Trip Report: Mall of America/Knott's Camp Snoopy
September 1, 2002
"Now this is my kind of camp" - OR - "Now this is what I call a Mall"
While up in Minnesota, Jerry took me to see the great cathedral to shopping known as the Mall of America. Did I mention that they also have amusement rides?
We had spent the morning at Valleyfair, but you can read about that in the Valleyfair trip report, including our stop at the empty lot that used to be Family Funways. This mean that we arrived at the Mall somewhere between noon and 1pm. After nearly getting in three accidents caused by rubberneckers staring in awe at the mall instead of paying attention to the driveway to the Mall's parking facilities, we opted to park in the East Parking Ramp. As you may suspect, parking at the Mall is free.
In terms of a general overview, the Mall is laid out essentially in a huge rectangle.This is rather unique to this mall and means that if you walk long enough on one floor you will reutrn back to the same spot. Each floor is made up of 4 sides, and each side of the Mall has a different theme or decor to it. The shopping area completely surrounds a huge courtyard that is covered by a massive bank of skylights. This courtyard contains Knott's Camp Snoopy. There are several viewing points from the shopping areas into Camp Snoopy, typically located in about the center on each side of the mall, and also in the corners. Some real unique viewing points are offered such as along the side of the ferris wheel, or a place where you can walk alongside the path of the logflume at the TOP of its higest peak. Going the other way, sticking out of the rectangular mall at each corner is one of the main anchor department stores, set at a diagonal to the main walkways. Flanking the mall on all four sides are parking facilities. East and West sides have 7 level parking ramps, while South and North have surface lots. The basement of the West parking ramp has a transit center, allwowing easy access to the mall for those that don't drive. Additionaly there are overflow surface lots accross the street, that used to be the parking lots when the former occupant of the land was in serivce (The Mall was built on the former site of a baseball stadium). Currently the overflow lots were being used for State Fair park and ride service.
We parked on level 5 of the east garage. Each floor of the parking ramps is named after a State. Level 5 - East is "New York" with a Statue of Liberty logo. Sure we didn't have to go all the way up to 5, but 5 just happened to have spaces available quite near the Skywalk between the garage and the Mall. We climbed a short flight of stairs, crossed the bridge, and entered the Mall. We found ourselves on the fourth floor of the Mall, and since the Mall itself is a big tourist attraction, maybe even the biggest tourist attraction in Minneapolis, Jerry took me on a tour of the mall. We started at the top so that we would finish up conveniently at Knott's Camp Snoopy.
One of the things I hear about the Mall when people talk about is that it has over 500 stores on 5 floors. While it does have 5 floors, that is both true and misleading. There are 5 floors but only 3 of them house the typical mall-like shopping area. Take for instance, the fourth floor which houses an 'Entertainment Complex'. In this case, 'entertainment complex' reffers to the fact that 4-East houses several nightclubs such as a sports bar, comedy club, Jillians (complete with Hi-Lite Bowling) You got that right, a bowling alley on the top floor of the mall, what space planner came up with that. The fourth floor also houses a nice looking party/multi-purpose room overlooking Camp Snoopy, a video arcade, and an AMC multiplex cinema (4-South). The fourth floor is also a lot smaller than the other floors, using only the East and South sides.
We rode down to the third floor. Floors 1-3 provide the typcial mall experience. The Mall is cleverly designed so that it does not look intimidating despite its size. Stores in the mall range from the typical lineup of stores you expect to find at Anymall, USA, along with a lot of novelty shops seen only at MoA. For example the QVC home shopping channel has their showroom store at the Mall, then there are Mall of America gift shops, shops purveying Minnesota related merchandise, multiple food courts that combined server just about any kind of food you could hope for. Then there are stores related to hobbies, like a couple of really nice PEZ candy stores, a Wizards of the Coast (think Magic: The Gathering) store, a Rescue 911 store has had to post signs stating that even though they sell police/fire/emt related souvenir 'gift' stlye merchanside, the store predates 9/11 by several months, even a store that features all those products you see on those TV infomericals.
