My first official Cheapskate Weekend was a trip to the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory for my nephew's 2nd birthday. Our family traveled about 75 miles to the zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota. We used to go there all the time when we were kids, so it's kind of a family tradition now to take the next generation there.
The Como Park Zoo is operated by the Saint Paul Parks & Recreation Department and features a seal island, large cat exhibit, aquatic life, birds, primates, African hoofed animals, and a world-class polar bear exhibit. It also has an indoor and outdoor conservatory that features a variety of plant life. The admission is free with suggested donation of $3 for adults and $2 for children.
The first thing we did was take a ride on the 100-year old Cafesjian's Carousel, which features 4 rows of horses and 18 scenic paintings around the upper part of the carousel. It was beautiful.
Then we walked through all of the animal exhibits, and made it to the polar bear exhibit just in time to catch the Polar Bear program. We learned that the polar bears eat about a pound of lard each day, among other things. Interesting!
My favorite exhibit has always been the tigers, but my niece and nephew loved the primates the most, thanks to one of their favorite shows - Curious George. My nephew had a blast watching the smaller monkeys roughhouse with each other.
We also came across what we called "the original 3D printers", vintage mold-makers of zoo souvenirs. OF COURSE we had to try it! Very cool. I'm pretty sure these machines have been there since we were kids (and probably before.)
Not only did we have a big day at the zoo, but that evening there was a free concert outside the conservatory called "Groovin in the Garden" with the band Crankshaft & The Gear Grinders. My dad happens to love blues music, so he was very excited about this free concert.
Plus, they had games for the kids - a climbing wall, bouncy house, and lawn games. We brought our lawn chairs and sat in the shade of a tree enjoying the music and eating our picnic dinner.