigh you down, you’ll be pleased to learn that Mall of America offers visitors a concierge service whereby someone can meet you in the mall, relieve you of your shopping and have it delivered safely to your hotel room. Looking for directions in the mall or other recommendations? Simply use the Mall of America text messaging service to get the answers to your questions instantly at your fingertips!
All in all, a destination baby shower at Mall of America was more fun than any of us had imagined. Two full days of shopping for baby essentials, relaxing at the spa, enjoying great food and spending quality time with my friends and family made for an experience I’ll never forget. And while this might very well have been the first ever ‘destination baby shower’, maybe it’s a trend that’ll take off. And if you’re expecting or are planning a baby shower for a dear friend, consider Mall of America for a getaway everyone will love!
Photos by Jana Noonan Photography.
NOTE: This is a sponsored post but all opinions expressed within are my own.