1225 Estabrook Drive (in Como Park), St. Paul, MN. 651-487-8200. www.comozooconservatory.org/
Free (but donation of $2 adult/$1 child suggested). Free parking. Stroller accessible. Restrooms available, family restroom in main building. Cafe on-site, concessions available.
We’ve been to a few zoos in the past few years, and we’ve noticed that there are two types: big ones, where you walk for miles to see animals in their “natural” habitats, and smaller zoos where the animals each have their own little area. St. Paul’s Como Zoo is of the latter type, making it fun for kids without being exhausting for stroller pushers.
One of the nice things about Como Zoo is that you can see all of the typical “zoo” animals–lions and tigers and (polar) bears, plus zebras and giraffes. We’ve been to zoos where we walked and walked looking for the lions, only to learn that they didn’t have any. Something else nice is that if you get lost, or if your kids want to dart from one exhibit area to another, it’s all in close proximity, so you really can let the kids lead you if that’s what you choose to do. All of the buildings are stroller-accessible, but a few have stairs on one side and a ramp on the other, so you can’t just file in one door and out the other.
Favorites of the kids this time around were the polar bear and the lions (since we’d recently watched the Lion King). Inside the new visitor center is a “tropical encounters” exhibit where we could see tropical plants and birds.
The zoo is open year-round, and we have learned that it’s a lot quieter there on a chilly November day than on a warm August day. Parking was difficult to find; both of the zoo lots and the nearby park lots were full so we ended up parking along the street and walking quite a way.
Also accessible through the visitor center is the Marjorie McNeely conservatory, which we did not visit this time.
We did take a ride on the historic Cafesjian’s Carousel, however, and it was a real treat! A restored antique carousel, all of the horses are hand-carved. My older three rode on horses, and I sat in a chariot with my toddler. It was one of the fastest and longest carousel rides I’ve been on.
Also, be aware that there is an amusement park called Como Town adjacent to and visible from the zoo, so if you’re not interested in spending extra money on fair-type rides, you can prepare your “no” answers ahead of time.
Como Zoo is one of those classic zoos that is a delight to visit with young children.
I really liked looking at the lion and I liked going on the carousel, too.