Thursday, April 2, 2015

Free Zoo: Como Park Zoo & Conservancy in St. Paul, Minnesota

Regular readers of Frugal Upside know that our frugal family recently returned from a mini-Spring Break in Minneapolis / St. Paul.  A four and a half hour drive from our home in Madison, Wisconsin, it proved to be a lovely and frugal escape.  The highlight, hands down, was our last day attraction -- visiting Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Admission is free, but we happily paid the suggested donation of $10.  And being frugal, we charged it for: 1) a receipt for 2015 tax donations, and 2) our credit card company pays us 1% on every purchase - cash, at the end of every calendar year.

As for the zoo, oh my!  What a beauty.  It reminded me a lot of our local zoo in Madison, Henry Vilas Zoo, which is also free.  But with just a bit more oomph -- kind of like Minneapolis / St. Paul has just a bit more oomph than Madison.  Como Park Zoo & Conservancy has been around for over 100 years, offering a tropical garden, big cats, African animals, aquatic life, and much more.  Highlights for our kids included two sloths and a snow leopard.  We also met the two young polar bears who will be moving to our hometown zoo later this year.

Warning, we went in late March, before a lot of the money making attractions open.  For example, this lovely site will likely drain any frugal budget.  If you plan a visit, I recommend going during the "off" season.   Our day was filled with good exercise (we climbed into the Honda for our 4.5 hour drive back home immediately after exiting the zoo), up close time with great animals, and lots of laughter.  We never made it to the conservancy section, but hope to return again in the future.

From the analytics here on Frugal Upside, I can tell you that "Free Zoos in the United States" is the most popular post I have ever written.  With two young kids and a bit of wonder lust in all of us, we plan to visit more of the zoos listed in that original post.  I will leave you with some of my favorite images taken on our visit to Como Park Zoo - enjoy!

One of the young polar bears who will relocate to Madison, Wisconsin later this year.

One of the two adult polar bears that will remain at Como Park Zoo -- shaking off winter!

African animal representation.

Up close on the Wolf Walk.

Frugalistas beware -- this is where you'd end up blowing your budget.  
Visit while this place is closed!


  1. Another wonderful free place to visit is the Univ of MN rapture center

    You may also want to check out the no annual fee Double cash citicard ... where you get 1% for the purchase and another 1% upon payment. There is no maximum that can be earned.

    1. Thanks for the tip, we will certainly check out the raptor center the next time we are in town! We did visit the Walker Sculpture park, which was also free AND amazing! Lots of fun in the Twin Cities.