Awesome Aquariums &Amp; Zoos In Michigan
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20 AWESOME Aquariums & BEST Zoos in Michigan

Looking for an “aquarium or zoo near me”? We’ve curated a list of the best aquariums & zoos in Michigan to add to your day trip bucket list!

One of the most charming things about Michigan is the cool places to visit. So, when you’re looking for fun things to do in Michigan, it makes sense to head to an aquarium or zoo.

The state of Michigan has taken the time to invest numerous resources in these recreational spaces. That is also part of what makes these wonderful spots some of the best in the country to see.

That’s why a Michigan zoo or an aquarium makes an addition to your list of must-visit places in Michigan.

Michigan sees its fair share of snow during winter, which closes some seasonal zoos. But the dawn of spring in Michigan also brings open doors for most places that close during the wintertime.

John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo | photo via @johnballzoogr

Detroit Zoo | Detroit

The Detroit Zoo is well-known among Michiganders as the state’s biggest zoo. Home to more than 2,000 animals, visitors will be privy to various habitats and species native to other countries from around the world.

From aardvarks to zebras, you can create your own alphabet game from all the animals in this amazing zoo.

If you’re planning to take a Detroit day trip to the Detroit Zoo, and want to cover as much ground as possible, prepare to spend up to three hours on your tour. The zoo covers over 125 acres of land, so wear your most comfortable pair of shoes and take time for a few breaks during the trip.

Related: ULTIMATE Guide to the Detroit Zoo Lights in 2022

Polk Penguin Conservation Center | Detroit

If visiting the Detroit Zoo is on your agenda and you want to add a nice aquarium to the mix, then you should stop by the Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

The building is 33,000 square feet and the various penguin habitats hold over 326,000 gallons of water. Polk is known to be one of the world’s best conservation centers for penguin-kind and is home to many types of penguin species.

One of the coolest things about this aquarium is its architecture.

When you visit, the experience becomes somewhat immersive because of the innovative design. Visitors will walk through areas where they are completely surrounded by penguin habitats via tunnels. So, you will literally be surrounded by these amazing animals.

Arctic Ring of Life | Detroit

Stick around the Detroit Zoo and head over to a polar bear, penguin, and sea otter exhibit called the Arctic Ring of Life. It is one of the largest habitats for polar bears in the U.S. and Canada.

While each of these animals is able to walk on land, they also need watery environments to survive.

An overhead water tunnel allows visitors to see these extraordinary animals thrive in water. However, you can also watch their playful interactions on dry ground, too. Pay extra attention to the sea otters for a good laugh.

Garlyn Zoo - Naubinway, Michigan
GarLyn Zoo | photo via @hensleydesigns

GarLyn Zoo | Naubinway

If you’re in the Upper Peninsula, then you should check out the Garylyn Zoo. This wildlife park grew from a selection of pets and expanded over the years to include more exotic animals, including alligators, bison, and wolves.

As the U.P. is often snowbound during the winter months, visitors shouldn’t be surprised if the zoo is closed when there’s snow on the ground.

However, as soon as it warms up, the zoo will readily open up to the public. Outside of the official residents of the zoo, it’s not unusual for visitors to see some native animals on their way in, too. Moose and bobcats are often spotted on the inroads to the zoo.

John Ball Zoo | Grand Rapids

The John Ball Zoo is a great place to take the entire family because it focuses on conservation and education as much as it does its animal residents. The zoo also has an aquarium, so you can cover two objectives in one trip.

Visitors have the option of choosing a freewheeling stroll to explore everything the zoo has to offer, or can choose a guided tour of specific areas.

Guided tours can include a group of up to six people. As is the case with most zoos, visitors that pay an annual membership fee will pay less at the door and save a bit of money.

A gem treasure hunt and mini-train ride are also fun options for zoo visitors to do. Colder weather does shutter the zoo’s doors, but everything opens up again in late March.

Related: Awesome Mitten’s Guide to the BEST Things to Do in Grand Rapids Michigan

Potter Park Zoo, Lansing Michigan
Potter Park Zoo | photo courtesy of @di_davis_121

Potter Park Zoo | Lansing

The Potter Park Zoo is one of the zoos in the state that stays open for most of the year, despite the weather. Lions, tigers, bears, and more are all available to see at this amazing Lansing zoo.

There are often themed events held throughout the year, including the Ice Safari and Night At The Living Museum.

If you’re planning your trip during May, gather all of the moms that are special in your life because they get in for free on Mother’s Day. The zoo also offers various educational programs and tours. There’s even a summer camp for young animal conservationists.

So, if you’re heading to Lansing and love animals, the Potter Park Zoo should definitely be on your list.

Related: 27 BEST Things to Do in Lansing Michigan All Year

Saginaw Children’s Zoo | Saginaw

It’s always great when children learn about how important animals are to the world and the Saginaw Children’s Zoo does a great job of helping impart that knowledge.

