Summer can be a very popular time to visit Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. Yes, you might have to fight a few crowds — especially on the weekends — but the attractions are, in our opinion, worth it. Summer season finds Como is at its best with carousel rides, live music, lawn games, summer blooms and more. To help make the most of your visit, we’ve created this handy Como Park Zoo “Summer Checklist”. A few important things to note:
General tips for visiting Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
- ADMISSION to Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is always FREE. Donations are encouraged and help to care for the amazing animal and plant life. You can donate online ahead of time or there are donation boxes at the two entrances.
- RESERVATIONS are currently needed to visit Como Zoo. They are free and easy to make online, or it’s possible to show up and reserve on the spot with staff. We recommend making the reservation ahead of time, especially if you choose to visit on a weekend (when availability may run out).
- FOOD & SNACKS are sold indoors (Zoobota Cafe) and outdoors (Pier 56 – fast food). If you prefer, it is permitted to bring in your own food but there is limited seating. Call ahead! The Cafe is not open every day.
Como Park Zoo Summer Checklist:
Visit the animals
Popping in on all the resident animals at Como Zoo is a year-round activity, of course, but we think summertime is the best chance you’ll get of observing them active and outdoors. If you’re new to Como Zoo, some of the animals you can hope to see include a variety of primates, big cats (including a lion and tiger), a large polar bear habitat, seals and sea lions, giraffes and zebras, an indoor tropical rainforest walk-through and lots more. You can find a complete listing of Como Zoo resident animals here.
The beautiful Marjorie McNeely Conservatory bursts with colorful blooms during the annual Summer Flower Show. Your kids will be delighted with the trickling fountains and fishponds. There are rotating flower shows on display all year long at the Conservatory so if a summer visit isn’t in the cards, a winter trip will warm you right up.
Family-Friendly tips: Fill your water bottles before heading in. It’s beautiful but it is WARM (think vaguely tropical rainforest). You’ll be happy to have cold water to sip. If crowds are low, it’s possible to get some quick informal pictures of your kids enjoying the flowers. We picked a Tuesday and had the sunken garden almost to ourselves at one point (but no guarantees). May 7-Oct 2, 2022.
The annual summer concert tradition brings live bands to the grounds in front of the Conservatory Wednesday evenings. Food, treats and drinks are available for purchase or pack a picnic and bring a blanket along for a summer dinner with music. Each week, there is entertainment for children included in the evening. In past years, this has included a bounce house, lawn games and a climbing wall. Please see the website for more information about weekly offerings.
Did you know that Nagasaki, Japan is a sister city to Saint Paul? Take advantage of the warm summer weather and meander through this beautiful garden that symbolizes peace. Its tranquil paths, plants and rock bridges may even chill out your kids! Open daily with Conservatory hours.
Make it a Story Break? Bring along A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson, one of our many talented, local authors of children’s books. This book and its upper grades companion book, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story, tell the true story of a young girl who survived the WWII bombing.
Had enough tranquility? Head next door. Como Town Amusement Park offers a great mix of rides and attractions that will appeal mainly to kids ages 2-12. They range from the extra-gentle choo-choo train to the Tiger Trax junior roller coaster (and we even know a few adults who really enjoyed the Soaring Eagle zip line). It’s also possible to purchase points to play in Hodge-Podge park with its flashy splash pad.
Take a spin on the beautiful antique Cafesjian’s Carousel – $3 per rider over 1 year, Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. FREE rides are offered on the following dates: May 31, June 28, July 26, Aug 30, and Sept 27, 2022.
Play a round of mini golf. The course is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Mon-Sat: 10am-10pm and Sun: 11am-9pm. Choose to play either 9, 18 or 27 wholes. Prices range from $6-$12/pp depending on age and number of holes played.
Check It Off: If you are working through our list of our list of our favorite Mini Golf Courses in the Twin Cities, you’ll be able to check this one off your list!
The pool is a bit of a distance from the zoo, but could be worth the walk (or drive) for a little swim time fun! To tempt you this summer: a lazy river for tubing, an exciting zip line, climbing wall, diving well, and a big splash pool and play area for little swimmers. Prices range from FREE (for kids under 2) to $7/pp. Tot Times are Sundays from 9:30-11am and are only $4/pp for children 6 and under and their supervising adults.
Budget hint: Families (or groups) of 5 people or more can get a discounted rate of $5/pp.
After a few years of hiatus, Sparky the Sea Lion is BACK in her fancy new habitat, Como Harbor. The amphitheater has been enlarged and is fairly well shaded from the summer sun. When we visited on a weekday there were two shows to choose from, 11:30am & 2:30pm. You’ll want to arrive a little early to get a seat. It’s a short, mostly educational show, but super fun to watch the seals and sea lions show off. My kids love it!
Como Lil Explorer Thursdays now run year-round. This preschool program brings weekly themed activities to the 4-and-under set. Think sand tables, sponge painting, worm digs and interactive storytimes. My kids have all grown up attending this program and adored it. May 26-Sept 29, 2022. Weekly, 10am-noon. FREE.
This annual event brings a collection of Japanese music, dancing, drumming, martial arts and other aspects of the culture to Como. At dusk, lanterns are lit throughout the garden as a symbol of peace. Admission is $3-5/pp and in 2022 advance tickets are required. August 21, 2022.
GET STARTED PLANNING YOUR BEST SUMMER!
Everything under the sun you need to know about family fun this summer in the Twin Cities. Beat boredom and fill your long school break days exploring the best the Twin Cities has to offer in the way of parks, swim spots, community entertainment and local festivals with our Ultimate Summer Events Guide.