Points of interest on the thrid floor include several large themed restuarants (like the Rainforest Cafe), several food courts, (including Minnesota Picnic, allegedly selling local delicacies such as Walleye on a stick), including the view of the top of the log flume, a couple good PEZ stores. (such as the one with the Giant PEZ dispenser sitting out front), and for those race fans, a really impressive imersive VR racing experience. In this one players sit in full size race car mock-ups that are on motion bases, three large video screens fill the view of a player looking out the cars front or side windows. Due to the arrangement I could not see if there was another screen for the cars rear window. A spectators balcony is available as well as a room for class instruction on racing the cars. A most impresive setup with that can handle several people each race. While admission to the spectator gallery is free, I looked at the ticket counter in the giftshop which offered a wide and confusing array of packages, it looks like the cheapest package, which would be 1 race, no frills, no training is $8.50. A bit too pricey for a video game, no matter how impressive it looks.
We toured the third floor and Jerry showed me the unique view at the center of the Ferris Wheel, the top of the log flume, and then we found Cereal Adventure. We did NOT do Cereal Adventure but this represents what looks to be a fine educational yet fun corportate exhibit on General Mills ceral line. The complex comes complete with an exhibit, cereal bar which served about every brand of cereal they make, and a gift shop. Several companies offer these type of hospitality walk through exhbits for their products (Busch Beer, Hershey Candy, some juice companies in Florida, Tupperware) to name a few. The difference is those companies allow the potential consumer to tour their exhibit for free. General Mill Cereal Adventure however manages to charge $3/person. They try to call themselves a "theme park themed to cereal". Interesting concept.
We went to the second floor which had more of your typical mall stores and more typical mall experience. We then went down to the first floor. Instead of one 'center court' type area, the Mall has several. For instance one had an art exhibit, another was staging some special event. The first floor also has such things as the malls Guest Services offices. At about this point I did try out a Mall restroom and found them to be way too tiny for the facility they serve. On the East wing, the first floor houses a gift shop featuring Aquarium type products which makes since as the East wing also houses the entracne to Underwater Adventures, a huge aquarium that lives in the Mall's basement (and thus fills the advertises 5 floors). the first floor also houses a couple tourism boards, one from Minnesota as you might expect, and one from Orlando, FL. In addition Northwest Airlines has an agency right at the mall. We tourd the first floor and eventually finished our grand circle tour of the Nation's Largest Shopping Mall.
We also found ourselves at the East entrance to Knott's Camp Snoopy. There seems to be some identity confusion as some signs refer to the park as "Knott's Camp Snoopy" while others simply read "Camp Snoopy" The East entrance also appears to have the main ticket office. Camp Snoopy is a FREE admission park, (boy this morning I had FREE food at a Cedar Fair park, and now this one offers free parking and free admission) As you might expect, as a mall attraction Camp Snoopy operates on a pay-as-you-go basis with an Unlimited Ride wristband available.
Although Camp Snoopy is a Cedar Fair park, it does not partcipate in the season pass reciprocity program. In English this means that a Camp Snoopy pass is valid only at Camp Snoopy, and Camp Snoopy does NOT honor season passes from any other Cedar Fair park. This means my Cedar Point pass would not be of help, and so I had to explore the pricing options available.
The most basic pricing scheme would be to purchase 'points' at 75 cents per point. You see Camp Snoopy uses an electronic system to regulate ride access. Each guest opting the 'pay-as-you-go' option is given a large ticket that is 'charged' with however many points they have purchased, with points being good for 12 months. The next option is the value tickets , which come preloaded with a predetermined number of points, (29 points for $20, as an example), and the park has installed electronic ticketing kiosks for those who wish to purchase a Peanuts-character themed value ticket. The third, and very popular option is the all day wristband which was priced at $21.95. Thanks to Dairy Queen, Jerry was able to obtain coupons which offered wristbands for $15.95. (There is a Dairy Queen in the Mall, but I did not check to see if they offered the coupons)
While in line to purchase my wristband, I noted the ride closings sign, which was worded something like this: "All rides [open] excpet:" Note that the word "Open" was on a seperate little sign so the sign could presumeably be changed to read "All rides [closed] except:" I don't think I've seen another park try that, probably due to the bad PR conotations, though I have seen cases where the park could benefit from it. In our case only one ride was closed, the Kite Eating Tree, which is a wave swinger.
