Nickelodeon Universe Mall of America Roller Coasters Reviewed

Nickelodeon Universe may have the highest concentration of ‘90s nostalgia and coaster track in the world — outside of its counterpart at American Dream in New Jersey. As a millennial who was raised on Nickelodeon cartoon marathons, I’ve wanted to visit this Nick-infused park since the day I learned it would become Nickelodeon Universe. When I recently found myself in Minneapolis for work, I knew the inner kid in me had to make a pit stop at the park.

The centerpiece of Mall of America, located outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nickelodeon Universe originally opened as Knott’s Camp Snoopy (the “Knott’s” name was eventually dropped) in 1992. After the Peanuts branding license between the mall and Cedar Fair ended in 2006, the park operated as “The Park at MOA” before being transformed into Nickelodeon Universe for the 2008 season (the park is celebrating its 15th birthday this year, which is very hard to believe). With the revamp came a slew of new rides and rethemed existing attractions.

Nickelodeon Universe, as of this posting, offers both an unlimited ride wristband and a pay-per-ride point system, so popping in for a quick ride or two won’t necessarily break the bank. I splurged on the unlimited wristband as I knew it would save me money in the long run rather than paying per ride.

Because my time was limited, I focused on the park’s five roller coasters. Below are my thoughts on each.

Avatar Airbender

I am not a fan of spinning in any form — on roller coasters, flat rides or even in an office chair. Spinning for any length of time usually results in a headache at best, nausea at worst. But in my quest for coaster credits, I’ll ride (just about) any coaster at least once.

I came very close to skipping Avatar Airbender, an Intamin “Surfrider” halfpipe model. From the videos I watched online, it seemed the spinning might be too intense.

But this was the last ride of my day, so I thought to myself, “What do I have to lose?” Worst case scenario, I go back to my hotel and sleep it off.

I’m pleased to report that the spinning wasn’t that intense or disorienting. I certainly wasn’t hopping back in line to ride again, but by focusing on one point of reference and then turning quickly to focus on another (like an ice skater), I was able to minimize the dizzying sensation.

Perhaps the most thrilling part of the ride was seeing first-hand how close the track comes to the skylight ceiling — and just how close the surfboard-esque train comes to the end of said track. The weightlessness experienced at the top of each spike was an added bonus.

Even if you’re not a fan of spinning, I highly recommend giving Avatar Airbender a…spin.

Back at the Barnyard Hayride

Did I ride this powered Zamperla “Mini Mine Coaster” for the credit? Yes. Am I ashamed? Maybe a little. But I got the credit.

Photo by Jeremy Thompson/ CC BY

This is the perfect option for a first-time coaster rider. It’s not too fast, stays low to the ground and doesn’t pack any crazy transitions or elements. The train completes multiple circuits, so it isn’t a one-and-done ride.

Fairly Odd Coaster

In my mind, the Fairly Odd Coaster spinning coaster was built as part of the Nickelodeon Universe rebrand. But I eventually realized that it actually opened in 2004 as Timberline Twister.

Variations of this Gerstlauer spinning coaster model can be found at several parks across the country. But of course, this one adds the exciting twist (no pun intended) of being built indoors and interacting with the surrounding attractions.

Again, not being a fan of spinning, I was a little apprehensive about riding. But I again needed the credit, and I’ve been on enough of these Gerstlauer spinning coasters to know that the spinning isn’t that bad.

The coaster offers mild spinning and a few surprising pops of airtime, especially in this drop following the mid-course brake run.

The coaster also offers a great view of the park, and its preexisting orange and teal color scheme matches the Nickelodeon aesthetic beautifully.

The coaster’s capacity is limited, so I recommend riding it as early in the day as possible if the park is crowded.

Fairly Odd Coaster is a great option for up-and-coming thrill seekers who are ready for something a little more thrilling than Pepsi Orange Streak, which I’ll highlight next.

Pepsi Orange Streak

Originally opening with the park in 1992 as Pepsi Ripsaw, the now Nickelodeon orange-themed Pepsi Orange Streak is by far the longest and most sprawling coaster at Nickelodeon Universe.

The Zierer-manufactured “Tivoli” coaster stretches 2,680 feet and weaves in and around the building’s massive support structures as well as many of the park’s attractions.

The coaster stands 60 feet tall and features a 40-foot drop, reaching a top speed of 30 mph. The train’s 15-car trains seat 30 riders, making it one of the highest-capacity rides at the park.

The coaster is smooth and borderline relaxing as it glides over the park, almost like a hybrid roller coaster/monorail.

Orange Streak offers unique views of several of the park’s attractions, including the log flume which was sadly closed on my visit.

You can’t miss the coaster’s bright blue station, which houses a Rugrats-themed bumper car ride on the ground floor.

I saw something different each time I rode Orange Streak. It’s a mild but fun coaster — definitely the tamest of the four “big” coasters.

SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge

As a SpongeBob fanatic, I was most excited to ride this coaster, the “big kahuna” of coasters at Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America.

The coaster stands roughly 75 feet tall and features a 97-degree beyond vertical first drop.

The 8-seat train reaches a top speed of 43 mph as it careens through two inversions — a vertical loop and heartline roll — and 1,371 feet of track.

When I say this coaster was squeezed into the building, it was squeezed. The crest of the vertical lift hill almost scrapes the skylight a la Avatar Airbender’s two spikes. Pictures don’t do the lack of space between riders and the skylight any justice.

The coaster is a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter “410” model, which is a variation of similar compact Euro-Fighter models.

I loved the pop of airtime that follows the vertical loop.

No inch of track is wasted in the coaster’s layout. Its pacing is fantastic — it maintains its momentum from the moment it leaves the lift hill until it reaches the mid-course brake run and regains some of the energy in the helix finale.

Nickelodeon’s longest-running and arguably most popular series deserves the title of the most thrilling coaster at Nickelodeon Universe, and SpongeBob Rock Bottom Plunge rightfully earns that title.

Overall, I had a wonderful time at the park. Every coaster had less than a 5-minute wait, which made the visit even more enjoyable. While I don’t think the park offers enough to fill an entire day, it’s certainly a great way to spend a few hours while waiting on someone to finish a shopping spree.

Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to explore the park’s impressive lineup of flat rides, so that will definitely be on my to-do list the next time I visit the park.

Have you visited Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America? Let us know what you think about the indoor theme park in the comments section below.