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13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley, MN 55124
Admission: $19.95
Pre-Ordered Tickets Required. Scroll to the bottom for a Ticket Link
Concessions Available
Hours of Operation:
Mon. 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Tue. 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Wed. 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Thu. 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Fri. 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Sat. 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Sun. 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM

One of the biggest attractions in the Twin Cities — for both Minnesotans and visitors from out of state —  is located in the Southern Metro: The Minnesota Zoo. Situated on 500 acres off Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley, the zoo opened in May of 1978. One of two zoos in the Twin Cities (the other being Como Zoo), the Minnesota Zoo’s mission is to connect people with wildlife and the natural world through wildlife conservation efforts and education on endangered species, animal protection awareness and participation in cooperative breeding programs with other zoos.

Articles Related to the Minnesota Zoo

What to do at the Minnesota Zoo

While it’s not the famous San Diego Zoo with Jack Hannah, it is the biggest zoo in our state, and the Minnesota Zoo holds its own. The Minnesota Zoo has 546 different species of animals and altogether it has 4,200 animals.

Summer at the Zoo

Different trails and exhibits fill the zoo. During the summer, you are able to roam the acres of outdoor trails designed to be as close to the animal’s natural habitat as possible:

  • Northern Trail. Along this 3/4 mile trail kids will love the tigers, bison, caribou and the moose.
  • Russia’s Grizzly Coast. Along with grizzly bears, this is where you’ll find sea otters.
  • or the Family Farm. Of course spring is the best, when there are farm babies, but the family farm is open all summer.

If the weather is cooperative, pack a swimsuit or a change of clothes so you can hit the splash pad. You can also take a break a play on the playgrounds.

Winter at the Zoo

The winter months are more likely going to entice you to stay inside to visit. Two of the first things you’ll see are the snow monkeys and penguin exhibit, which grace the south entrance. Then explore these indoor trails:

  • The Minnesota Trail (a trail enclosed in a building, but with windows out to the different animal habitats, including a boreal forest with eagles and wolves, beaver pond, and a wild bird deck).
  • The Tropics Trail includes a tropical forest and an aviary. This is a perfect way to get a dose of sunshine, warmth and greenery during the darkest days of winter!
  • Discovery Bay is a marine center that rivals Sea Life at the Mall of America for best aquarium in the Twin Cities.

Of course you can visit most exhibits year round, regardless of the weather. The farm closes for the winter, but other hearty animals are outside and the indoor trails are a nice break from the hot sun in the summer. The zoo’s new attraction, the Treetop Trail, is also open all year.

Grizzly Coast at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minnesota
Grizzly Coast

Russia’s Grizzly Coast!  We were able to get right up and personal.

Flamingos!  Looks like they have had plenty of shrimp!

Exploring outdoors at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley Minnesota

You can pretend to be paleontologists and dig up mammoth fossils.

Discovery Bay used to host dolphins, but the dolphins have moved on, and they have shut down the pool for major renovations.  When they reopen, I believe they are going to be checking in some new residents like sharks and such.

Hanging out at the Family Farm.  (there is also a grain elevator which is a HUGE play area for kids right outside the Family Farm. )

The Farm at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley Minnesota

My friend and I were so curious about the chickens!  And their funny feathers.

On the Tropics Trail:  Monkeys, tortoises, Komodo Dragon, birds, and to be fair — snakes and bats.  Honestly, I ran through those exhibits because to be able to leave, we had to follow the trail through those habitats.  I. Hate. Snakes/Bats.

A Gray Langur at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, MInnesota
Gray Langur

Don’t expect to see Elephants or Giraffes or Zebras. While they don’t have those or lions, the Minnesota Zoo is proud to work with Tigers and other exotic cats: Lynx and Leopards.

Some of the popular animals are brown bears, grizzly bears, camels, musk oxen, porcupines, Gibbons, Lemurs, Tree Kangaroos, Red pandas, wolverines, and gray wolves.

The Minnesota Zoo hosts shark feedings, wild bird shows, penguin shows, cow milking demonstrations, and coral reef diving shows.  And don’t forget the monorail.  When I was a kid in the 1980’s, it was the premiere state-of-the-art technology.  Now, it’s just a fun ride.

A full day at the Minnesota Zoo will wear you out and your children out. I recommend it for a full day of fun.

The The Pathway to Nature Treetop Trail

The “World’s Longest Elevated Pedestrian Loop” opened on World Nature Conservation Day in July of 2023. Considered the ultimate reuse construction project, this elevated walkway is a re-imagining of the zoo’s original monorail track that has been out of service for years. Zoo guests traversing the walking loop can get a bird’s eye view of the zoo’s animals and attractions.