We entered the park proper, where I noted the dense amount of foliage. I wouldn't be surpirsed if Camp Snoopy has a higher landscaping budget than a lot of outdoor parks. Trees and other landscaping abound everywhere you look, and to complete the camp feel as lot of the structures and fencing is done with rustic looking wood. We first took a walk around the south side of the park. The SW corner is dominated by the Log Chute but we saved that for alter, further along are a show venue, radio control cars, the (closed) Kite Eating Tree which is a Wave Swinger that is themed tor esemble a giant tree, right down to having depictions of several kites stuck in the 'crown'. we then passed some gift shops, a food court for the park featuring all the park food you know and love, a rock climbing wall, a couple kiddie rides (airplanes and a little track car ride), and so forth on around to the Mighty Axe which resides in the SE end of the park.
It should come as no surprise that Mighty Axe is Jerry's favorite ride in the park. The Axe is a Zamperla Rotoshake. Imagine a ride that looks deceivingly like one of those Falling Star rides where the platofrm always stays upright, now mount that platform from its sides instead of the back, now give the platform the ability to roll forwards and roll backwards a complete 360 degrees. Its easily the most extreme ride here. We walk around the ride, and around to the back of the ride to enter the line. I note that this is a 6 point ride, (6ptsx.75pt=$4.50) I can see it won't take long to make good on this wristband. I also noted that the digital readout that tells how many points the ride cost has room for a tens digit. I'd be awfully scared if they every installed a 10 or more point ride.
We walked right onto the Mighty Axe, after passing by the electronic turnstile. Those using point-cards must scan their card through the turnstile which keeps track of points, and those with wristbands must scan our wristband to enter the ride. There is no barto the tunrstile, just the scanner mounted on a podium, to prevent double scans the operator presses a 'hidden' button between each rider. (And if for some reason a ride using points can't ride the ride, each ride is stocked with a supply of cards that are pre-loaded with the cost of that ride on them). The wristbands we were issued were thick light blue wristbands with a full color camp snoopy logo along with a message about welcome to camp snoopy, yada yada, this wristband provides unlimited rides on Sept, 1, yada yada, non transferable, void if removed. Most of the wristband is also covered in a plastic like material, except for the security panel. (The panel on each wristband that is purposely weak and full of perforations. The overlap should make it hard to tear through but one you tear it the security planel prevents re-use) The security panel has the barcode printed over it .
We boarded the Mighty Axe and the bars came down, I of course needed a shove as the bar stopped somewhere between n the 2nd and 3rd notch, when the bar is fully in a notch pegs shoot out from the OTSR into the sides of the seat. The ride started and they seem to have the gondola roll set to the same speed as the main boom. Except that i stps at the very top and rolls, it s a neat ride, is an eye grabber as its placed where it is easily visible from the mall. I like it. At the end of the ride the autospiel thanked us for riding, then the autospiel said it would be around to help us. Hmm those autospiels are getting pretty advanced. We exited the Mighty Axe and continued our tour of the perimeter of the park.
We next came to Ghost Blasters, a Sally interactive darkr ride. Ghost Blasters line was spilled out onto the midway, but we waited through it. At the start of each queue is a machine that looks quite like the price check machine at one of those big discount stores, except that these machines tell you how many points you have left. For grins and giggles I scanned my wristband under it. The message "Valid Wristband - 708 Minutes Remain" So wristbands use a time based system, kind of clever since the parks standard hours are 10:30-9, they charge the wristband for 12 hours, that way even if you purchase a band at 9pm, it will have expired by 10am the next day. I wonder if the change wristband colors daily as well.
