After two unusually quiet summers, the crowds are returning to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. If it’s been awhile since your last visit, here are a few of the can’t-miss, must-see programs and places you’ll want to hit as you rediscover Minnesota’s most visited cultural destination.

SHARING THE SPOTLIGHT  |  Since 1956, Sparky the Sea Lion has taken center stage as Como Zoo’s aquatic animal ambassador. But with a splashy new habitat in Como Harbor that’s home to seven different pinnipeds, Sparky’s starting to share the spotlight. With the launch of the new SPIRE Sparky Show in May, visitors have been getting to know all of Como’s marine mammals—sea lions Subee, Poppy and Niko, harbor seals Kash and Kilian, and Atlantic gray seals Stanley and Wallace. All seven Como Harbor residents take star turns showcasing their natural behaviors and native curiosity in daily programs at the KSTP Amphitheater at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily.

“THE SUMMER OF SPARKY” | Como isn’t the only place where Sparky’s been making a splash. This summer, 20 Sparky statues, each hand-painted by a local artist, are decorating the Twin Cities’ most iconic destinations, including the Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota Children’s Museum, CHS Field, Rice Park, Harriet Island, Minnehaha Park, and the Minneapolis RBC Gateway. Highlighting the return of Como’s beloved SPIRE Sparky Show, the public art campaign is also designed to bring attention to ocean conservation efforts around the world. Click here for more information (Como Park Zoo & Conservatory)

ALWAYS IN BLOOM | While summer’s annuals burst and fade in our backyard gardens, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory’s Sunken Garden is always at its peak. Summer sunsets are the inspiration for this year’s Summer Flower Show, featuring fiery reds like the Hibiscus ‘Imperial Dragon’, red salvia and dark red verbena, citrus-y orange begonias, tangerine impatiens, and striped tiki torch petunias. Como’s longest-running flower show captures the gloaming warmth of the season’s long days now through October 2. 

LEARNING TO LOVE NATURE | In a typical year, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory welcomes nearly 850,000 kids under the age of 18. Some of our very favorite young visitors are Lil’ Explorers, the one- to three-year-olds who join us every Thursday morning for this free early-learning program, made possible with funding from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment. Set to run outdoors through the summer, themed programs like “Reptile Rock n’ Roll,” “Fun with Fish,” and “Fantastic Frogs” feature cameo appearances by Como’s favorite animal ambassadors, helping teach little visitors about the wonders of our world. See Link for schedule. (Como Park Zoo & Conservatory)

WABI-SABI WONDER | One of the treasures at Como often comes as a complete surprise to new visitors—the charming Japanese Tea House nestled into the shade of the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden. Designed to mimic a rustic 16th century Japanese farm house, the sukiya-style house embodies a Japanese aesthetic known as wabi sabi—a belief that transience, time, impermanence and imperfection add beauty to an object. This season, the Conservatory is resuming its Japanese Tea Service events, supported by volunteers schooled in the traditions and rituals of this centuries-old practice. 

SEEING STRIPES | Have you met Aurora? Como Zoo’s newest zebra foal, born on May 24 to mother Minnie and father Ulysses, is busy finding her footing in the African hoofstock habitat this season. Guests at Como Friends’ new Como Quest fundraising event got the chance to vote on her name, which was inspired by Minnesota’s women’s soccer team. Want a chance to get closer to animals like Aurora, and to learn more about Como’s habitats and gardens? Buy a ticket to Sunset Affair, where the silent auction features a great variety of Only-at-Como experiences.

ROCK OUT WITH THE FAMILY | One of the best places in the cities to see a concert with kids, Como’s free “Groovin’ in the Garden” summer series is back this season thanks to funding from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment. Check out this calendar of local musicians taking the stage at “Groovin’ in the Garden” every Wednesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with fun activities for the kids, and festive beverages for the grown-ups.

GARDEN SAFARI GIFTS | No visit is complete without a stop at one of Como Friends’ four gift shop locations: in the Visitor Center, by Gorilla Forest, and Polar Bear Odyssey. We also have a location in Como Town open on the weekends. Your purchases support all the plants and animals you love at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory has ASL interpreters onsite every Thursday (except 6/23) through August from 10:15am-12:15pm. They will be interpreting both Lil’ Explorer story times and the 11:30am Spire Sparky Show.

 

Your support allows Como Park Zoo and Conservatory to remain admission free and accessible to all. 

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