Detroit Zoo Guide 2022: Best Things to See and Do
Address: 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067; Phone: 248-541-5717
The Detroit Zoo is one of the top zoos in the country: a uniquely designed animal park that is one of Michigan’s top attractions.
Since the zoo opened in the 1920s, the Detroit Zoo in metro Detoit has inspired wonder and captured the imaginations of its visitors. This massive family attraction sits on over 100 acres of land. It’s well-suited to the natural habitats of all its animal residents – including more than 2,400 animals across 235 species.
Because of its size, the Detroit Zoo is able to proudly host more than 1.5 million visitors annually while maintaining the core values of its mission, including conservation, education, and zoological innovation.
Located in metropolitan Detroit, the Detroit Zoo Royal Oak is an award-winning zoo, aquarium and educational center that has garnered many awards.
Read on to discover some of our favorite thinsg to do at the Detroit Zoo:
What to See at the Detroit Zoo
The sheer size and variety at the Detroit Zoo may have you wondering where to start. With things like bald eagles, king penguins, a miniature donkey and a grizzly bear to see, you need to have a plan in place.
In addition to the many animals on exhibit, you’ll also find some fun attractions to enjoys worth checking out. From snapping pix at the Polar Bear Fountain to a riding a miniature railroad with two working trains to riding a hand-carved carousel, there’s a lot to do at the Detroit Zoo.
You want to be sure and use your time at the zoo wisely. This is why we’ve compiled all the best exhibits and attractions into one place. Here is your Ultimate Guide to the Detroit Zoo.
Detroit Zoo Immersive Habitats
See the Penguins at The Polk Penguin Conservation Center
The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is one of the zoo’s most immersive exhibits. This penguin center is home to over 75 active penguins of four different species.
Look through one of the large windows on the upper level to see penguins up close as they interact with each other, build nests, or slide on their bellies on the icy ground above the water. Can you tell which one is the largest penguin?
Alternatively, head downstairs to the windows and tunnels where you can gaze at penguins gracefully gliding through the water all around you. This unique 360-degree 4D experience will absolutely wow the whole family.
Arctic Ring of Life
This habitat seems to be something of a sister exhibit to the south pole penguins, representing the opposite pole and the animals found there. The Arctic Ring of Life is one of the largest polar bear habitats in North America, but they don’t live alone.
Here you can also find arctic foxes as well as seals in this exhibit which features both indoor and outdoor sections.
Much like the penguin center, the Arctic Ring of Life has a tunnel which takes you beneath the water where you can see swimming seals and polar bears.
According to the Intrepid Traveler’s guide to “America’s Best Zoos,” this exhibit is the No. 2 Best Zoo Exhibit in the U.S., and you can experience it yourself right in the heart of Southeast Michigan.
Australian Outback Adventure at the Detroit Zoo
Kangaroos and their smaller cousins called wallabies are some of the most fascinating and unique creatures in the world. Like many other one-of-a-kind critters, they are Australian natives.
Luckily, you don’t need to book a flight to Australia to get face-to-face with these marsupials. In the Australian Outback Adventure, visitors walk along a windy path while kangaroos and wallabies roam freely around to graze as they please.
A walk through this exhibit will leave you in awe. See kangaroos and their wallaby cousins leaping through the grass. On a particularly hot day, perhaps napping in the shade a few feet from the pathway.
Watch for the red-necked wallaby- such an amazing animal!
Animals at the Detroit Zoo
The arrival of a new cub in town has people excited about the lions, who typically have a lazy reputation for their habit of sleeping all day. Binti was born on September 10th, 2020, making her the first lion birth at the Detroit Zoo since 1980.
Binti’s milestone birth has roped visitors into the zoo’s African Grasslands habitat. Visitors love to see this cute cub interacting with her habitat and her pride all the while learning something new about lions.
Watch these sleeping beauties snooze soundly on their warming rocks or catch Binti while she explores her home and tries to get the adults to play with her.
Another ambassador of the African Grasslands biome is the reticulated giraffe. The Detroit Zoo is home to a quartet of giraffes each with their own unique personalities. Mpenzi’s dad Jabari is brave and explorative whereas his mother Kivuli is more shy and reserved.
Zara is the newest addition to the habitat, completing the quartet with a calm and curious demeanor.
If you’re visiting in the winter months, see them up close in their recently expanded indoor habitat. In the warmer months, the interactive Giraffe Encounter is open several days a week, meaning you can hand-feed treats to the giraffes from the raised wooden deck.
The Devereaux Tiger Forest at the Detroit Zoo is one of their more recent habitats, built to show off three Amur tigers.
These massive cats are the largest of the cat family and their presence commands attention. Nikolai and Aleksei are brothers who can be seen prowling the open spaces, stretching and scratching against trees, or even going for a swim near their waterfall.
They may even approach the glass at the viewing area, giving you an exciting close-up view of their bold stripes.
The female Kisa is a bit more elusive and likes to perch up on vantage points to look over her habitat all the while looking majestic and beautiful.
Kaskapahtew, or Kaska for short, is a gray wolf (despite his black coat). He’s lived at the Detroit Zoo since 2015. In 2019 he was joined by a female called Renner, ending his time as the lone wolf in the habitat. Together Kaska and Renner roam their habitat in the Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness.
