Unique Experiences

Travel with the Zoo in Minnesota and beyond during a naturalist-led EdVenture, or go behind the scenes at the Zoo with one of our Backstage Passes. The Zoo’s Unique Experiences offer one-of-a-kind programs that will deepen your connection to the natural world.

Backstage Pass Experiences

Travel with the Minnesota Zoo

Minnesota Mussel EdVenture
2025 dates coming soon!


“My dear friend Jan asked if I would go on a trip to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu with her. It was offered through the Minnesota Zoo's Adult Travel EdVentures, and would be led by Tyler Ahnemann. I quickly accepted; these destinations were of great interest to me, and it sounded like a grand adventure.

I am so glad that I did! Our fellow travelers comprised a varied group in terms of backgrounds and interests, and I feel that we gelled pretty quickly as a group. This trip was so well planned, and in addition to Tyler's fun and capable leadership, we had a wonderful local organizer/trouble-shooter, Jose, who traveled with us. I was blown away by our local guides in the Galapagos and Peru as well - they were so friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. We all got to be very fond of each of them and hated to say goodbye.

The sites and landscapes we visited were stunning, the people friendly and welcoming. Most of our lodgings were local, family-owned places rather than big chain hotels. Some of these were wonderfully picturesque. While we had breakfast at our lodgings, we got to sample local foods at various restaurants for lunch and dinner.

Being a biologist in a former life, I was entranced by the huge variety of animal and plant life we were exposed to, as well as all of the cultural and architectural beauty of these regions. It was a trip of a lifetime for me, and I can't recommend it highly enough.”

-Kim Wilcox

Future EdVentures:

As we continually plan our future EdVentures, and your future vacations, we want to keep you informed on the possible EdVenture destinations that we are considering. The below is a list of past and possible future destinations that we believe fully allow our mission to come to life by connecting you to animals, nature, and the Minnesota Zoo. We also hope that these trips will inspire you to make a change that will make a difference in the lives of the animals that live in these places.

• Isle Royale

• Borneo

• Antarctica

• Mongolia (Asian wild horses)

• Churchill

• Mexico (Monarch butterflies)

• Scuba Diving – Bonaire, Belize, Costa Rica

• Africa – South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana

• Galapagos Islands

• Costa Rica

• Belize

• Australia

If you have any questions email us.

Travel EdVenture FAQs

Why should I travel with the Minnesota Zoo?

Traveling with the Minnesota Zoo is more than a vacation, it’s an EdVenture. An environmental adventure. An adventure that you get to share with others who all are just as excited as you are to experience new things. Through active learning, culturally diverse activities, and authentic natural experiences, these wildlife focused trips are created for travelers just like you. What better way to travel then letting someone else do all the planning. This means we do the work to make your trip as stress-free and as enjoyable as possible as well as relevant, authentic, and private.

It’s a trip that you couldn’t get anywhere else.

Traveling with Zoo provides you an opportunity to travel with Zoo staff members. All staff members bring a wealth of information regarding the Zoo’s conservation programs and the animals in our care. They also bring their personalities, passions, and stories. Not only will you connect to the wild animals you see on the trip, but the staff will also connect you to the animals at the Zoo and those that we help save in the wild.

Our Travel EdVentures are carefully planned and organized to be sustainable. This means that we do the research to find operators, restaurants, hotels, and guides that are doing their best to do better for the environment. From renewable energy hotels to zero-waste restaurants, and from locally owned tour operators to community-based activities, our goal is to positively impact the local community as much as possible.

Our Travel EdVentures are also carefully planned and organized with animal welfare and zoo appreciation at their core. The Minnesota Zoo’s commitment to exceptional animal care and welfare is central to our values and operation. It also exists anywhere we travel. We are constantly searching for activities and experience where animal needs are put first. Unfortunately, many opportunities exist in travel that do just the opposite. We hope to show guests ways in which to better and more humanely view animals in wild.

