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  • Bloomington Gardens Itinerary

Normandale Japanese Garden

Minnesotans enjoy spending time outside year-round, regardless of the temperature. That love of the outdoors extends to our gardens, parks, and nature areas, which are well-known as being some of the most beautiful in the Midwest. Use this itinerary to visit some of the area’s most notable public gardens and parks, stopping to see other landmarks along the way!

While you’re in Bloomington, stay at one of our destination’s 45 hotels. Most offer complimentary parking and shuttle to the light rail, Mall of America, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Day One
Morning: Kick off your trip to Bloomington with a self-guided tour through the serene two-acre Normandale Japanese Garden, boasting more than 300 plants, shrubs, and trees that were carefully selected to withstand the cold winters in Minnesota. You will experience traditional Japanese garden elements, including bridges, stone lanterns, streams, and waterfalls.

Afternoon: Visit Bachman’s Floral, Gift & Garden in south Minneapolis, one of the largest floral and garden retailers in the country. In addition to the retail component, the company also runs a landscape design and installation division, a nursery wholesale center, and a 513-acre growing range that produces a large amount of the flowers, shrubs, plants, and trees that they sell. You can also grab a bite at Bachman’s delicious on-site café.

Evening: You’ll enjoy dinner and a show at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, one of the most acclaimed dinner theaters in the country. “The Chan,” as locals call it, puts on well-known musicals that have recently included The Music Man, Mamma Mia, and Beauty and the Beast.
Gardens itinerary arboretum Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Day Two
Morning: Bloomington’s South Loop neighborhood, which includes Mall of America, is chock-full of public art like murals and sculptures thanks to the City of Bloomington’s Creative Placemaking initiative. The concept of Creative Placemaking aims to build vibrant, distinctive, and sustainable communities through the arts. You’ll explore the area during a self-guided walking art tour that starts and ends at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, winding through the South Loop’s hotels, restaurants, and green spaces on the way.

Afternoon: Head back to Chanhassen to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and be inspired by well-designed plant displays, collections, model landscapes, and conservation areas. With more than 1000 acres of magnificent gardens and natural areas – from woodlands and wetlands to prairie – and an extensive collection of northern-hardy plants, you’ll enjoy the views as you take a leisurely stroll around the gardens. The Arboretum’s café offers a wide variety of freshly made lunches, including homemade soups, salads, and bakery items.

Gardens itinerary MOA Mall of America The later part of the afternoon will be focused on wine, as you learn more about the Arboretum’s grape vines and then drive to nearby Waconia to explore some Minnesota wineries. The Winery at Sovereign Estate, Schram Vineyards, and Parley Lake Winery all use locally grown grapes to make their award-winning wines. The three wineries are located in a rural, peaceful setting with plenty of outdoor seating to sit back and relax.

Evening: Lake Minnetonka is the metro area’s largest lake, with more than 110 miles of lakeshore. Twin Cities Cruises’ excursions depart from the Port of Excelsior and then take guests on a sunset cruise of Minnetonka, complete with dinner and drinks. Before or after your cruise, take a walk in downtown Excelsior and explore the city’s charming shops and restaurants.

Day Three
Morning: The third day of your Minnesota gardens itinerary takes things inside – to Mall of America! Although this seems counterintuitive, MOA actually houses a complex ecosystem of more than 30,000 plants. You’ll see examples of the Mall’s “green” initiative all over the property, but especially in Nickelodeon Universe®, where thousands of ladybugs are annually released on Earth Day to help sustain the park’s many trees and plants.

Afternoon: Explore the Mall, including lunch at one of the 50+ restaurants that offer all kinds of cuisine. Be sure to purchase a Mall of America coupon book for hundreds of discounts at retail shops, restaurants, and attractions. This will come in handy when you’re shopping ‘til you drop at over 520 stores – and remember, there’s no sales tax on clothing or shoes!

Evening: Enjoy dinner at one of the Mall’s many restaurants. If you’re dying to try some of Minnesota’s traditional dishes, check out Twin City Grill for favorites like wild rice soup and walleye. Other popular restaurants include Benihana, for a Japanese hibachi experience, and Cantina Laredo, a Mexican spot known for their tacos and guac.

Day Four
Morning: On the last day of your tour, head east to Saint Paul, which is just 15 minutes from Bloomington. Saint Paul’s Como Park Conservatory is a two-acre oasis with plant life that includes bonsai trees, ferns, and orchids. Seasonal flower shows in the conservatory showcase colors and flowers that correspond with winter, spring, summer, and fall, and an annual holiday show focuses on poinsettias.

Afternoon: Next, you’ll sample what is possibly Minnesota’s most famous meal: The Juicy Lucy! Although many metro restaurants claim to have the best Lucy in town, today you’ll be dining at Shamrock’s along West 7th Street in Saint Paul. The Irish-themed bar and grill’s burger list is long and highlights their spin on the Juicy Lucy, the “Nookie.”

After lunch, cross the Mississippi River and head to Minneapolis to explore one of our best-known landmarks, Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden. Here, you’ll find the iconic Cherry and Spoon sculpture and other works of art in a beautiful environment. Across Hennepin Avenue, Loring Park is also a gorgeous place to spend time outdoors and see some of Minnesota’s natural landscapes.

Evening: Enjoy dinner at a Bloomington restaurant. Our suggestions include Ciao Bella (Italian cuisine with a lush patio) and Hazelwood Food and Drink (across the street from Mall of America, with twists on Minnesotan classics).
Ciao Bella patio Ciao Bella's patio

If you have extra time, check out: