Whether Battle Creek, Michigan is your end destination or you’re simply passing through the state on route somewhere else, a visit to the Binder Park Zoo is a fun, outdoor experience.
I’d read some interesting commentary on other’s visits and decided to stop by myself.
It’s a 433-acre zoo set deep in the trees. The zoo offers most of the standard animals like zebra, giraffe, bears, monkeys, lion, wolves, bald eagles and more. For very reasonable admission prices and standard hours, you’ll have a fun day (for visitor info click here).
Children (2-10): $11.50
Children (Under 2): FREE
Tips on making the most of Binder Park Zoo:
(1) Bug Spray & sanitizer
I’m putting this as number one because I really wish I had to have known this before our trip. Unless you’re going on a hot, dry, sunny day, you’ll want to pack bug spray. The trails are set deep in the trees and we were attacked by mosquitos and other bugs everywhere we walked. If bringing a small baby in a stroller you might want to bring the bug net.
I mention sanitizer because there’s a ton of interactive areas (including a children’s zoo, educational scenes, petting area etc) so if you want to keep clean…have wipes or sanitizer on hand.
(2) Spring $7/day and rent the wagon if traveling with small children
We brought out stroller so we passed on the rental but we were taking our 15 month old in/out/in/out and it’s tedious doing up a 5-point harness every few minutes. In hindsight, we should have left the stroller and sprung for the wagon. There’s plenty of room for your bags and the kids appeared to love them (we saw families using them all over the place)
(3) Wear decent walking shoes
As with most outdoor family excursions, you expect walking. I’ve been to major zoos around the world (Toronto, San Diego, Cambodia) and you always encounter long trails. But, at the Binder Park Zoo, you’re bound to find yourself on long, steep, winding, wooden paths with no option of bypassing them. The trek to the “Africa” area is about 15-20 minutes uphill (in bugs), deep in the woods, so if you’re not prepared, I could see this being a deterrent. We absolutely loved all of the path ways and natural vibe and would recommend this place based simply on the walking paths.
(4) Arrive early if you want quiet time
The park opens at 9:00am. We arrived for 9:30am and for the first 45 minutes it felt as though we had the park to ourselves. We were able to communicate with animals and have them look our way etc. As like most places, it really picks up steam around 11:00am.
(5) Walk to Africa
There’s an option to take a free tram out to the “Africa” section of the zoo. It’s about a half mile hike up a steep hill otherwise. We decided to test out the walk. It was beautiful and peaceful, but most people waited in line for the tram. I would recommend the walk to really submerse yourself in the sounds and smells of the zoo. We saw tons of little critters and my son loved the huge trees. Also, there’s a wait for the tram (comes/goes every 15 minutes) and both up and down we beat it by walking.
(6) Take a gander through the children’s zoo — even if visiting with teens.
The children’s area might appear as though it’s just for the wee ones, but come on, we’re all kids at heart right? The animals in this area are much closer than the rest of the zoo (llama, goats, donkeys, domestic pig etc), there’s a fun train ride, a goat interaction area/feeding area, slides and more. You can almost reach out and touch nearly every animal in this area.
(7) There’s a ton to do and explore for all families
This zoo encourages a strong educational experience. From the path of flags, to the “spot the bird” sanctuary, even the older family members feel stimulated. For little ones, there’s face-painting, a carousel and the little zoo. For more on the educational specifics, click here
For everyone, there’s an awesome look out where you can feed the giraffes. Prices a bit wonky ($1 for half a piece of lettuce or $5 for a small bowl) but it’s worth it. This was my favorite part of the whole zoo. I have never seen such peaceful creatures up close and personal like that. They appear very content, animated and friendly. Even a baby made it’s way over to the mesh.
All in all, we had a fun day. It’s honestly a great little spot for those looking for the big city zoo experience at smaller town pricing. At times, the animals looked a bit depressed (especially the monkeys) and some cages really smelled awful. But, if you family is passing through the area and you need a great pit-stop, this is definitely an option.
Happy travels and road tripping
Visitor information for hours of operation and annual schedule