How to plan for the perfect summer day at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

For many Minnesotans, it wouldn’t be summer without a visit to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. In fact, more than 1.4 million kids and adults came to Como during last year’s “high season” from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Here’s how to make the most of all of your daylight hours at Como.

10 a.m.: Como Insiders know to plan their trip just as the doors are opening, and when Como Zoo’s animals are most active. As the day heats up, animals like Amanda the orangutan like to stay in the shade, while Neil the polar bear prefers a splash in the pool.

10:45 a.m.: Have you met Skeeter? He’s the break-out star of Como Zoo’s new giraffe feeding station where he made more than 13,000 new friends last summer who came to feed him by hand. For $5, you can buy him a treat of crunchy romaine lettuce at the day’s public feeding event at the African Hoofstock building.

11:30 a.m.: If you want a seat in Sparky’s splash zone, come to the amphitheater about 15 minutes before her daily show at 11:30 a.m., which fills up fast with standing-room-only audiences on summer’s busiest days. Next year, her habitat is slated for an extreme home-makeover, so stop by this summer to see the Sparky the Sea Lion Show just the way you remember it as a kid.

Noon: Swing by Blooming Butterflies, the popular pollinator garden, to see the new high-fliers that are released into the exhibit every day. For just $1, you can release your own butterfly and watch it take flight! This delightful interpretive garden, supported by your contributions to Como Friends, opens June 16.

12:30: Did you eat yet? Take a seat in any of Como’s public picnic areas to unpack that p.b. & j. Or order up at Lancer Catering’s Zooper Foods or the Zobota Cafe,  which features Alton’s BBQ signature sandwiches and free wi-fi.

1 p.m.: Tired of the crowds? Head indoors to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and take in the daily Gardener Talk, full of tips, tricks and horticultural history about the state’s greatest greenhouse. Como’s talented horticultural staff love to take questions from the public, so don’t be shy!

2 p.m.: Have you seen the Summer Flower Show? It’s the Sunken Garden’s largest and longest-running seasonal display, full of fragrance, and packed with flowers at their peak. It’s every Instagrammer’s favorite destination for the perfect snapshot of summer.

3:30 p.m.: Say hi to the family–mother Dara, baby Arlene, and silverback daddy Schroeder, all part of Gorilla Forest’s family troop. Every day at 2 and 3:30, Como’s keepers train and enrich Como Zoo’s primates and answer questions from the public.

5:00 p.m.: Wind down after work with a walk around nearby Como Lake, or through the new Minnesota Garden just starting to grow in front of Como’s Visitor Center. Full of native plants that thrive in the North Star state, it’s sure to inspire your own gardening plans.

6:00 p.m.: Como has extended hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until October 1, and  even more action on Wednesday nights this summer with the return of Groovin’ in the Garden. This free concert series features some of the Twin Cities’ favorite solo artists and ensemble groups, with fun activities for everyone in the family. Check out this month’s roster here.

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