When traveling, you make an impact on the sites you visit. We feel strongly that this impact can and must be a positive one. When done right, our impact grows the local economy. It improves the well-being of the local citizens by giving them meaningful jobs. It allows for the learning and sharing of traditions, perspectives, and culture. It highlights and enhances the natural environment for wildlife to thrive for years to come. It makes the world a better place.

Is group travel for me?

Group travel can be a lot of fun. It’s a great way to build new life-long friendships, to experience something new with someone with the same interests, and to share memories of these experiences for years to come. It also puts the responsibility of planning on someone else, so you can sit back and enjoy. But not everyone will become your new best friend. There should be no surprise that with many people, there will be many different perspectives, opinions, and personalities. Always be aware of your own personality and behavior, as you don’t want to be the one interfering with another person’s experience. All travelers are asked to be gracious and tolerant of each other.

Do I have to be a Minnesota Zoo member to participate in a Travel EdVenture?

No. Travel EdVentures are open to anyone with an interest in learning more about animals, visiting new places, and having fun while experiencing the awe and wonder the destination will provide.


Who is allowed to join a Travel EdVenture?

All are welcome. Member. Non-members. Minnesota residents. Non-Minnesota residents. The Minnesota Zoo is committed to maintaining a safe environment that is free from harassment, intimidation, violence, and hazing on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, color, creed, national origin, marital status, disability, status with regard to public assistance, or age. The Minnesota Zoo prohibits any behaviors inconsistent with these goals and will take any necessary action to maintain this environment, including but not limited to a traveler being sent home at the traveler’s expense.


I have never traveled before, can I attend a Travel EdVenture?

Absolutely! In fact, traveling with the Minnesota Zoo would be a great way to travel for the first time. We do all the planning, and you get all the fun!

Read through all the FAQs and contact the Minnesota Zoo if you have any questions. Once registered and the trip is full, we will contact you with important information you will need to know and possible pre-trip actions to take. If the EdVenture is international, you will need a passport, so begin the application process early.

Who leads the Travel EdVentures?

All Travel EdVentures will have at least one Zoo staff member come as a host or leader. For most EdVentures, the Minnesota Zoo will also hire a Tour Operator to coordinate and lead the trips as well as hire additional guides if needed.

How are Tour Operators chosen?

Extensive research is done to find the Tour Operator who can best achieve the goals of each EdVenture and meet the mission and vision of the Minnesota Zoo. They also must submit an emergency action plan, be recommended by other organizations, and have extensive experience in and knowledge of the destination.

Will Travel EdVenture itineraries change?

Travel EdVenture itineraries may be altered due to weather, travel delays, and other unforeseen circumstances. Every effort will be made to find suitable replacements or make suitable changes. Refunds will only be made under extenuating circumstances. In cases of severe weather or extreme situations, the EdVenture may be cancelled, and a refund will be issued.

What is the age range of the travelers?

Travelers range in age from their twenties to beyond, but each EdVenture is different. And please read each EdVenture itinerary closely to make sure it is a fit for you.

What is the typical group size?

We try to keep the group size small and manageable. Most EdVentures range from 10 to 16 people. However, the minimum and maximum for each EdVenture is determined by the specific location, lodging, transportation, and other related factors.

For Teen EdVentures, what is the adult to teen ratio?

Like all EdVentures, we try to keep the group size small and manageable. Most Teen EdVentures range from 10 to 12 teens. Two Zoo staff of opposite genders will lead each Teen EdVenture. The Tour Operator will also help manage the group.

What are the physical and emotional demands of the Travel EdVentures?

Most of our EdVentures involve some level of physical activity. Thus, every trip description will likely include an activity level scale like the one below and list the reason for the rating. However, many of the more rigorous activities are optional.

Activity Level: Easy | Moderate | Challenging | Difficult

Some past activities have included:

- Hiking and climbing stairs with no handrails

- Kayaking and canoeing

- Riding in planes, boats, and SUVs for extended amounts of time

- Touring museums and sites of interest

There may be times when guests will have to deal with emotional demands that can occur when experiencing a different culture. Group travel may also be emotionally taxing based on the makeup of the group.

