Posted by: Kath Usitalo | August 4, 2009

Zoo Cool

Up close and personal with polar bears at the Detroit Zoo

It was a nice, hot summer day (finally!) so Paige and her friend Ellen and I did a summertime thing: we headed to the Detroit Zoo. At the entrance the girls went their way, as 16-year olds are wont to do,
and I went mine. We only had about an hour and a half ’til closing, so we wanted to make the most of it.

Polar bear_0975

The short visit didn’t bother me because, with our zoo membership, I knew we’d be back soon. When the kids were young we spent a lot of time at the zoo, but we’d let our annual support lapse years ago. We reenlisted this spring when Paige and her friend Gina wanted to visit.

As I mentioned in a post about the Detroit Institute of Art, membership just makes dollars and sense.

Not only do members get free unlimited zoo admission for a year, we don’t pay for parking and we receive discounted entrance to zoos around the U.S. and Canada (see a sampling below). A couple of visits a year and the membership is paid for.


Tundra environment above ground

On this hot day I was on a mission to chill out at The Arctic Ring of Life, a four-acre interpretation of the tundra at the top of the world.

The highlight of the planet’s largest such habitat is the Polar Passage, an 8-foot tall by 12-foot wide clear tunnel surrounded by the residents’ underwater playground. (It only looks as though the polar bears and seals are in the water together; an invisible barrier separates them.)

Tunnel vision

The Detroit Zoo is located in Royal Oak, a suburb just north of the city limits and convenient to freeways (unfortunately, you can often hear the traffic on I-696 which runs along the south side of the property).

I noted that the zoo is a summertime thing to do, but it’s open 362 days a year.

NOTE: The Detroit Zoo is open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through August 26 for the Wild Summer Nights concerts in the Main Picnic Grove, 6:30-8 p.m.

Seals share the pool at the Arctic Ring of Life

Michigan zoological parks include the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, known for its Wild Africa exhibit. Of special interest to those 21 years and older: Corks for Conservation wine tasting event at Binder Park Zoo, 6-9 p..m., Friday, August 28. The after-hours event includes samplings from 7 Michigan wineries, hors d’oeuvres, music, and silent auction. Find ticket prices and details on the zoo Web site.

A couple of new exhibits I want to check out: Lions of Lake Manyara at the John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids, and Wings From Down Under at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing.

Love this tile wall mural by local artist Gretchen Kramp at the Detroit Zoo's indoor/outdoor Arctic Ring of Life exhibit

Detroit Zoo membership  includes reciprocal arrangements for discounted admission to participating AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums in the U.S. and Canada; here’s a sampling of those in the Great Lakes region:

Binder Park Zoo, Battle Creek
John Ball Zoological Gardens, Grand Rapids
Potter Park Zoo, Lansing

Glen Oak Zoo, Peoria

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Potawatomi Zoo, South Bend

Minnesota Zoological Gardens, Apple Valley

New York
Buffalo Zoo
Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park, Syracuse
Seneca Park Zoo, Rochester

African Safari Wildlife Park, Port Clinton
Akron Zoological Park
Cincinnati Zoo and Biological Gardens
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Columbus Zoological Gardens, Powell
Toledo Zoological Gardens

Erie Zoo
Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

International Crane Foundation, Baraboo
Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens

Toronto Zoo




  1. Good story. Makes me wanna go visit the KC zoo, which I haven’t been to in too many years.

    • Just zoo it! For some unfortunate souls it might qualify for your procrastination multi-tasking list (very funny), but we can call it research!

  2. What GREAT pictures. Did you take them? Especially the underwater ones. Or are they official zoo photographs? This brings back some memories of time at the Detroit Zoo back in childhood. I’ll bet you guys had a great time.

  3. […] Zoo Cool […]

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