Zoos are awesome; they just are. And though we believe the Minnesota Zoo is one of the very best attractions the Twin Cities has to offer, we believe that any zoo is a worthwhile experience. But we do understand that heading out to the zoo as a family (or on your own) isn't always as much fun as you would anticipate. Kids get bored. Lines are sometimes long. You can't always find a restroom. Nap time creeps up at the worst possible moments.
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So we set out on an adventure at our own Minnesota Zoo in the hopes of helping you with a successful trip to the zoo; for everyone. Other than having a really great time and taking hundreds of pictures (a few of them are at the bottom), we learned a lot about how to plan a trip to the zoo that everyone will enjoy. We were tempted to just write about how much fun we had, but we decided you would benefit more from us sharing a few tips and tricks we've discovered to making your trip to the zoo a good one that doesn't break the bank.
Our clan included: 5th grade boy, high school girl, twenty-something single woman, middle-aged mom, and middle-aged dad. Quite the mix, wouldn't you agree? We understand that many of you will have small children and we want to assure you that the Minnesota Zoo is a mecca for small ones. They were everywhere!
If you think you will be going to the zoo more than once during the year, a family pass will save you a lot of money in the long run. For us, it was cheaper to get a season family pass than to go the zoo even 2 times during the year. That's a huge price difference!
2. Bring a camera.
And if at all possible, bring a camera that you don't mind giving the small children to use. Levi would have spent hours taking pictures of the penguins if we let him! And he actually got some pretty good shots (see them below). And to be honest, all of us rather enjoyed pausing to take pictures with the animals. So parents of small children, remember; a camera is the best tool to prevent boredom and tantrums that you have at your disposal!
The zoo involves a lot of walking, and takes a lot of energy. Have an "adult" moment partway through your adventure where you stop for coffee and maybe a snack. At the Minnesota Zoo, the penguin exhibit is the perfect place for a stop because there's seating at a place where you can still watch your children as they "ooh" and "aah" over the adorable little penguins.
Food at the zoo is expensive; it will likely be the most expensive part of the entire trip for you and your family or friends. We picked up bag lunches from Brine's, a local grocery store and deli, and cut the expense of our trip by a lot. If we had been willing to take the time to make our own lunch at home, we would have cut costs even more. Many zoos have lockers you can keep your lunches in for less than a dollar for the day.
The Minnesota Zoo has dozens of opportunities for interaction each day, and many other zoos throughout the country have similar opportunities. Check out the calendar of events online, or pick one up when you arrive at the zoo. Pay attention to when the shark and penguin feedings will be, if a bird show is scheduled, and whether chances to play with snakes and spiders will be available. Take the pressure to entertain off yourself and onto the zoo!
6. Plan fun yourself.
If you are the type of person who is willing and able to do some planning ahead of time, you can make your trip to the zoo even more successful by creating a scavenger hunt or photo challenge yourself. During our day, we challenged the kids to take the best photo. We also made a point to find unique and interesting places. Your challenges might look different; plan what works for you. We're including a printable scavenger hunt that is sure to add entertainment.
I'll leave you with this fun image that Levi took with his camera. Poor guy looks like he is on time-out, doesn't he :).