Did you know that you can see giraffes wandering around just three miles from I-94? The Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan, is just a short hop south of the Interstate at Exit 100, and is a day-long immersion in the animal kingdom for families and groups of all sizes and ages.
The zoo has been in its present location since the first 83 acres of what was then Charles Binder Park was leased from the City of Battle Creek in 1975. Additional tracts of the park have been leased or purchased since to bring the zoo to a total of 433 acres, including an 18-acre African savanna, where giraffes, zebras, ostrich, and antelope roam free, allowing visitors to experience an African safari in their own back yard!
A visit to the zoo begins with a stroll through the original part of the park, and includes a variety of habitats where you can see gray wolves, big cats, kangaroos, lemurs, and all the other birds, reptiles and animals you would expect to see in a well-stocked zoo. No concrete cages here – the animals are housed in beautifully faithful renderings of what would be their natural habitat in the wild. One of the star attractions of this part of the zoo is the red pandas exhibit – red pandas are an endangered species and the zoo is playing an important role in conservation by successfully breeding their red pandas, with two cubs being born in 2010.
This part of the zoo also contains a nearly one-mile boardwalk through a swamp habitat, and a petting zoo for small children.
A short ride on the Wilderness Tram brings you to the jewel in the Binder Park Zoo’s crown – the Wild Africa exhibit. Covering 50-acres, a visit to the exhibit is set up like a safari to an African National Park, complete with a village, a ranger station and an unbroken 18-acres of savannah where the animals of the African plains roam free. The birds of Africa can be experienced close at hand in a walk-through aviary, during an almost one-mile walk through the exhibit.
The zoo is open daily until October 6, and admission is a bargain at only $12.95 for adults and $10.95 for children ages 2 to 10. At $75, an annual family membership is the way to go for a family of any size, as it pays for itself in just two visits, and includes a newsletter, steep discounts on admission to many other zoos in North America, and many other special offers.
The zoo also offers a number of programs and special events, including a Kids’ Funfari on July 13. The event is included with regular admission and all kids will receive a goodie bag and participate in fun events, including the Lemur Lap Fun Run, a non-competitive run for children ages 10 and under.
Programs include a range of camps for teens and younger children – there are even opportunities to stay overnight and watch the zoo animals being fed their breakfasts!
The presence of the Binder Park Zoo in our community provides a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves and our kids in a one-of-a-kind animal experience – go explore it!