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St Paul Como Park, the Best Free Park in America
There is a beautiful park built in 1873. The park is located on the west side of St Paul, Como Park, almost on the border of Minneapolis that is one of the best places to visit and spend a day with your family or even by yourself.
Como park includes a great conservatory, a very good zoo, Como town kids rides, a Japanese garden, a golf course, several picnic areas, a beautiful lake, meeting rooms and party rooms for weddings and birthday parties, and it's all free except the golf, party rooms and the rides.
They have a donation box when you go into the Como park conservatory and zoo area, but if you don't have the money, you don't have to pay. When they changed it to donation instead of charging, their revenue more that doubled.
Cost to use
Years ago they charged $2 to get into the conservatory and the zoo. They changed the charge and went to free. It was an amazing decision. They put in a big steel and glass box where you could donate instead of paying. When they did this the money they were taking in increased over three times as when they were charging.
Many people, myself included have no problem tossing in a $5 bill to get in and enjoy the zoo and conservatory.
The picnic areas are all free to use. The tennis courts are free. The lake is free to fish in and there a couple miles of walking trails throughout the area.
The Como Park Conservatory
This is without a doubt one of my favorite places. I love to take pictures and have taken over 400,000 picture over the past 20 years. Many of them have been at this park. The conservatory changes its flowers in the sunken garden room four times per year. All the pictures in this article are pictures I have taken over the years.
There are seven rooms in the conservatory and an outside Japanese garden open in the summer. The other rooms in the building are the palm room, the fern room, the sunken garden, the bonsai room, the orchid room, the north garden room, and the enchanted garden room.
The palm room is the main central room of the building. It is tropical and contains the bronze statue of the lady with her right arm pointing up, in the middle of the dome. She is in the middle of huge palms and other tropical plants and flowers.
The fern room is a nice place to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. There is a small waterfall and flagstone with areas of ferns. It is a great place to relax.
The sunken garden is the most popular place in the building. Like I said they change the flower show 4 times per year. The have a couple of green houses in the back of the building where they raise the plants for the shows. Be there when they open the doors if you want to have any chance of getting pictures with no people in the way. I have photos here of several flower shows to see. This is one of the most sought after places in the state to have wedding photos taken.
The Bonsai room contains 20 -- 25 bonsai plants they take care of at the park. Some of them are over 50 years old.
The orchid room is orchids and other plants and trees. They maintain an assortment of many types of orchids. My wife is a huge fan of orchids and there are many in the building she has seen nowhere else.
The North garden is a room with a koi pond, banana trees and many other tropical plants. The statue of the monk in the pictures is in the North garden.
The Enchanted garden is a garden area with a waterfall and benches to sit on and enjoy the spot. There are ferns and other plants in the garden.
Statues and Sculptures
Inside the conservatory and around Como park, there are many unique sculptures and statues that add to the enjoyment of the park.
The Como Park Zoo
In the zoo there are several animal exhibits.
There is an Amazon rainforest walk that takes you through an area with real birds flying around. There are several areas where you can see into the water feature and see the different fish from the Amazon. There are sloths and other animals living in the open areas.
Outside, of that area there is a water wheel as part of a creek and a pond where there are many types of birds. Flamingos and many types of ducks and geese. There is also a large bronze tortoise that kids love to sit on in the area by this pond. When I was a kid many years ago, they had 2 giant tortoises that were alive and you could ride on them.
There is also an aquarium area with minnesota fish, penguins and seals. They have a seal show with trained seals you can enjoy in the summer. The seal show has been going since I was a kid. Next to the aquarium building is a polar bear exhibit where they have a pair of polar bears, fun to watch. The have a large area to roam and a big pool to swim in.
There is a gorilla house that has an inside and outside viewing areas. The zoo is open year round so many places have indoor and outdoor view areas. The next area is an outdoor circular pool with an island in the middle where there are seals and sea lions.
There is giraffe and zebras building that also have an indoor and outdoor viewing.
There is another building with tigers on one side and lions on the other. There are indoor and outdoor viewing for them. There are also snow leopards and lynx in this building.
There is a fenced area on the end where they have two timber wolves. On a good day they are close enough to see. The wolf picture I have in the article are about 60 yards away. With a long lens and a steady hand I have gotten great shots.
Other things to do
There are paddle boats you can rent on the lake in the summer.
You can rent rooms for birthday parties and wedding parties.
The conservatory is one of the top places in all the Twin Cities to take wedding pictures.
The Golf course is about 6,000 yard par 70. Not a long course but well kept and fun to play.
The mini golf course has been updated several times and is alway crowded in the summer.
There are soccer field and softball fields in the park.
The pool is a complex of pools. There is a lap pool. A diving pool. A splash pool for the kids and a lazy river tubing area for those boiling days.
There is an old restored carousel that is always crowded in the summer.
Como town amusement park for the kids has over 18 rides and attractions that kids car have fun on before or after visiting the zoo.
If you have time to get to the Twin Cities, come and check out the best free park in the country. Check out the website and learn more about the park.
Have you ever been there?
If you have been there, was it a great place to visit?
The Japanese garden in on the north end of the conservatory and is only open in the summer months but it is very well done and worth seeing. It was designed by a Japanese designer from Nagasaki Japan, which is the sister city of St Paul.