The long loop of trails and spacious animal habitats make the Minnesota Zoo a pleasant place to see thousands of animals. Get a bird’s-eye view of the zoo from the monorail, observe the animals from a safe distance during a hike, or get up-close and personal at the petting farm.Opened in 1978, the Minnesota Zoo displays zoo animals by habitat and encourages human interaction. The park is home to more than 500 animal species and about 1.3 million people visit them per year. The zoo has a traveling Zoomobile exhibit to promote environmental conservation. You can even order “Zoo-Post” for your garden it’s the most exotic manure around!A narrated 25-minute monorail ride allows you to take it all in from the comfort of a cabin. To get up-close you’ll need to walk, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes to explore the six extensive trails. There are “hot,” “cold” and “wet” habitats, with plenty of indoor exhibits for when it rains. At the Northern Trail you can watch Amur leopards lazing on boulders and macaque monkeys swinging amongst the trees. Next door is Russia’s Grizzly Coast where brown bears rule the ground and sea otters patrol the waters. A totally different experience is the Tropics Trail, home to reptiles, birds and monkeys. For a more local experience, take the Minnesota Trail. See wolves and coyotes and hear about the efforts to protect their natural habitat. Visit Discovery Bay to observe fish, sharks and stingrays. Children of all ages will love to touch the animals in the petting farm, which is open during the warmer months.Minnesota Zoo is located in Apple Valley, about a 30-minute drive south of Minneapolis. You have to pay to park, while buses run regularly from Minneapolis, except on Sundays. The zoo is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.