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Visitor’s Guide to the Como Zoo

If you’re looking for an exciting and educational day at the zoo for your kids or even a group of adults, look no further than the Como Zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They’ve got everything with stripes, spots, or scales that you can think of.

beautiful Bengal tiger

While exploring the variety of amazing animals, the zoo also features two restaurants and several snack shacks to keep you and your party satisfied and hydrated during your visit. There are plenty of opportunities to pause and cool off or warm up depending on the weather. We’ve got a list of other exciting things to do in Saint Paul as well, so get ready to plan an exciting trip to the area for the day, a long weekend, or even a week.

Best Forest Animals To See At the Como Zoo

Como Zoo Gorillas

Gorillas are one of the nations’ top ten favorite animals to see at the zoo. In the wild, they live to be around 40 years old and they live in family groups similar to humans. Humans also share about 98% of our DNA with gorillas. Male gorillas start going gray on their backs around 12 years of age, at which time they are called “silverbacks.”

The Como Zoo has been a home for gorillas since the 1950s. Their updated Gorilla Forest exhibit opened in June of 2014 and cost $11 million to renovate from the previous exhibit. This new gorilla enclosure is 13,000 square feet – about three times the size of the original. This renovation created more space for the gorillas to play, explore, and live as close to a natural life as they possibly can in the wild.

Como Zoo Reindeer

Commonly known both as reindeer and as caribou, reindeer are most famous for the assistance they provide Santa Clause each Christmas Eve (wink). Unlike most deer species, female reindeer grow antlers just like the males. In the wild, the biggest threat to newborn reindeer is the golden eagle population, which is surprisingly strong enough to hoist an entire calf into the air and fly away with it.

The name reindeer comes from a Norse word and doesn’t actually have anything to do with the reins on a sled. You can find the reindeer herd at the Como Zoo by following signs for the Hoof Stock group.

Cute sloth hanging on tree branch

Como Zoo Sloths

Native to the tropical forests of Central and South America, sloths sleep for around twenty hours per day. It’s no wonder they’ve earned a reputation for being lazy! In fact, they move so infrequently that they’ve been known to start growing algae on their fur.

Despite their lazy habits, they are good climbers and also good swimmers. When it comes to the land, though, they are not very good at getting around. These lazy little fellows live about 10-15 years in captivity. You can find the sloths at the Como Zoo by following the signs for the Primate Building.

Como Zoo Tigers

People usually assume that tigers like to live out on the open plains like lions, but that is not actually the case. Native to India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, these forest-dwelling kitties enjoy climbing in trees and don’t mind getting wet, also unlike their lion cousins. Tigers are the largest of all cats, reaching an average length of six feet. They only stand about three feet tall as adults, but their teeth and claws are as long as house keys and they weigh upwards of 450 pounds.

Their stripes aren’t just on their fur. If you shave a tiger, you’ll find the exact same pattern on the skin underneath. And just like with zebra stripes and human fingerprints, no two tigers have the same stripe pattern.

Best African Safari Animals To See At the Como Zoo

Como Zoo Giraffes

Giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth. Their legs alone are longer than most humans are tall – usually around six feet. Despite how famously long their necks are, they’re still too short to reach the ground. So in order to drink water, giraffes have to sink into the splits.

Giraffes never lay down unless they are sick. Can you imagine sleeping and even giving birth standing up? That’s just how giraffes do. Unlike our friends the lazy sloths, giraffes only need to sleep for thirty minutes or so per 24-hour period. And just like tigers and their stripes, giraffes all have different spot patterns. No two are exactly the same.

Giraffes at the Como Zoo on a Beautiful Day

Como Zoo Lions

Like baby deer, baby lions start off with spots on their coat. These spots help them to blend in among the shady grasses and scrubland on the African plains. These spots fade into their otherwise sandy coats as they get older and no longer need the protection of camouflage. Lions sleep about as much as sloths do, but they are much more active than sloths during their waking hours.

Male lions have thick manes. The coarse mane hair helps to protect their necks from the teeth and claws of their opponents during fights. As a lion ages, his mane grows longer and darker. So the longer and darker a lion’s mane is, the more dominant he is among other lions in the area. His mane is evidence of his long life as a result of the many fights he’s won.

Como Zoo Ostriches

Ostriches are the largest birds in the world, reaching heights of six to nine feet and weighing up to 300 pounds. Ostriches have flightless wings about two feet across that they use to shade their chicks, conserve heat, or attract mates. While they aren’t able to fly, they are able to run up to 40 miles per hour. Those incredibly strong leg muscles help them to defend themselves with their giant toe talons. If a predator tries to approach, the ostrich can easily run them through with one of those natural weapons of theirs.

