If you have a free ½ day or day, the Detroit Zoo is a great way to spend it. We’ve been to plenty of zoo’s around the US, and I think this is one of the best. It is easy to get around and they have some great exhibits. It is situated on 125 acres and has cageless exhibits, so you can view most animals in natural habitat. It was opened in 1928 and is home to over 1500 animals and 260 different species. One of my favorites, is the Reptile House, with over 85 species.
It was the first US zoo to give up its elephants on ethical grounds, acknowledging that the Michigan winters were too harsh for the animals and they didn’t want to confine them inside. The elephants were relocated to California.
It’s easy to make sure you don’t miss an exhibit by following the painted elephant paws around the zoo. We usually take the train to the back and work our way forward. The cost is $11/adult and $7/children, and it is open 10am-5pm April-Oct and 10am – 4pm Nov-March.
If you are in Detroit around Halloween, the Zoo Boo is a great experience in the evening at the zoo.
The Detroit Zoological Society, a non-profit organization, operates both the Detroit Zoo and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo, located in the city of Detroit. The Detroit Zoological Society is responsible for the care and feeding of more than 1,800 vertebrates and 5,000 invertebrates representing over 270 species.
This zoo is probably my favorite, and I've visited quite a few. Located in Royal Oak, it's not some quaint small town zoo where it only takes a few hours to walk through. More than 2800 animals from about 300 species live uncaged in natural habitats. Plan an entire day here and get the full effect of everything from the great Arctic Ring of Life to the Penguinarium and Apmhibiville; one of the largest indoor amphibian housing projects I've ever seen.
Stop by the lion exhibit and see a tragic case of neglect. Starving and ferocious was the lion (named Katie) rescued from a crack house in Detroit, but she were able to be saved and relocated to a large enclosure at the Zoo.
The first Detroit Zoo opened in 1883 on Michigan and Trumbull Avenues, across from the current site of Tiger Stadium. A circus had arrived in town, only to go broke financially. Luther Beecher, a leading Detroit citizen and capitalist, financed the purchase of the circus animals and erected a building for their display called the Detroit Zoological Garden. The zoo closed the following year and the building converted into a horse auction.
The Detroit Zoological Society was founded in 1911, but zoo's official opening did not occur until August 1, 1928. At the opening ceremony, acting Mayor John C. Nagel was to speak to the gathered crowd. Arriving late, Nagel parked his car behind the bear dens and as he came rushing around the front, Morris, a polar bear, leaped from his moat and stood directly in front of Nagel. Unaware how precarious his situation was, Nagel stuck out his hand and walked toward the polar bear joking, "He's the reception committee." The keepers rushed the bear and forced him back into the moat, leaving the mayor uninjured.
Two years later the Bear Dens and Sheep Rock had been added, followed shortly by the Bird House. Next to be constructed were the Elk Exhibit, the Baboon Rock, and Primate and Reptile houses. The Detroit Zoo was the first in America with cageless exhibits. The onset of the Great Depression brought to a halt additional major projects, but expansion resumed in the 1940s and has periodically continued since then.
We visited the zoo in the 80's and it sure has grown since that time.
The Detroit Zoo was innovative in its approach to providing sculptured areas of open space for their wild animals while keeping them safe from the human animals. There use to be three general areas and an ape house. Now the zoo boasts an amphibians complex, a large aviary (much larger than when we were there) with free flight areas, polar bear and penguin village, and a reptile house as well as the familiar lions, tigers, bears and deer areas. The train ride is still there but it has gone from a fake steam engine to one that looks like a streamlined diesel.
The zoo now also provides special entertainment on summer weekends and annual holidays.
See the website below for schedules of those events.
The Detroit Zoo has big cats, monkeys, reptiles, elephants and every other animal a kid or a kid at heart would be excited to see. One of their newest exhibits is the Arctic Ring of Life in which you can walk through a clear tunnel and view the polar bears swimming around you. Another exhibit that kids seem to especially enjoy is the Butterfly Garden.
The zoo and its exhibits are fairly large so a lot of walking is involved. Strollers, wagons and wheelchairs are available for rental if you need them and there is a train which takes you from one end of the zoo to the other for $2.00.
The zoo also hosts various events and fundraisers during the year. The Zoo Boo, a Halloeen event for kids is among the most popular. There are evening events geared towards adults as well.
Admission to the Zoo:
$11 for 13 and up
$7 for 2-12 year olds
$9 for seniors
$5 for parking
The Detroit zoo is actually located in Royal Oak, about 10 miles north of the city. A must see is the still-fairly-new Polar Bear exhibit, or the Arctic Ring of Life. While inside an air conditioned ice cave, you are actually underneath the water and you can sometimes catch the polar bears swimming over head.
Sadly, our elephants have been retired to a sanctuary in California and are no longer with us, but we should have a new elephant exhibit soon!
The zoo is not really in Detroit but in Royal Oak. It's a great zoo with cageless exhibits. Very big. It is confusing trying to get there. Take a map!
Open daily 10-5 and Wednesday til 8
Admission $7.50; kids 2-12 $4.50
As far as zoos go, this one is probably one of the best in the world. It has fairly humane exhibits. It is one of the first zoos not to have barred exhibits, but habitats. The Detroit Zoo is concerned for their animals. Recently they sent their two remaining Indian Elephants, Wendy and Wanda, to California, because they just don't have the space they really need for them. Funny, but at one time the zoo had six elephants! And they were all trained to perform. As were the chimps. The zoo doesn't put on any more demonstrations, thank goodness! No one just sees the exhibited creatures in a mimed habitat from whence they came or would be, since most of these animals were born in captivity.
The Detroit Zoo also has some beautiful architecture and scuplture, as seen in the attached photo.
There is a minature diesel train the one can ride around the perimeter of the park. That was the highlight of our annual summer trip to the zoo when we were kids.
*This attraction is actually in the city of ROYAL OAK*
Detroit zoo offers large open spaces and wonderful outdoor animal environments. The Wildlife Interpretive Gallery, a historic building has been renovated as a butterfly/hummingbird garden, coral reef aquarium, theater, exhibition space, art gallery and mulit-media interactives. Various animals are housed there, including an African Safari exhibit. Detroit Zoo has plans to close exhibits and release their elephants into a wildlife preserve in their native country.
Summer hours (April-Oct.) 10a.m.-5p.m., Wed. until 8p.m. June 19-Aug. 28. Winter hours (Nov.-March) 10a.m.-4p.m.