Ten Ways to Go Wild with a Trip to a Michigan Zoo

Family vacation season is nearly upon us. While you may be planning for a longer getaway, keep in mind that a day trip can be a fun way to spend some quality family time and unwind a bit. Scattered throughout Michigan are an assortment of zoos and wildlife parks that are both educational and fun for all ages. So, grab some sunscreen and bottled water and get ready for a wild day of family fun at these Michigan zoos and parks! For more information on  zoos in your area, visit michigan.org/zoos.

Photo courtesy of Detroit Zoo

Photo courtesy of Detroit Zoo

Detroit Zoo – Royal Oak, MI
Features 125 acres of naturalistic exhibits with 1300 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates of 250 different species. Be sure to take a trek through the North Pole in the Arctic Ring of Life exhibit. The Detroit Zoo was the first in the United States to use open natural exhibits.

Potter Park Zoo – Lansing, MI
Located along the Red Cedar River, this 100 acre park features the county zoological park with over 400 different animal species, plus playground, picnic areas, pony and camel rides, petting zoo, gardens and more.

Photo courtesy of Binder Park Zoo

Photo courtesy of Binder Park Zoo

Binder Park Zoo – Battle Creek, MI
Open for the season on April 22, 2014! An African adventure awaits you at Binder Park Zoo! Discover spectacular views of wild animals from elevated boardwalks. Get nose-to-nose with one of the largest giraffe herds in the country as you explore Wild Africa and hand feed a giraffe! Binder Park opens middle of April through October each year.

Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park - Alto, MI
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park features a reptile house, aviary, petting zoo, and guided safari tour through the park and prides itself on giving visitors a hands-on experience that’s as close to the wild as you can get. With animals as diverse as wallabies, zebras, pythons and lemurs, there is sure to be something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

John Ball Zoo Society – Grand Rapids, MI
John Ball Zoo, with over 2,000 animals, is located in a 140-acre park only one mile from the downtown Grand Rapids district. Zoo includes the Lions of Manyara exhibit featuring a pride of three lions, the only aquarium in Michigan, Komodo dragon, a troop of chimpanzees, and Colobus Monkeys that can leap 50 feet to the next branch!

Wilderness Trails Zoo – Birch Run, MI
Wilderness Trails Zoo is home to over 200 individual animals representing over 50 species including alligators, lions, tigers, monkeys and camels. Make lasting family memories  in Wilderness Trails’ petting area, butterfly house and animal feeding stations.

Photo courtesy of Children's Zoo at Celebration Square

Photo courtesy of Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square

Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square - Saginaw, MI
Animals from various parts of the globe make their home at the Children’s Zoo, including wolves, river otters, bald eagles, black-footed penguins, Capuchin monkeys, kangaroos, alligators, exotic birds, reptiles and more! Ride the hand-carved carousel and antique train and get up close and personal with all kinds of critters at live Amphitheater shows.

Cindy Lou’s Zoo – Roscommon, MI
Journey through 20 scenic acres in a park like setting in beautiful Roscommon. Cindy Lou’s Zoo features 120+ animals including exotic cattle, red deer, fallow deer, horses, miniature donkeys, goats and sheep, monkeys, lemurs, parrots and much more. Many of the animals are tame enough to hand feed and pet.

GarLyn Zoological Park - Naubinway, MI
Located 40 minutes west of the Mackinac Bridge on US-2 just six miles east of Naubinway. See live tigers, black bear, alligator, cougar, bobcat, wolves, wallaby, camel, reindeer, ring-tailed lemur, sika deer, river otter and more. Feed the deer, goats, llama and even the bear!

DeYoung Family Zoo – Wallace, MI
Come view the exotic felines and get the opportunity to interact with these magnificent creatures. This zoo is unique because it is a hands-on experience and all of the animals are very responsive.

Traveler Tip: Interested in seeing the animals most active? Try heading to the park early in the morning before it gets too hot. Not only will you avoid large crowds, you’ll also witness the animals at their peak activity.

While a trip to the zoo is great fun on any given day, special events and exhibits can bring a new element of discovery and enjoyment. Give these events a look and be sure to check michigan.org or your favorite zoo’s website for special opportunities.

GreenFest at the Detroit Zoo, April 26-27, 2014
GreenFest is a two-day Earth Day event dedicated to celebrating wildlife and educating the community about environmental conservation. The Zoo-wide celebration includes earth-friendly crafts, an endangered species scavenger hunt, animal enrichment activities, zookeeper talks and exhibits by local conservation groups.

Photo courtesy of Binder Park Zoo

Photo courtesy of Binder Park Zoo

Kids FUNfari at Binder Park Zoo, July 12, 2014
Healthy kids and happy families is what Kids FUNfari is all about! Join Binder Park Zoo in this event focus on getting kids active and healthy! Kids FUNfari is also the Lemur Lap Fun Run.  All children entering the Zoo will receive a reusable “goodie bag” and can participate in fun activities and demonstrations throughout the Zoo.

