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Only in Des Moines can you dance a polka with a prairie dog colony

I get out during the week sometimes. I try to, anyway, because as much as my instinct is to burrow in and work, I live in a city that is interesting enough to drag me out.

So, Thursday night. The usual suspects are always available, and are a bit done: hitting a bar, finding a show or grabbing dinner out again. Even the best restaurants get stale after a while, and when there’s no one I want to see at the local stages, I’m getting creative.

We’ve established that I love animals. I love a change of scene, particularly when it involves a great crowd and prime people watching. And beer? Well, Blank Park Zoo’s Zooktoberfest -- going on this Thursday from 5:30-8 p.m. -- is the marriage of all of this and so much more. It’s the final night in the summer series of Zoo Brew; the nights when the zoo stays open late, brings out beer carts and books a band. Animals are out until 6:30, and the train chugs around filled with lightly-inebriated YPs. Have you ever had a few and then looked into a massive aquarium or a sea lion pool? If no, you’ve gotta do this. It’s an amazement like no other, like watching Planet Earth with a bottle of wine.

Drive down to the south side on Thursday, and you’ll see the zoo bedecked in fall finery: color-changed leaves, frolicking sea lions and macaques swinging from vines, and you can feed the goats of the petting zoo backed by a rousing set from polka players Malek Fisherman’s Band. And you’ll have the run of the place. No kids are allowed at Zoo Brew events, so I’m not going to be nice about getting into the prairie dog colony. You’ve been warned.

If you’ve missed Zoo Brew this year, don’t let this one get away: one last night to enjoy the great outdoors with some of Iowa’s wildest residents.  Now I’ve got to buy my tickets (online at I hear there will be pretzel necklaces.