Bloomington through the Decades - Ferry Crossing to Mall Shopping  

Bloomington, Minnesota, the 5th largest city with the largest number of hotel rooms in the Twin Cities, has always been a major crossroad for travelers in the Upper Midwest. For thousands of years, Bloomington 's natural features played a major role in attracting visitors. The Ojibwe and Dakota Sioux Native Americans first journeyed along its picturesque bluffs, rolling woodlands, and pristine waterways of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers in search of wildlife. Before the turn of the 19th century, French Canadian fur trappers frequented water channels of the Minnesota River , Ten Mile Creek, and the Hyland, Bush, and Anderson chain of lakes in search of valuable pelts.

By the mid 1800s, Bloomington was attracting soldiers, missionaries, and pioneers who took advantage of its rich timber, abundant waters, and fertile soils. Fort Snelling , built on what was to become Bloomington at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, was a draw for settlers seeking safety and provisions from the U.S. Government as they pushed westward.  

In 1842, Peter Quinn, an Irish-born adventurer who befriended the local Native American tribes, was the first European to settle in Bloomington after staying at Fort Snelling . Two brothers, Gideon and Samuel Pond, who built the city’s first school and mission, followed Quinn. The Pond House known simply as the "Brick House" is now on the National Historic Registar and is one of Bloomington 's historical attractions.  

By 1852, Bloomington was becoming an important travel hub. The Bloomington ferry and the adjacent 16-room Ferry Hotel on the Minnesota River , became the city's first bonafide hospitality center. The ferry, the only major crossing on the Minnesota River , operated for nearly forty years until a bridge was finally built.   Bloomington , named for its abundance of colorful "flowering fields," was organized in 1858, the same year Minnesota became a state.

In 1906, Bloomington landed on the world travel map when its most famous galloping hero, Dan Patch the racehorse, clocked the international pacing record. For several summers, dozens of tour groups made annual pilgrimages to see the grandiose Bloomington stables where the great racehorse rested between competitions.  

The decades of the '50s and '60s propelled Bloomington into explosive growth, increasing its population by nearly two-thirds. The nations two major interstates I-35 and I-494, which intersect in Bloomington , were created. Minnesota 's first concentration of modern office towers, shopping malls, and hotels outside Minneapolis and St. Paul , sprouted up along the 494 freeway and became know as the "Bloomington Strip." Thousands of sports fans regularly flocked to the "Strip" to watch Minnesota Twins baseball, Minnesota Vikings football, and Minnesota North Stars hockey in Bloomington 's Met Center and Metropolitan Stadium.  

From the '60s to the '90s, Bloomington grew to become one of Minnesota 's largest cities with a population of 90,000. Although Bloomington lost its sports arenas, it gained an even greater visitor base with the grand opening of Mall of America in 1992. The largest retail complex in the United States , complete with an amusement park, aquarium, and other family entertainment venues. It has become one of the largest tourist attractions in North America with an average of 40 million visitors each year.  

Bloomington has now become the first and only Minnesota city to surpass downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul in total number of hotel rooms. Today, thirty-seven hotels with 7,800 guest rooms welcome visitors, with nearly all offering indoor swimming pools or other health facilities, fine dining establishments, and complimentary shuttles to and from the airport and Mall of America. Meeting space is available for groups ranging from 10-2,000.   What does tomorrow hold for the City of Hospitality? Staying true to its roots for remaining the number one city in Minnesota for hosting visitors, Bloomington is planning Phase II of Mall of America. The first store to open in phase II was IKEA, the home furnishing store, which opened in July of 2004.