Their massive stretch of land is filled with native Michigan trees, flowing water, dens, and rock outcroppings, which were all created to replicate their wild wooded habitat.
Though elusive, a glimpse of one of these magnificent gray wolves is breathtaking.
More Animals to See at the Detroit Zoo
- Holden Reptile Conservation Center
- Great Apes of Harambee
- Wildlife Interpretive Gallery
- Red Panda
- River Otter LIVE Cam
- About the Detroit Zoo
Attractions at the Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoo Carousel
Let’s face it: no trip to the Detroit Zoo would be complete without a ride on the 36-foot custom-made, wood-and-brass Carousel.
This beautiful carousel features 33 brilliant hand-carved, hand-painted figures. Choose from traditional carousel horses as well as colorful mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, snakes, fish, seahorses, dinosaurs and an ADA-compliant peacock chariot, too.
Tauber Family Railroad
The Tauber Family Railroad has been a perennial favorite at the Zoo, serving nearly half a million passengers each year. The miniature railroad consists of two complete trains of six coaches each and one standby. You can pick up the train from one of two spots:
Africa Station: Board the Tauber Family Railroad at the Africa Station, located in the far northwest corner of the Zoo past the rhino habitat, for a relaxing ride to the front of the Zoo.
Chrysler Main Station: Board the Tauber Family Railroad at the Chrysler Main Station, located at the front of the Zoo near the admission booths, for a relaxing ride through the Zoo.
Rackham Polar Bear Fountain
The historic and famed Horace H. Rackham Memorial Fountain, located in the center of the Zoo, was built in 1939 and dedicated to the first president of the Zoological Commission. The fountain features two 10-foot-tall bronze bears in a 75,000-gallon pool with life-sized sea lions, turtles and frogs and is one of the Zoo’s most-photographed attractions.
The 4D Theater
Part of the Detroit Zoo’s Wild Adventure Zone, the 126-seat 4D Theater is the first and only theater of its kind at any Michigan zoo. Experience a variety of shows in the theater found inside the Ford Education Center.
SpongeBob SquarePants Ride – The Great Jelly Rescue!
Part of the Detroit Zoo’s Wild Adventure Zone, the Simulator Ride allows you to feel the action. The 30-person cabin moves and shakes along with the movie. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Science On a Sphere
Science On a Sphere is an amazing spherical display system that projects dynamic simulations of the Earth, its atmosphere, oceans and land. Simply put, it’s a global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a 6-foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe.
It allows visitors to easily view and interpret global phenomena. It’s also a great teaching tool to educate audiences on environmental issues that impact our lives.
This kids can choose from two fun outdoor play areas in the zoo: the Rissman PlayVenture, and the Korman PlayVenture.
Korman PlayVenture: Kids can climb through a spider web, crawl through animal burrows and engage in imaginative play throughout the area. Native flowers and trees provide shady spots and smaller pockets for kids to have quiet areas, too. Addiitonally, parents can still easily keep an eye on all the activity from the comfort of benches.
Rissman PlayVenture: This giant play structure features log steppers, toad stools and climbing rocks for kids to play on. You’ll find swings, slides and more, too.
About the Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoological Society has been deeply ingrained in the fabric of Detroit and the surrounding metro area (including Ann Arbor) for more than 100 years. It operates both the zoo in Royal Oak and the Belle Isle Nature Center on Belle Isle in Detroit.
In fact, their role in nurturing the natural world has been apparent since the 1930’s. That’s when the Detroit Zoo grew trees from acorns that were transplanted to the Royal Oak Memorial Park, which helped the city maintain their “City of Trees” mantle.
Detroit Zoo Awards
The Detroit Zoological Society’s commitment to animal welfare and ethics; environmental sustainability; humane education and celebrating and saving wildlife is apparent throughout both the Detroit Zoo and the Belle Isle Nature Center. They even have a center for aquarium animal welfare.
In 2020, The Detroit Zoological Society was recognized by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) as the recipient of the 2020 Environmental Sustainability Award.
The DZS is the first zoo or aquarium to receive environmental sustainability top honors from both WAZA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (2015).
You can read more about the international sustainability award and other topics such as amphibian conservation and the piping plover captive rearing program at the Detroit Zoological Society Blog.
Detroit Zoo Virtual Ventures
In addition to providing visitors exotic animal encounters; they also provide virtual experiences through Virtual Vitamin Z Virtual Ventures, allowing visitors to enjoy the wildlife from home.
Detroit Zoo Admission Prices
- $19 / Adults
- $15 / Children
- $15 / Seniors & Military
Parking / $8
- $14-19 / Adults
- $10-15 / Children
- $10-15 / Seniors & Military
Parking / $8
Detroit Zoological Society’s Belle Isle Nature Center
If you visit Detroit, be sure and plan trip to the Belle Isle Nature Center and Aquarium. It is operated by the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS).
About the Author
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland. She attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.
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Williams Shivers Education Coalition
Friday 29th of April 2022
With so many exciting things to see and do we couldn’t complete it all in one day. We will return soon.
My Michigan Beach Team
Friday 29th of April 2022
Thanks for sharing! So glad to hear that you enjoyed your trip to the Detroit Zoo!