The Ghost Blastrs line led up to the porch of the Ghost Blasters building the doubled back along the porch where some humourous signs were posted like "Wanted for Unauthorized Haunting" , and a depcition of the ride vehicle annotated with things like "Lapbar - Keeps Guests In and Ghosts Out", "Bumper - For things that go bump in the night" and so forth.. We pass a well locked front door, note a long to-do list, and then step off the porch and enter the queue maze. From the queue maze you can watch the show accross the way, look at the monitors of the people riding the ride, look at a floor diagram of the ride as you near the front of thr line, a trash talk to your soon to be competitor. After a while we sacan our wristbands (5 points -$3.75) and a bit later we are shown to a car. The lapbar comes down and is locked and we get a chance at some practice targets, unfortunately the score is reset from practice upon entering the main ride. Jerry let me enter the car first so I was on the left, and he was on the right.
We entered the single level dark ride, and instantly I became aware of numerous targets all over. The targets looked a bit different than the ones at Indiana Beach, these having a much larger 'active' light. I also noticed a rules change from Indiana Beach. See at Indiana, each target could only be hit once per car, at Camp Snoopy the target would reset after a couple seconds. I also noticed that most of the targets were on Jerry's side of the car. Its a nice looking dark ride with a lot of blacklight effects, and really neat stunts. Unfortuantely with the line I would not have time to get the story line down. I mean with these Sally rides you could fill a ride with unrelated targets and have the same effect. I did notice the trademark 'bomb' room from the end of Den of Lost Thieves is also at the end of 'Ghost Blasters'. A check of the score console revealed that I had smoked Jerry 1280 to 820. It's not a ride, its a sport!
We continued around and next up was the Mystery Mine Ride. We entered the mysterious looking mine shaft where I noted that whatever I was walking towards was going to cost 6 points. Deeper into the mine we pass the scanner and then we enter the auditorium. Mystery Mine Ride is of course not a Mine Ride, its a Ride in the Mystery Mine, if you call it a ride. Its a big motion simulator theater, using rahter unique motion bases that seat one person in a shell that you can't look left or right. I had only sen these kind of bases before at Ripley's Motion Master Theater in Gatlenberg, TN. While waiting for the ridefilm, advertisements were shwon on the screen much like going to the real movies. On ad caught my eye in particular "A Rollercoaster Makes a Great Birthday Gift" I agreee wholehartedly . Of course they were hawking gift certificates. The film started and the first thing I notice was "Presented by Omnivision"
Yikes, they were the ones who gave us Cineama 180, and at the films end the data was clearly 1991, so this film was a Cineama 180 feature retooled to be a motion ridefilm. The film itself is of a logginf turck driver and features the classic near crashes, hairpin sharp turns and all that made Cineama 180 popular, however I don't think it plays well as a ridefilm.
Coming out of the Mystery Mine Ride we spotted an insanely long line for the Ripsaw, so continued around the perimter of the park, passing the Carousel. Is Chance's Americana Carousel, a modern era machine, that in keeping with Cedar Fair policy is placed right by a park entrance. Also at this, the north entrance is the Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel is placed so that not only does it go clear up to the roof of the park, it also conserved vertical space by having its loading deck from a balcony on the second floor of the mall. Access to this balcony which features food, gifts and games along its path is by either stairs or elevator from within the park, or you could exit Camp Snoopy into the Mall poper and take escalators or elevators and re-enter the park via this balcony. We continued on pasing a Baloon Race ride and coming to the Treetop Tumbler.