No other animal on earth has eyes as big as ostriches do. Their eyes are two inches across and capable of watching out for predators from very long ranges. Their eggs are huge and weigh 3 pounds each. Thanks to the hoof-like structure of their giant inner claws, you can find them among the Plains Hoofstock at the Como Zoo.

Best Ocean Animals To See At the Como Zoo

Como Zoo Harbor Seals

Harbor seals typically dive for up to 8 minutes while playing or hunting in between surfacing for breath. But sometimes adults are capable of remaining underwater as long as twenty-five minutes without taking a breath. Unlike humans, seals actually breathe out just before diving rather than in. They don’t hold the breath in their lungs for oxygen. They have enough oxygen stored in their blood to make the dive.

These seals can live in fresh or saltwater. They have excellent hearing, and their enormous eyes are capable of spotting fish or predatory whales from a long distance under the dark seawater.

Harbor seal

Como Zoo Tufted Puffins

Famous for stealing fishermens’ bait just as their hooks hit the water, tufted puffins are tiny, funky-looking marine birds. Native to the Pacific Rim, they’re used to the cold and their body shape is specifically designed to reduce heat loss by having less surface area.

They’re mostly black with white stripes on their faces and large, orange beaks. Their white face stripes lengthen into Donald Trump-like hair whisps on either side of their faces. They live on little fish and like to nest in burrows on the edges of cliffs. They weigh all of two pounds each. You can find these guys in the Aquatic Animals Building at the Como Zoo.

Como Zoo Seahorses

One of the smallest animals on display at the Como Zoo, seahorses reach lengths of about four to six inches. They don’t have scales like fish do, but instead, their skin is stretched over boney armor arranged in rings.

They have a prehensile tail that helps them to hold onto weeds and other objects to keep them where they are even when there’s a current. They use their long, trumpet-like noses to reach into nooks and crannies between rocks and coral to find tiny bits of food. You can find the Como Zoo’s collection of seahorses in the Aquatic Animals Building.

Best Reptiles and Amphibians To See At the Como Zoo

Como Zoo Galapagos Tortoise

These tortoises come from the Galapagos Islands and famously live over 150 years each. The oldest Galapagos tortoise on record lived to the ripe old age of 152. These tortoises only get about four feet long, but they are dense creatures weighing in at 475 pounds as adults.

Despite their immense size, they have very low metabolisms and don’t need to eat very much. Adults have been known to go a whole year without eating without any negative health ramifications. You can find the Como Zoo’s Galapagos tortoises outside near the Bird Yard.

Close up portrait of a wild Galapagos Tortoise on the Galapagos Islands

Como Zoo Anaconda

Green anacondas are native to the Amazon Rain Forest and are notorious for eating crocodiles, small hippos, and even people. They reach 30+ feet in length as adults and can weigh as much as 550 pounds. Probably more than that, but that’s the highest recorded weight.

Like the Galapagos tortoise, anacondas have slow metabolisms and regularly go weeks or months without eating. They eat so much in one meal that they’re good to go for a long time. Not only are they good climbers, but they are master swimmers. They like to grab their enormous prey items from murky swamp water where their prey can’t see or hear them coming.

Restaurants At the Como Zoo

Pier 56

Named for the year in the 1900s when a man named Archie Brand brought his famous seal show to the Como Zoo, the Pier 56 cafe is located outdoors near the Como Harbor. The cafe carries all the best on-the-go snacks and beverages including Fish & Chips, Popcorn Shrimp, Mini Donut Bags, and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Eat at a picnic table by the cafe or keep on walking to see the attractions while you snack.

Zobota Cafe

This cafe is located inside the Visitor’s Center at the Como Zoo. This is a sit-down restaurant perfect for an air-conditioned break from the heat of a summer trip to the zoo, or a heated refuge from the winter cold. Zobota offers a wide range of dishes including pasta, soups and salads, sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and a full kid’s meal. Beverages include fountain sodas, water, and a variety of coffees.

Sandwich bread tomato, lettuce and yellow cheese

Seasonal Food Carts

During the busy season, several food carts are dispersed around the zoo for guests to grab a quick bite without interrupting their zoo experience. Carts such as the antique popcorn wagon, ice cream cart, or Dippin’ Dots cart provide refreshing treats during your visit to the Zoo.

Time To Visit the Como Zoo

Are you ready to visit the Como Zoo and meet all the amazing animals? You’re sure to be impressed with the updated and improved exhibits and the frequent snack stops throughout the zoo, as well as the animals themselves.

While you’re in the Saint Paul area, why not check out some other local points of interest? Take a look at these St Paul, MN posts for the best restaurants, shops, parks, and other interesting things to do in the area.

Looking for some warm weather recommendations? Discover spring and summer in Minnesota for best destinations, travel recommendations, small (and big!) town events, and more!

Looking for more autumnal activities? Then visit our Minnesota Fall page to find inspiration for sweater weather fun!