Opened on May 22, 1978, The Minnesota Zoo (formerly the Minnesota Zoological Gardens) was fairly revolutionary in its exhibit design. It was one of the first zoos to organize its animals by their living environment as opposed to their species.
Exhibits are arrayed in six themed areas, including three themed walking trails ranging from one to two miles in length:
- Medtronic Minnesota Trail, featuring animals native to Minnesota
- Northern Trail, featuring animals of the north (above the 45th parallel north)
- Tropics Trail, an indoor walking trail featuring animals from the tropics
- Discovery Bay, an activity area themed around marine wildlife
- Russia's Grizzly Coast, a part-indoor, part-outdoor new multi-million exhibit featuring animals from Russia's Far East and the Kamchatka Peninsula
- Wells Fargo Family Farm, themed around farm animals
The Minnesota Zoo is a state agency. This differs from other zoos in Minnesota and most others in the United States, which are run by municipalities or private organizations. The Minnesota Zoo charges admission and sells annual memberships.