Detroit Zoo: Ideal Time to Go and 2,000 Amazing Animals to See

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: March 3, 2024
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A trip to the zoo is a perfect outing for people of all ages. A short drive from downtown Detroit is the Detroit Zoo. Here, both locals and visitors can see over 2,000 animals and 280 species up close. The zoo consists of 125 acres and has been around for nearly 100 years. 

This post is going to explore the must-see animals and exhibits at this Michigan favorite. Let’s take a look at what you can expect when visiting the Detroit Zoo. 

The Best Time to Visit the Detroit Zoo

A couple of aardvarks at Detroit Zoo

The Detroit Zoo sees over 1.6 million visitors each year.

©MontageMan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

As animal lovers, going to the zoo 365 days a year is perfect; there are certain times that are better than others. Summer mornings are the least crowded if you’re looking for time to enjoy the atmosphere without too many people. Its hours are typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with gates closing at 3:30 p.m.

You can also visit the zoo in the winter to see animals such as polar bears, who enjoy a more natural habitat. Some visitors say that going in the fall is great for those with children under a year old. Be sure to check the zoo’s calendar to keep up on happenings, events, and the best times to visit for your time in Detroit. 

Must-See Exhibits at the Detroit Zoo

Butterfly migration during sunset

There are over 25 species of butterflies at this zoo.

©Dotted Yeti/

These are some of the best parts of this Michigan zoo that are worth your time!

The Aviary and Butterfly House

Travel to a whimsical wonderland where plants and fluttering butterflies surround you. The Aviary and Butterfly House has birds and butterflies all around you. They often will sit on your shoulder or hand if you stay still. 

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center

Among the most popular exhibits within the Detroit Zoo is the Penguin Conservation Center. Here, you will find four species of penguins that are easy to see through a large window. The 75 penguins at the zoo love to slide around on their bellies and will sometimes even shoot themselves into the water. 

People of all ages can enjoy watching the penguins from above or below, giving a truly immersive experience. 

Arctic Ring of Life

The Arctic Ring of Life is another exhibit that allows you to view animals from above and below. Here, you can observe one of the largest polar bears in the world, seals, and Arctic foxes. 

The Australian Outback

As the name suggests, this is where you can spot animals from Down Under! It’s a lot cheaper to go to the zoo than to book a trip to Australia! Kangaroos, wallabies, and other animals roam around and greet zoo-goers. They have plenty of grass and room to roam, which they need to get out their energy.

Animals at the Detroit Zoo


Tigers kept in a zoo live to be around 21 years old on average.

©Freda Bouskoutas/iStock via Getty Images

There are over 2,000 animals in total to see at this zoo! Some of the most popular animals at the Detroit Zoo are as follows. 

  • Lions
  • Giraffes
  • Wolves
  • Amur tigers 


Binti is the first lion to be born at the Detroit Zoo in 40 years. This beautiful cat was born in the autumn of 2020 and is a fan favorite! She plays with the other lions and relaxes on the warm rocks and under the trees in her sanctuary. 


Another one of the most popular animals here is the giraffe. There are four giraffes here, and people say the best time to see them up close is in the winter! The Detroit Zoo has added an indoor habitat where visitors can go right up to the giraffes and feed them.


The gray wolves at the Detroit Zoo may be elusive at times, making spotting them all the more enjoyable. They have a huge area of land where they can explore. It’s filled with rocks, dens, moving water, and plenty of native plants. 

Amur Tigers

It’s hard to beat the beauty of the big cats at the Devereaux Tiger Forest at this zoo. Nikolai and Aleksei are just two of the stunning feelings that roam around here. There is a glass viewing area to give guests a unique look at these animals as they enjoy their large enclosure. 

Other Things to Do at the Detroit Zoo

Park Fountains

The polar bear fountains are one of the most photographed areas at the zoo.

©Joe Mercier/

Here are some other activities families and visitors can enjoy during their stay. 

  • The Detroit Zoo Carousel: This ride has 33 hand-carved figures for people to hop on to be transported back in time!
  • Tauber Family Railroad: Two trains for guests to enjoy a leisurely train ride around the zoo that takes you to the Africa Station or the Chrysler Main Station. 
  • Rackham Polar Bear Fountain: This is a massive 75,000-gallon pool with a flowing fountain. Two 10-foot-tall bronze bears adorn the 1939 fountain in the heart of the zoo.
  • 4D Theater: No trip to the zoo is complete without stepping inside the Ford Education Center. This is where the 126-seat 4D theater is! Here, you can watch a wide range of shows and educational content about animals and the world we live in. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © alisafarov/

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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