Friday, August 12, 2011

Binder Park Zoo - Battle Creek, Michigan

 My family loves this zoo!  It is about an hour from my house but much more fun than our little local zoo.  The animals are in more of a natural habitat and there are many more varieties of animals.  Plus - you have the opportunity to feed giraffes!

Discounts:  They offer a military discount.  They are also part of a reciprocal list (you get 50% off admission if you have a membership with another  participating zoo).  I have seen coupons for Binder Park Zoo.  One year we found $5 coupons at a McDonalds.  This year I saw $2 coupons in a Michigan Fun Pass Travel Guide (little newspaper full of coupons that was at my local library).

My BEST tip:  BUG SPRAY!!!

Part 1 of the 2011 park map

Part 2 of the 2011 park map.  This section actually shows where you enter the park.

I thought these schedules where interesting.
You might want to see what the times/days are for your visit.
We always plan a visit to the Wildlife Discovery Theater which only runs 2-3 times a day. 

There's plenty of parking on both sides of the entrance.

I thought this was a little "funny".
Makes me wonder why they later had to add a sticker stating that firearms are not permitted??? !!!
 There are great food options in the park but here's a look at what the picnic areas are like.  Around this area you will see an entrance for hiking trails that they have too.

Example of picnic areas outside of the park (near the parking lot)
When you are paying to get into the park, make sure you check out any updates for the day.  For example, late start times for giraffe feeding or certain areas that might be under construction.

Stroller rental options

This is what most of the walking area is like throughout the park.
There are a ton of picture opportunities.
This is one we take every year to look back on how much they have grown.
Another tip - get to the giraffes as soon as you can!  They are much more friendly when they haven't been fed all day!!  The giraffes are located in the "Wild Africa" section of the park.  Check for opening times since it will sometimes open a little later than the first part of the park.  You have to get to the International Depot for a free tram ride to Wild Africa.  

You will pass this building and walkway.

Inside that building is a very cute wildlife carousel.

There's also face painting outside the building.

This is the correct place to get on the tram.
 The tram leaves every 15 minutes and carries many people at a time so you shouldn't have to wait long. The front cart is great for those that need wheelchair space.

This is what it looks like.
There is stroller parking but recently they added a trailer on the back of the trams to carry your strollers for you!
This is awesome since I hated not having one (or only having a small umbrella stroller) when my kids were stroller age!!!

Some seats on the tram have a storage compartment in front of them.
This is great for bags and small strollers (umbrella strollers).

Okay, you get off the tram at Wild Africa and your first instinct is to check everything out. My recommendation is the same tip I had for you earlier - get to the giraffes!!!  You want to get there when the crowd is small (for prime feeding and picture opportunities).  You can always check out this other stuff later.  

The "Entrance" sign on this building is the way to the giraffes.

I took the full trip around the trail the first year I visited this zoo.  The past couple of years we decided to just turn around after feeding the giraffes.  It is a nice walk and we do miss some animals by not going all the way around.  But, it's a big zoo and we have a lot of things to see before my little ones get tired and fussy.  When my kids are bigger we will start taking the full hike around.

LOL!!  This is adding to the history they share with you on the tram.  
Be sure to check out the sites.
Once you get to the giraffe feeding area you are given the option to buy something to feed them (the purchased item is all you are allowed to feed them).  You can buy biscuits for $1 each or 6 for $5.  I say "biscuits" but sometimes it is actually leaf lettuce (like this last visit).  The biscuits are large and since there are a bunch of people waiting to feed them I recommend only one per person.  However - the lettuce is eaten up quickly so I generally buy more of that.

This one was really hungry and didn't want me feeding the
little baby that was having a harder time reaching the food.

The giraffes were hungry (since we got their early) and we beat the crowd
 so I had a lot of great picture opportunities this visit.
Back near the tram area you will find a place to eat and a gift shop.  We usually eat lunch here but this year we were a little early so we ate lunch on the other side of the park.  It was nice to know that the menus are the same.  I love the kids meal options and they also have a veggie burger for me!!!  :)

Okay, the rest of the information I am going to share with you is back at the first section of the park (after the tram ride back).

I mentioned that we like the Wildlife Discovery Theater.  It's located across from the carousel. It's a cute and informative show that really doesn't run for long.  Children laugh as they see the actors work with animals.
Wildlife Discovery Theater

After the show you can stick around to meet the animals.  I didn't get a picture of it but there is a bird that will talk, do tricks, and if you give it a $1 tip it will place it in a tip container.

As you walk through the park you will see many animals and birds wondering around.  This one wasn't scared of us at all and actually got a little bit in my personal space while I was trying to eat :)  I had a long talk with him (just inches from my face) and later he walked away.  Feeding the animals is not permitted but it would have been fun to give him what he wanted.

You don't want to miss out on this HUGE dinosaur!  

Another tip:  There are signs all over the park directing you but for some reason this train really had us confused the first year we visited the zoo.  We knew that we needed to take a "train" to the giraffes but you could imagine our surprise when this train did not!  With that said, it is a fun experience for train loving kids.  It's $2 a person with kids under the age of 2 free.  You really only see wilderness on your short train ride but it follows train tracks and makes train noises.

Just a few more pictures from the our visit:

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