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Minnesota Zoo Review of Minnesota Zoo

Discussion in 'United States' started by geomorph, 26 May 2010.

  1. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Set in a spacious landscape of forested rolling hills and small lakes, Minnesota Zoo is located on the outskirts of the Minneapolis and St. Paul urban area, about 15 miles South of the downtowns of the Twin Cities. It is a wonderful zoo even though it does not display a comprehensive collection; birds and reptiles and amphibians are in short supply with fish more strongly emphasized, and the majority of its mammal collection is composed of cold-climate inhabitants from North America and Asia. This is very appropriate for its cold-climate location, but tropical animals are not excluded entirely. The layout of the property is divided into two very different experiences: a very concentrated cluster of connected buildings for visitor services and indoor exhibits at its entrance, and a very roomy loop trail for large outdoor exhibits circled by an elevated monorail ride. There are 5 major themed exhibit complexes (2 outdoor, 2 indoor, and 1 a hybrid of both) and 1 other large general area of outdoor exhibits. The facility was opened in the late 1970s and features a similar freeform naturalistic layout to its contemporaries such as Toronto Zoo or Miami Metrozoo, and its major building architecture definitely identifies it from that period. Specifically, the massive rambling entry building complex is composed of an angular multilevel arrangement of unadorned poured-in-place concrete forms that was typical of the 1970s. Much of this building is covered by a bare upper level plaza which is used for the group entrance and picnic tables but was formerly the main entrance; general admission is now on the lower level, directly into an unwelcoming building overhang and cramped interior that was not designed to be the entrance. Before entering, visitors walk from the parking lot past a more modern boxy building housing a separate-admission large-screen theater and the harsh side of one of the indoor exhibit buildings described later. Once inside, the first sight is a crowded nook for stroller and wheelchair rental, and two small counters in a hall for admissions. The hall widens in a typical angular fashion from here to a guest services counter, counter-service café and tables and a gift shop. Ceilings throughout this level are concrete with exposed strips of bare lights, too low for a potentially crowded space. A hallway from here features windows on one side and branches in two directions: one connects a series of adjoining classrooms, a small theater, another small shop, and the Discovery Bay indoor exhibit complex described later in a connected building. The other branch connects to a large counter-service food court and the Tropics Trail and Minnesota Trail exhibit complexes described later in connected buildings. Outside a large part of the hallway is a large outdoor exhibit for snow monkey, so some of the windows are for viewing their habitat. Although they have an average arrangement of a grassy rise studded with rocks and a pool, their exhibit is a pit, completely surrounded by harsh concrete walls of the building as well as matching angular terraces and a pedestrian ramp that completely enclose their space with visitors staring down. The extensive outdoor terrace that lines this side of the entry building is situated on the shore of the largest lake at the zoo, and this provides plenty of room for tables for scenic dining. It would be better if the ramp and terrace was removed from the section enclosing the snow monkeys so that they would have an open view rather than another prison wall. The lake is ringed by woods and a path hugs part of it and crosses a low wood bridge; trumpeter swans are displayed here, and it would make a lovely backdrop. The zoo recognizes that this entry sequence is a poor introduction and has plans to renovate and reorganize the complex and add additional animal exhibits of a much higher quality. The advantage of the interior connections to most visitor services and 3 of the major exhibit complexes in cold weather is undeniable however, and this aspect should be maintained in future plans.