Corks for Conservation at Binder Park Zoo, July 19, 2014
Corks for Conservation is a wine tasting event held on Saturday, July 19th from 6pm to 10pm at Binder Park Zoo. Enjoy the Zoo after-hours with live music, delicious hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, live animal presentations, and of course, wine from Michigan based wineries.

Have you visited a Michigan zoo? Tell us about your trip! 

Merry-Not-Scary Family Fun at ZooBoo

Looking for something fun to do with your family to get into the Halloween spirit? There’s still plenty of time to check out The Great ZooBoo at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek! Today, Kari Parker, Binder Park Zoo’s marketing manager, fills us in on this family-friendly event and other happenings at the zoo this year.

Q: What is ZooBoo and who should attend ZooBoo?

A: The Great ZooBoo is a merry not scary Halloween event that has been ongoing and beloved by families and Zoo visitors for 26 years.  This ever popular trick-or-treating experience is a wonderful way for families to be immersed in a festive fall atmosphere, while creating memories with their children.  What better way to celebrate fall than meandering through the Zoos many trails of lighten jack-o-lanterns with crunchy leaves underfoot while sipping hot apple cider!  Weather depending, visitors will even get to see some of our more cold weather-hardy animals like the American black bear cubs that we rescued from Alaska this past summer or the graceful and endearing snow leopards among others.

Q: What’s the history of ZooBoo at Binder Park Zoo and how has it grown over the years?

A: Binder Park Zoo first opened in 1977 as a small children’s petting zoo. With great dreams and aspirations a team of dedicated volunteers and staff set out to mold and shape Binder Park Zoo into the leading cultural attraction it is known for today.  With the growth of the Zoo came new exhibits and events like The Great ZooBoo.  In 1987 the very first ZooBoo took place and remains much the same today, a merry-not-scary family Halloween event.  ZooBoo has been added to the must do list for families for years and continues to be a fall tradition that many look forward too.  Binder Park Zoo is a non profit so we rely on gate admissions and fundraising events like The Great ZooBoo to help feed and care for our animals.  The funds raised during ZooBoo allow us to feed and care for our animals all winter long.  There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes and even though we close for the winter we still have a group of dedicated fulltime zookeepers working around the clock to look after all of our animals.  When families come to The Great ZooBoo, not only are they spending time together and making memories, they are helping to instill a love for nature in their children and helping us to continue our many conservation efforts.

Q: What are some new attractions or activities at this year’s ZooBoo?

A: Halloween wouldn’t be complete without trick-or-treating, and The Great ZooBoo offers that and lots more!  The Miller Children’s Zoo is transformed from a petting zoo into the exciting BooVille Carnival where youngsters can enjoy the carnival atmosphere and play a variety of games to win fun prizes. The Binda Conservation Discovery Center will also be open, offering a place where children can view several small animal exhibits, participate in interactive activities, and take in the nightly entertainment venues. As always, there will be hayrides, train rides, and a festive fall atmosphere like none other!

Q: Are there other fun events or activities happening at Binder Park Zoo this fall?

A: During our winter months the Zoo is anything but still!  We offer a variety of educational opportunities for children like the popular Knee-High Naturalists, a program perfect for your pint-sized conservationist.  All of our education programs are designed with kids in mind and provide an outlet for little ones to express creativity, explore nature and wildlife, as well as to broaden their world of experiences.  As a leader in conservation education, approximately 75,000 children and adults received the benefits of the Zoo’s formal and informal education programs.  Our strongest educational efforts take place here at the Zoo through the roughly one third of a million people who visit each year.

In addition to off season education programs each year, the Zoo offers an event called Holiday Nights in December. This is a wonderful way to experience wintry evenings at Binder Park Zoo. Guests stroll along lighted paths and can view some of our weather-hardy animals on exhibit enjoying the winter season. These special evenings include carousel rides, special holiday activities, dinner with Santa and his animal friends, and story time with Mrs. Claus. Holiday Nights run each evening December 14-16 & December 20-23.

Q: What types of conservation programs is the Zoo currently involved it?

A: Binder Park Zoo is home to 38 endangered or threatened species and participates in 18 different Species Survival Plans (SSP) and 20 Population Management Plans (PMP).  Global conservation efforts take place at Binder Park Zoo in cooperation with organizations like the International Snow Leopard Trust and the Cheetah Conservation Fund, in Kenya Africa.  The Zoo also participates in local conservation restoration efforts as well like the Michigan Piping Plover Recovery Program, Karner Blue Butterfly conservation, Adopt and Beach and Highway programs and helped contribute to the success of the bald eagle’s comeback.

Q: Where can people go for more information?

A: For more information about Binder Park Zoo, visit www.binderparkzoo.org or call the Zoo office at (269) 979-1351. To stay on top of all the latest Zoo news, find Binder Park Zoo on Facebook.

Kari Parker has been the Marketing Manager for Binder Park Zoo for a total of 8 years. She received her education at Western Michigan University where she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree specializing in marketing.

Are you planning to attend ZooBoo at Binder Park Zoo? If you’re looking for something closer to home, here’s a list of several other Michigan zoos taking part in similar events:

For other ZooBoo and Halloween-themed events happening across the state, visit michigan.org.