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Como Zoo, St. Paul, MN

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune
Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

This free zoo, founded in 1897, has been a childhood favorite of Minnesotans for generations.
It’s compact size makes it easy for small kids and seniors to navigate. Kids love that the animals are so easy to see.

They also love the Sparky the Sea Lion Show so much, that I’d recommend finding your seats at least 15-20 minutes before the show starts. We use that time to eat our snack from home and have been able to get great seats. Afterward, you can get lunch at the concession stands, or inside the visitor center at Zobota Cafe.

The Zobota Cafe is not only air-conditioned, but has more healthful dining options such as fruit cups, pasta salads, gourmet sandwiches, as well as bottled juices and coffee drinks. An offer of fair warning: the outdoor concession stands attract a fair share of bees in late-summer, whereas the indoor cafe does not.

Watching the polar bears swim underwater is another big hit. The bear typically pushes off the glass with his foot, so the kids like to put their hands on the glass where they think he’ll land.

Getting there is pretty easy: I-94 to Lexington Ave North, then follow the signs. If you get there near 10 a.m. when they open, you’ll have better luck finding a parking spot near the entrance in the lot or on the street. Afternoons get busy with school kids, especially late in the school year on Thursdays and Fridays… a popular field trip destination.

You can easily make a day of it here. Besides the zoo, there is Como Town Amusement Park, featuring carnival-type rides for ages 1-12. The Marjorie McNeally Conservatory offers Tropical Encounters; an indoor rainforest featuring over 250 animals, including turtles, frogs, birds, an anaconda and ‘Chloe’ the sloth. If you still need more, there’s the historic Cafejian’s Carousel, Putt’er There Mini-Golf, and plenty of park grounds to just rest or picnic in the shade.

Consistenly rated 4 and 5 stars by visitor polls all over the web, I highly recommend this as one of my favorite kid-friendly destinations.

Here’s a little giraffe video I shot on our last visit… enjoy!

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