Karen and I were really impressed with the Minnesota Zoo. In fact, Karen said that it was her second favorite zoo just behind her favorite which is the zoo in Memphis. What we liked so much about the Minnesota Zoo was the fact that they had very cutting edge exhibits and it seemed like every animal there had adequate space. At just about every zoo that we have been to Karen and I have been able to find a few animals that we felt sorry for because they were in dated enclosures or their area just seemed way too small. When leaving the Minnesota Zoo we had no such feelings which made for a very enjoyable experience.
The Minnesota Zoo first opened its doors in 1978 in Apple Valley Minnesota which is a suburb of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. The zoo has over 4,200 individual animals that make up a whopping 546 species so there is just about something for everybody to enjoy. That might explain why the Minnesota Zoo is so popular with over 1.3 million people visiting it every year. Being a relatively new zoo their exhibits have some of the latest technology and it does not use the old cement barriers and bars to keep the animals and visitors safe from each other. So, the Minnesota Zoo is a great place to take wildlife photography.
A unique aspect about the Minnesota Zoo is the fact that they have most of their animals grouped not by species or based on the continent that they can be found on, but by their environment. In other words, instead of having a cat or Africa area they have the Northern Trail where animals living about the 45th parallel north are grouped. There you will find Amur tigers housed next to Moose. The other exceptions to this are their recent additions to the zoo which are their cutting edge Medtronic Minnesota Trail and Russia’s Grizzly Coast which feature animals exclusively from those two regions. In all, the Minnesota Zoo has six themed areas: Wells Fargo Family Farm, Northern Trail, Tropics Trail, Discovery Bay, Medtronic Minnesota Trail, and Russia’s Grizzly Coast.
The Wells Fargo Family Farm is a unique seasonal area that was created by the Minnesota Zoo to give its visitors a real learning experience of how the food that we eat goes from the farm to the kitchen table. Our visit was during the 2nd half of October so there was not a whole bunch going on at the farm, but we did see their rows of costumed scarecrows and a few pumpkins still left from their pumpkin patch. The Wells Fargo Family Farm won the AZA top exhibit award for 2001.
The Northern Trail is home to a variety of animals that live above the 45th parallel including two adorable baby tigers. There are many animals that are found in this area of the zoo including caribou, bison, takin, moose, and musk ox. Karen and I were very impressed with the large barless enclosures these animals had if you are in the area we highly recommend that you go and see the baby tigers before they are all grown up.
The Tropic Trails exhibit is another topnotch exhibit found at the Minnesota Zoo. This area will take you through a lush tropical forest complete with a variety of animals from around the world. There are several unique animals located in this area including sloths, red pandas, gibbons, small clawed otters, and lemurs. What made this a world-class exhibit was their large tropical reef located near the end of the exhibit where you get a bird’s eye as well as an underwater view of life among a tropical reef.
Discovery Bay has over a million gallons of water that provides a home to the zoos aquarium residents. The zoo has sharks, rays, a variety of fish, and sea stars. Unfortunately, the Discovery Bay has taken a few steps back recently with having to move their resident dolphins to a different location while they update and fix their enclosure. While this was probably our least favorite area of the zoo it is only because the rest of the zoo is so well done that this exhibit does not seem as appealing.
My favorite area of the zoo was the wonderfully designed Russia’s Grizzly Coast. While there were not as many animals as their other areas each animal in this exhibit had a well-made encl;osure that captured the Kamchatka peninsula of eastern Russia. I especially like the large Grizzly area and the sea otter exhibit was one of the best that I have ever seen. Another thing that made this exhibit special was the fact that they had two Amur leopard cubs that were having a grand time chasing each other and their mother around.
Karen’s favorite exhibit was the Medtronic Minnesota Trail. While there were not very many unique animals located here outside of a wolverine, but what the Minnesota Trail does have is a completely unique way of showcasing the native animals of the north. Going through this exhibit was like walking through a log cabin’s hallway where the window openings show Minnesota’s wildlife. Neither Karen nor I have ever seen an exhibit designed like that. A few of the animal highlights of the Minnesota Trail were their natural looking black bear exhibit, large beaver pond, and wolf habitat.
The Minnesota Zoo also has a tram that goes through the exhibits, a large playground area for the kiddos, and a world of birds show that goes year round in either their outdoor arena or their stage inside. This zoo truly has something for everybody. Since it is a large zoo expect to be there at least 3 hours at a minimum which could easily extend into a full day of entertainment. Karen and I highly recommend the Minnesota Zoo
Location: 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley Minnesota
Hours of Operation: Summer Months May through September 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with extended hours on Saturday and Sunday and October through April 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Cost as of this Posting: Ages 13-64 $18.00 Ages 3 to 12 and 65 and over are $12.00
For more information visit their website at http://www.mnzoo.org/
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