Attractions rely on gift shops, virtual education during upcoming shutdown

Although the governor's stay safe order mandates several local attractions shut their doors, many will continue to find alternate ways to connect with the public through the four week pause.

Lit snowflakes are among the decorations outside Glensheen Mansion. This year the mansion had to cancel several holiday tours due to a four-week pause ordered by Governor Time Walz to slow the spread of COVID-19. (2018 File / News Tribune)

Area attractions are feeling the crunch from the four-week COVID-19 shutdown announcement by Gov. Tim Walz this week. Some are adapting to continue to provide content and virtual access during the shutdown while others are promoting traditional means of support such as patronizing gift shops to help during the financial downtime.

Due to the "Stay Safe MN" plans, attractions will be closed to the public as of Saturday, Nov. 21. Here's how some area attractions are responding to the shutdown:

Lake Superior Zoo continues education

Three North American gray wolves, named Shasta, Sierra and Tehama, arrived from the California Wolf Center to the Lake Superior Zoo just in time for the zoo to temporarily close its doors for four weeks. The zoo is one of several attractions that must close due to a pause ordered by Governor Walz to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Zoo)

The shutdown announcement came the day before the Lake Superior Zoo announced the opening of its new North American gray wolves exhibit. Three wolves, named Shasta, Sierra and Tehama, arrived from the California Wolf Center and zoo CEO Haley Cope was excited for people to have the opportunity to meet them.


"We'll be open until 4 p.m. on Friday so that anyone who still wants to chance to meet them before we close for four weeks, they can hopefully get there," Cope said.

Cope said the zoo was doing fairly well after seeing an uptick in visitors in September and October compared to the previous year.

"We'd seen a lot of community support, which was great and I just hope it continues during this difficult time," Cope said. "We're still going to try to find ways for people to connect with the zoo and give them opportunities to show their support."

The zoo is hosting a virtual fundraiser Friday, Nov. 27, and is offering subscription boxes to provide educational zoo content. Cope hopes to also host pop-up gift shop days outside and that the zoo will be able to reopen soon.

Glensheen focuses on online experiences

The Glensheen Mansion has canceled all tours and events for the four-week shutdown period including mansion tours, Christmas photo meets, and access to the Spirit of the Lights holiday display on the grounds. The historic mansion will instead focus on providing virtual content such as live and virtual tours of the mansion and Christmas themed content on their social media platforms.

The historic mansion has already been posting "Christmas with Jane" videos that share tales about the Glensheen and the holiday season. The mansion is also offering various deals on membership.

Great Lakes Aquarium is open online

FILE: Great Lakes Aquarium
Several Siberian sturgeon swim in a holding tank at the Great Lakes Aquarium. (2018 file / News Tribune)


Although the stay safe orders have closed the Great Lakes Aquarium's doors, the aquarium's gift shop will remain open online and they will continue to post content on Facebook and other social media platforms. The aquarium will remain open Friday until 4:30 p.m., as it is closing early for the Christmas City of the North Parade.

"We recognize the challenging times facing our state and nation during this pandemic and we are committed to our role in creating a healthier Minnesota," read a news release from the aquarium.

Minnesota Discovery Center closes museum and research center

The Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm will close its campus museum and research center until Jan. 5, but will keep its local gift shop open at a limited capacity through Dec. 19. The gift shop will offer curbside pickup or shipping on all purchases.

β€œThe health and well-being of our staff and visitors will always be our top priority here at MDC,” Executive Director Donna Johnson said. β€œThat’s why we are taking the necessary proactive steps to keep them as safe as possible. Furthermore, our dedicated MDC team will continue working remotely to arrange future events, meetings, venue rentals and site visits. For all those quarantining at home, we want you to know that MDC will continue to accept and work on genealogy/archival requests made via our website or over the phone. In addition, our research center will also continue accepting remote requests.”

Johnson also said the gift shop will remain open in order to "help us stay afloat during these difficult and trying times." More information about the museum reopening will be available on its social media pages.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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