Discover The 4 Best Zoos In Michigan (And The Ideal Time To Visit Each)

An albino peacock perches on a wall in Potters park zoo
© Noah Proctor/

Written by Patrick Sather

Published: April 12, 2023

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Each zoo offers visitors a chance to learn about animals and their behaviors.

People often associate Michigan with football, cheese, cars, and Mo-town. However, the state also has its fair share of quality zoos. These zoos offer visitors the chance to get up close and personal with exotic animals and learn about their behaviors, habitats, and diets. Some are open year-round, while others are only open at select times of the year. Keep reading to learn about 4 of the best zoos in Michigan and the best times to visit each!

Detroit Zoo In Huntington Woods And Royal Oak

Group of Zebras at Detroit Zoo.

Zebras at Detroit Zoo.

©Charles Gammon/

Located in the Detroit suburbs of Huntington Woods and Royal Oak, the 125-acre Detroit Zoo is one of the largest zoos in Michigan. The zoo houses over 2,000 animals from over 245 different species. First opened in 1928, the zoo ranked as the first zoo in the United States to feature bar-less enclosures for animals. 

The Detroit Zoo boasts one of the most diverse arrays of animals found anywhere in the state. At the zoo, you can encounter anteaters, Chinese alligators, gorillas, grizzly bears, lions, ostriches, penguins, polar bears, sloths, tigers, and zebras. Within the zoo, you can find state-of-the-art attractions designed to simulate wild habitats. For example, the Arctic Ring of Life, a 4-acre polar enclosure, ranks as one of North America’s largest polar bear habitats. Similarly, the Great Apes of Harambee encompasses a 4-acre indoor and outdoor habitat for western lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. This enclosure features rotating habitats that simulate the migration patterns of apes in the wild.  

Detroit Zoo: Additional Features

In addition to animal attractions, the zoo offers several other attractions visitors can enjoy. These include a 4D theater, the Tauber Family Railroad, a carousel, several playgrounds, and a science center. For an additional fee, you can book a special encounter with one of the zoo’s animal residents, including giraffe feedings, penguin feedings, and night-time zoo tours.  

The Detroit Zoo enjoys an international reputation as an animal education, welfare, and conservation leader. It became the first zoo in the U.S. to no longer keep elephants for ethical reasons, as the staff believed the animals suffered during the cold winters. The zoo also invests in numerous projects to protect endangered wildlife in the U.S. and around the world. Among its efforts include projects to protect local species such as the Great Lakes piping plover and Blanding’s turtle. 

Best Time to Visit

The Detroit Zoo is open year-round. However, it does close for several holidaying, including New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Fall and winter hours begin in October and run throughout March, during which time you can visit the zoo daily between 10 am and 4 pm. Spring and summer hours run from April through September, during which time the zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm. 

If possible, try to attend the zoo during one of its special events. These include Zoo Brew, an after-hours event in May featuring over 100 beers made by Michigan brewers, and Spooky Spirits, a Halloween-themed evening event in October featuring live music, games, haunted attractions, and specialty cocktails. 

John Ball Zoo In Grand Rapids

Brown Bear at the Zoo

John Ball Zoo hosts numerous education opportunities for youth, including camps, classes, and preschool programs.


The John Ball Zoo rests within the John Ball Zoological Garden on the western edge of Grand Rapids. Over 600,000 people visit the 140-acre zoo and park annually to see over 2,400 animals from more than 220 species. The zoo is committed to helping the local community, providing free zoo admission to over 55,000 economically disadvantaged children each year in nearby Kent and Ottawa counties. 

Popular animals that you can see at John Ball Zoo include red pandas, a snow leopard, a bald eagle, spider monkeys, and lions. Also new to the zoo in 2023 is an exhibit of pygmy hippos. The zoo also features numerous other amenities that visitors can enjoy. These include a funicular ride that can take you from the entrance to the highest point in the park, the budgie aviary, a zip line, and a sky ropes course.  

John Ball Zoo hosts numerous education opportunities for youth, including camps, classes, and preschool programs. Since 1985, the zoo has supported conservation efforts in more than 30 countries to protect animals such as red pandas, snow leopards, tigers, and lions. The zoo also supports projects to protect local animals, such as the Massasauga rattlesnake, Kirtland’s warbler, and Poweshiek skipperling. 

Best Time To Visit

The John Ball ranks as the fourth most attended cultural facility in Michigan. As a result, the zoo can get extremely busy during the summer and peak visiting hours. School groups typically visit the zoo in the morning on weekdays between March and May, as well as in early September.

