• 24-48 Hours in Bloomington: Parks Style

Only have one or two days to explore the nature in and around Bloomington? That’s just enough time to get a feel for how we strike a perfect balance between urban amenities and Mother Nature.

Morning: Rise and shine for a square meal at your Bloomington hotel — one of more than 40 that is sure to have complimentary breakfast, an award-winning restaurant or at the very least, be in close proximity to one. Once you’re ready, a short drive away is the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, where you can spend all morning exploring 14,000 acres of trails, wildlife and unmatchable views. Be sure to stop at the visitor center on your way in to pick up a map so you can plot out your adventures.

Afternoon Once you’ve worked up an appetite at the wildlife refuge, head back to the concrete jungle for lunch. Streetz American Grill and Lucky’s 13 Pub, both in Bloomington, serve up hefty portions of burgers, sandwiches and more. The next stop on your nature-filled agenda is a Twin Cities’ paradise: Minnehaha Falls Regional Park, home to a 53-foot waterfall that’s beautiful every month of the year. Rent a family-friendly surrey or three-wheel chopper bike from Wheel Fun Rentals and pedal around the park.

Evening: After an action-packed day, Mall of America has dinner and a show for you. With more than 50 restaurants in the mall alone, you can’t go wrong (or hungry). Watch a chef prepare dinner before your eyes at Benihana or savor Italian fare at Tucci Benucch. To top off your day in honor of the state and national parks’ major milestones, strap in for an all-immersive tour of the country’s most beautiful sights and sounds. FlyOver America at MOA is a bird’s eye flight of coast-to-coast landmarks, complete with wind, scents and mist. Want to beat the lines for this popular new attraction? Buy timed tickets ahead of time.

Have a second day to enjoy Bloomington and the Twin Cities? Excellent—we have more planned for you.

Sunken Garden at Como Park & Conservatory in St. Paul, MN.Como Park & Conservatory Sunken Garden Morning: Head to the Taste of Scandinavia Bakery to fuel up for the day on pastries and breakfast dishes with proud Nordic roots. Then hop in your car or on a convenient Metro Transit bus route to Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, a crowned jewel of outdoor and indoor entertainment. Pay a visit to the zoo’s spider monkeys, polar bears, giraffes and more. Take a stroll through the conservatory’s aromatic Sunken Garden or see Bonsai trees at The Ordway Gardens. If you have little ones in tow, stop at Como Town, the adjacent, free-admission amusement park complete with 18 rides and attractions. Lastly, grab a seat at Como Dockside for a fabulous Southern-inspired lunch menu that changes seasonally.

Afternoon: If you’re craving more outdoor time, head back to Bloomington where you’ll find Hyland Lake Park Reserve, a picturesque escape with an 18-hole disc golf course, Richardson Nature Center and, of course, sprawling Hyland Lake. If you’d rather head indoors—or if that’s just what Mother Nature allows that day—pop by the Science Museum of Minnesota®.

Evening: It’s time to treat yourself to an incredible meal at one of Bloomington’s 40-plus restaurants. Cedar + Stone, Urban Table at the brand new JW Marriott serves up American fare with an emphasis on goods purchased from local farmers. Lela’s contemporary menu specializes in housemade pastas and seafood crudos, and Kincaid's is a longtime favorite for steak. Those looking for a more laidback atmosphere can kick back at Joe Senser’s. After you’ve reminisced about all you’ve seen and done in Bloomington and the Twin Cities, let your head hit the pillow. We’ll see you again soon.