The merciless gray skies of February appear more so when driving along the 494 strip. The thousands of cars racing ceaselessly to get somewhere, fast. The all-business silhouette of the airport. The capitalist worship citadel of the Mall of America. Nothing could be less romantic. Or so I thought.
When the Radisson Blu, and more recently the JW Marriott, went up adjacent to the mall, I couldn't shake the uncharitable questions. Who stays overnight in a mall? What kind of person is so desperate to climb into bed with commerce? Is it OK to shop in slippers?
I thought I'd find out. So I went. And I liked it.
When confronted with the option to valet, or not to valet, just valet. At Radisson Blu, the service costs $22, and is worth every cent. Once inside the balmy, reassuring bosom of the hotel and mall, you won't see daylight for a day. But it's February. This is exactly what you want. Parking at the mall is hell, like Sartre said.
At the desk, a couple each wearing jeans with bedazzled pockets ushered a grade-schooler, a toddler, and a stroller sized to accommodate a jockey. At her side, the mother toted a duffle big enough to make for sleeping quarters for the toddler.
Though the lobby was chocked full with humanity, the check-in took less time than it would to order a drink at happy hour. Though it would have been pleasant enough to linger. The lobby is all ice blue and hanging wicker bird's nest chairs just big enough for two, and a modern white fireplace that seems fueled by neon and dreams.
A junior suite means you're not baller enough for a real suite, yet you don't have to sit on the bed while putting on your shoes. It's a compromise between your pocketbook and your dignity. But a junior suite at the Radisson Blu doesn't feel like a concession. The room is tightly efficient without losing any of the details you want when escaping pet hair and the three-day-old dirty dishes of home.
There is one of those cavernous closets where a light goes on when it opens. Inside are his and hers robes with matching slippers. There's a mini-bar, but more importantly a mini-fridge, because savvy staycationers don't spent $15 for a Visine-bottle portion of vodka.
There's a coffee machine, and despite the fact that it takes those pods filled with dust, it's still coffee and you don't have to tip a guy in knickers to get caffeinated.
A separate shower and tub (and toilet area) means that you and your beloved can be in the bathroom at the very same time, if you must.
The bed is one of those numbers that makes you think about how you've wasted your life up until this point. Why is your own bed not this pliable yet firm, this supportive yet supple? Why have you such a paltry number of pillows upon your own dowdy trestle? Pillows en masse indicates luxury, and your own sad lack indicates a life bereft of good taste.
But! You're here for one night only — or two, if you're lucky. So make good use of this room. You can close the casino curtains off to the outside world. In here, it's just a pod of blue light from the tangle of interesting lamps that give forth nothing but flattering light. And that fortress of pillows.
In the morning, pad down to the Firelake Restaurant for strong Bloody Marys in sleek glasses, a truly divine bison burger, and eggs your way. There is no need to set foot outdoors. A manager told us that sometimes, people show up for breakfast in one of those fancy bathrobes. We spot a guy in his bare feet and a towel searching for his wife who went to the pool. He seemed to have taken a wrong turn and wound up at the bar. Accidentally, like you do.
After breakfast, there are laps to be run. All around the mall. Nordstrom has the finest lingerie section in all of Minneapolis. Doc Popcorn sells the best popcorn. It comes in apple crisp, sweet butter, and French toast flavors, among others. Burger Burger has some of the best burgers. There are a lot of bests at the mall. Maybe you gotta be blissed out to notice, but it's all true.
Checking into the Mall of America works the same way that checking into Las Vegas works. It's a closed-to-the-real-world fantasy. There are no clocks. It's climate controlled. Food and drinks flow freely. If there is something you need, anything you need, it's a credit card swipe away.
Radisson Blu Mall of America
2100 Killebrew Dr., Bloomington
2100 Killebrew Dr., Bloomington