May 28

Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, Mall of America

This article was first featured at InsideFlyer.

 

Visiting the upper midwest for some time, or got a long layover to kill in Minneapolis? Traveling with kids, or simply a kid at heart? Consider a stop at Nickelodeon Universe, the indoor amusement park at the Mall of America. Formerly known as Camp Snoopy, Nickelodeon Universe has 27 rides and a bunch of other attractions to keep you busy for hours.

Nickelodeon Universe

nickelodeon universe

For a theme park that has to fit inside a shopping mall, even one of the largest in the world, Nickelodeon Universe does a great job of appealing to a wide variety of customers. The older folks can entertain themselves with roller coasters, spinning rides and others that will cause fear and/or nausea, while the little ones can hang out at such locations as the Barnyard Hayride or Diego’s Rescue Rider.

Insider Hint: There are four entrances throughout the park and the south entrance has a giant Lego play area and store so, if you are coming in with a seven year old boy, you may want to enter from the north.

For those of you who are big on roller coasters, there isn’t enough space to challenge the biggest in the world, but there are still plenty to make your stomach drop. While there are several traditional coasters, you will also find rides such as The Brain Surge, The Fairly Odd Coaster (with cars that spin as you navigate the drops) and the new TMNT Shell Shock. But the nice side to everything being in such a condensed area is that, if somebody didn’t like the looks of a particular ride, there was likely a suitable one only ten or twenty yards away.

nickelodeon universe

That’s what qualifies as a roller coaster for the pre-school set

There are also bumper cars, a traditional carousel and a mix of other rides, all themed with Nickelodeon characters. In fact, I hope you are a SpongeBob or Dora fan, because it’s impossible to escape the network’s “representatives.” Hey, if it helps to offset the ticket price, I’m willing to deal with the advertising. Speaking of which…

The Cost

Nickelodeon Universe

It’s actually not that expensive. All the rides have a point value, either three points for the junior rides or six points for the ones that will make you sick. And while the rides may look expensive, the more cost effective way to do it is to buy an all-day pass, which gives you unlimited access to Nickelodeon Universe for $34.99. The only reason you wouldn’t do that is if you had several people who only wanted to go on a few rides, making a wristband for each expensive.

Insider Hint: Don’t wait in the ridiculous lines at the single ticket booth. Instead, get your passes from one of the many kiosks scattered around the park.

The park also has the usual mix of carny games, Skee-Ball and food options to separate you from your wallet. Don’t worry, your kids will help take advantage of every opportunity to bankrupt you. But because you are in the mall, there are also plenty or restaurants or stores to distract you if you need a break.

The Atmosphere

nickelodeon universe

The line for the ticket booth. Efficiency is not their forte.

The rides are staffed by the usual bored teenagers and tend to have one fewer person operating them than they actually need to keep things moving quickly. Disney World, this ain’t, and an efficiency expert could probably improve throughput by about 30% without breaking a sweat. But if you are able to go during an off-time, such as when local schools are in session, you probably won’t face many long lines. I survived 3-4 hours at the park today and had only one wait that was longer than ten minutes. Weekends will be longer, though, as Nickelodeon Universe represents a pretty inexpensive way to entertain your little ones for the day.

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The Bottom Line

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the park. Overall, it was inexpensive, clean and kept my kids entertained for hours. The staff wasn’t what I would call energetic, but most people that we interacted with were “Minnesota-Nice.” There were plenty of rides that we could do together as a family, including one of the better flumes that I have been on, but when my son and daughter wanted to split up to do different rides, each had several tailored to them. If you need to kill some time in the Minneapolis area, there are definitely worse places you could go.

 

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May 25

Marriott Summer Promotion – 10,000 Bonus Points

I hope that this isn’t all that there is.

Marriott just announced its summer promotion, allowing you to earn up to 10,000 bonus miles. As a quarterly promotion goes, this one is extremely weak.

The Details

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On the plus side, it’s easy to understand. Register online (through the “My Promotions” link in your account) and you’ll get an extra 2,000 points on every paid stay, starting with your second stay, through September 5. You max out at 10,000 bonus points, although you’re eligible for an additional 2,000 if you have a Marriott Reward credit card.

I guess the kicker is that there is a sweepstakes: You’ll get one entry when you register and another for each night you stay. 100 members will win 100,000 points, which Marriott values at $1,250 (I think that number is on the high side.).

Companies use loyalty programs to influence future behavior but, I have to say, this particular one won’t have any influence over my travel.

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May 24

JetBlue Triple Points Offer – Act Fast

One of the things I like about JetBlue is that they run frequent flash sales and/or promotions. One of the things that I dislike about them is that, due to the nature of a flash sale, you need to move quickly. The current promotion, good through May 25, is actually one of the better ones. And since the promo started yesterday, it’s actually a 3-day offer, not the usual 2-day.

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This one’s easy. Once you register, book any flight for June and you will earn triple base points (Sorry, there is no tripling for the bonus points that you may earn due to fare class or Mosaic status). No restrictions on this one, which is nice. And while the bonus points don’t count toward Mosaic elite status, they’re great for redemptions. I value TrueBlue points at about 1.5c each so, after factoring in the bonus, you’ll be getting approximately a 13.5% return on your ticket. Better than you can do in a savings account.

For those of you able to travel at the last minute, this is a great way to go.

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May 23

Delta Improves Elite Benefits, Marriott And Chase Shoots for Small Businesses

Delta Remembers Their Elite Members

Over the past few years, Delta has slowly been transitioning its rewards program from a mileage-based one to a revenue-based one. In other words, the customers who got the biggest rewards were the ones that spent the most money, as opposed to those who flew the most miles (which I consider to be perfectly reasonable). But it looks like they may have gone too far, and customers have pushed back. Recently, they have announced several changes that enhance elite status, particularly at the Diamond level, which is the top tier. A few of the changes:

  • Companion upgrades. In the past, if an elite member was traveling with a non-elite member, or one of a lower status, they could both get upgrades, but it would be based on the status of the lower of the two. Delta has changed that to be based on the higher status. For example, under the old policy, a Silver member and Diamond member traveling together would be upgraded based on Silver status. Now, they will be upgraded based on the Diamond member’s status.*
  • Customers who pay for a full-fare coach ticket (Y fare) will no longer receive upgrade priority over a customer with a higher elite status. Previously, if you paid for a full-fare, fully refundable ticket, you usually received an automatic upgrade to first class. That’s no longer the case. Delta doesn’t sell too many of these tickets, anyway, but it’s still a small shift in favor of elite members.

Bottom line: If you’re not happy, let the airline know. Believe it or not, they still listen.

Chase and Marriott Target Small Businesses

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Small businesses are extremely valuable to credit card companies. They tend to spend a ton and frequently carry balances, using their cards as lines of credit. Thus, banks are quick to solicit their business. Chase has gone a step beyond, offering 100,000 Marriott Rewards Points as a sign-up bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first three months after opening the account. This is the best bonus that I’ve seen for a business card.

Also of interest is that you will receive Gold elite status, the middle tier, in the Marriott Rewards program when you spend $50,000 on the card in a year. Hotels are quick to give away the lowest tier elite status, but mid-tier is better.

If you don’t want a business card, the offer for 80,000 Marriott points is still available, but likely won’t be for much longer.

 

*As seen at Renespoints

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