Como Zoo started life in the late 19th century, when the city of St. Paul was given a gift of three deer. The city collected more animals like elk, foxes and buffalo, who lived in a fenced-in pasture at Como Park. In the 1930s construction started on a proper zoo.
Sadly, since the zoo is so old, many of the animal enclosures are very small by today's standards, and animals often look bored and cramped.
Much renovation and expansion took place in the 1980s, zoo staff spend considerable time providing activities for the animals, and they all look healthy and well cared for. But you wish they had more room to stretch their legs - or wings - or flippers.
This zoo is lots of fun for small children. It has all their favorite animals. There are lions and tigers and (polar) bears, and snakes, giraffes, zebras, monkey, gorillas, seals and penguins. The site is small -- much smaller than the Minnesota Zoo -- so it's easy to get around and not get too tired pushing a stroller.
The giraffes, lions, monkeys and zebras live indoors during the winter. There are buildings with large observation windows for visitors to view the animals, out of the cold.
Tropical Encounters Exhibit
Opened in 2006, the Tropical Encounters exhibit combines zoo animals and conservatory plants into a mini-jungle. Animals include great big fish, snakes, various creepy-crawlies, and free-flying birds. A challenge for visitors is to try to spot Chloe the sloth, concealed somewhere in the trees.
Visiting Como Park and Zoo
Como Zoo and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory are open every day of the year. Yes, Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day too.
The zoo and conservatory open at 10 a.m. and closing time depends on the season. The zoo is open until 6 p.m. in summer, and until 4 p.m. in the winter.
Admission to the zoo, conservatory and gardens are free. Visitors may make a donation (suggested donations are $2 for an adult, $1 for a child) but it is optional.
There is a small parking lot outside, and cars usually have to spill over onto the streets to park on the weekend. Watch for parking restrictions if you park on the street. During the summer, a free shuttle bus runs from parking lots outside Como Park, and it's free to use. Follow the signs from the zoo to the parking lot.
For food, there is the Zobota Cafe, with plenty of kid-friendly food and some decent adult food, and a full Caribou coffee bar too. And during the summer, there is a concession stand in the zoo which sells fries, burgers and hotdogs.
The Como Zoo store is large, attractive, and full of everything including some nice quality gifts, souvenirs, Como Zoo merchandise, and lots of pocket money animal-themed toys and trinkets.
Como Zoo is a couple of miles north-east of downtown St. Paul. Here's driving Directions to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.