Como Park and ZooComo Park, which is now 384 acres in the heart of St. Paul, was originally 300 acres and was farm land and wilderness in the 1870s. St. Paul at its heart is a Victorian city and many things happened along very English lines.
The original space of Como Lake was actually a resort escape from downtown St. Paul which is why the direct road, Como Avenue, (back then a trail then soon a street car line) was initially constructed. Several hotels were built alongside the lake, but as the late 1800s seemed to be a kindling box, every single one of them burned down over the years.
The ArrivalThere are several ways to approach the park, and I typically arrive up Lyndale Avenue from either I-94 or a cheater road off I-35E in St. Paul called Ayd Mill Road. You can also access it from the University of Minnesota by getting on Como Avenue and heading east through a lot of city neighborhoods.
The GroundsWell, it's a park, and the grounds are park grounds, with trails surrounding the lake, gardens (and kinda hidden gardens), the grand pavilion, and well the zoo and conservatory. (Oh there is some golf here too, meh).
The ZooAt the end of the 1800s the zoo started with some donated exotic animals; it was small and well, I guess indicative of the time. The zoo became basically the size and scope it is now when the WPA program built several of the facilities on the grounds (one still exists), and this is the reason I believe most people come to Como.
There are multitudes of buildings and areas in the zoo for each animal or region, and it has been evolving for 40+ years. It's a very amazing place given the small amount of space it actually takes up, and it's free, which to me is the sign of the best institutions as they have the support and love of the community to keep it growing and going.
The ConservatoryA complete Victorian gem, modelled after Kew Gardens (which is my favorite botanical gardens in the world). This location is such a great escape from the artic winters we have in MN with so many tropical plants and actual color still existing. It's also really warm inside.
SummaryAn excellent city zoo, compact, concise and enjoyable. Just in between Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns, you'll probably need a car to come visit and be prepared for creative solutions to where you park to visit.
Containing my favorite zoo in all of Minnesota, the intimacy and the rest of the park are jewels of the city and an exceptional mental health retreat.