Featured Businesses Category: Family Activities + Attractions
At Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan, visitors can stroll nearly 170 rolling acres of park and see a diverse array of animal wildlife like kangaroos, black bears, snow leopard and red panda.
“One of the hallmarks of our zoo is that our exhibits are designed to be as natural and spacious as possible, and we have a very different look,” says Leslie Walsh, manager of Marketing and Development at Binder Park Zoo. “While the zoo features animals from all over the world, our spectacular Michigan landscape is the foundation for habitats that best suit the animals and provide an engaging guest experience at the same time.”
The original East Zoo has traditional brick pathways and a creek running through it. The Z. O. & O. train – open cars pulled by a vintage 1963 CP Huntington train, runs through a 1.5 mile nature trail loop on the zoo’s east side. There is also the Binda Conservation Carousel, with hand-carved wooden animals – some of them specific to the Binder Park Zoo.
“We have a big, beautiful, park-like zoo. You won’t see things like service gates or the behind-the-scenes operations. It’s designed thoughtfully for a quality outdoor experience. We have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers to maintain our zoo and we’re very proud of what we offer our guests and members,” Walsh says.
The Wilderness Tram provides complimentary transportation to the Wild Africa section of the zoo where guests arrive in the African Village to begin an immersive trip through Zuri National Park. Guests will see herds of animals grazing the 18 acre savanna and no visit is complete without the rare experience of handfeeding a giraffe at Twiga Overlook! Cheetahs, African lions, monkeys and other animals contribute to the exotic feel of this part of the zoo.
“Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we are held to a much higher standard,” Walsh says. “We participate in 42 Species Survival Plans and collaborate with the AZA to conserve animal species that in some cases, may be just steps from extinction. Our mission is Connect. Inspire. Conserve. Connect people with nature. Inspire them to conserve.”
Among those species are African Painted Dogs, the most endangered carnivore in Africa. In Michigan, Binder Park Zoo is the only place to see these unique animals.
“We were fortunate to have a successful litter of 11 African Painted dogs born in November. They will be on exhibit for guests to see when we open in April,” Walsh says.
As one of the state’s six Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited facilities, Binder Park Zoo also contributes to conservation efforts by offering educational experiences for guests.
“At Binder Park Zoo, we have a very rich education program,” Walsh says. Some are offered on the grounds of the zoo and some go beyond. “We have the ZooMobile that takes the zoo into the community – an outreach program we’ve had for many year. It visits senior centers, school, libraries and civic centers. Our animal ambassadors and education staff make it exciting for everyone to learn about our natural world.”
For those who want an “unplugged” experience, Binder Park Zoo offers several overnight programs, one that happens in the tented camps in Wild Africa. Those interested in the overnight programs can get more information on the Binder Park Zoo website.
Throughout the season, Binder Park Zoo hosts several unique fundraising events, and offers discounted admission for moms and dads on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The Cheetah Chase is a 5K Run/Walk through the zoo on June 22; a wine event, Corks for Conservation, on July 12; and the Tour de Zoo bike event on Aug. 8. The zoo’s annual beer festival Bonteboktoberfest will be held Oct. 12. There will also be special autumn events around the theme Fall into the Zoo later this season.
As an AZA member zoo, those with memberships to other zoos may receive discounted admission when they visit Binder Park Zoo. For those who plan to visit Binder Park Zoo several times throughout the summer, purchasing a membership is a great way to save money.
Binder Park Zoo begins regular operations on April 17, 2019 and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Beginning May 1, Binder Park Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The zoo hours change back to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. after Labor Day.
For those who plan to spend a day at the park, there are several restaurant options to consider; Beulah’s and Kalahari Kitchen offer a variety of meals and snacks in addition to food carts located around the zoo. Guests can also leave a picnic lunch in their car to enjoy in the pavilions just outside of the park entrance. Unique zoo souvenirs can be purchased at the Safari Gift Shop or Zawadi Traders.
For more information, visit the Binder Park Zoo website.