If you have any questions about the physical or emotional demands of a specific program, please contact the Minnesota Zoo.

How do I request an accommodation?

The Minnesota Zoo will make all reasonable modifications to policies and programs to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to enjoy its programs, services, and activities. To request an ADA accommodation, please contact the Minnesota Zoo via the following methods.

Complete an Accommodation Request Form and email to Minnesota Zoo

Provide information from Accommodation Request Form by phone: 952-431-9364 (voice); 711 or 1-800-627-3529 (TTY)

What advice do you have if I have a disability?

We want everyone to enjoy the beauty and awe that can be found around the globe. However, traveling with a disability can be challenging, especially in other countries. Below is some advice from other travelers with disabilities:

- Disclose disability needs early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance.

- Other cultures may provide disability access in a different way—learn about what types of accommodation are typically provided in the host country and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.

- Before going, find out as much as possible about the host culture and how they view disability. Be prepared for the interaction between the disability and the new environment.

- Think about how to answer questions about a disability in the language of the host country—look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.

- Consult with your physician to discuss your travel plans.

- Make sure you purchase travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and loss or damage to a mobility device.

Can children participate?

Each EdVenture will list the minimum age of travelers allowed based on the activities, destinations, and goals of the trip. The Minnesota Zoo occasionally offers Teen and Multi-generational EdVentures, in addition to adult-only trips.

Can I travel alone?

Yes. Whether you travel by yourself or come with a partner, traveling with the Minnesota Zoo provides opportunities to experience the awe and wonder of nature. Also, if you prefer a bedroom to yourself, most trips can accommodate this request for an additional cost.

Will the Zoo help find me a roommate?

Yes. During the registration process, all guests will be asked to complete an informational form that will ask about your travel companion status and rooming preferences. We will do our best to pair you with a roommate. At our pre-trip get together, you will meet your roommate and be able to connect before the actual EdVenture.

Do Travel EdVentures include formal educational activities?

Travel EdVentures are experiential opportunities, where the learning occurs informally. However, guest speakers and presentations are often planned, especially when we visit museums, nature centers, and other cultural institutions. Additionally, optional discussions may be held to talk about the experiences and activates of the day.

What if I have a dietary restriction or request?

During the registration process, all guests will be asked to complete an informational form where you will be able to list any dietary considerations you may want or need. The Tour Operator will do their best to accommodate requests. However, depending on the destination and our location at any given time, we may be in a place where food options are limited. If your dietary request needs to be part of an accommodation request, please read the question regarding how to request an accommodation.

Will there be free time during the Travel EdVenture?

On every EdVenture, we try to include some free time almost every day. On longer and international EdVentures, we typically incorporate one or more free afternoons or evenings into the itinerary. These unstructured times allow you to explore your interests, pursue new experiences, and enjoy what the different cultures have to offer. One benefit of traveling as a group is you are sure to find someone to enjoy these free times together.

Can I depart earlier or return home later than the group?

Yes. Many past participants have extended their trip by departing earlier or returning later. For EdVentures that involve flying to and from the destination, please email the Zoo before registration closes, so we can have our Travel Agent purchase those flights for you. Once registration closes, we will purchase airfare and will let you know the additional cost.

Can I purchase my own flight tickets?

We highly recommend letting the Zoo buy your tickets. We may be able to find a better price, but more importantly, by purchasing all the tickets together we are assured to arrive all at the same time. Just because there were available seats on a flight that you researched, there may not be once our agent purchases tickets for the group.

All travelers are picked up at the destination airport by our Tour Operator. We will not wait for late travelers, unless arrangements have been previously made due to travelers flying in from a different city and are arriving around the same time.

Can I leave from a city other than Minneapolis?

