Becky found that the Minnesota Zoo has an adult night. For $10 a ticket and free parking, we can hang out at the zoo with other 21+ adults from 6-9 p.m. on a Friday. Adult beverages are available. And no kids!
Ordinarily, zoo tickets are $18 a person plus $7 for the car, so this was a huge discount. The drawback, shortened time to see everything, so you have to really plan your “must sees.” Even more confusing is some parts would close earlier than other parts and it wasn’t always clear how that worked.
Becky Here: I made an assumption about going to the zoo with no kids. I thought all the things, let’s be honest, that parents’ let their children do would not be a problem. I figured there wouldn’t be:
- Any tapping on the glass at the animals
- People blocking your view of the animals while the perfect “picture” is taken
- People talking while a zoo presentation is going on
It turns out, these activities are simply human and aren’t related to age. While the above activities are annoying, they are quickly forgotten when hearing a 50+ year old man squeal when the otter swims by. I won’t claim to understand the metaphysical connection between human beings and animals, but no matter the age, humans are excited and comforted by seeing animals. There is a deeper connection than that of our evolution as mammals.
I think I enjoyed watching the people at the zoo sometimes more than the zoo animals themselves. I sat down to observe adults walking by eating lollipops that were clearly made by Willy Wonka,
faces covered in sticky, granular sugar around their mouths that only cotton candy can provide, and people standing in lines to get as close to the glass as possible to commune with the animals through the glass, to get their faces painted in an array of bright colors, and to ride a camel. Watching people physically leaving behind the stress of the work week and begin emanating pure joy was intoxicating.
The Minnesota zoo has two large buildings, one for aquatic, the other for tropical and Minnesota animals. Outside is a large complex of paths to visit various animals on the grounds. We decided to start by walking toward the tiger area. The tiger was not there. She was busy mothering. Maybe no animal kids were allowed either.
After a while, it felt like the part of Jurassic Park where they aren’t seeing any dinosaurs before all the shit goes haywire.
But then we got to see Caribou and two Moose. A zookeeper was feeding the female moose a branch of leaves and telling the gathering crowd about the sisters and how they are able to get along (tolerate each other) in the zoo when they would hate each other out in the wild.
Since the animals weren’t on view in some areas, I began reading the signs in the animal habitats. The Minnesota Zoo has a specific mission that goes above and beyond other zoos. It’s mission is “to connect people, animals, and the natural world to save wildlife.” In the current political climate, I think the volatility of our planet isn’t lost on anyone. Reading the signs about some of the animals we saw have become completely extinct in the wild and are only living in captivity, made my soul ache or the primal connection I have to animals as a human ache.
It took me a long time that night to realize that because we made the trek to the zoo and purchased beverages and items in the gift shop, and donating to the zoo along the way, we were helping, just a little, to keep the animals alive. The Minnesota Zoo’s mission gave me a chance to connect with the natural world and to strive to continue finding events like this, as well as doing our part at home, to help save wildlife.
Plus, watching a zookeeper feeding 2 female moose and calling them “the chicks” can bring anyone out of their future headspace and back into mindfully experiencing the animals.
Next was the Dhole area. I joked they were really called dick holes, but in reality, they sort of are. These fox/wild dog like animals are too small to be able to kill larger animals by themselves, but they have learned to gang up on animals ten times their size and wear them down to the point they can start feeding on their still living prey. Lesson – do not mess with dick holes. (We don’t want kids at this moment in time, so that means Becky will have to suffer my dad jokes herself. Weep for her, people!)
A family of camels later, we came across this year’s special exhibit, an Australian animal area filled with kangaroos and wallabies and emu. Thing was, we discovered the kangaroos and wallabies were free to roam all over the area with nothing between them and us but some driftwood on the ground. This unnerved Becky so she stayed back behind the crowd to give the roos plenty of other easy people to mess with before they could get to her. I’ve never seen kangaroos before, so it was quite a treat to watch them skulk around like petulant teenagers who just can’t be bothered. Definitely worth going just for this experience in my book.
Full disclosure here, this is the FIRST time I have seen how close Joel managed to get to the kangaroos. SERIOUSLY. These are WILD animals. I could not handle the fact there was NOTHING blocking them from me. Instead, I hung out by the geese who made the kangaroo exhibit their home as well. At least 40 or 50 geese were just hanging out alongside the kangaroos and wallabies. Even knowing how dangerous geese are, I still preferred their company. I know what they’re all about; kangaroos, who knows what they are thinking or how they will react. The picture of Joel in front of them isn’t great because I was so scared when I took it, I couldn’t stop the phone from shaking when I took the picture. It’s really weird the stuff you’re afraid of and never know it until you’re in that situation.
The rest of our outdoor time we sped through to make sure we had enough time to see the penguins and Minnesota Trail. So we paused to see gazelles, bison, prairie dog holes cause they weren’t going to come out and say hello, bears, takin, leopard, boars and sea otters. Becky loved the otters. As we left the path back into the park area, a volunteer asked us what our favorite animal was so far. Becky said the otters. She then told us about seeing otters while on a cruise in Alaska and her husband’s ability to take pictures that ended up being of the water instead and that a group of otters is called a raft which is so cool!
Kudos to the Minnesota Zoo for providing volunteers and workers to be out and about talking to us about the animals. I didn’t expect to get to learn really awesome stuff. Plus, talking to a complete stranger and learning about “rafts” was one of the highlights of the night for me.
Back to the indoors, we stopped briefly at the penguins, Becky’s favorite animal on the planet, but they weren’t doing much so we kept going.
The Minnesota Trail was fun, though we were some of the last people to get to start on it as a volunteer kept anyone from going back the other way. But, we got to see a wolf howling to start off the evening, an eagle looking badass, a beaver eating a branch by himself while his kid left the lodge and swam out into the water to take a dump and head back in the lodge. Other animals on the trail were being shy or in for the night.
We returned to the aquarium with some time watching penguins waddle around, but mostly just lying there, planking like it was 2011. I loved watching them anyway, especially one guy who was cleaning himself up, with lots of butt wiggling. Becky said she loved watching me become a kid.
This January will be the tenth anniversary of Joel and my first date. 10 years! One thing I love is that in those 10 years, completely unexpectedly, Joel will behave in a manner I haven’t seen before. The jeans I wore to the zoo that night didn’t have a large enough pocket for my cell phone. So, Joel carried it in his pocket. I’m still pissed at myself for not getting it from him. When Joel just stood against the penguin exhibit, his face returning to one that I’ve only seen in pictures in a scrapbook his mother made for him, I couldn’t get a picture.
He didn’t move; he just watched and dreamed. He was joy personified. Maybe not having a camera to capture it was a good thing because that memory will be only in my mind. But, I think that from now on, I’m carrying my own phone!
This happened even more in discovery bay, one of the places that was still open, filled with adults who had returned to a childlike phase with the help of some alcohol. I was hypnotized by jellyfish for a while, and became hard for Becky to wrangle. Every time she turned around I was lagging behind. I didn’t work up the courage to touch any underwater creatures, and doubt I ever will, but it was fun to dream.
We headed back to the car as dusk darkened into night and made our way home. The zoo will have three more adult nights this year – August 17, September 15 and November 9. If you want to see the kangaroos, be sure to get there before Labor Day.