The zoo offers guests year-round access to the tree-top trail, where families can walk 1.25 miles that traverses several different habitats like acres of hardwood forest, turtle ponds, marshes and wetlands, pollinator-friendly prairies and farmland. The trail is great for bird watchers and for viewing the zoo’s animals from the canopy. View the mail tiger, bison, horses, llamas and camels from the old monorail track.

The trailhead is located just outside the main zoo building is also home to the zoo’s new animal ambassador habitat. After completing our loop around the zoo, we stopped to watch a naturalist and snake.

We consider this another good reason to get a family membership to the Minnesota Zoo. Families with a membership can visit often and either use the trail to visit their favorite exhibits through access points scattered throughout the grounds or as a easy nature walk that is accessible, stroller friendly, and up above any difficult terrains. It is definitely an immersive way to see more diverse wildlife than on the standard Minnesota nature walk.

Photos of the Treetop Trail at Minnesota Zoo

Daily Zoo Activities & Entertainment

There are some things you can see every day at the zoo. Others are daily during certain seasons. And circumstances can also change offerings. These are some of the activities you may see at a visit to the zoo:

  • Penguin Feeding
  • Leopard Training
  • Brown Bear Training
  • Hawaiian Monk Seal Training
  • Tropical Reef Dive Show
  • Tropical Reef Shark Feeding
  • Cow Milking
  • Birds Show

Birthday Parties at the Zoo

The zoo has a variety of birthday party packages – some of them are even overnight. Prices depend on package options and the number of guests. Learn more in our annual birthday party guide, which we link to at the top of this page.

Summer Zoo Camp

Summer camps are offered during June, July and August for kids who want to learn more about animals in an entertaining and educational environment.  Learn more in our annual summer camp guide (linked to at the beginning of this article).

Minnesota Zoo Hours

The Zoo is open daily between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., with special members hours between 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Online reservations are currently required due to capacity restraints.

The former IMAX Theatre at Minnesota Zoo

The IMAX theatre at the Minnesota Zoo closed in the beginning of 2019. Enjoy the IMAX experience at the Science Museum of Minnesota

Minnesota Zoo Tips for Parents

1. Wear a pedometer and some comfortable shoes.

There is a lot of walking if you want to see all of the exhibits. You’ll get your steps in for the day for sure.

2. The Minnesota Zoo Is Open Year Round

The Minnesota Zoo is open year round. Many of the exhibits are indoors and many of the animals in the outdoor exhibits are active in the winter months. Some exhibits, like the Wells Fargo Family Farm, are only open seasonally and some exhibits are on loan for a short period.

3. The Minnesota Zoo Farm Is Only Open During the Warmer Months.

The Wells Fargo Family Farm closes for the winter, but it reopens each spring with the popular Farm Babies exhibit. Zoo farmers are working the farm year round, though, so we may hear about the farm animals through the zoo’s social media or emails any time of year.

4. Families Can Save by Bringing Their Own Food into the Minnesota Zoo

Visitors are allowed to bring in picnic lunches to help save on cost and, especially in the summer, there are some beautiful places to enjoy a meal. However, if you need it, they also have food vendors.

5. What’s up with the Monorail?

This is kind of exciting! The zoo is turning the old monorail into a skywalk – the longest pedestrian loop of its kind. We are expecting it to be a wonderful experience. You can learn more from the Pioneer Press here.  Even more exciting, the zoo tested out their Dino Hideout last fall (2022) and plan to bring out a bigger display in 2023. Visitors can view these giant dinos from the skywalk or the ground!

6. How expensive is the Minnesota Zoo?

Admission to the Minnesota Zoo is $19.95 for adults (ages 13-64) and $13.95 for kids 12 and under and seniors 65+. Parking is an additional $7 for a family-size vehicle. Prices are subject to change, and we recommend verifying before going out. Members can visit free for all year.

We know a visit to the zoo is a bit on the pricey side, but they do offer group rates and there is always options for a cheaper day at the zoo:

6. Strollers are available to rent – both single and double.

You can look at it two ways: (1) you are already spending so much, why not another $5-$8 so you don’t have to lug your own stroller; or (2) you are already spending so much, why not save a few bucks and pack your own.

7. Minnesota Zoo no longer has an IMAX Theater

Although some sources still list it as a feature, The IMAX theater at the zoo closed in 2019.  Families can still watch IMAX films at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

8. There is a Special App for Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum

Parents of kids with sensory-processing differences can get an app created to make the zoo more accessible to all guests. It includes social guides, visual schedules, communication tools, a sensory-friendly map, and other tips. Learn more here.

Useful Links

*Some images courtesy Minnesota Zoo, used with permission. Exterior Zoo Sign image credit used with Creative Common license approval.

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