Autumn brings a unique date night option to Apple Valley.
A new acoustic concert series featuring well-known Minnesota musicians -- Chris Koza, Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles, the Atlantis Quartet, Alison Scott and Jeremy Messersmith -- debuts this fall at the Minnesota Zoo.
"We definitely wanted this to be a Minnesota-focused series," said Bill Von Bank, marketing director at the zoo. "Some of the names are really mainstays."
The zoo will open its doors to the tropics trail (and recently updated tropical reef exhibit) before each show, which will be held in the new Target Learning Center indoor theater. A pre-show "bird encounter," with handlers bringing out macaws, parrots or other feathered entertainers from their "World of Birds Show," will take the place of an opening band.
Von Bank said their intent was to draw people less likely to visit the zoo during the day, such as those without children or empty nesters. Also, he said, they gauged from the popularity of their summer Music at the Zoo series that this might be a success.
"I think it's great that the zoo is doing an indoor series now," said Zacc Harris, guitarist for innovative modern jazz group the Atlantis Quartet, which plays Oct. 18.
The band, regulars at such venues as the Artist's Quarter and the Dakota Jazz Club, is going back into the studio to record in December, he said, so they'll play new material as well as drawing from their third album, "Lines in the Sand." Citypages named it one of their top 10 Minnesota albums of 2011 and also named the band 2011 Best Jazz Artist that year.
The new indoor theater opened in May 2011 as part of the Heart of the Zoo renovation, when the old whale tank was turned into a "state of the art indoor theater," Von Bank said.
"It's obviously a venue that lends itself to all kinds of experiences," he said of the 200-seat space.
"It's intimate. There's not really a bad seat, and the make-up of the theater lends itself to some good acoustics."
He said that the zoo plans to make it an annual series and, if all goes well, may expand the lineup for this fall.
Tickets, which cover entry to the show and topics trail, are $25 and can be purchased through the zoo website. Beer, wine and light fare are available for purchase at the shows.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a freelance writer.