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16 Michigan Animal Attractions to Check Out in 2016

Oswald's Bear Ranch Travel Mitten

Michigan’s unique location surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes makes it an optimal habitat for many animal species. Black bears, moose, wolves, deer, otters, coyotes, elk and bald eagles are just a few species that reside in the Mitten State, and animal lovers have more than a few options if they want to see species that are not native to Michigan. We’ve put together a list of 16 Michigan Attractions to Check Out in 2016, a collection of the finest zoos, aquariums and animal parks that our state has to offer. From big cities like Grand Rapids and Detroit to small towns in the Upper Peninsula, these animal attractions offer visitors the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s largest mammals, unique sea life, and amazing birds. Consider supporting these Michigan attractions this summer, and have fun!

Detroit Zoo Polar Bear

Detroit Zoo, Detroit – More than a million people visit this collections of 3,300 animals each year, and 2015 saw a record 1.5 million visitors. The Arctic Ring of Life features the nation’s largest polar bear exhibit, an the Polk Family Penguin Conservation Center is home to one of the world’s largest penguin studies. Other areas that will thrill guests are the Australian Outback Adventure (kangaroos, wallabies), African Forest (chimpanzees, gorillas), African Grasslands (zebras, lions, rhinoceros), American Grasslands (bears, wolves, wolverine), Asian Forest (tiger, red panda), Butterfly Garden, Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Matilda R. Wilson Free-Flight Aviary and the Holden Reptile Conservation Center (snakes, turtles). 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI

Cownose Ray Sea Life Aquarium Michigan

SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium, Auburn Hills - Kids will love a visit to SEA LIFE Aquarium at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets. The Interactive Touchpool offers the chance to touch a crab, sea star, seraurchin and more and there are more than 5,000 sea creatures here in all. The Underwater Tunnel offers a unique perspective, and feed shows and interactive talks during the day enhance the experience. You can read our early review of the aquarium, find out when Benson the endangered green sea turtle was added, and view our trip through 25 photos. 4316 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills, MI

Belle Isle Nature Zoo Michigan

Belle Isle Nature Zoo, Detroit – A focus on Michigan wildlife makes this zoo special, and highlights include an insider’s view of a beehive and the Deer Encounter (with fallow deer that once roamed the island). Snakes, turtles and fish are featured, and an observation window gives the chance to see native and migratory birds feeding. There is also a nature trail, and admission is FREE once on Belle Isle (state park; Michigan recreation passport required for entry). 176 Lakeside Dr, Detroit, MI

DeYoung Tiger

DeYoung Family Zoo, Wallace – There are more than 400 animals representing more than 100 species at DeYoung Family Zoo, but the big cats are clearly the stars of the show. The zoo is home to lions, four different kinds of tigers, cougar, lynx, leopard and bobcat. Most of the exhibits blend in well with the natural surroundings, and visitors will enjoy seeing a hippo, wolves, primates, reptiles, foxes, deer and many more. You can check out our wrap-up from our visit there for more information, and head over to for hours and admission prices. N5406 Co Rd 577, Wallace, MI

Oswald's Bear Ranch Cubs

Oswald’s Bear Ranch, Newberry – Since 1997, visitors to the Upper Peninsula have been able to stop by Oswald’s Bear Ranch to see 29 rescue black bears roaming spacious habitats. This is the largest bear-only ranch in the United States, and the habitats are split between young bears, cubs, older and large male bears, and female bears. With a price of $20 per vehicle, this is an affordable family attraction that shouldn’t be missed! The ranch is located within an hour’s drive of Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Whitefish Point. Check out our review or our Photo Gallery Friday: Oswald’s Bear Ranch post for more information and pictures. 13814 Co Rd 407, Newberry, MI

