Minnesota Zoo offers look around the world, and its own backyard


The Minnesota Zoo offers visitors a nice view of nature – with a close-up take on Minnesota’s wildlife.

The zoo has a nice collection of animals from around the world, but its native exhibits are what I found most interesting. From wolves to wolverines, Minnesota has a lot to offer with its native animals.


But , first, an editorial on the zoo’s entrance and parking policies. The entrance fee for non-members is $18 per adult. In addition, it costs $7 for the privilege of parking in the zoo parking lot. Fortunately, our Omaha zoo membership offers a reciprocal discount, so we received 50 percent off the entrance fee. Otherwise, I cannot honestly say the Minnesota Zoo is worth $18 per adult, along with the $7 parking fee.

Now, on to the fun part – touring the zoo.

The first thing you see as you pass the entrance is the grizzly bear exhibit. They’re not just any grizzly bears. Nope. These grizzlies are from Russia (I wonder if they could see Alaska from their homes?).


The grizzly exhibit is nice. The viewing area inside its main building is a bit small. People stood 10-12 deep in rows trying to watch the bears swim in a small pool.


Outside, a few grizzlies were catching a nap in the warm temps.

One thing we found interesting was the display of volcanoes in the grizzly area. The display explained the region and the volcanic activity. There was mud bubbling because of the hot temperatures. In addition, steam shot out of a volcano’s opening. It made me think I should buy volcano insurance (that’s a softball for my fellow Family Guy followers). IMG_7272

Moving along from the grizzly bear area, we came up to my favorite area – the Minnesota animals. Wolves, wolverines, moose and birds highlighted the Minnesota trail.

IMG_7261 A couple of wolves met us at we approached their area. They checked out the visitors and then moved on, into the trees, so it was difficult to see them more. After standing there for a few more minutes, I realized the grey wolves were not coming back. I think they had a dinner date with Liam Neeson.

We walked. We saw a coyote, which scampered off.

The Northern Trail (the official name of the Minnesota trail) offered a glimpse of beavers at work. They have a decent sized pond for the beavers to swim and work in. The lighting was decent, so we could actually see them. We’ve been to some zoos where the beavers are in dark areas with little lighting, so you don’t get a get decent look at them. IMG_7257

The moose was hidden behind a couple of trees. I think he was shy. We saw his head and rack.

The Lodge houses wolverines, fish and birds native to the area.

Two wolverines walked around their exhibit area. They encountered each other once and looked to engage in a fight. I’m pretty sure it was playful jousting. They each moved along.


We saw a softshell turtle in the aquarium area. We’d never seen one before. It was funky looking. It looked like a cross between a snake or lizard head and a weirdly shaped turtle shell.


The bird area was cool. Cardinals, bluejays and other song birds were in the aviary. My favorite though was not a bird. It was a squirrel. He was going to town eating food on the ground.

On to more of the zoo.

An African dog called the Dhole was being trained by zoo keepers during our visit. It wasn’t being taught tricks, but rather how to interact with the zookeepers. The Dhole resembles an American fox.


The zoo is sponsoring a special exhibit called “Africa!” It is hosting several animals common to Africa, including giraffes, ostriches, bongos, addax, and wildebeest. The animals have plenty of room to roam in an open area of the zoo. It has an observation deck, where you can get a better look at the animals. We liked that.

We checked out three Asian wild horses. They were a bit active. One decided to roll around on the ground. I haven’t seen domestic horses do that before.


Ok, so this may seem weird, being Midwesterners and all, but we had a really nice time at the Family Farm section of the zoo. It’s set up to resemble a farmstead.


The farm elevator is sponsored by Land O Lakes. There is a display showing prices of crops throughout the years.

There was the Hormel silo. Actually, the silo was sponsored by Hormel, maker of that wonderful “meat” – SPAM. Who here has not had a bite of the deliciousness that is not SPAM?


You can pet a cow in the barn. Nearby, pigs do what pigs do well, sleep.


Outside, a John Deere tractor sits. I had to get a picture of me on it. Lisa obliged. I know that my dad looked down from heaven with a smile. He loved John Deere tractors. He could go on for hours about them. When he farmed, they started with a one-horse plow. Then, thought it was great when they added a second horse. Man, when they got that first John Deere, it was night and day for him.


Speaking of horses, a couple of them walked up to a group of people and basically posed for pictures. Nice!


While exploring the zoo, we stopped at the prairie dog area. We must have spent at least 15 minutes watching these little buggers. I’ve seen them in the “wild” before. Ok, there was a town of them near a hotel in Denver, but still… I got a kick out of them standing guard. One prairie dog stands upright and keeps that head moving in every direction possible, looking for signs of danger. They bark out warnings if they sense something getting too close to the community.


One dog stood on a rock, while 2-3 smaller dogs were standing at the bottom of it. It looked like he was training the younger ones. A few feet away, a baby prairie dog was climbing all over its parent’s back.


Elsewhere at the zoo, we checked out the tropical rainforest area and watched monkeys and lemurs move about. There was an animal that resembled a mix of rabbit and rat. I can’t recall its name. But, it was funky looking.


A group of otters were napping – all bundled together.

While walking past a lake, we watched a family of swans. Lisa and I have noticed that a lot of zoos we visit tend to have large lakes. That is one thing missing from the Omaha zoo. Perhaps, we will get one when the zoo makes all of its enhancements. Still, not having a lake at our zoo doesn’t knock it down; it’s still one of the best in the world (muuuwaaahhhhaaaahhhaaaa!!!! OR maniacal laugh). IMG_7967

We did appreciate that the Minnesota Zoo has a monorail that goes around the zoo’s boundary. It gives people a chance to see some of the animals that may be away from the viewing area.


While the Minnesota Zoo does does seem to be a bit small, it does have a lot to offer visitors. You can likely find an exhibit that intrigues you. Mine seemed to be the Minnesota animals.