Yes. Once our flight tickets are purchased, you will be notified of our flight schedule. You can then purchase your tickets to arrive at the same time or earlier. All travelers are picked up at the destination airport by our Tour Operator. We will not wait for late travelers, unless arrangements have been previously made due to travelers flying in from a different city and are arriving around the same time.

What is typically included in the registration fee?

The registration fee usually includes the following:

- All accommodations based on double occupancy, there is a supplement for single occupancy

- All meals indicated on the itinerary

- Entrance fees

- Group tours

- Ground transportation

- In destination connecting flights

- Tips for drivers and guides

- Presentations led by the program leader and guest lecturers

- Airfare: you will be notified of the additional cost for airfare once it is purchased by the Zoo

What is not included in the registration fee?

The registration fee usually does not include the following:

- Passport and visa fees

- Recommended immunizations or vaccinations

- Travel insurance

- Alcoholic beverages

- Laundry or dry cleaning

- Phone charges

- Room service or mini bar charges

- Tips for porters and maids

- Free time or non-group activity expenses

- Personal souvenirs or gifts

- Meals getting to and from the destination or while in transit in-destination

- Occasional meals not indicated on the itinerary

How much money should I bring?

You will want to bring some cash and probably at least one credit card with you. However, the amount is up to you based on how much you plan to buy.

Make sure to let your credit card institution know you will be out of the country and for how long. It is recommended that you have a chip-and-PIN card, instead of a chip-and-signature card. The chip-and-PIN cards are more widely accepted and easier to use. Chip-and-signature cards are mostly used in the US, so you will be immediately identified as a tourist when using these. Discover Cards have limited acceptance worldwide, whereas VISA and Mastercard are accepted virtually everywhere.

A related piece of advice, if you look wealthy, you could be a target for a pickpocket. Leave fine jewelry at home, hid your money on you, and try to dress like the locals.

Is travel insurance required?

No. However, the Minnesota Zoo strongly recommends that you purchase travel protection insurance at the time of registration to cover your payment should you need to cancel your EdVenture registration after our cancellation deadline. Additionally, this insurance will assist with baggage loss, emergency medical evacuations, and medical and legal assistance. We also recommend considering Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage, as a lot of travel insurance plans only cover expenses caused by cancellations due to pre-existing medical conditions.

If you plan on obtaining coverage, you may want to start by checking to see if your credit cards offer travel protection benefits. If you need to purchase coverage, there are many travel insurance companies to choose from. However, the Minnesota Zoo cannot recommend any one company. One place to start could be insuremytrip.com. With any policy, please make sure you read all the fine print and ask questions about of anything that is unclear.

CFAR coverage is also beneficial during pandemics as your health as well as policies and guidelines change frequently. It is always your responsibility to monitor the advisories and restrictions when traveling to a different country, but even more important during a global pandemic. The US Department of State is a great place to begin your research. You may also want to enroll your trip in their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

What happens if I have to cancel my registration?

Each EdVenture will have the cancellation policy posted on the trip webpage. It will clearly outline the amount of refund available at specified dates. A non-refundable deposit may be required to guarantee your participation in the EdVenture.

Do I need a passport?

If the EdVenture travels outside of the United States, you will need a passport. If it is a domestic EdVenture or to a US Territory, and a flight is involved, then all travelers over the age of 18 must present a government-issued form of photo identification to board the airplane such as a driver’s license or U.S. passport.

For Teen EdVentures, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling within the United States. However, each airline may have specific ID requirements. The Minnesota Zoo will notify travelers of any requirements once an airline has been chosen.

It is recommended that you make a copy of your passport and bring both on the EdVenture. We also recommend giving a copy to the Zoo host as well leaving a copy with your emergency contact who is not traveling with you.

How do I get a passport or renew an old one?

Information on applying for or renewing a passport can be found on the USA.gov/passport website.

If you need to apply for a new passport, it is best to do so more than 2 months in advance of departure. If you need additional guidance on obtaining a passport, please contact the Minnesota Zoo for assistance. However, we cannot apply for a passport for you.

