HEMKER PARK & ZOO | FREEPORT, MN | VISIT WEBSITE
Kids love animals and my boys are no exception. We take them quite frequently to the Como and Minnesota Zoo, but the getaway to the Hemker Park & Zoo was a one-of-a-kind experience. Where else can you pet the penguins, feed the birds and almost nose-kiss a giraffe?
This private zoo in Freeport, MN started with a simple dream of Mark Hemker and his wife Joan; to share their passion for animals with others. The zoo is a family-run operation and is situated on the Hemker’s property, with the owner’s home right there in the middle. How interesting to live in a house with a zoo! Though it may get pretty noisy at night, I would think.
As Freeport is more than an hour from the Twin Cities, we turned the visit into a day trip. We left home in the morning and stayed until 5pm, one hour before it closes. The zoo is open 10am to 6pm every day, May through October. Admission rates are:
Seniors (60+): $8.75
Children (ages 2-12): $7.75
Season passes are also available and range from $95 to $175. You can purchase your admission tickets online here. Twice a day, you can pay $3/person and take part in the close-encounter with the giraffe. A boa constructor is also available for a close-encounter for $12 (includes a photo). Each seed stick to feed the budgie birds cost $2 (but so, so worth it!).
We got there just in time for the penguin feeding, but the boys got distracted by the playground and a pink house where they spent lots of time just getting in and out. It’s funny how the simplest things can fascinate children for hours – a kid-sized wooden house, two windows and one door – enough to keep kids busy.
There is a picnic area next to the playground, where my husband and I relaxed while the kids were playing. If you plan on spending the day at the zoo, you can bring your own food or leave for lunch and return like we did. We headed to Freeport, to a cute little place with good food and fast service. I don’t remember its name but if you ask one of the zoo employees, this is the place they will recommend.
The highlight of the day, besides the pink house, was feeding the birds. You can feed almost all the animals but feeding the budgies is the most spectacular experience. Get inside the bird house with a seed stick in your hand (you buy the sticks at the entrance for $2 each) and you’ll immediately get covered with budgies. They’ll land on your head and stand on your hands. They are fun, colorful and sweet. My 2-year old was a bit scared but he still joined us for a second and then a third feeding.
We were lucky to have a close encounter with the giraffe. We fed her some grass and she bent over allowing me to pet her and almost nose-kiss her!
Stef writes for Non Toy Gifts – a great blog about toy alternative ideas for young kids that help create beautiful childhood memories through experiences, adventures, fun learning and so much more. Follow Non Toy Gifts on social media: