Family Fun in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Part 1: Minneapolis

Steve, Trevor, and I just returned from our most recent travel adventure, a 10-day trip through Minnesota and Wisconsin. We flew from Sacramento to Minneapolis, drove southeast along the Mississippi River and then through Wisconsin, and flew home from Chicago. It was a fantastic trip! And it brought us two states closer to our goal to take Trevor to all fifty states before he turns 18. 

As always, our days were packed. I have so many recommendations for museums, tours, restaurants, and other don't-miss attractions to share. We had a great time and I'm so excited to tell you all about our trip!

Because I blog about educational travel, I received admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the attractions we visited during our trip. Some places we toured are free for everyone; we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I share here is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you spot a gap in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

I'm not a mall person. I don't enjoy shopping (unless it's for food or art supplies) and I'm not one for hanging out, at the mall or otherwise. But when you get the chance to visit the largest mall in the United States (and, in fact, the largest mall in the world outside of Asia), you jump on it. Especially when that mall has miniature golf courses (plural!), an aquarium, and a 7-acre amusement park inside of it. And that's just the beginning!

Mall of America
 opened in 1992 on the site of the former Metropolitan Stadium. It was then, and remains, the biggest mall in the US, by far. It is conveniently located right next to Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport, making it the perfect place for us to start our time in Minnesota. They even have lockers large enough to store a family's worth of luggage!


We got to the mall at 1:00 pm on Friday, July 29. We'd gotten up at 4:00 am to catch our 6:00 am flight out of Sacramento. Having not eaten yet, our first order of business was finding lunch. With 70+ options at Mall of America, there was no shortage of option. My priority was to find something we couldn't get back home and Piada Italian Street Food was the perfect choice. I had an avocado piada that was absolutely delicious, as was the blackberry hibiscus lemonade. 

Don't even think about skipping the cannoli chips. They come with chocolate chip cannoli cream for dipping. 

There are over 500 stores at Mall of America and we visited exactly two of them. I'll get to those in a bit, but first I want to cover entertainment. We didn't have time to do everything (that would take a week), so we had to prioritize. We started with mini golf, a family favorite. 

There are two 18-hole mini golf courses, both outstanding. Moose Mountain Adventure Golf is themed as the old north woods, with lots of unique and challenging holes. 


I loved this cave, full of bats. 

Rock of Ages Blacklight Mini Golf was awesome. The 18 holes start with a 50's theme and progress through present-day music. 



Naturally, we popped into Xscape Arcade to see the World's Largest Pac-Man. It's 9 feet tall. 

Next stop: Crayola Experience. We visited the original Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania in 2017 and absolutely loved it. We were eager to see how Mall of America's version compared. 

There were some differences, but most of what we loved in Easton was there in Bloomington. It's such a fun place for kids! (And craft bloggers!)

Your admission ticket to Crayola Experience gets you tokens to spend on Model Magic (affiliate link here and below) or creating your own crayon wrapper, which I did last time. It also gets you a Scribble Scrubbie. Scribble Scrubbies were introduced in June 2020 and weren't on my radar. I'm glad Crayola continues to innovate and develop neat new ideas. 

I could have spent all day at Crayola Experience playing with crayons, pens, modeling clay, and the rest, but we had more to see. Next stop: M&M World

There's nothing to do there besides shop, but there is a lot of eye candy. And actual candy. 


The Minnesota theming was fun. 


This is a good time to mention the other store we visited, Games by James. We were really impressed with the fun variety of board games, puzzles, and more. 

The most famous attraction at Mall of America is Nickelodeon Universe. With 7 acres of rides of themed rides, there's something for everyone. 

We popped into The Fair on 4 to check it out. 

Here you'll find fair food and games, axe throwing, and a go-kart track. 

After a very full day at Mall of America, we gathered our luggage and headed to the Residence Inn Minneapolis Downtown at the Depot. It would be our home base for the next four days. It turned out to be a good choice - comfy, affordable, and in a great location. 

We got a great night's sleep and spent the next day in St. Paul. I'll tell you all about that tomorrow. 