    Snow Monkey Exhibit surrounded by the Entry Building:
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    The first indoor exhibit complex is Tropics Trail, contained within a massive skylit parallelogram-shaped concrete building attached to the entry building and surrounded partially by the same outdoor upper level terrace as that first building, in a similar style. Its interior is not the brutal concrete of its exterior, composed of a lush naturalistic detailed exhibit trail that descends and ascends multiple levels through its extensive one-way course. Along the way are 24 exhibits of various sizes, with 2 more set to open soon and an unknown number behind walls set to be renovated in the future. Exhibits are arranged geographically, beginning with a few from Madagascar, a few from Africa, many from Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands, and then some from South America. Apparently it is not as large as Tropics World at Brookfield Zoo or Jungle World at Bronx Zoo or Lied Jungle at Henry Doorly Zoo, but it certainly seems nearly as large. Similar to Lied Jungle, the exhibit sizes for larger animals are generally cramped in comparison to the space of the building, but the detail and variety of exhibits and experiences within make it an attractive complex. The first exhibit is a small open rocky yard for radiated tortoise; large graphics inside illustrate other animals from Madagascar that are now extinct, including a nearby bronze Madagascan giant tortoise statue in the path for climbing. A nearby simulated baobab trunk has an imbedded terrarium for Madagascar hissing cockroach and a larger imbedded habitat for Standings day gecko mixed with lesser hedgehog tenrec! The latter has a window view to an adjacent medium netted enclosure filled with branches for ring-tailed and red-ruffed lemurs, also viewed from a shelter next to it. The African continental exhibits are next, and were currently behind construction walls, set to open May 29 and being called Faces of the African Forest. They will be renovations of an existing exhibit area, and it appears that there will be two adjacent habitats: one will have West African dwarf crocodile while the other will have colobus and DeBrazzas monkeys mixed with red river hog and rock hyrax; the website mentions fruit bat as well but the signs did not. The Southeast Asian and Pacific Islands area begins with a nice rocky habitat for Komodo dragon; nearby are displays of a simulated dragon nest and eggs and a cutaway view of a heated rock element used within the exhibit. A small netted aviary is nearby for Bali mynah, with Indian star tortoise inside as well. Around the bend is a scenic small rocky island clearing with a nice branch cluster for white-cheeked gibbon. The waterway around the island is for water birds of the Asian tropics that migrate to Northern Asia and Russia: Northern pintail, wandering whistling duck, Mandarin duck, green-winged teal, Garganey teal, Baikal teal, and red-breasted goose. Also here is a small flock of lesser flamingo with a shallows provided for them. The other side of the path here has a rock face and waterfall with a small imbedded freshwater aquarium for tinfoil barb, tiger barb, rosy barb, giant danio, striped catfish, and giant gourami. Next to this is a habitat for Asian small-clawed otter that is far too small, dark, and all-rock with a shallow pool into which the waterfall crashes. This is a weak exhibit for a species that normally gets good-to-great displays with underwater viewing windows. Next are two side-by-side medium aviaries with netting that extends to the high ceiling: one is for great hornbill with a massive simulated tree with a nesting cavity, and the other is filled with Asian birds and will be walked through and described later on an upper level. The lower level viewing area has a themed temple-like ruin tunnel for kids to view the birds. A rocky grotto filled with branches for Matschies tree kangaroo is nearby, also enclosed with netting that extends far higher than the animal can climb. An open yard with a rocky swimming pool and a climbing tree is viewed from a glass railing, for Malayan tapir and binturong, followed by another small open rocky yard for Asian forest tortoise. Then a glass railing viewing area overlooks the top of a very scenic large aquarium called Tropical Indo-Pacific Coral Reef. The path goes past another waterfall and into a cave to descend to an underwater viewing hall for this exhibit, filled with several large windows into the well-detailed habitat. Inside are a delightful and active mix of zebra shark, whitespotted bambooshark, brownbanded bambooshark, white-spotted puffer, long-spine porcupinefish, humpback grouper, zebra moray eel, and 23 other species of small colorful reef fish. The path then emerges from the cave briefly to be surrounded by steep scenic rocky yards on each side: one is for Visayan warty pig while the other is for a unique non-tropical mix of red panda and long-tailed goral! A stream travels through both but they are too small. The pigs have so much rockwork level change that they can barely get a good trot, and the goral have several high ledges but hardly enough room to turn around on them. At least the panda has a decent climbing tree. Another cave is entered into an unadorned architectural hallway. A construction wall runs its length, blocking the former nocturnal exhibits that are now empty; it looks like there would have been room for 10 or so. A sign states that this area will be renovated in the future, while another one later mentions that reptiles and amphibians of the tropics will be coming soon. 3 small dark exhibits behind glass are still occupied and accessible at the end of this hallway and have fair detailing inside: one for Prevosts squirrel, one for pygmy loris (so cute!), and a larger one with a shallow pool for Burmese python. At the end of the cave, the path emerges back into the large forest in the Flight Zone, the walk-through part of the aviary for Asian birds seen earlier from below. This lush habitat has a small eye-level view of the ground on one side, while the other is perched above a ravine with a pond. Species include golden-crested mynah, fairy bluebird, yellow-throated laughing thrush, white-crested laughing thrush, grosbeak starling, spur-winged lapwing, Malay great argus pheasant, crested wood partridge, Temmincks tragopan, bleeding heart dove, green-winged dove, Nicobar pigeon, Victoria crowned pigeon, black-naped oriole, red-tailed laughing thrush, and Dhyal thrush. After exiting the aviary doors, the last grouping of exhibits is for South American animals, starting with a medium aviary for keel-billed toucan, black-necked stilt, Northern helmeted curassow, scarlet ibis, and blue-crowned motmot that share with Chilean pudu. Next is a large simulated tree stump next to a rustic education shelter: imbedded within is a small terrarium for yellow-banded and blue poison frogs. Another tree stump has viewing windows into a netted exhibit for red-rumped agouti, Linnes two-toed sloth, golden lion tamarin, and green aracari; it is also viewed along the length of its enclosure. A similar nearby exhibit for three-banded armadillo, tamandua, and cottontop tamarin is on the tiny side for such a mixed –species exhibit and ends this engaging journey.

