O: Outings: Minnesota Zoo
I’ve always been a fan of the zoo. Growing up I went to the Phoenix Zoo on our annual vacations there. It honestly never occurred to me to ask my small town southern Minnesota parents where the nearest zoo was. I just Googled it now to verify that yes, it indeed existed. Minnesota’s “New Zoo” opened in 1978. I would say if my parents harbored any guilt about not taking me, they have more than compensated with the annual gift of a zoo membership for our family.
I think I also suspected that your typical zoo animals could not survive a harsh Minnesota winter. Zoos were for southern climates. I don’t recall the date or time I discovered a zoo in Minnesota did indeed exist, but I do remember my husband and I paid the zoo a visit when I was at least half way into my 13 days overdue with my first born. I guarantee I waddled around just like the penguins of the new exhibit just opened this July.
Fast forward eight years. I still love going. On this particular visit, we went for just under two hours, focusing on the outdoor stuff and a run through of the penguins exhibit. The earthy, organic new Cargill addition connects the Tropics Trail and Discovery Bay portion and allows for a smooth flow at the zoo entrance (plus education rooms behind the scenes). The parking lots are full around 12:15 on a Sunday when we arrive (later than I’d usually go). I was a bit concerned it would be too crowded, but the member line is a breeze and there is a 25 person some wait in the other line. I also reasoned that my 6 and 8 year olds could outlast the tired toddlers that would have to leave by 1:00 for afternoon naps.
First up, a visit to the penguins who are the hype of the zoo’s Do the Waddle promotions. We were curious to see if they lived up to their tagline of Cute. Cuter. Cutest. (Yes : ) Post visit we learned that a group of penguins is actually called a waddle. We got up close and leaned in to observe them among the crowd. They blinked intently. No waddles were witnessed. What had I expected? Marching, like in the movie of the same name? Maybe they are just adapting to their man-made environment and eventually their comedic side will shine. Calvin, my 6-yr-old, said he saw one playing dead. Joke’s on the crowd I guess.
Then we do the Northern Trail, checking in on all of our favorites who are pretty lazy for midday in the summer. We see the otters and grizzlies of Russia’s Northcoast exhibit, and the warthogs, cheetahs, tigers, takins who are all sleeping or lounging. We spend some time working the tiger tracker and at the zoologist’s desk in Tiger Lair Central. The bison and bactrian camels are all trying to keep cool in the algae-thick shallow pools. There is minimal movement, but most of the animals are close or within spotting range.
Today, we bypass the Wells Fargo Farm with more of the farm animals. I’d vote to go when it’s cooler and maybe over the August 6 and 7 weekend, when they have special stuff going on out there. If you don’t make it, there’s always their scientific research program Who Pooped, to check out online.
Moving along, we spot a moose at close range. Overhead, the Monorail creeps along at such a slow pace that we’re keeping up with it. They occasionally stop to point to animals in camouflage. We come around the backside of the Tiger Lair, then reach the oasis of family fun. This time we’re prepared. The kids change into their swimsuits, then zip in and out of the sculptures in the fountain area, nearly knocking over some toddlers. Completely cooled off, but hungry, we bypassed the playground area with the mosquito and spider inspired apparatuses in favor of a picnic lunch.
We fetched our cooler from the car and set up to picnic at one of the several tables in the landscaped area complete with trees for shade, between the parking lots. Sure solves the issue of kids not wanting to leaving the zoo too soon – food awaits! After a two hour visit, we left plenty to do for other returns. What probably doesn’t happen much in Phoenix at their zoo is a change of seasons and resulting change in animal behavior. Here in Minnesota, more so. We’ll at least visit four times a year – in the cooler temps some animals are more active and that’s also when we check out all of the indoor exhibits, maybe head to the IMAX, do the waddle. Whatever the case, for this family of zoo fans, membership definitely has it’s perks.