Published : Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012, 12:34 PM EDT
Growing up I vividly remember going to Binder Park Zoo each year with my sister and my cousins. It was a summer ritual that we looked forward to each year. I remember feeling like the car ride to Battle Creek took forever, but getting to explore a different zoo was so worth it. For the past few years I’ve been meaning to get down there with Sophia to introduce her to a place I’ve always enjoyed so much. After seasons of procrastinating, Sophia and I hit the road this past week to check it out.
We arrived at the zoo mid-afternoon, which probably wasn’t the best decision on our part. It was hot, sunny and the humidity made it a little uncomfortable. It turns out the animals aren’t big fans of the warm temps either. We were kind of bummed out to find a lot of them hiding in the shady spots or small corners of their exhibits, so we recommend arriving a little earlier in the day to see the animals in their most active state.
Right away we noticed the grounds were clean and the staff was very friendly and willing to share lots of fun facts about the animals. This is always helpful when you have inquisitive kids like Sophia who tend to ask me a million animal questions that I have no idea how to answer.
The Binder Park Zoo is divided into two large sections. The main portion of the zoo features loads of animals and you can navigate around a large boardwalk that loops around the exhibits. Some of the highlights are the gibbons, Chinese red pandas and the kangaroos. This is the spot where you’ll also find the cheetahs and the snow leopards, but unfortunately we had a hard time spotting those sneaky guys the day we went.
The second portion of the zoo is called Wild Africa and connecting the two is a free tram car that runs back and forth every 15 minutes. Sophia was so eager to see the African animals that we decided to bypass the tram and walk to the other side, ignoring the big sign that read “warning, dirt path and mostly uphill.” Well, they weren’t lying. Don’t do the walk! After 15 minutes of huffing and puffing, we made it to Wild Africa and almost died of heat exhaustion. Once we regrouped we were ready to explore.
Wild Africa was definitely the best part of the zoo. You can see loads of exotic animals along a safari-like trail that include zebras, warthogs, gazelle and giraffes. The giraffes stand below a large deck that overlooks a huge savannah-like field. It’s the perfect height because the giraffe's heads meet you right at the rail. To guarantee a close encounter, you can purchase lettuce leafs for $1 a piece or six for $5.00. Trust us; it is totally worth spending the extra money for this cool experience.
Overall it was a great day at the Binder Park Zoo. It was fun taking Sophia to a place that I enjoyed as a child and it was nice to take a mini road trip, just the two of us. On the way home we compiled a Top Five List of the best parts of Binder Park Zoo. Here’s how we ranked them:
#5 Miller Children’s Zoo. This area is perfect for young kids because there are lots of animals you can touch. The fenced in spot includes goats, ponies, cattle, pigs, a llama and a fun playground. Make sure you bring quarters if you want to purchase food for the animals. (See picture #2 above)
#4 Prairie Dogs. Okay, this might sound lame, but I have never seen so many prairie dogs in my life! They have a large dirt mound that is home to literally about 50 prairie dogs. They run, jump and play which is cute to see, plus there were lots of little babies in the den too. While they aren’t exactly big exotic animals, they were really fun to watch.
#3 Extras. One of the coolest things that Binder Park Zoo offers are lots of little extra activities. They have a beautiful carousel, a railroad that takes you on a scenic zoo tour and a tram that connects the two areas of the zoo. Sophia also wanted to add in the gift shop and their huge selection of stuffed animals. J
#2 Baby Bears. Who doesn’t love cute and cuddly baby animals? Right now Binder Park Zoo is home to three baby black bear cubs that are hilarious to watch. They are very active and love to play rough, just like siblings do. Right now you can even help the zoo name the cubs by voting through a small donation. Sophia and I picked Juneau as our favorite potential moniker.
#1 GIRAFFES! We each unanimously agreed that the number one reason to visit Binder Park Zoo is the giraffe exhibit. This has always been my favorite part and it was Sophia’s too. Getting to have an up close and personal experience with such a beautiful exotic animal is truly amazing. (See picture #1 above)
Girls were on the run to celebrate 10 years for the Kent County Girls on the …