    Tropical Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Exhibit in Tropics Trail, top viewing area:
    [​IMG]

    The entrance and exit lobby area of Tropics Trail adjoins the lobby of a connecting building from the same time period in the same, though lower profile, style. At one time this lobby had views into a large outdoor beluga whale exhibit and also had a small outdoor viewing area on the terrace and underwater views below. The viewing areas are all covered up so that the empty pool is not visible, and future plans call for it to be renovated into a show amphitheater. The existing lobby begins Minnesota Trail, a nice hybrid indoor/outdoor native animal exhibit complex that has been recently renovated to be more naturalistic, although the original 70’s angular exhibit path is still the same layout. It begins in a simulated cabin interior with a stone fireplace and information counter. To one side is a cluster of 4 small wall exhibits for reptiles and amphibians. The largest is a tank for 9 species of turtle: Blandings, false map, Northern map, Ouachita map, painted, smooth softshell, snapping, spiny softshell, and wood. The three smaller tanks are for wood and Northern leopard frogs, gray tree frog and American toad, and mudpuppy and tiger salamander. The one-way exhibit path then begins in an adjoining room, with the only indoor mammal exhibit in this complex: an atmopheric dark room behind glass for raccoon, set in a scene on the porch of a cabin at the edge of the woods with some simulated tree trunks emerging from the ground. I do not know what the poor raccoon did to deserve this, but it must be jealous of all the other mammals and birds in their outdoor habitats that follow! A door then leads to an enclosed hallway with a low ceiling that will be the setting for the rest of the exhibit path, paved with dark brown spongy rubber flooring with metal animal tracks imbedded at intervals. Some exhibits are behind glass, others behind wire, but all are outside even though visitors feel like they are inside and sheltered. Most of the habitats have more vertical room than they first seem to; getting close to the barrier and looking up reveals netting for enclosure. Most are very rocky and grotto-like, and the rockwork extends into the visitor path at times to break up the more architectural wood-siding hallway interior. Most of the habitats are on the small side with a few exceptions, and this keeps the complex from being truly great, but it is a very concentrated and clear view of a great collection presented with extensive graphics. First is a small wetland pond open to the path in an alcove that interprets dragonflies and the invasive nature of purple loosestrife. Across from this is an open window looking down into the shallows of a great large habitat for beaver; a little further are two large underwater views into a deeper pond with a large beaver dam on the opposite bank. Next is a medium-sized aquarium in a dark passage for Minnesota fish in a rocky twig-filled habitat with largemouth bass, Northern pike, bowfin, bluegill, black crappie, brook trout, channel catfish, lake sturgeon, long-nose gar, walleye, and muskie. An underwater window for river otter follows, with an adjacent window for ground views in their lower section of habitat through which a small waterfall steps. Next is a tiny habitat for porcupine and great horned owl, followed by a larger one for fisher, a species I was delighted to see for the first time. Across from these last three is a wood railing and wire fencing to contain the roomy coyote exhibit in a tree-filled yard. There is also a cabin-like shelter at one end for viewing a den alcove in a tree and a window view. The other side of the cabin has another window, this time into the largest exhibit in the complex, for gray wolf. It is also a tree-filled and grassy fenced yard, and also has viewing from further in the exhibit path along a railing and in another interpretive cabin shelter that branches from it. This follows my observation that one of the types of animals that is consistently displayed in newer great exhibits in zoos is the wolf, and this zoo proves it here and again later. Across from the gray wolf exhibit is a nice small bird aviary for pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, cedar waxwing, white-breasted nuthatch, and ruffed grouse; there are also tropical migrants here including Baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak, thrush, ovenbird, and catbird. Next are two rocky exhibits with streams that can be connected or separated for wolverine. They have great viewing! Then the hallway opens up to a deck set above the native outdoor landscape, with bird feeders set in the clearing to attract wild birds. When I was there, almost on cue, a flock of (truly) wild turkeys was wandering through the area. A captive bird exhibit is next, this one a tiny netted enclosure for bald eagle. The inhabitant was injured and could not fly, so I suppose its confined area with a view to the woods is fine, but a healthy large raptor would not be appropriate in here. Two long and vertical habitats behind glass end this complex, both for larger cats that seemed to enjoy exploring the rocky ledges and sunken streams of their small but detailed enclosures: cougar and Canada lynx.

