Mar 18, 2023 - Things to Do

Experience the Minnesota Zoo after hours

A shark swims through a coral reef at the Minnesota Zoo.

Discovery Bay was open during the recent "Zoo After Hours" event. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The Minnesota Zoo is a popular family-friendly destination, but a few times a year, it becomes an adults-only playground.

What's happening: I attended the March 11 "Zoo After Hours" — a recurring, 18+ night for those looking for a kids-free experience.

  • Because of the cold and early sunset, last week's 5-8:30pm event only featured the aquarium and Tropics Trail, a warm, lush and winding path through exhibits.
  • Plus, we could purchase beer, wine and zoo-themed cocktails.

Who made it great: Lucky, Kai, Noelani and Spree, four of the seven bottlenose dolphins Minnesota is temporarily hosting as their home at Illinois' Brookfield Zoo undergoes renovations.

  • This wasn't the first after-hours event, but the zoo hasn't held dolphins since 2012.
  • When they publicly debuted last December, their tank quickly became one of the most popular — and crowded— spots, volunteers told me.

My thought bubble: This was worth every penny of my $15 admission. It was quiet and calm with no crowds — a unique experience.

  • It's also worth visiting — with or without kids— before the dolphins return to Illinois. When I went, they swam right up to the glass.
  • A spokesperson told me they'll likely be around through the end of May.

What's next: Tickets ($25) go on sale soon for the April 29 after-hours experience. This time, the entire zoo will be open.

  • The Treetop Trail, a walkway built on the former monorail tracks that lets pedestrians view the zoo from above, is set to open this summer.

Watch the dolphins in action via our Instagram.


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