It dawned on me that I never posted anything about our Detroit Zoo experience!! We had a blast. But it made for a LONG day. Growing up, my parents took me to the Detroit Zoo multiple times, but I hadn’t been in 20-some odd years. It was A LOT bigger than I remembered. We also were there an hour and managed to make a wish in a giant fountain, ride a carousel, eat lunch, get Peyton’s arm painted, and do some fun hand print art all before seeing any animals. Unlike our local zoo, there is a lot to do other than animal-watch, which is great for 4 year olds with small attention spans.
1. This is an expensive zoo. We paid for parking (our zoo has free parking – so that was a mini shocker), admission was a bit pricey, and then every “experience” was extra (like the dinosaurs which was an extra $6). While every place did accept cards, waiting for the receipt to print took a while, so I would suggest bringing cash. And a lot of it, if you plan on doing face paint ($13), a carousel ride ($2), hand print art (a whopping $25), and eating ($19). And that was before Peyton realized there was a gift shop.
2. Don’t wear flip flops. This is probably a no-brainer, but in the summer, I live in flops. We can easily walk our local zoo in 45 minutes and it’s no big deal. We walked at the Detroit Zoo for about 5 hours. I got my steps in for the day, but my feet hated me on the drive home.
3. Maybe skip the dinosaurs. Not that they aren’t awesome, I totally love dinosaurs, and as a family of Dinosaur Train watchers, I assumed Peyton did, too. We paid, took our T-Rex photo, and entered Dinosauria. We had to pass through a misting machine (you know, to set the jurassic jungle mood), but that scared Peyton. Once we got passed that, the robotic dinosaurs freaked her out. They had the It’s A Small World mechanics, and roared. One spit water. Cold water. Just a heads up, he is on the right. Peyton was the most scared I have ever seen her in her entire life. On our way out, a staff member told me they had a dinosaur walking along the path yesterday, but they had to pull it due to all the crying kids. Thank god we weren’t there a day earlier!!! Poor Peyton. There was a fun paleontologist dig site after, where kids could “discover” dinosaur bones, and Peyton forgot about how scary the jungle had been. All in all, it was worth the $6, but maybe if you have older kids.
4. Buy your tickets online in advance. And pay for parking when you do. The line was nuts (and we weren’t there on a weekend), we were able to use the much shorter Member’s Lane because we had our printed out tickets. When buying tickets, you can also pre-pay for carousel rides and for feeding the giraffes!
5. There is an Outback “experience” that is free! It’s toward the back of the zoo, but if you’re not there on an 80-degree day, it’s worth it! You huddle into a small room with strangers, while a zookeeper explains how dangerous a kangaroo is, then sends you off onto a trail. There is an emu (behind a fence), but then a bunch of kangaroos are roaming free. They warn you not to step off the path, but you get to see them up pretty close!
6. Bring your own water and snacks. Or maybe pack a lunch. I was charged $4 for a water, but it was hot and we needed it. Snack stands were everywhere, but everything was pop corn and cotton candy, so healthy snacks for kids are a must!
7. There is a butterfly garden right when you walk in, we saved this for on our way out, and I’m glad we did. It was a nice wind-down for the end of the day, and it was free to enter! If you choose to keep walking, there is a bird/duck room, too!
8. Their penguin exhibit is currently being re-done. It looks like it’ll be huge and amazing when it is done, but Peyton was bummed they weren’t on exhibit anywhere else in the zoo, as they’re one of her favorite animals.
We had a blast on our zoo trip, and I think we might make this an annual trip!