    Beaver Exhibit in Minnesota Trail, pond surface view:
    [​IMG]

    Discovery Bay is the main aquarium area of the zoo, another large indoor building that is attached to the other side of the entry building. It appears to be slightly newer on the outside than the others described earlier and centered on a large two-story lobby with clerestory windows and a swooping ceiling. It is typical of zoo aquariums in that it does not surpass most stand-alone aquarium attractions, but it is still a nice facility. In the middle of the lobby is the estuary, a rocky open-top tank for petting leopard shark and a few others. Nearby is the tidepool, a similar exhibit with a gush of spilling water from the rocks periodically to emulate crashing surf. Clubhouse Cove is an alcove path of several small average tanks. The first is for shrimp; pressing a button lights a second tank behind it with some small fish that illustrates bycatch. Rectangular tanks follow for mangrove fish, seahorse, weedy and leafy seadragons displayed together, small reef fish, and lionfish. The opposite side of the lobby has another small rectangular tank for cuttlefish. Shark Reef is a large but rather dimly lit exhibit viewed from a large window as well as several smaller ones on its sides. Inside is a rather staggering array of species, headlined by sandtiger shark and white-tipped reef shark and featuring Southern stingray and great barracuda; 38 other species of fish are listed in this simulated reef environment. The lobby also has large windows for underwater viewing of bottlenose dolphins in their deep blue tank. A large amphitheater provides viewing of the above-water part of their habitat, contained with clear windows on the show side, which reveals a large indoor space with two large holding pools behind the unthemed slightly rocky stage. There is also a shallow water shelf in front of the middle audience for the dolphins to display above water.

    Bottlenose Dolphin Show amphitheater and pool in Discovery Bay:
    [​IMG]

    Connected to Discovery Bay is the elevated platform station for the monorail ride that begins here and circles the rest of the zoo. I did not ride the separate-admission monorail but it appears to be a scenic route high above the extensive grounds in enclosed cars with a live-narrated tour, a great asset in the winter. Outside is the Central Plaza, the beginning of the large pedestrian loop that tours the rest of the zoo. This plaza is paved with an undulating series of patterns such as fish scales and tiger stripes and coral snake skin. In the middle is an abstract cluster of metal tree forms that spray water in warm weather. Surrounding these are rocks with some metal sculptures of animals that will be encountered later: grizzly bear, Amur leopard, and takin as well as a few raccoon on one of the metal trees. On the path to the plaza are others that are similar, depicting moose, caribou, and cougar. These sculptures are life-sized but abstract and finished with a golden coppery glow; I believe they are by the same artist or studio as the African animal statues used so effectively at the entrance to Denver Zoo. One side of the plaza has the Central Plaza Gift Shop in a wood building with a steep peaked roof; another side has matching buildings for the Grizzly Coast Café and its sheltered outdoor seating area. The far side is a nice small play area called Woodland Adventure, with a treehouse and bear cave and rope web among other features. Central Plaza is a great themed introduction to the cold-climate exhibits to follow, rendered in a bright happy tone to counteract the rather somber architecture of the zoo entry experience as well as the more serious naturalistic tone of the exhibits it precedes.

