Animal Encounters

Will you brave a close encounter?

There are many ways to encounter the animals here at Hemker Park & Zoo. Our visitors love the Close Encounters* with the wild exhibits at Hemker Park & Zoo, and we’re confident you will too. All proceeds go towards each animal conservation at Hemker Park & Zoo.


10am-6pm every day (May 1-Oct 31)

* Additional fees apply.

Quick Links

Use the links below to quickly find your close encounter!

Red Panda Experience

Get up-close and personal with our bamboo-loving red pandas during our one-of-a-kind close encounter experience! During this exclusive opportunity, guests will spend time with the Animal Care team while visiting the red pandas in their habitat to learn more about the care and conservation of this endangered species.

Admission to Hemker Park & Zoo is required and NOT included.  All guests under 14 years of age must be accompanied by a paying adult. Groups will be combined for a tour of up to 5 guests. We recommend you wear closed-toed shoes as part of this experience. This experience requires some standing and walking. Persons with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact us at 320-836-2426.

Please note that once you have booked an experience, you have secured your exclusive reservation. If you do not attend on your scheduled date or cancel within 48 hours of your tour date, no refunds will be issued.

Red Panda Experience


Duration: 10-20 minutes

Available May – October

*Due to the location of tours within animal habitats and the disruptions external animals can cause, service animals are not permitted on this tour. Please call 320-836-2426 for further information.

Giraffe Feeding

See what it’s like to stand face-to-face with a giraffe at Hemker Park & Zoo’s Giraffe Feeding Station! The feedings take place at 11:00 am, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm daily. Cost: $5.00/person to feed the giraffe. Learn more about these amazing creatures while feeding them!

Giraffe Feeding


May to October at 11:00 am, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm

*Note: All encounters will be conducted in a protected contact situation. In most cases touching the animal will not be available. (Please note Giraffe feedings happen when temperature is above 45 degree)

Give an Otter a Snack

Watch these mischievous mammals swim in their pool! They think raw fish are delicious and can’t wait to swim on over for a mouthwatering morsel. Toss the fish into their pool while learning fun facts about otters with one of their keepers!

Otter Feeding


May to October at 12:00 pm & 3:00 pm

*Note: All encounters will be conducted in a protected contact situation. In most cases touching the animal will not be available.

Hand Feed A Rhino

Come and join our zookeepers for an unforgettable Rhino feeding experience. Assist our professional in feeding these beautiful creatures while they teach you all about these magnificent creatures and how Hemker Park & Zoo is helping with rhino conservation worldwide!

Space is limited to 20 Spots. Available daily to first come. 

Rhino Feeding


May to October at 12:30 pm & 3:30 pm

*Note: All encounters will be conducted in a protected contact situation. In most cases touching the animal will not be available.

Buddy Up to The Budgies

Have you experienced the beaming smiles and squeals of delight of bird feeding in the Budgie Buddy House?

The famous Hemker Budgie Buddy House is one of the most popular exhibits at Hemker Park & Zoo.

Our Budgies are fun to get close to. With a seed stick, you will get closer than ever. Walk into our Budgie Buddies House with one of our seed sticks in your hand and watch them swarm.

Budgie feeding stick


Late May to early September from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Feed the Colorful Koi

Watch the lovely colorful Koi at Hemker Park & Zoo swim while feeding them!

These beautiful fish are closely related to fish right here in Minnesota!

Cup of fish food


May to October

Cuddle with Cookie

Cookie is our beloved ten-foot Boa Constrictor. There is no need to be scared though, she likes to be held. With the help of a zookeeper, we’ll snap a photo souvenir of you and Cookie together! When you’re holding her, gently stroke her scales and you will see that she is not at all slimy.

Are you brave enough to have your photo taken cuddling Cookie, the 8-foot-long boa constrictor?

Cuddle with Cookie


May 1st to October 31st from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Get up close With an American Alligator

Have you been eye to eye with an Alligator?

Learn fun and interesting facts about these amazing reptiles! Meet Gator a 2 foot American Alligator!

Alligator Experience


May 1st to October 31st from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Pet Ruby The Penguin

Have you ever touched a penguin?

We have a private area for you and/or your group to go and talk with the zookeepers that care for the penguins here at Hemker Park & Zoo. During this time, you will be able to touch one of our penguins while our zookeeper holds the penguin.  Guest are not able to hold the penguins. During this time our zookeepers will discuss where the penguins are from, their adaptions they have, how we care for them, what types of enrichment we do with them, and more fun and interesting facts. This usually lasts about 15/20 minutes. Bring your camera for a photo. At first enjoy the experience and at the end you are welcome to take photos, no video recording is allowed. All proceeds go towards penguin preservation at Hemker Park & Zoo. You can schedule your penguin encounter when you pay your admission.

Pet Ruby The Penguin


May 1st to October 31st from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm – Maximum of 5 participates in group

Don’t walk past this unique experience. Where else can you touch a penguin?

A Legacy of Love

What began as Mark & Joan Hemker's simple dream in 1977 has grown to give families up close access to more than 50 different species from around the globe. Now operated by their children and families, Hemker Park & Zoo is an inviting and educational activity that will not disappoint.