Mingle with 5,000 Animals at the Minnesota Zoo

By Explore Minnesota

Snow leopard at MN Zoo
Photo by Mary Johnson

In Minnesota, you don't have to venture far from the city to get up close and personal with wildlife. One of the best places to hang out with thousands of furry, finned and feathered friends is the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, which celebrated its 40th birthday in 2018.

Visitors to the state's largest zoo will encounter animals and habitats from around the globe in exciting exhibits that house over 500 species and nearly 5,000 animals. Explore the indoor and outdoor habitats by walking or wheeling around the 485-acre campus that features miles of outdoor trails and large indoor exhibits, which means you're guaranteed to see lots of cool creatures no matter the weather.

The Northern Trail features caribou, an Amur tiger, gazelles and other winter-hardy animals accustomed to our northern climate. The Minnesota Trail is a local showcase of regional landscapes and animals including lynx, wolves, bald eagles and native fish. Another exhibit features cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and other farm animals at the Wells Fargo Family Farm.

Llama Trek Minnesota Zoo @madeleine_fae
Llama Trek is open Memorial Day-Labor Day 2019 / @madeleine_fae

Russia’s Grizzly Coast is an outdoor habitat with bears, leopards, otters and boars from this vast wilderness area. The indoor Tropics Trail heats up with lush rain forest foliage and animals including toucans, monkeys, lemurs, pandas, crocodiles, and tropical birds flying overhead.

The zoo’s aquatic displays are another indoor highlight, with ponds, reefs, tide pools and tanks filled with creatures ranging from tiny pygmy seahorses to 10-foot sand tiger sharks. Discovery Bay and the Tropics Trail offer spectacular underwater views of ocean and reef-dwellers like sharks, eels, sea turtles, sea dragons and tropical fish.

African penguin feedings and shark feedings are just a few of the zoo’s daily programs. Also look for seasonal exhibits and special events, including Farm Babies in the spring, the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular in the fall, and this summer's Llama Trek, where visitors can walk among the free-roaming llamas and their South American friends. Admission to the exhibit is included with zoo admission.