    The best themed exhibit complex at the zoo begins directly from the Central Plaza, and it won the AZA exhibit award this past year: Russia’s Grizzly Coast. Although it only has 7 exhibits, its immersive naturalistic detailing augmented with fantastic graphics and features make it a winner. It focuses on a very specific region that is rarely highlighted in zoo exhibits, and does so with such clarity and quality that it is a very educational journey. Rockwork throughout is very detailed, plantings are a concentrated study in native diversity, deadfalls and driftwood piles augment the ‘unkept’ desired effect, and viewing shelters and railings are purpose-built to appear very rustic. The skill it takes to design and successfully build such a convincing landscape is admirable, especially given the rarely-attempted subject matter and the demands of modern large mammal husbandry. The entry is a scenic panorama of rocks crowned with trees, with one rock featuring a large low-relief map of the Eastern coast of Russia to introduce the exhibit region. A cave in the rocks is entered to the first focus zone, Pacific Shores, where a small window in the rock looks into the beautiful rocky sea otter exhibit and its large pool. A soundtrack of ocean waves surging against the shore heightens the atmosphere. The rocky overhang gives way to a small open area in the path with a driftwood pile and simulated whalebones before entering a driftwood-strewn roomy rustic shelter that is the main viewing area. From here, windows offer underwater viewing of a shallower part of the otter habitat as well as a deeper section where a few stepped rows of seats allow a small group to sit and watch them dive and float. Their pool is a complex arrangement divided by rock arches and backed by a narrow land area and low rocky caves, topped with shrubs and trees beyond. It is the best sea otter exhibit I have seen! After exiting the shelter, the soundtrack changes to the rumbling of the earth as a walkway edged with railings goes through a forest clearing that features several steam vents and a mudpot that actually bubbles on the edge of the path to illustrate the geothermal activity of the region. This showmanship is impressive and certainly adds to the environmental authenticity of the exhibit, an important inclusion when attempting to illustrate the whole picture. This is the introduction to the next zone, Subarctic North. A simulated lava tube is entered, which is a roughly round cave passage with several alcoves. To one side is a smaller cave for exploring, with a small opening to the forest above where some bat sculptures take shelter. The other side has a half-round glass railing around an open-top exhibit for a school of salmon, whose habitat is contained in the back against the cave wall and a window that previews the bear habitat outside. Next to it is a large long viewing window, the lower half of it for an underwater view of the roomy swimming pool for the grizzly bear exhibit. Their habitat is a scenic forest clearing studded with rock outcrops, deadfalls, a tumbling stream into the pool, several more steam vents erupting from the ground, and even a geyser that shoots up periodically! The front is contained by the lava tube viewing area, but part of the sides and back of their habitat appear to be the forest itself rather than rocky containment walls; the land rises away from the viewing area to a crest, leaving the moat or fence or wall hidden beyond and a very effective open feeling. Another smaller viewing window in the lava tube looks into a small cave den before the path exits back outside to the exterior of a stone and timber building for additional grizzly bear exhibit viewing inside. This time, the interior has a few rows of stepped seating in the back, and a large series of windows facing ground level of this alcove of the exhibit. The graphics in the lava tube focus on the natural history and science of the species, while those in this more culturally-themed shelter focus on the current inhabitants and hubandry. In fact, the center window is designed with wire mesh and small pass-through openings for keeper training and behavior demonstrations, hence the seating area in back. It is another top-notch exhibit. Back outside, a small wooden-fronted building for restrooms is engaged in rockwork and appears to be a mine; next to it is a play area in a sandy pit contained by low exposed earthwork with simulated mammoth bones protruding from the bank and pit, and a sign interpreting the former land bridge between Asia and North America that made such species of animals common to both continents. The last focus area is Forested South and begins with a rustic shelter for viewing the wild boar exhibit, another fine habitat contained in low exposed banks and rocks with several alcoves along its length. Unfortunately there is netting between the visitors and boars here, but an adjacent open viewing railing nearby is unobstructed. Next to it is the Conservation Science Cabin, a small indoor display set in a building that appears to be two connected wood cabins of different authentic styles and is the most culturally-themed detail in the complex; inside are displays on the people of the region, conservation of the highlighted species, and a window view into the end of the wild boar exhibit. On the opposite side is the first window view of an Amur leopard exhibit. There are 3 Amur leopard exhibits, connected to each other and contained in netting draped from large timber poles that covers their detailed habitats of rocky alcoves and deadfall-strewn forest. The path outside the cabin leads around to the main viewing area, another rustic shelter engaged against rocky outcrops. From here, there is a netted view into the first exhibit seen previously next to a window into the second exhibit next to a netted view into the third exhibit. The first and third are above average habitats, while the second between them is too small. I saw all three cats enjoying climbing the rocks and trees to perch high in their exhibits, and while they could have been higher and larger enclosures they are still a fitting end to a great complex. They are not quite the end however; the path continues on either side to two older but fantastic Amur tiger exhibits that further the regional theme. Russia’s Grizzly Coast is a great complex, and my only major complaint is that it ends too soon; it would be nice to extend it with a few smaller exhibits such as a seabird or sea eagle aviary and a fox and hare pair of enclosures as well as a stronger connection to one of the tiger exhibits nearby.

