The lights go down. The darkness frightens the two girls at first as each one holds on to a parent.
The opening bars of music filter through the air and before long an ocean of colour crashes through the senses as players and costumes take control of the stage and audience.
We worried that we would have to leave the performance early to take the two grandchildren, ages three and five, back to the hotel. But they remain mesmerized for the next two hours.
The Chanhassen Dinner Theatre has scored another victory with its production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It is part of a family experience in Minneapolis that the parents, grandparents, and especially two young grandchildren are likely never to forget.
However, once Hilary and Rob, who I’m sure, also had their own visions of baby-sitting grandparents in their sights, bought into the idea, there was no turning back.
We made the driving journey a part of the adventure, with lots of stops for food and stretching. The stops seemed to actually shorten the trip. By the time we arrived, the sight of the water park through the window of the Radisson Bloomington hotel lobby erased all fatigue.
An even greater adventure was about to begin.
The water park in the Radisson is no ordinary hotel amenity. It is named Water Park of America for a reason. There are slides and pools for children of every age, not to mention lengthy versions of slides with breakneck speed, sharp turns, and dramatic drops.
It’s not long before we are in those waters with Avery, the younger of the two splashing in the Fort Snelling play area for the smaller set, while Jayda, who has discovered her inner daredevil, challenges her parent’s fears for her safety and their own sanity, on longer and faster slides.
The Water Park of America is billed as the largest indoor water park in all of the United States. While a ten story white water raft ride is one of its many attracting features, the park can keep an entire family occupied for a day, with several tube slides, a huge wave pool, and a five gallon bucket that, every couple of minutes or so, dumps on those standing under it.
The people in the park are not just those with rooms in the Radisson property. They are tourists from all over the state, and like us, beyond. They are families from Minneapolis itself. They are guests staying at the other hotel properties nearby. And they are definitely people who have come to Minnesota’s other destination only minutes away from the hotel, the famous Mall of America.
It is clear that this Radisson Bloomington property has strategically placed itself very well.
Before long, as Rob and I amuse the children at the games arcade, the wives hop on one of the frequent shuttle buses going to the mall. The shopping experience is important to most people who travel, but realistically there are not enough days to get around the more than 400 stores to choose from in this mega mall.
However, the ladies make a brave attempt to do so and come back tired, but laden with a multitude of branded bags we won’t find in Manitoba.
By not asking, we can remain confident in our belief that every item in those bags was bargain priced.
The Radisson Bloomington seems to have thought of every detail for sleeping accommodations as well. Each of our rooms is fitted with bunk beds for the children. A curtain can be pulled closed so the parents can carry on with their lives while the children sleep in darkness.Jayda and Avery alternate hotel time between our rooms, always climbing to the top bunk to play games or watch movies. They take ownership of their space and we are able to interact with them easily, at times participating in their creativity and imaginations.
The Mall of America may be one of the biggest shopping centres in the world, but it is also a family destination for its Nickelodeon Universe, Underwater Adventures, and huge Lego display centre.
I am grateful that our little ones are not of the age yet where they are begging us to join them on the giant roller coasters, or the spiraling rock bottom dives of the SpongeBob SquarePants ride. These rides are not for the faint of heart, yet there seem to be constant lineups to get on them.
Our girls are satisfied with the Merry-Go-Round and Diego’s Rescue Bus ride along with the many other options specially created to ensure a successful entertainment diversion for the entire family.
Everything at the Mall of America seems to be the bigger than the rest. The Underwater adventure is no exception. It too is billed as the largest underwater aquarium in the world, with a shark exhibit that has been praised by independent television shows as the most impressive.
A moving walkway allows visitors to flow slowly and effortlessly along the long tunnel that travels through the exhibit. Here you feel engulfed by the sea life around you. Feel like spending a little more time with a school of fish that fascinates you? Just step off and get back on after you are satisfied with your viewing.
At first the children are somewhat apprehensive as they go underground to begin the adventure. The muted light coming from the tanks, along with the surprise of seeing sharks swimming so near to them is at first scary. But with a kaleidoscope of almost 5000 colourful sea creatures constantly changing around them, the fear quickly turns to laughter as they watch the antics of some of the entertainers behind the glass.
The few days we allocated for this family retreat pass quickly, and as we make ready for our return preparations, no one is anxious to see the trip end. We all agree we will return as a family to take in the many other things this city and area have to offer.
Driving south on I-94 we are greeted with one more invitation. The sign says that the Albertville Premium Outlet Mall is only a few minutes away. Why not, we reason?
It’s hard to believe that we still have room on our cross border allowance, but by the time we cover as many of the stores we can in a couple of hours, we know that is no longer the case.
Adopting the same strategy going back as we did coming out, we add other stops along the way and everyone arrives home happy with sanity fully intact.
Many months have passed, but the children still babble on about the musical, the rides, and the bunk beds they liked so much. Those are the memories I too will hold on to long after the children have forgotten about them.