A Detroit Mom’s Guide to the Detroit Zoo

Trips to the Detroit Zoo have been on a regular rotation in our house this summer. I love taking the girls every couple of weeks to visit the animals and see what’s new. Since we’re zoo members {we became zoo members shortly after my first daughter was born}, we can go as often as we’d like so we don’t have to see it all in one day. On the drive there I ask them to pick three animals they want to see that day and that’s where we go. Plus, the Detroit Zoo is open 362 days a year {they only close on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day} so we take full advantage of trips all-year long! 

::Tips::

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this summer it’s that it helps to be prepared when planning a zoo trip. Here are a few tidbits of information you might find helpful as you plan your next zoo adventure!

  • The Detroit Zoological Society is committed to helping create a healthier environment for its animals, visitors and our planet. As part of their Greenprint initiative the Detroit Zoo no longer sells bottled water, however, zoo-goers can bring their own water bottles or purchase a reusable bottle which can be refilled for free all year at one of the 20 filtered-water stations throughout the park. 
  • The Detroit Zoo proudly serves Starbucks Coffee – located in the middle of the zoo! 
    • Bonus: there’s a toddler potty next to it! 
  • The Korman Tadpole Playventure or the Rissman Playventure (for kids ages 5-12) are two great playgrounds and the perfect place to stop for a break with a nearby picnic site. Located behind the butterfly house, south of the main picnic grove. 
  • For your convenience, you can rent strollers, wagons, wheelchairs and ECV’s at the Main Train Station near the front of the park and at the Africa Train Station located at the back far corner of the park. 
  • Mommy and Me Nursing Station: located at the back of the park, kitty-corner from the zebras next to Sweet Treats
  • New this year, the Carousel now only accepts cash – but don’t fret, there are ATM’s located near the carousel as well as at the front and back of the park!

::Exhibits/Events::

There’s one exhibit that I’m most excited for this summer — Dinosauria!

Travel back in time to experience the largest dinosaur exhibit of its kind with Dinosauria. With over 40 lifelike animatronic dinosaurs it’s sure to be a roaring good time!

Tip: HURRY!! this exhibit is open daily but only through September 3rd, tickets are $6 with Zoo admission for ages 2+

The zoo offers some really neat family-friendly experiences, but if dinosaurs aren’t your thing here are a few of our other favorites.

  •  Wild Summer Nights: Enjoy an evening of music by local bands including children’s, pop, folk, blues and classical at the Wild Summer Nights concert series. Concerts take place every Wednesday night through August in the Main Picnic Grove from 6:30 to 8pm. Free with your Zoo admission.
  • Wild Beasts Wild Wine: August 24
  • Senior Day: September 5 —  Seniors 62 and older {plus their caregiver} in the tri-county area receive free admission and parking. Make it a date to create memories with your little ones and their grandparents!!
  • Zoo Brew: September 21
  • Zoo Boo: October 5-7, 12-14 and 19-21
    • We took my daughter when she was a year old – it was a great event for her to dress up in her Halloween costume and experience trick or treating for the first time! 
    • Tip: Pre-sale tickets go on sale August 23rd
  • Wild Lights: November 17-December 31

My kiddos love to see the giraffes and zebras so we make a stop to see them each time we’re there, but there is so much more to see. Here are a few more zoo exhibits that we love:

  • Zoo Tots:  Kids can learn about different animals, complete with activities and crafts through weekly classes!*Registration required. 
  • The reptile house and amphibiville 
  • Polk Penguin Conservation Center  
    • Make sure to bring a suit or change of clothes — kids will enjoy playing in the water on a hot day at the splash pad just outside the entrance.
  • Giraffe Encounter: You and your kiddos can actually feed the giraffes, plus it’s a great photo op!
    • Tip: get there early if you want to purchase a ticket, only 50 people are allowed per feeding session so tickets sell out fast. Tickets are $5 per person. 
  • New baby alert!! Stop by the Great Apes of Harambee in the coming weeks to see Jane, the baby chimpanzee born July 14th. Jane is now one of 11 chimpanzees to call the 4-acre indoor-outdoor habitat, located in the African Forest, her home.

::Food::

Whether you pack your lunch or bring snacks for the kiddos there are many picnic areas throughout the park where you can stop to rest and eat. Tip: there is a great area in the back between the kangaroos and giraffes that’s shaded with picnic tables — it’s our go-to spot to stop and have lunch.

Also, the zoo has many eateries located throughout the park for your convenience. They have options for everyone in the family:

  • Arctic Cafe {includes vegetarian and gluten-free options}
  • Safari Grill
  • Pure Greens {100% vegan menu!}
  • American Coney Island {serves draft beer!}
  • Opening Soon: Buddy’s Pizza is currently under construction, once completed it will be located near Rackham Fountain — near the members only entrance.
  • Snack Shops
    • Detroit Popcorn
    • Sweet Treats
    • Dippin’ Dots
    • Prairie Farms Ice Cream
    • Boardwalk Station

::Member Perks::

If you already have a zoo membership then it’s no secret to you that it comes with its perks. For those of you considering a membership check out these added benefits!

  • There is an Exclusive Members-only Rackham Fountain Entrance.
  • Membership includes free zoo admission and parking during daytime public hours. Membership does not include special events admission and parking.
  • You can use your membership at some other zoos and aquariums across the U.S. and receive 50% off admission — check out the list of networked zoos and aquariums! 
  • You get a discount at the gift shops with your membership — Zoofari Market, Arctic Outpost, and the Drake Passage Gift Shop! 
  • Members are able to purchase tickets to special events – Zoo Brew, Wild Beasts Wild Wine, Zoo Boo and Polar Beers – even before the event is open to the general public for sale!
  • Show your membership card and coupon for discounts at participating Buddy’s Pizza locations around the Detroit-area!! 
    • Tip: Coupon is available on the zoo website here

Do you have any tips or favorite zoo exhibits that you would like to see added to our list?
We’d love to hear from you!

For more info, including year-round events and up to date info on member & public ticket sales, check out www.detroitzoo.org

Featured photo credit :: Michelle Nelson

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