    Grizzly Bear Exhibit in Russia's Grizzly Coast:
    [​IMG]

    Northern Trail is more of an exhibit area rather than a themed exhibit complex at the zoo; it features large exhibits for North American and Asian mammals, mostly hoofstock with several exceptions. These exhibits are immense and spread out along a large loop trail that begins and ends at the Central Plaza, so that Russia’s Grizzly Coast is actually a small segment of the larger Northern Trail. Tiger Lair is the Amur tiger exhibit further away from the Russian exhibit and is the better of the two, a huge forested slope with a rocky stream. There is an open viewing area along a railing with a moat in front, while a rocky cave area and woodsy shelter offers large ground-level viewing windows for closer views. A unique simulated moose carcass lies in the grass inside the exhibit and a cave next to the viewing area has a backlit picture of a mother nursing cubs. The other exhibit is called Tiger Base Camp, and the two actually are connected somewhere in the back of the forest but are experienced at different points on Northern Trail; this second exhibit is seen right after Grizzly Coast, from an elevated boardwalk and pavilion directly above the habitat that looks down into another huge forested area, this time with more obvious fencing on its perimeter and a pond. Both are among the best tiger exhibits for size. Clockwise, the next exhibit has two vaguely Chinese wood viewing shelters into an exhibit for takin. Like all the others to follow, it is simply fenced with a low moat in the front for unobstructed viewing, and is a large size on gentle slopes dotted with trees and backed by forest. This one has a tumbling arrangement of simulated rock in the middle. Next is a great exhibit for bison and pronghorn; in front of it is a low-walled large earth habitat for black-tailed prairie dog. Goitered gazelle inhabit a grassy slope nearby, followed by Bactrian camel and then Asian wild horse; the latter habitat has featured a summertime exhibit of African hoofstock in the past but I saw no indication that they would replace the horses this year. Next is a timber viewing shelter with windows into another great forested wolf exhibit, this time for Mexican wolf. A spur trail leads to the largest habitat for muskox who inhabit a bowl-shaped yard dominated by a lake which the monorail track crosses high above its surface. Two more wonderful yards follow, for woodland caribou and moose, that complete the loop back to Tiger Lair. Nearby is an attractive half-round amphitheater on the edge of a lake for a seasonal bird show. Northern Trail is my second-favorite part of the zoo and what it lacks in detail it makes up for in size and scenic quality.

