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  • Bloomington Hidden Gems

Normandale Japanese Garden.

Although Bloomington’s signature attraction, Mall of America, is one of the United States’ most popular vacation destinations, our city also has many lesser-known sights that visitors sometimes miss. These hidden gems are off the beaten path, but they’re still worth a stop during your stay in Bloomington!

Visit this page for a full list of activities and attractions in Bloomington.

Normandale Japanese Garden
The Normandale Japanese Garden is so hidden away that many visitors to Normandale Community College don’t even know it’s there. Tucked away behind the Student Life Center is this peaceful oasis, intended to provide a moment of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of a college campus. The traditional Japanese garden buildings and bridge, combined with the tranquil lake and flowering plants, create an atmosphere ideal for reflection and relaxation.

Bloomington Center for the Arts
Arts and culture are huge all over the Twin Cities, and Bloomington is no exception. The Bloomington Center for the Arts encompasses two performing arts theaters, several art galleries, and classrooms for teaching pottery, painting, and more. Artistry, our resident arts organization, consistently wins accolades for productions like Follies and Mary Poppins, and the Inez Greenberg Gallery displays themed collections from local artists. Plus, the building’s stunning architecture and outdoor mural is art in and of itself.

The Works Museum
Bloomington’s haven for science, tech, and engineering, The Works Museum is full of hands-on exhibits that delight both kids and parents. The massive K’NEX sculpture that greets you at the front door will be the largest of its kind in the world as soon as expert K’NEX builder (yes, it’s a thing) Austin Granger completes it. Further into The Works, you’re free to roam about exhibits like the sensor maze, building block zone, and light experience. Especially if special events like Tech Fest or Robot Day happen to coincide with your visit, taking your STEM-loving kiddos by the museum is a must-do.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Although it spans 14,000 acres, many locals aren’t even aware of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s miles of hiking and biking trails. The wildlife refuge makes up the eastern and southern borders of Bloomington and lives up to its name with the hundreds of plant and animal species that have been spotted inside. Bird-watchers, in particular, enjoy finding a quiet spot to observe turkeys, herons, and hummingbirds. Upon arrival, stop inside the extensive visitor’s center to plot out your route through the refuge.

Bush Lake Ski Jump
The Bush Lake Ski Jump looms large over the neighborhoods of West Bloomington. This Olympic-level jump hosts competitions throughout the winter that are open to the public, allowing you to get close enough to the action that you’ll feel the wind whooshing by as the skiers soar past you. Interested in learning how to ski jump? The Minneapolis Ski Club offers regular training sessions at Bush Lake Ski Jump for adrenaline junkies who want to experience jumping for themselves.