Summertime unleashes a wave of fabulous events that embrace the spirit and weather of the season. Local zoos and aquariums, popular among summer crowds to begin with, often plan additional activities that take advantage of the sunshine and later nights. This year is no exception. Outdoor festivals, nighttime parties, spirited runs and more will supply plenty of summer fun. For some of the best zoo and aquarium events throughout Minnesota this season, check out our suggested list below.
Sharks After Dark
SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium at the Mall of America
120 E. Broadway
Bloomington, MN 55425
Date: Click here for dates
Beat the normal daytime crowds and experience more than 10,000 creatures of the sea in a party atmosphere at Sharks After Dark. This event, held at SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium at the Mall of America, has something for all ages. Rock out to the live DJ, hit the nacho bar or participate in the scavenger hunt. Lots of fun activities will be scheduled throughout the night, with the chance to win exciting prizes. A two-hour unlimited game card is also included in the price of admission to Sharks After Dark, which can be used at Sky Deck on the 4th floor of the Mall of America.
Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
1225 Estabrook Drive
St. Paul, MN 55103
Date: Aug. 18, 2013
Enjoy the beauty and culture of the Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival, held on the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory grounds next to the Como Park Zoo. This family-friendly event highlights Japanese tradition and includes various exhibits, demonstrations and performances throughout the day. Don’t miss out on the various Japanese foods, learning the art of bonsai, watching the martial artists or listening to the taiko drumming groups. At dusk, the event culminates with the lantern lighting, where hundreds of paper lanterns will peacefully float along the ponds of the Japanese Gardens.
13000 Zoo Blvd.
Apple Valley, MN 55124
Dates: Now through Sept. 2, 2013
Experience both “Africa!” and “Dinosaurs!” this summer. These two popular exhibits of the Minnesota Zoo’s past are making their return. Visitors of the “Africa!” attraction will get to hand-feed giraffes and see animals of the African savannah, including bongos, ostriches and wildebeests. The “Dinosaurs!” exhibit includes 20 animatronic dinosaurs like the T Rex, Stegosaurus and Brachiosaurus that are large, lifelike and really roar.
Run Like An Animal
Lake Superior Zoo
72nd Ave. W. & Grand Ave.
Duluth, MN 55807
Date: Aug. 3, 2013
It’s the only time of year when you can run like a wild, unleashed animal through the zoo, all while supporting a great cause. Raise money for the Lake Superior Zoo by running, walking or virtually participating in the 5K course that spans the zoo grounds. To really get in the spirit, dress up as an animal as you take to the pavement. Registration for the race includes a “Run Like an Animal” T-shirt, a free one-day ticket to the zoo and a goody bag.
Hemker Park & Zoo
26715 County Road 39
Freeport, MN 56331
Dates: Now through Oct. 31, 2013
Get up close and personal with the animals at the Hemker Park & Zoo during Close Encounters. Try petting Ruby the penguin, feeding birds in the famous Hemker Budgie Buddy House or getting your picture taken with an eight-foot boa constrictor. Afterward, observe the more than 50 other animals at this intimate zoo. Red kangaroos, zebras, camels, monkeys and more are all waiting to get acquainted with you.
Related: Best Circus Experiences In Minnesota
Cortney Mohnk is a freelance writer covering all things Minnesota. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.