Is your kid wild about animals? Treat them to a trip to Binder Park Zoo.
Located in Battle Creek, approximately two hours west of the Motor City, the Binder Park Zoo opened as a small petting zoo in 1977 and today encompasses 433 stunning acres of property that showcases an array of wild animal exhibits, family activities and programs – all supported by a mission of conservation.
The zoo is accredited with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and operates to the highest standards, Leslie Walsh, the zoo’s manager of marketing and development says. We participate in 42 Species Survival Plans (SSP) through the AZA and are guided by the mission to connect people to nature and inspire them to conserve.
One of the ways the zoo strives to Connect. Inspire. Conserve. is through a number of world class exhibits, including the immersive Wild Africa exhibit, which replicates a visit to Africa.
Guests board the Wilderness Tram at the International Depot in the East Zoo for a trek to an African village where they will see zebra, giraffe, waterbuck and other animals roaming the open savanna.
A signature experience in this part of the zoo is the opportunity to hand-feed one of the giraffe herd at Twiga Overlook, Walsh adds.
“Guests are literally face-to-face with these gentle giants to feed them lettuce leaves,” she explains. “It’s a thrilling experience that just never gets old and it creates a most memorable connection to nature.”
The Wild Africa exhibit is also the only place in Michigan where families can see a pack of 13 endangered African painted dogs, 11 of which are pups born last November.
“This large exhibit, complete with a water feature, gives the pack room to romp, roughhouse, splash and play,” says Walsh. “And while the pups are growing quickly, it is endlessly entertaining to see them interact – they are, after all, puppies!”
And near the African painted dogs is the African lion exhibit, which offers a floor-to-ceiling glass viewing area that allows visitors to get extraordinarily close to the majestic carnivores.
But that’s not all. In East Zoo, guests can enjoy an entirely different experience as they stroll along winding brick paths to see the dingo, snow leopard, lemur and red panda exhibits – or visit and interact with domestic animals in the Children’s Zoo.
A favorite experience there is to visit and feed the goats, Walsh says. “Each goat is named for a Harry Potter character and kids just love to go inside the goat enclosure and brush their coats.”
And because the zoo has the best interest of the animals at heart, each exhibit is designed to mimic each animal’s natural habitat.
“Binder Park Zoo has the luxury of space that allows us to design animal exhibits that are as large and natural as possible,” Walsh explains.
“It’s a hallmark of our zoo. You don’t see our animals behind bars or on concrete. A space that is as close to their natural habitat is always going to be best, which sometimes means they have the opportunity to hide, just as they would in the wild.”
Of course, the animal exhibits are only one aspect of the family fun to be had at the Binder Park Zoo. Families can also enjoy activities like Animal Play Days, Zookeeper Chats and even spend the night in the Tented Camps of Wild Africa.
The zoo hosts special events throughout the season, too.
“We have a wine festival that happens in July and a two-day event in August called Reptile Weekend that brings in a collection of fascinating reptiles to the zoo for guests to get a closer look at these often misunderstood animals,” Walsh says. “We also have a wildly popular beer event in October called Bonteboktoberfest, so there’s something for everyone.”
The zoo also features two restaurants and a variety of food carts, and picnic pavilions for those who choose to pack a lunch – plus two rides: the Binda Conservation Carousel and the recently restored vintage Z.O. & O. miniature locomotive train that loops a 1.5-mile route through the zoo.
“While conservation is serious business at the zoo, we are also all about fun here, so depending on your style, you could take the entire day to explore or make a faster paced trek through the zoo because no two visits are ever the same,” Walsh says.
“We want to connect with people, and inspire them to protect and conserve the amazing creatures that we share our world with. A visit to Binder Park Zoo in west Michigan is a worthy and wonderful day trip for metro Detroiters to enjoy.”
The Binder Park Zoo is open 9:00 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $14.25/adults, $13.25/seniors, $12.25/kids 2-10 years and admission is free for kids 2 and under. Parking is free.
For more information about the Binder Park Zoo and how to make the most of your trip, visit binderparkzoo.org.