The Tumbler is a unique ride, so unique I have only found it at parks whose name begins with Knott's. I don't know who makes it, but its a rather fun and unique ride. It starts out like any other ride that has a series of cars that roatate around a center tower, then the ring of cars rises up above the ground. What sets the Tumbler unique is that ever pair of cars is mounted in tandem so that they 'leapfrog' throughout the ride. Kind of like several two car ferris wheels mounted on a large rotating ride. Really unique, and it sported a bit of a line. The wait made worse due to the extreemly sensitive ride balanceing issues that are surely what has limited the rides success in reaching new markets. I note the ride is 5 points, and we enter a holding area between the ride queue and the ride. The same type of preloading used at the fair, after the 'tickets' had been collected. For whatever reason Jerry and i got split up into seperate rides, shame as we could have balanced each other out. Jerry takes his ride, then I get loadied in and I fasten the seatbelt but leave the lapbar up. I know this ride has severe balancing issues. After a while when I finally locked the lapbar about 5 seconds before the operator started coming around moving people, like me. They are quite good with the manual release tool, but it does take entirely too long to load this ride. Thus, in true Cedar Fair fashion, we were rewarded with a short ride cycle. I dunno, I somehow thought the one at Knott's Berry Farm was much more fun and offered better airtime.
While waiting for the Tumbler I watched the trampoline thing pay extra located up on the balcony and I still fail to see the point of it. We passed by the Screaming Yellow Eagle (Falling Star), and had now come full circle around the perimeter path of the park. Here I drag Jerry into a cave labeled "Log Chute" It's my least favorite style queue, a long twisty cave where you can't really see your progress. We were relieved to see the big room in the cave with a queue maze closed off. After a bit of wait we found ourselves approaching the loading area. Log Chute uses a non-stopping loading system and we were soon in a log, with my up front, (as usual). We leave the station and enter a long themed tunnel like a cheap Splash Mountain but if you recall quite similar to the log flume at knott's, you come out of the themed tunnel, (complete with the larget jar of Boysenberry jelly you have ever seen), take the tour past the food court, go floating atop the mountain looking structure, and eventually re-enter the interior of the cave which hides drop 1. You're ride is not over as you then climb an even bigger lift, travel along the mountaintop some more, pass by a different food court, then you turn and go down the BIG drop. This log flume however, has been designed to not get a rider too wet. Its really neat with the theming in the tunnels, and its really long path. You make one turnaround to the station. Here I see my first aggravation. You come to the loading station, people are to your left waiting to jump into the continously moving log, there is an exit gate on the platform to your right. Which way to you jump out of the log. If you said to the right towards the Exit Gate you would be wrong. Barriers have been set up to prevent this. instead you must exit to the left, dodge the oncoming riders, climb up a gratuitous staircase, cross over a gratuitous bridge, then back down a gratuitious staircase to the platform on the right when you could have just exited the log to the right if the powers that be weren't such morons. There was a ride manager on the unload platform who did not respond wen I loudly commented about the rediculous unloading proceudre. We walk right along the side of the trough, and then out the exit gate. Shame if they weren't so stupid, they could have had one of the few log flumes that did not require the rider to use stairs. I mean it cost them money to build and maintain that bridge, so they make you use it so that you can walk right by where you could have exited the ride Someone tell me why they do somethig so idiotic and dumb!
6 points for the Flume means:
We then tour the middle of the park which houses the parks kiddie rides, stuff like a Frog Hopper, powered kiddie coaster, craqzy bus and more. The parks centerpiece is a wacky fountain made up of lots of neat effects that can be triggered by aiming a jet of water at them. I recall Kings Island having one of these about 10 years ago, and at Kings Island it was a free interactive attraction. Cedar Fair charges money to use the water jets for a limited number of time. Since not all effects can be triggered by all jets this means multiple coins are needed to get the full effect. It's a real neat fountain and a nice centerpiece however.
When I made plans to see Camp Snoopy I was enticed by the fact their Frog Hopper had no maximum height requirement. I however decided not to ride it when I saw the line for the Frog Hopper. After passing through the kiddie area, we passed a set of Dodgems, then came back around to Mighty Axe. We took another Mighty Axe ride.
