Minnesota Zoo reopening to public on July 24

Mary Dettinger , 6 got a closer look at the Vera , the 4-month old female Amur tiger cub at the during her public debut at the Minnesota Zoo Wednesday August 23,2017 in Apple Valley,MN. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

The Minnesota Zoo announced it is opening next weekend for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close to visitors in March. 

The zoo will be open to the public beginning July 24, although members will be allowed in earlier for a special preview from July 19-22. Visitors, including those with zoo memberships, must reserve tickets online in advance. 

The zoo says it will have "stringent measures in place to ensure a safe and enriching experience with the natural world." 

The loss in revenue combined with the upkeep of caring for its 5,000 animals left the zoo in a tight spot financially. Gov. Tim Walz told lawmakers last month the zoo faced permanent closure if it did not get financial help from the government. 

The zoo briefly offered a drive-thru experience called the “Beastly Boulevard” to raise money to cover its revenue losses. Beastly Boulevard allowed visitors to take a leisurely drive through the zoo grounds and observe the animals along the Northern Trail, but visitors were not allowed to leave their vehicles. 

The Walz administration eventually gave the zoo a $6 million bailout to help keep its doors open. 

Ticket sales for the zoo’s reopening begin Thursday, July 16 at 10 a.m.