There are more than 150 different animals that call the zoo home. Various activities, attractions, and rides make this visit more than a zoo trip.

It becomes a downright adventure when you go.

Visitors will notice that some of the bird species that live at the zoo aren’t confined to pens. In fact, many are just like the visitors and walk around the zoo just as freely.

While there are larger-sized zoos in the state, Saginaw Children’s Zoo is unique in how it caters to the public, particularly younger animal enthusiasts. You don’t need to be a little one to enjoy it, but little zoo visitors will have a blast.

Related: Awesome Mitten’s Guide to the BEST Things to Do in Saginaw Michigan

Carousel - #Mittentrip - Saginaw - The Awesome Mitten
Saginaw Children’s Zoo | photo by Cassie Lowell

Deyoung Family Zoo | Wallace

Big cats, hippos, and bears are some of the large wildlife that visitors can expect to see at the Deyoung Family Zoo.

Alpacas, kangaroos, sloths, caracals, and dingos are some of the zoo’s other distinguished residents. Of course, horses and barnyard animals are also on display at the fun family zoo in Wallace.

Being that this is located in the Upper Peninsula, you can also expect to see a lot of deer — both inside and outside the zoo grounds. If you happen to be in the U.P. or plan to spend some time there, this is a great place to add to your list of places to visit.

The zoo offers snacks to purchase so that you and the family can help feed the animals.

Binder Park Zoo | Battle Creek

While the Binder Park Zoo doesn’t reopen to visitors until mid-spring, it’s a good idea to plan your visit in advance. You can spend a few hours checking out all of the different animals that take up residence here.

Whether you’re observing the majestic population of African lions or taking in the hilarious antics of African-painted dogs, you’ll be signing up for an interesting and fun visit.

Lemurs, giraffes, and red pandas are some popular animals that visitors love to see. However, that’s just a sample of the estimated 500 animals that live at Binder Park Zoo.

In addition to the animal viewing, the zoo also features rides and other attractions that you can partake in during your visit.

Covering 433 acres of land, you could easily make a weekend trip out of this visit, and it is one of the largest zoos in the state of Michigan.

Related: Exploring Cereal City: A #MittenTrip to Battle Creek Michigan

The Awesome Mitten-[Southerner In Michigan: Navigating The Wilds Of Belle Isle]
Belle Isle Aquarium | photo via Jennifer Bowman

Roscommon Zoo | Roscommon

The Roscommon Zoo is home to about 120 animals, including tigers, peacocks, lemurs, and kangaroos. Children under two get in for free, but admission fees are relatively nominal compared to larger zoos. 

Roscommon Zoo is very protective of its animal residents. So, there are very strict rules regarding outside feeding and roughhousing. It is also imperative that all children that are 16 or younger be with an adult at all times. Support animals are also not allowed.

However, this is a nice option for animal enthusiasts that want to visit a zoo, but don’t want to shell out a lot of money.

SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium | Auburn Hills

The SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the state. That also means that its collection of water-based animals and fish is incredibly diverse and expansive.

Sharks, stingrays, turtles, seahorses, and more are all part of the marine family at this huge aquarium.

This place is an extremely popular spot for school field trips and birthday parties. So, if you’re planning a trip during the week, don’t be surprised to come across a few classes of kids from all over the state.

For those that are interested, the aquarium also hosts some well-known summer camps for future marine biologists. 

Sea Life Michigan Aquarium, Auburn Hills - Winter In Metro Detroit, Spring In Metro Detroit
Sea Life Michigan Aquarium | photo via @caitlincavannaugh

Belle Isle Aquarium | Detroit

The Belle Isle Conservancy Park is the proud home to the Belle Isle Aquarium. While activities were very limited during the height of the pandemic, the aquarium has since reopened and is quickly expanding access to the public again.

Belle Isle has the unique distinction of having opened in 1904, making it the country’s oldest official aquarium. It is also the only aquarium to feature every species of North American gar. However, visitors will see different types of marine life from all areas of the world when they stop in.

Related: Awesome Mitten’s Guide to the Best Things to Do on Belle Isle Michigan

Wilderness Trails Zoo | Birch Run

Birch Run is known around Michigan for its outlet malls, but the Wilderness Trail Zoo is a great place to visit when it opens in the spring.

The zoo started as the dream of two sisters and their families, who took 56 acres of land and transformed it into a fun space with more than 200 animals and 50 different animal species.

There’s something here for visitors of all ages including a petting area, feed stations, a gift shop, a reptile sanctuary, and so much more. Come spend an afternoon and have an unforgettable family zoo adventure.

Related: Exploring Lesser-Known Things to Do in Frankenmuth | #MittenTrip

Oswald's Bear Ranch, Newberry - Oswald's Bear Ranch
Oswald’s Bear Ranch | photo via @browneyes1182

Oswald’s Bear Ranch | Newberry

There’s a lot to see and do in the Upper Peninsula, but a trip to Oswald’s Bear Ranch is a place you’ll want to add to your bucket list.