The zoo is open from late March to mid-November and closed the rest of the year. The zoo’s operating hours change depending on the time of year and day of the week. From March to April, the zoo is open from 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays and from 8 am to 6 pm on weekends. Starting in May, the zoo opens one hour earlier on weekdays at 9 am. From June to August, the zoo expands its hours of operation from 9 am to 6 pm, Monday through Sunday. In September, weekday hours change back to 10 am to 4 pm. If you want to avoid crowds, weekdays and afternoons typically witness lower visitor levels. 

Binder Park Zoo In Battle Creek

Giraffe lounging in the sun

Binder Park Zoo offers youth summer camps and overnight programs for a more unique zoo experience.


Opened in 1977, Binder Park Zoo is a sprawling 433-acre zoo in Battle Creek. The zoo features more than 500 animals from over 140 different species. 

At the Binder Park Zoo, you can encounter various animals, including addax, cheetahs, Mexican gray wolves, red kangaroos, and ring-tailed lemurs. The zoo consists of two sections: the East Zoo and Wild Africa. The East Zoo features mostly Australian and North American animals, including the Mexican Gray Wolf. Meanwhile, Wild Africa features mostly large African mammals and birds. While in wild Africa, make sure to check out Twiga Overlook, which offers visitors a chance to meet and hand-feed reticulated giraffes.

The zoo offers plenty of fun for groups of all sizes and spaces you can rent for birthday parties. If you’re looking to put your climbing skills to the test, you can put your skills to the test at SkyLark Ridge. This ropes and obstacles course offers routes for adults and children. 

Binder Park Zoo offers youth summer camps and overnight programs for a more unique zoo experience. You can also enjoy the zoo from your own home through its WolfWatch program, a live stream of the Mexican gray wolves exhibit. 

Best Time To Visit

Binder Park Zoo is open from May 1st to October 30th each year. From May 1st to September 4th, the park is open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays, from 9 am to 6 pm on Saturdays, and from 11 am to 6 pm on Sundays. From September 6th to October 30th, the zoo is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm. Just remember that admission closes one hour before the zoo closes each day. 

If you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting the park on weekdays or in the afternoon. Some special events to look out for include the Cheetah Chase 5-kilometer race through the zoo in June. For older attendees, you may want to consider attending the Corks & Kegs event in August, which features live music and a wide array of local, regional, and national beer and wines.  

Potter Park Zoo In Lansing

An albino peacock perches on a wall in Potters park zoo

Potter Park Zoos offers visitors a chance to experience some truly awesome animals.

©Noah Proctor/

Officially opened in 1915, Potter Park Zoo is the oldest public zoo in Michigan. Presently, the zoo houses more than 350 animals representing over 160 different species.  

Potter Park Zoos offers visitors a chance to experience some truly awesome animals. You can see an Amur tiger, binturong, black rhino, Magellanic penguins, and spider monkeys during your visit. Check out the reptile house to see rare, endangered reptiles like the Madagascar hognose snake, or visit the Farmyard EdVentures zone to get up close and personal with some farmyard animals like cattle, chickens, goats, and pigs. The zoo also offers camel rides and animal “meet and greets,” where you can watch zookeepers feed big cats, otters, penguins, and black rhinos. 

The zoo also provides a wide variety of educational opportunities. It hosts an on-site animal science and zoo management class for local high schoolers, summer camps, and overnight experiences. 

Best Time To Visit

Potter Park Zoo is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. That said, the zoo’s hours change depending on the time of year. From November 1st to March 31st, you can visit the zoo daily between 10 am and 4 pm. April 1st, through Labor Day, the zoo’s hours change from 9 am to 5 pm. From Labor Day to October 31st, the zoo is open from 9 am to 4 pm on weekdays and from 9 am to 5 pm on weekends. 

The zoo offers numerous promotions throughout the year that can help save you money on admission. For example, mothers get free admission on Mother’s Day, dads get free admission on Father’s Day, and military members get free admission on the 4th of July. For a spooky experience, consider checking out Boo at the Zoo in October. Alternatively, you can get into the holiday spirit if you come between mid-November and late December to enjoy the zoo’s Wonderland of Lights display. 

Summary Of The 4 Best Zoos In Michigan

1Detroit ZooHuntington Woods And Royal Oak
2John Ball ZooGrand Rapids
3Binder Park ZooBattle Creek
4Potter Park ZooLansing

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