Lances smash in front of me, shards of wood showering down, while horses gallop in either direction. The knights’ handiwork is impressive, I think, but perhaps after the show, I’ll return that pair of shoes next door.
At Arundel Mills, the sprawling mall in Hanover, shoppers come not only to buy, but also to experience—whether it’s a snack and a joust at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament or just a whirl on the merry-go-round.
Game for a short staycation, I decide to spend a day at the Anne Arundel County complex, emerging (with some difficulty) without that adorable new dress, but with a lot of great pictures of me and my kids.
In fact, whether you spend a lot or spend nothing, you’re likely to find plenty of ways to pack a day here.
Where better to start than among the lovely waterfalls and waterfowl at the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World? Who cares if the ducks are fake? Not my 4- and 6-year-old.
And the inside of the store is pretty cool for kids, too: While older ones may run for the rock-climbing wall, the stroller crowd can congregate around the big fish tank. Check times for the fish feedings, or just gawk at the gaping mouths and shining scales.
Next, keep up the free fun by heading to the LEGO Store, where piles of the colorful blocks await. We try building one of the suggested patterns on the monitor, but quickly scrap it and go freeform instead.
Having checked off the kids’ need for creative stimulation, it’s time to chill a bit. But instead of settling in at a restaurant or the food court, we opt to grab a bench and do some people-watching over frosted slices of Mrs. Fields Cookies.
The parade of humanity isn’t all there is to see. The mall was designed as five neighborhoods with different themes: One minute, we find ourselves walking under giant glowing bowling pins; the next, we feel like we’re in a pinball machine.
Wherever we go, diversions pop up. We can sing in a karaoke booth, get blown around in a hurricane machine, or roll in a giant bubble. We can even climb into a motion-simulator.
Thank goodness my kids are little.
For them, a few moments’ happiness can be purchased with a handful of quarters fed into the mini carousel and other rides. Also great for small ones is the mall train, which chugs track-less around the promenade.
Our favorite activity, though, is a screen on the floor with graphics that responds (for free!) when you step on it. I finally have to drag my younger daughter away from making virtual bubbles with her toes.
By mid afternoon, hardcore window shoppers are just getting started, but my kids are petering out. What to do? Head for the hieroglyphics at the Cinemark Egyptian 24 Theaters! The huge statues are an attraction in themselves, but push past them for a couple hours of popcorn and the latest family-friendly hit.
The day’s almost done, so it’s time to get the full “Arundel Mills experience” by traveling forward in time from the Sphinx to the Saxons. In other words, it’s time to don our colorful cardboard crowns and enter Medieval Times, where costumed serfs and wenches steer us through photo ops and endless souvenirs.
Distract your kids as well as you can: If you’re lucky, you’ll make it into the arena with your wallet intact as you ready for a spectacle of Renaissance-style entertainment. The kids heartily enjoy their big medieval meal, whose main distinction from modern fare seems to be that it’s fork-free.
When we finally emerge from Arundel Mills at the end of the day, my cheering children are begging for more. I, on the other hand, am pooped.
But I’m happy, too, that our full day of fun required nothing more than a trip to the mall.
For more information on Arundel Mills, visit www.simon.com/mall/?id=1230.