Tacoma and Olympia

Tacoma and Olympia (affiliate link)

While I usually make an effort to balance the photos I put on a layout to represent everything we did, that's not the case this time. I included three photos from the Museum of Glass, two from the Capitol, two pieces of public art, and Zeek's Pizza. Other than making sure each of us were in a photo (exactly once each!) I chose the photos for their colors and shapes. I love the orange Tacoma sign in the background; it and the glass artwork and the fires in the Hot Shop inspired the main colors of the page. The curving denim artwork leads the eye to the title, as does the Native statue and the dome on the Capitol. 

I made sure the things we did that aren't pictured (Washington State History Museum, Tinkertopia, Tacoma Art Museum) on the page are included in the journaling. We really enjoyed each of them. 

I'm really happy with this page. 


Amtrak Coast Starlight

I don't normally do a scrapbook page about the transportation we use to get to a vacation destination, but our trip to and from Seattle on the Coast Starlight definitely warranted its own layout!

Amtrak Trip (affiliate link)

This page came together really quickly. After placing the photos, I used stickers and die cuts to make the title, then I put the washi tape along the bottom because the vertical stripes reminded me of train tracks. I did the journaling to mimic the tags seat assignment the conductor gave us that slid into the slot above our seats. I'm really happy with how this layout looks and how much of the story I was able to tell.  


LorAnn Flavoring Variety Pack, Round 2

I've been obsessed with LorAnn flavorings for a while now. I've used them to flavor Twinkies for edible crafts (twice), make scratch-n-sniff drawings, flavor chocolates, glaze rolls, make minty milk, and make my own flavored sanding sugar for decorating cupcakes, just to name a few. My most frequent use it to add a drop or two to flavor water. Sometimes I add sugar if I want a sweet drink. Sometimes I add citric acid for a bit of sour. I now buy citric acid in bulk, as it is surprisingly versatile (affiliate link here and below).  

My mom gave me a fun variety pack of LorAnn flavorings and I've had the chance to use (and in some cases, use up) all of the flavors. Some were fantastic. My very favorites are Blackberry, Lemon, and Raspberry. I also love Cinnamon, Cranberry, Key Lime, Orange Cream, Pear, Pineapple, Pomegranate, and Tangerine. Some were fine, just not my favorites. These include: Blueberry, Cherry, Mango, Peach, Pina Colada, and Strawberry Kiwi. I'm not a fan of Grape, Green Apple, Red Licorice, or Tropical Punch. 

With most of my favorites gone or nearly so, I decided to order some new flavors. It's really handy to get exactly what you want with this 18-pack You Choose

I replaced my favorite flavors, then chose 14 new-to-me flavors to try. These include: Bubble Gum, Cinnamon Roll, Cran-Raspberry, English Toffee, Fruit Punch, Lemonade, Lime, Maple, Orange, Pralines & Cream, Root Beer, Strawberry, Tutti-Frutti, and Wintergreen. I'm eager to give them a go. Unfortunately, we're in the middle of a kitchen remodel, which means no cooking or edible crafts for me for awhile. I'm so eager to get a functioning kitchen back!

If you have a kitchen and are interested in trying out LorAnn flavorings, you can see a full list of the 100+ flavors here. I'll probably try them all eventually, even though there are some I know I will hate (I'm looking at you, Banana Cream and Watermelon). If you do buy flavorings, I highly recommend purchasing a set of disposable pipettes or silicone droppers as well.  

I have a couple of fun ideas for using my new flavorings, so as soon as I have a kitchen, I'll share the results of my experimentations with you!


50th Birthday

One of my scrapbooking pet peeves is that "Best Day Ever!" appears on so many papers, stickers, and stamp sets. How many best days can one person have? I know I'm more literal than the vast majority of scrappers, but I really wish they'd replace most of the "Best Day Ever!" supplies with "Such a Great Day!" or something similar. 

All this to say, if I use "Best Day Ever!" on a page, you know that means something. While my wedding day was the best day of my life, I feel comfortable using such a superlative sticker on the layout about my 50th birthday. It wasn't the BEST day, but it was definitely Top 5. 
50th Birthday (affiliate link)

I am in love with how this page turned out. Not only was it one of my Top 5 days, but I think this is one of my Top 5 layouts! Lots of photos and lots of journaling, yet it doesn't feel crowded. I love the fun colors and the smiling alligator and the background paper. This page makes me really happy.