How to Explore the Zoo with Kids This Winter

There's lots to see and do at the Detroit Zoo during the cooler months. Here's what to expect and how to plan.

For many families, a trip to the Detroit Zoo is a summer staple, but if you’ve never visited in the winter, you’re missing out! With snow-covered trees, the Detroit Zoo is a beautiful sight to see in the cold months. Not only that, there are winter events, educational classes for kids and more.

Plus, getting outside in nature with the kids, even in the winter, is a proven cabin-fever buster mood lifter.

We’ve rounded up some tips and tricks to help you plan your chilly trip to the zoo.

Animals and exhibits

Has your summer visit to the zoo ever been met with sleepy or less active animals? Well, many animals – gray wolves, tigers, camels, polar bears and more – are actually more active in the winter, which makes for an engaging and action-packed visit.

And if you need a break from the cold, there are also plenty of active (and warm!) indoor exhibits to check out: the award-winning and recently re-opened Polk Penguin Conservation Center, the Holden Reptile Conservation Center, the National Amphibian Conservation Center and the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery.

Childhood education

The Detroit Zoo offers an array of year-round educational opportunities for children, including its Zoo Tots program for toddlers ages 2-4. Zoo Tots allows toddlers to learn about animals at the zoo through activities and crafts, while gaining social and exploration skills. Winter classes start on Jan. 16 and spring classes start on March 20.

On days when the cold is just too much for an outdoor venture, the wonder of the zoo is still at your fingertips. The Virtual Vitamin Z lessons provide engaging videos, lessons and activities covering a range of topics and animals, from Tokyo Salamanders to Mountain Chicken Frogs.

Winter event

Through April 16, warm up while checking out the new Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition owned by the Natural History Museum in London, which celebrates the best nature photography and photojournalism in 100 photographs. The zoo is the first U.S. stop for the exhibition, which will leave you and your littles full of wonder at the images and inspire everyone’s imagination.

Tips and tricks

Check out these insider tips to make sure your winter visit to the Detroit Zoo is a success.

Tip #1: Plan in advance. Indecision + Frigid Temperatures = No Fun! Use the Zoo Map to plan your trip in advance, including the route you will take, the exhibits you will see, etc. This way you can hit the ground running when you first arrive. The map also has important information about family restrooms, accessibility needs and charging stations.

Tip #2: Make sure the zoo is open. This one might seem obvious, but the zoo’s hours vary, so double check the hours before you make the trek!

Tip #3: Order food online. Especially if you’re visiting the zoo with young kids, ordering your food in advance can save you from idle waiting time where things can go awry. Check out the dining page to see which restaurants have a mobile order ahead option.

Tip #4: Rent a stroller or wagon. Even if your kids are old enough to walk on their own, a wagon could be helpful to carry some essentials during the winter: extra layers of winter clothes, blankets, hand-warmers, etc.

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