If you need to renew your passport, it is highly recommended you do so approximately nine months before it expires. Certain countries require passports to remain valid for up to six months after travel. Also, some airlines do not allow you to board if you do not meet this requirement.

Do I need to get any vaccinations before the Travel EdVenture?

It depends on where we are going and what we will be doing. Please consult with your physician or a travel medicine specialist. It is advised that you see a health care provider who is familiar with travel medicine at least a month before the EdVenture. You can also use the CDC destination tool to find the vaccines and medications you may need for your next trip. In order to enter certain countries, some vaccinations may be required such as yellow fever, meningococcal, polio, and possibly COVID.

For COVID and other disease related travel restrictions, it is your responsibility to know and follow any guidelines that are put into place by the United States and/or the destination country. The Minnesota Zoo is not an authority on pandemics, and will not and cannot offer legal or health care advise. We will do our best to share what information we may know, but you are ultimately responsible for researching and adhering to any restrictions implemented.

Will the Zoo let me know of any travel restrictions that may arise?

It is your responsibility to monitor and follow any developments regarding travel restrictions, entry guidelines to the destination country, or reentry guidelines to the United States. The Minnesota Zoo will do its best to share what information we may know, but you are ultimately responsible for researching and adhering to any developments and guidelines implemented.

What happens in case of a medical or other emergency?

The Minnesota Zoo and the Tour Operator both have Emergency Action Plans that will be put into place should an emergency arise such as illness, injury, and even theft or loss of a passport. Each emergency will be handled on a case-by-case basis as varying factors will determine the response. The kind of response will depend on if the traveler is an adult or a teen, if the traveler is traveling alone or with a partner, or if the traveler is able to assist during the emergency or not. For any traveler traveling alone, a call to their emergency contact will happen as soon as the situation allows.

Do I need to pack a first aid kit?

The Zoo host and Tour Operator will carry a first aid kit, but we highly recommend that each guest packs a small first aid kit with the basic essentials such as motion sickness aids, pain medication, sunscreen, lip balm, throat lozenge, decongestant, adhesive bandages, and bug repellant/anti-itch cream.

Consult with your physician regarding vaccinations needed for the destination, and make sure to bring any prescription medication with you.

The most common medical issue when traveling is food sickness or traveler’s diarrhea. Better to be prepared than not. If you don’t come down with any symptoms, then nothing lost. But if you do, you will be glad you have prepared. Talk with your physician. Zoo hosts will follow this order when issues arise: hydration, antacid, Imodium, then OTC anti-biotic prescription

Are Travel EdVentures safe?

The Minnesota Zoo is committed to the safety and security of our guests no matter the destination. International travel is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience, but all travel has the potential for risk. Before the Minnesota Zoo plans any Travel EdVenture, we always check the travel advisories and alerts for the potential destination. The U.S. Department of State categorizes every country in the world based on safety and security information with one of the below levels:

- Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions

- Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution

- Level 3 – Reconsider Travel

- Level 4 – Do Not Travel

The Minnesota Zoo usually plans Travel EdVentures to Level 1 or Level 2 countries. Level 3 countries may be considered, depending on the circumstances.

These advisories are updated by the Department of State as needed, but at minimum, they review Level 1 and 2 travel advisories every 12 months and Level 3 and 4 travel advisories every six months. Thus, there is potential for us to travel to a destination where the advisory has changed based on the timing of the trip.

How much do Travel EdVentures cost and how do I pay?

The cost will vary depending on the EdVenture. On the webpage for each EdVenture, the description will list the cost, deadline, and directions on how to register. Most local EdVentures require full payment at time of registration. Domestic and international EdVentures that involve flying may require a non-refundable deposit at time of registration. The schedule for when full payment is due will also be on the EdVenture webpage, and airfare will be due once flights have been reserved.


Who do I contact with questions?

Contact Tyler Ahnemann, the Unique Experiences Specialist at [email protected] or 952-431-9226.

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