    Bison and Pronghorn Exhibit in Northern Trail:
    [​IMG]

    The last themed exhibit complex is Family Farm, a spur trail that branches off from Northern Trail near the muskox exhibit. Farm displays in zoos are not my thing, but this one is among the best; in scale and detail, it successfully recreates a small farm of the region without being too trite or kid-focused (but still enjoyable for them). It starts with a large grain elevator and a play area inside it. Then a long path travels past a crop field, a large fenced pasture for American cream draft horse, and a windmill before reaching the core of the farm. At the center is a large white farm house that has the Country Fare Café and dining room inside as well as a porch with tables. Nearby are barns and corrals with live animals and displays about the products of each: a dairy barn, a swine barn, a chicken barn, a goat and sheep barn, and even a shed with a Holstein bull clone. There is also a granary used as a classroom and a machine shed and silo.

    I rank Minnesota Zoo at #10 in the 55 zoos I have visited, a very high rank for a zoo without an entirely comprehensive collection. What it does it does well, and it benefits from its setting; it might rank even higher with a more diverse collection and a more cheerful entry sequence. In my top 50 themed exhibit complexes, Russia’s Grizzly Coast is #7 and Tropics Trail is #28; Minnesota Trail misses the list but only by a little for its small exhibit sizes for some of its species. For top lists of individual exhibits, the grizzly bear exhibit in Russia’s Grizzly Coast is #11 and Tiger Lair is #24 in large mammals while the sea otter exhibit in Russia’s Grizzly Coast is #4 and the beaver exhibit in Minnesota Trail is #12 in small mammals. Adult general admission is $16 in high season and $13 in low season and is priced right, perhaps $1 too little. I have posted additional pictures in the gallery.
     
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member

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    Another terrific, extremely detailed review! I too love the Minnesota Zoo, and even with its shortcomings it is definitely a strong candidate for one of the top 10-15 zoos in North America.
     
  3. jaguar78

    jaguar78 Well-Known Member

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    great review....you should do your own book of the best zoos....


     
  4. AnaheimZoo

    AnaheimZoo Well-Known Member

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    Do you have a thread (or just a single post) where you have all of your rankings listed (like best themed exhibit, best individual exhibit, etc)? I'd love to see that. :)
     
  5. KCZooFan

    KCZooFan Well-Known Member

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  6. BeardsleyZooFan

    BeardsleyZooFan Well-Known Member

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    Minnesota Zoo will be getting dholes in December.
    The Coral Reef renovation on Tropics Trail will open in Spring 2012.
    North American Black Bears will be on the Medtronic Minnesota Trail in Autumn 2012.
     
  7. deanmo19

    deanmo19 Well-Known Member

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    Oh boy, I can hardly wait to go there in the spring.
     
  8. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    Does the Discovery Bay aquarium part of the zoo compare favorably to the "Shark Reef" aquarium in Las Vegas in quality? It sounds like they are of similar scope.

    Your review is amazing. I have wanted to visit this zoo since reading the Smithsonian Magazine article on it in 1981. I was struck at the time that there was an exciting sounding zoo to visit that didn't have giraffes or elephants. It sounds like it is still much the same way, an exciting zoo without giraffes or elephants.



     
  9. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    No, this aquarium is nowhere near the quality of Shark Reef, but the inclusion of a large dolphin habitat and show amphitheater here makes it quite different from that.
     
  10. designingzoos

    designingzoos Active Member

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    Hey guys! Just visited Minnesota Zoo for the first time and wrote up the review. As always, I am not as detailed as you wonderful folks on ZooChat, but I do try to focus on one main point. This one was all about how MN Zoo leverages it's location / climate. Hope you enjoy!

    Minnesota Zoo: Be True to Yourself Designing Zoos
     
  11. elefante

    elefante Well-Known Member

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    I hope to visit this zoo again sometime. I was last there in 1990. The exhibits sound similar to what I remember. I wondered how well the musk-oxen did in the summer. It would be really neat if they got Peary caribou in the collection. Those are what I imagine Santa's reindeer to look like. :)