After Mighty Axe, our plans were simple we would ride the Ripsaw, stop by the PEZ store and then head on out. We walked around to the Ripsaw and noted the line was still at insane levels. We entered the line first climbing the stairs in the camp house, then out to the outside upper level queue maze. After nearly 40 minutes we were admitted to the train. Ripsaw uses a Zierer Tivoli coaster as its ride system. The ride CAN seat 40 per ride, but due to its dimunitive size trains there are a lot of single riders. This fact was not helped by them only running 1 of two trains. I am quickly getting the impression that caring about ride capacity only extends to Cedar Point in the Cedar Fair chain. We sit down in the train, the bars are locked. Individual rathceting lapbars for each rider. We sit in the "Ready Ready" position, but they can't dispatch the train, why, becuase the queue gates broke down in the open position. We at in the train mearly 20 minutes as they trying to coax the queue gates to close. Its a really dumb setup. (much like the exit to the Log Chute) I can understand the queue gates since the station is way in the air, and the ride allows just about everybody to ride. However, the way these gates were installed is insane. The traditional Yellow Force Field seen on almost all Cedar Fair coasters exists, but it is between the gue gates and the big holding area in the station. This means you can't walk up to the queue lane, in fact you have to stay two feet back from the queue lane until the queue gates open. Add to this cluster that you have 20 lines, spaced closely together. You apparently can't enter the queue lane becuse a big light curtain exsits arond the actual gates to ensure that they dont close on anybody. Well when the light curtain breaks, the ride thiks someone is standing in the queue lanes and refuses to close the gates. The park then either can't or won't run the ride. After some time of sitting in the train, already having waited through the line, we were told to exit back through the queue lanes, which meant the holding area was already crowded had to be crowded some more. We waitied behind the yellow force field some more before they decided to totally close the ride. While I did get to explore the chicken chute exit, I noticed that the park offered no courtesys to the riders who were on the failed train, no free sodas, no exit privleges, nothing. Just an "exit this way please" I want that HOUR back!
We exited the park because Jerry disocvered the seat in the train he sat in had a big wad of chewing gum on it, so it was out to the car to change shirts, then I decided to hit the PEZ store, sent an insane amount of cash on PEZ dispoensers (mostly European issues), then enjoyed an Organe Julius whihc I hadn't seen in a while. It then deicded to rain as I was taking my merchandise to the car. By the time we re-entered Camp Snoopy the skie were getting quite dark, which the park compensated for by turning on the lighting packages on their rides. Yep the goal is to create an outdoor park inside. With the huge benefit that the rain doesn't come in.
We noticed the Ripsaw was running again, and made a path for it. Depsite the fact they still had the "Sorry, this ride is closed" sign up we noted the long line, and noted riders riding the trains. We entered the line and found that only about half the upper queue maze was in use. 30 minutes later, we were reclaiming our same seats on the train. But man had the storm been getting BAD, the sky through the skylight looked like night at 6pm, the lightning was making really neat designs on the skylights, and yet the rides were open. Hey gotta love that a place where you can ride rides in the middle of a really bad lightning storm! This inside park concept is really proving itself to be worthwhile, I did notice a few rides like the Mighty Axe and the Log Chute were closed for weather, but luckily the Ripsaw continued to run. We boarded the train, a real bad flash of lightining lit up the park, and I for one was much relieved when the train started its happy wayup the lift hill. Even happier when we passed the PONR. I would get this credit afterall!
The layout for Ripsaw is more about curves and meandering around the mall than drops. In fact there are no real drops in the whole ride, but it is a fun way to see the park. Just be careful instead of strobes for the on ride photo, they turn on a high intensity flood light that just about blinds the riders, then another point of interest in the tunnel through the Log Chute, it hides the transfer track for Ripsaw, and also creates long flat powered portion of the ride, its this portion that runs next to the food court, when the ride is doing a fine imitation of a train ride. It's certainly an interesting coaster, but I don't think I'd wait any significant time to ride it again.
We exited Ripsaw, the watched some people try the Maxflight Bbig truck simulator, shame the CyberCoaster one was closed. By then the storm had let up, and we made our way to the car.
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