Our family loves spending time at the zoo. Exploring the grounds, learning about the different animals, and getting some exercise while enjoying the outdoors. I think my love for the zoo stemmed from my childhood dream of becoming a zoologist. Although I didn’t end up pursuing a career in zoology, I have made visits to the zoo a favorite family pastime and now I’m excited to share that love with tips for Binder Park Zoo.
Our latest zoo adventure took us to the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan for the first time. We were really impressed with the overall experience of this zoo. The biggest attraction was feeding the giraffes, which was definitely the highlight of our visit. To get the most out of your trip to the Binder Park Zoo, we have compiled a list of tips we learned from our first time visit.
Pack the Essentials
This one is a big one. I’m sure you already know what essentials to bring for your littles when you go on family outings, but believe me when I say you need the following items specifically for your visit to this zoo:
- Good shoes| Binder Park Zoo is fairly big and pretty spread out. There is a lot of walking.
- Wagon or stroller (even for bigger kids)| To reiterate above, there is a lot of walking involved. Wagons, wheelchairs, and electric scooters are available to rent.
- Bug Spray| A lot of the exhibits are located in wooded areas, especially in Wild Africa. Although we still used our sunscreen, much of the zoo is shaded with a canopy of trees so bug spray was more of a necessity.
- Binoculars| Some of the animals hang out towards the back of their enclosures, so binoculars would have been helpful to see the animals further away. We didn’t know that tidbit before our visit.
Check for Discounts
We visited the Binder Park Zoo with the extended family, which is a pretty good sized group and can be rather expensive. The 10% AAA Discount was a nice cost-savings for 10 people. I’m so glad I checked out the website prior to going to the zoo.
They also offer a 50% Military Discount and children under the age of 2 are free.
NOTE: They do not accept coupons from outside organizations, including Groupon.
There isn’t a timed entry or advanced reservation system in place at Binder Park Zoo. Everyone purchases their tickets at the gate entrance. The zoo also does not limit the number of guests entering. This can make the zoo rather crowded, if you don’t time it right. When we left on a Saturday around lunch time, there was a long line at the gate in the blazing sun of people waiting to pay for admission at the gate entrance.
Thankfully we visit zoos bright and early at the time the zoo opens. We do this not only to avoid crowds, but to also beat the heat. The weather tends to be cooler in the AM which I think encourages the animals to be out and about. Our advice, arrive early.
Visit the Giraffe Attraction First
The Twiga Overlook (giraffe deck) is where you get to feed the giraffes romaine lettuce leaves. These incredible creatures are truly gentle giants and are entertaining to watch. We were lucky enough to have three very hungry giraffes at the deck while we were there. We purchased $20 worth of leaves, which I believe was well worth it. Do not skip this experience.
As mentioned above, the zoo could get rather busy the later in the day. We recommend heading straight to Wild Africa and Twiga Overlook before visiting the other exhibits in the East Zoo area on your way back to the exit. Although it feels like a long ways, I think the sooner you can get to the giraffes, the better. Hopefully with it being less busy, you can spend more one-on-one time with the giraffes.
BONUS: If your group would like to see animals as soon as they enter the zoo, visit the North American exhibits first, then go to Wild Africa, and lastly check out the East Zoo exhibits on the way out.
Check out the Binder Park Zoo Interactive Map for more specifics of locations.
Tram or Not to Tram at Binder Park Zoo
After you exit the East Zoo area (as pictured above), you have a couple choices to travel to the rest of the exhibits in Wild Africa including the giraffes, lions, zebras, and more. Your choices are taking the Wilderness Tram, taking the train, or walking. As previously mentioned above, the Binder Park Zoo requires a lot of walking based on the zoo layout. We opted for the walk, thinking it would be easy and short because we didn’t want to wait for the next Tram. Let me tell you, the .5 mile/15 minute walk isn’t for everyone. The walking trail is pretty narrow and the trek is uphill there and downhill back. If you or your group have multiple Littles or those who have mobility limitations, the walk would not be my first choice. I would definitely wait 15 minutes to take the next Tram. The train was not operational when we attended.
Know Before You Go
A couple more things to note, the zoo doesn’t allow outside food or drinks, so plan accordingly. We did take small water bottles for the kids and nobody said anything. The Binder Park Zoo has two restaurants, multiple snack stations, a carousel, and two gift shops. I was pleasantly surprised of all the options. As of right now, some attractions like the train are still closed from the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are also still required to be worn while feeding the giraffes at the Twiga Overlook or goats in the Forest Farm.
We hope you find these tips helpful and enjoy your visit to the Binder Park Zoo this summer as much as we did!