Equity, Education and Excellence

Have you heard Mumford the lion chuff and roar at the start of a summer day?  Have you strolled through the elegant new winter-white Holiday Flower Show? What did your kids think of the splashy new SPIRE Sparky Show?

If you’re like most visitors, you made more than one trip to Como in the past year, coming and going with the seasons. An urban oasis that belongs to us all, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is always the perfect destination for a day brightener–whether you’ve only got time for a Lil Explorers program before a toddler’s nap, or you’ve got the whole day to smell the roses and meet the animals. 

“This was a year when Como’s audience was ready to rediscover Como Zoo and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory all over again,” says Jackie Sticha, president of Como Friends. More than 1 million visitors made a free reservation to visit Como in 2022, a 20 percent increase since the year before. And thanks to your contributions to Como Friends, nearly every corner of Como saw the benefits of private support, with expanded education programs, accessibility improvements, and equitable access for all. “We also saw an extraordinary level of generosity from our Como Friends donors this year, who see the need that Como fills in our community, and who understand the value of having a free-admission destination that everyone can enjoy.” 

Here’s a look at how Como Friends invested more than $1.8 million of your contributions in special projects, improvements and daily operations at Minnesota’s most visited cultural institution:

Equity: While inflation soared, the price of visiting Como Park Zoo and Conservatory never wavered. One of only a few major metro zoos and botanical gardens in the country that’s still completely free to visitors, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory continues to be one of Minnesota’s most accessible institutions and one of the most visited destinations in the whole state. Not only do your contributions help to keep Como admission-free every day of the year, Como Friends’ support also helps to pay for the improvements that make the campus inviting and accessible for all. From big improvements like the renovation of Como Zoo’s aquatics building, to smaller updates like the new elevators in the Sunken Garden and stroller-friendly doors at Polar Bear Odyssey, your contributions help enhance the experience for all of our visitors. 

Education: Como’s education programs roared back to life in 2022, with fun programs like Lil Explorers, the early childhood program made possible by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment and your contributions to Como Friends. During the summer, over 30,000 more children and adults came to Como than the year before, drawn to fun outdoor experiences like the SPIRE Sparky Show, making waves every day in the fantastic new Como Harbor habitat. During the school year, virtual learning programs like Como Connections have helped deliver engaging conservation curriculum to classrooms around the state, and to kids studying at home. Your support for Como Friends made it possible to do even more for our school partners, expanding free online curriculum for elementary and middle school learners, and welcoming back busloads of field trip groups through Como’s free online reservation system.

Excellence: How do you get three polar bears to play nice together? Where do you get the 10,000 tulip bulbs it takes to put on the Spring Flower show? How do you persuade an orangutan to volunteer to get her flu shot? Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s exceptional staff of keepers and horticulturists know the answers to all of those questions and more, providing best in class care to animals and plants every day. In 2022, your support for Como Friends helped to elevate everything that happens at Como, from the bulbs and plant material that make the Sunken Garden Minnesota’s most beautiful room, to the behind-the-scenes partnership with the University of Minnesota’s veterinary school, that keeps all of Como Zoo’s animals healthy and curious. Your support also helped to provide for professional development, conservation training, and specialized equipment that helps Como’s keepers and horticulturists do their jobs better, from a new blood pressure and vitals monitor for Como Zoo’s animals, to the portable water tanks that keep all of Como’s gardens looking great.

Thanks to your support for Como Friends, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory has the resources to be the best it can be today—and even better tomorrow!

We look forward to seeing you again at Como in 2023!

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