Believe it or not, this is one of the largest bear ranches in the nation and has been a visitor favorite since 1997. Owner Dean Oswald has made it his mission to lead black bear conservation efforts as well as bear education.

Oswald’s has two big habitats on-site with more than three dozen bears and two habitats. You obviously can’t touch the bears, but you can see them in a natural habitat and visit a place that’s friendly and affordable.

The Repartium | Utica

If you love things that creep and crawl and slither, then you’ll absolutely love visiting this interactive reptile zoo in Southeast Michigan.

This place is all about offering visitors of all ages a memorable experience and offers a unique, hands-on approach. Visitors can meet a variety of animals, including snakes, lizards, spiders, sloths, and more.

This is perfect whether you love reptiles or you’re looking to overcome a fear of reptiles.

If you’re visiting and looking for a place to stay, consider staying at the Repartium’s Animal House. This is the perfect way to experience this place and features a game room, a 750-gallon aquarium, a 5,000-gallon Koi pond, a hot tub, a sauna, and more.

Lewis Adventure Farm And Zoo, New Era - West Michigan Pumpkin Patches
Lewis Adventure Farm and Zoo | photo via @mhicks72

Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo | New Era

There is no shortage of things to do at this West Michigan farm, but one of the more popular attractions is the petting zoo.

A former orchard is home to trees and barnyards featuring everything from sloths to prairie dogs to miniature horses to goats to peacocks.

There’s something for visitors of all ages to enjoy and you can top the trip off with a visit to the on-site farmers market and bakery for some tasty treats. 

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | Athens

When spring arrives, visiting the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary is perhaps one of the most unique ways to spend a spring day.

The sanctuary is exactly that: A haven for reptiles who have come here through donation, adoption, rescue, or from other places.

So what can you see here? Well, for one thing, you can see gators at different stages of life.

There’s Gator High School, where you can see gators perform training activities and respond to their names and different commands.

Visitors can also see the sanctuary’s biggest gators, Godzilla and Medusa, visit the Elementary-Outdoor Swamp with young gators and see an exhibit of Giant African Spur-Thigh Tortoises.

There’s something for everyone and it’s all perfectly safe. 

Related: 9 Best Summer Day Trips in Southcentral Michigan

Gt Butterfly House And Bug Zoo, Williamsburg - Spring Things To Do
GT Butterfly House and Bug Zoo | photo via @mittenmindset

GT Butterfly House & Bug Zoo | Williamsburg

The butterflies here really are a sight to behold when the Butterfly House and Bug Zoo opens in May.

GT’s butterfly garden is filled with colorful plants and flowers that are the perfect showcase for the hundreds of butterflies visitors see flying all around them.

These butterflies come from all over the world and their colors are so vibrant!

The Bug Zoo houses hundreds of insects from around the world and is a delight for visitors because of its many exhibits.

There’s a tarantula tree, which some of the world’s biggest spiders; a beetle boulder with many different kinds of insects, and even an exhibit for a wide variety of frogs.

Related: 19 Best Cheap & Free Things to Do in Traverse City with Kids

Indian Creek Zoo | Lambertville

Open seasonally from April to December, the weather may dictate what animals you see, but this zoo on Michigan’s southern border is home to more than 400 different animals.

Visitors here can get a glimpse of everything from giraffes to macaws to reindeer to yaks to zebras to kangaroos.

The zoo also offers several encounter experiences where visitors can get up close and personal with lemurs, giraffes, birds, and sloths. Depending on the experience, you can get your picture taken with, feed, and even pet these wonderful animals.

Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park | Alto

Boulder Ridge is open seasonally starting in May and offers its visitors a little bit of everything.

The selection of more than 1,000 animals here includes more than 800 birds, dozens of reptiles, and mammals ranging from a rhinoceros to a giraffe to a zebra to a bison.

As if the animals weren’t enough, Boulder Ridge also hosts a number of exciting events throughout the season.

These events include Baby Animal Days, Reptile Days, and Superhero and Princess Days. The zoo also offers VIP Animal Encounters, where you can get some 1-on-1 time with penguins, hippos, and rhinos.

John Ball Zoo - Grand Rapids, Michigan - John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo | photo via @johnballzoogr

Plan a Day Trip to One of Michigan’s Zoos & Aquariums

With so many spots around the state to choose from, there’s probably one of Michigan’s great zoos or aquariums close by.

Whether you’re visiting a year-round spot or a seasonal attraction, the zoos and aquariums in Michigan are fantastic places to visit, no matter how old you are.

Some zoos and aquariums are larger than others, but they do their very best to offer something for everyone to enjoy. Most places are great at accommodating visitors with special needs and you can call ahead to see what accommodations are offered.

A trip to a Michigan zoo or a Michigan aquarium is an absolute blast, so make plans to visit one today! Whether you’ve never been to one or you’ve visited 100 times, everyone can find something to enjoy and odds are good you’ll come away having enjoyed something different every time you visit.

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