My family and I were planning a trip to the Minnesota Zoo. At the last minute, we decided to try something different. Another zoo in the area that’s free?! OK! We found a gem when we visited the free zoo, Como Park & Zoo Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota!
Free. Hello. It’s completely free. That’s awesome. Now that being said, the entire place is run on memberships and free will donations. There is a suggested donation of $3 for adults and $2 for children. We happily donated as we entered the zoo.
As we walked around, I saw other ways to donate throughout the park. There were donation boxes at each exhibit, and the gift shop had plush animals that you could purchase that the proceeds went to help care for the plants and animals.
Areas of Interest
There are so many areas to visit, you could spend several trips to the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory (and the surrounding area) and not see it all! Here’s a few of the highlights:
- Caesjian’s Carousel- One of the oldest wooden carousels in the country!
- Marjorie McNeely Conservatory- This includes several exhibits, gardens, and galleries.
- Como Town Amusement Park- A kid friendly amusement park with rides & games
- Blooming Butterflies- A seasonal exhibit in the zoo.
- Picnic Areas- There are a variety of shelters and picnic areas in and around the park.
- Como Regional Park Pool- This is a great pool nearby with a kiddie pool and lazy river!
- Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom – It’s 17.5 acres of paved and gravel trails and gardens near the zoo.
I will be honest. I was looking for a full zoo experience when we started out on our family adventure. When we decided to go to Como Zoo instead of the Minnesota Zoo, I was a bit hesitant. There were less animals, after all. I was pleasantly surprised. There were plenty of animals to see and exhibits to explore. The main exhibits included:
- Primates/Gorilla Forest
- Bison & Reindeer
- Polar Bear Oddessy
- Lion & Tiger
- Wolf Woods
- Tropical Encounters Exhibit (Anaconda snake and Sloth included!)
One thing to note about the zoo. Currently, a large area of the zoo is under construction. They are building a new exhibit called Como Harbor. This exhibit will be home to the seals and sea loins- complete with an amphitheater to be finished in late 2019.
Como Town Amusement Park
After the zoo, we headed right over to Como Town. This is a great “little kid” friendly amusement park. The rides at this amusement park are geared toward younger kids. My kids are ages 3, 4, and 5. They had a blast!
Como Town is also free to enter, but there is a charge for the rides. You can purchase a day pass for unlimited rides. With three kids, though, it was cheaper for us to buy individual tickets for each ride, and just go on a few.
How the cost of rides work: There’s a point system. The rides are worth 4-10 points. You can buy individual points for the rides you want to go on.
We skipped the Carousel when we entered Como Park & Zoo Conservatory. (We wanted to get straight to the zoo animals!) I wish we hadn’t, though, after reading more about it.
Here’s what the informational pamphlet said about Cafesjian’s Carousel, “Built in 1914, this Minnesota treasure- The historic MN State Fair Carousel- is one of the oldest wooden carousels in the country. It was painstakingly restored, is meticulously maintained, & has been enjoyed by generations of riders.”
We’ll definitely have to take a ride next time!
Watch out for parking. It’s a little crazy. There’s plenty of lots, but they were all full on the beautiful weekend day. There is a shuttle available for lots further away. Just be patient- people are coming and going often. We had to drive around a bit to find a spot. I was pleased at where we ended up.
Enjoy A Picnic
Our family parked in the best spot! We parked in the West Picnic Lot. It was just across the street from the Como Park Zoo. We were able to enjoy the zoo & amusement park, and came back to the area for a picnic dinner. After dinner, the kids were able to cut loose on the playground.
The playground was amazing. Perfect for kids that love to climb. (Really, what kid doesn’t?!)
There was even a great spot for my little guy to play.
It was a good day!
I sound like a tour guide here, but if you’re looking for some affordable entertainment, I highly recommend checking out this free zoo. Our costs which were donations, a picnic lunch, and amusement ride tickets were less that our family’s entrance fee at the other zoo. Como Park & Conservatory is a great place to take a family trip. We can’t wait for our next visit!