There's more: In the basement is an aquarium, Underwater Adventures, where, among other fun things, your child can stick his or her hand into shallow water and fondle a live shark. Yes, there is a charge for the aquarium.
From time to time, free shows happen, starring the likes of Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, but mostly the likes of people with less-familiar navels. The day of the Microsoft invasion, hundreds of squealing teenage consumers needed restraining by security as an R&B boy band called B5 danced and sang.
Does all this sound overly commercial? Of course, it's commercial. It's a mall.
"This is the purpose why everybody's here," says Stuif-zand, the visiting Dutchman, who thoroughly gets it, "and everybody here is having a great time."
What makes the place tolerable even for cynics and those who resist paying retail is, there's no law that says you have to join the buying frenzy to enjoy the Mall of America.
Doug and Janet Simmons, of Sioux Falls, S.D., routinely make the four-hour drive across the wheat fields with their camper just to hang out here.
"It's something to do when it gets too hot outside," says Doug.
"There's been times," adds Janet, "we've come in the wintertime, too, just to get away from Sioux Falls."
There you have it.
Then there's Minneapolis.
A revived city
Ten years ago, this was a city whose central core was in trouble. Hennepin Street, once the city's happening entertainment district, had become an avenue of closed theaters and open vice. Retail was feeling the pressure from not only the Mall of America but continuing competition from the suburban malls that had preceded it.
When Southdale Center, in 1959, became North America's first indoor shopping mall, 30,000 people lived in central Minneapolis. By the mid-1990s, that had shrunk to about 17,000.
The story of the Minneapolis revival in the face of a giant mall capable of turning downtown into a district of empty storefronts is a story of visionaries and commitment.
The details are mainly of interest to mayors and urbanologists, but here's a quick rundown: Between 1995 and 2001, nine office towers rose in downtown Minneapolis. They filled with workers. Workers shop. Some of them would rather live near work than battle the interstates. Shops opened to serve them. Restaurants, many along open-air Nicollet Mall, opened to serve the shoppers, and to serve the tourists attracted by the new Target Center (home to Timberwolves' games and concerts), burgeoning theater (Disney's The Lion King made its premiere here in 1997) and proximity to -- irony of ironies -- the Mall of America.
"It turns out," says the Downtown Council's Grabarski, "the world thinks the Mall of America is in downtown Minneapolis. We didn't tell them that. They just think that."
Add to this a trend being seen in many cities nationally: Aging, moneyed baby boomers are joining young professionals in gravitating back to urban life.
Today, once again, the population of central Minneapolis is approaching 30,000. New construction and loft conversions, especially in the Warehouse and Riverfront districts, are expected to bring that to 40,000 within a couple of years.
"Our official goal," Grabarski says, "is 50,000."
So what does all this mean to visitors?
Buoyed by the return of resident downtowners, you'll eat well, for one thing. You'll also have available all the things essential to life in the best cities: music, theater, convivial places to enjoy a beverage, even a movie (a new downtown multiplex now stands where drunks once staggered).
And with street life no longer dominated by the derelict and desperate, you'll be able to walk to and from all those things safely after dark -- just like they do in Utrecht.
A few things, unique (or nearly unique) to Minneapolis and not to be missed:
The just-expanded Walker Art Center. It's a museum of contemporary art that's guaranteed to make you smile -- as it did when a young lady and I sat alone in a darkened room, earnestly analyzing the meaning of a static green image being projected on a screen.
Question, afterward, to a nearby guard: "What are people's reactions to that?"
Answer: "Actually, it's broken."
The Mill City Museum. Minneapolis, for decades, was the world's largest miller of flour. On the riverfront, housed in the ruins of a mill that once ground wheat into Gold Medal flour (and burned in 1991), this museum tells the story of an industry that defined a city.
The exhibits are OK, but the building (only partially restored) is remarkable, and do not miss the guided tour that rides an industrial elevator into the tower and ends with a marvelous view of the Mississippi and, across the river, the mill that once made Pillsbury's Best.
Bonus: A new Guthrie Theater is nearing completion next door, symbol of the area's revitalization. (That Pillsbury mill is becoming landmark condos.) "We used to turn our backs on the river," says museum interpreter Carolyn Ruff. Not anymore.