Kids who love animals always enjoy a trip to Binder Park Zoo during the summer, but if you really want to blow their minds with animal fun and experiences, the fall months are a prime time.
“Binder Park Zoo sits on a big and beautiful 433-acre property of rolling hills and mature forests,” says Leslie Walsh, the zoo’s manager of marketing and development. “And what happens in Michigan? We get the stunning fall color.”
Set against a gorgeous backdrop of orange, red and yellow hues, the zoo offers fall fun for all ages, highlighted by a fall color train ride through the changing trees in October.
“It’s not a guided tour, but our recently-renovated miniature Z. O. & O. train travels a 1.5-mile loop through the woods, a tunnel and over a bridge,” Walsh says. “It’s a beautiful little color tour that takes less than 15 minutes – perfect for a youngster’s shorter attention span and a lot of fun.”
Guests can stroll around the East Zoo to see the snow leopard or red panda and perhaps catch a peek at the Mexican grey wolf pup, or hop the Wilderness Tram to Wild Africa to feed giraffes and see animals like lions and the rare African painted dogs.
“We look so lovely in October and our animals are often more active in the cooler temperatures, too” Walsh says. Plus, “Kids are back in school and families have settled into their routines. Things just feel calmer with an easy going, comfortable vibe here at the zoo – it’s really a terrific time to visit.”
Despite that laid-back feel, families can still expect lots of special events during this time. On Saturday, Oct. 12, the zoo kicks fall into high gear with one of its largest events – the 10th annual Bonteboktoberfest – a time for adults only to enjoy the zoo.
Named for the bontebok, which is a species of antelope that lives at the zoo, this beer festival features live entertainment, food pairings, a carousel derby, raffles and plenty of craft beer wine and ciders from over 50 local breweries and wineries to sample.
“This popular event is for adults to drink “brew at the zoo” with the animals.” Walsh says. “And special overnight packages through our partner, Courtyard by Marriott – Battle Creek can help make it an easy get-away for mom and dad.”
This year’s event runs 6-10 p.m. Tickets to the event are $45 and include a souvenir tasting glass and 12 drink tickets, entertainment and appetizer-style food. VIP admission tickets are $75 for early admission at 5 p.m. to savor rare pours from select vendors. Tickets can be purchased from the zoo website.
The family fun starts when the zoo reopens on Oct. 14 for the extended FALL into the ZOO season, which is open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Oct. 31 and features reduced admission of $10 per person.
The Oct. 14 event, Senior Safari, kicks off the series with free admission for seniors 60-plus to enjoy the zoo. Next up is Zoorific Kids Day on Oct. 19 – a day that celebrates being a kid. During this event, kids can visit the animals, meet guest vendors and mascots and partake in special animal encounters.
Stroller Safari happens next on Oct. 22 with special play-stations and pumpkin coloring, for the zoo’s pint-sized patrons and their parents.
A true treat to see is when the zoo animals receive harvest-themed “enrichment” like meat-filled pumpkins and other goodies during the Harvest Celebration on Oct. 26. Then ooh and aah over scores of antique tractors on display inside the zoo, too.
Round out the series on Oct. 27 at TAILgate at the zoo (because who has more tails than a zoo?). Come dressed in your favorite team’s colors and celebrate the Lions vs. Giants football game with a series of brew stations and as the game streams live on a big screen.
“We want to be the zoo that welcomes, and has appeal for all ages. Because you should never outgrow the zoo!” Walsh says.
Entry for the FALL into the ZOO events is free with zoo admission, which is discounted to $10/daily in the fall months. Members and kids under age 2 get in for free – and reciprocal zoo members will receive discounted admission as well.
The zoo is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily through Oct. 31.
For more information about Binder Park Zoo, visit them online at binderparkzoo.org.