Seney Sandhill Cranes

Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Upper Peninsula – Built on the remains of the Great Manistique Swamp and an area that was once logged and drained, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge is a 95,000 acre habitat for bird life and many mammals. Visitors can watch swans, loons, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, osprey and ducks while slowly driving on the Marshland Wildlife Drive that begins near the visitor center. Otters, beavers, moose, bears and wolves are seen less frequently but also live in the refuge. The visitor center offers many interpretive programs throughout the year, and there are also nature trails that provide great chances for wildlife observation and photography. 1674 Refuge Entrance Road, Seney, MI

GarLyn Zoo Peacock

GarLyn Zoo, Naubinway – A small zoo within an hour’s drive of the Mackinac Bridge features hundreds of animals in a natural forest setting. Get up close with bobcat, reindeer, grizzly bear, tigers, wolves, otters, lemurs, cougars, camel and more. Feed cups are available for some of the animals as well. Check out our Photo Gallery Friday: GarLyn Zoo post for more pictures of the animals, or our review from our visit in 2015. US-2 (about 40 min west of St. Ignace), Naubinway, MI


Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park, Alto – This charming zoo is located on 80 acres in Alto near Grand Rapids, and gives families the chance to see exotic animals up close. Giraffes, zebras, lemurs, fennec foxes, coatimundi, african crested porcupines and wallabies are some of the animals you can enjoy seeing during your visit. There is a reptile house, petting zoo area, bird area and a bridge over an alligator pond. A safari bus ride takes you past many more animals, most of which are native to Africa and a few that aren’t found in other zoos. Check out our Photo Gallery Friday: Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park for more pcitures and video. 8313 Pratt Lake Ave SE, Alto, MI

Red Panda Binder Park Zoo

Binder Park Zoo, Battle Creek – A family favorite for decades, Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek is one of Michigan’s largest zoos. The main zoo area features red pandas, prairie dogs and snow leopards. A tram or footpath takes visitors to Wild Africa, where they have the chance to feed giraffes and view zebras, ostriches and antelope. The Miller Children’s Zoo is a petting area that features goats, llamas and sheep. A train runs through the zoo and there is also a nature trail and a carousel. Check out our Photo Gallery Friday: Binder Park Zoo to see more pictures of these amazing animals. 7400 Division Dr, Battle Creek, MI

Potter Park Zoo Otter Lansing

Potter Park Zoo, Lansing – The oldest public zoo in Michigan, Potter Park is home to 160 species of animals. Tigers, lions, a snow leopard, lemurs, kangaroos, penguins, moose, foxes and more await visitors here. The Exploration and Discovery Center for Education near the main entrance gives children the chance to pet and feed llamas, yaks, goats, pigs and more. Check out our Photo Gallery Friday: Potter Park Zoo for more pictures of the animals here. 1301 S Pennsylvania Ave, Lansing, MI

Chimpanzee John Ball Park Zoo

John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids – Upgrades and additions in recent years have made Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo one of the state’s top animal attractions and will ensure its future success as well. Popular exhibits include the Tigers of the Realm, Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium (penguins and more), Pelican Pier, Treasure of the Tropics (reptiles, amphibians, primates), Red’s Hobby Farm (children’s zoo), Africa (lions, chimpanzees and more) and the Far Side of the World Trail (wallabies, lemurs and more). The North America exhibit puts visitors nose-to-nose with bears, South America features flamingoes, capybaras and more. The Idema Forest Realm offers amazing views of the zoo and can be reached by foot or by riding the new funicular. Outside the zoo there is a large park with picnic areas and swan boat rentals on a small pond. 1300 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI

Deer Ranch St. Ignace MichiganDeer Ranch, St. Ignace – A few miles west of the Mackinac Bridge is a fun animal encounter for the whole family, as the Deer Ranch gives visitors the chances to pet, feed and photograph whitetail, white whitetail and albino deer. 1540 W. US-2, St. Ignace, MI


Indian Creek Zoo, Lambertville – Conveniently located near US-23 near the border with Ohio, this zoo features emus, wallabies, sloths, zebras, camels, alligators, peacocks and more. A giraffe was added in late 2015. 2740 Consear Road, Lambertville, MI

Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square, Saginaw – This family-friendly zoo is a bargain with $5 admission, and will thrill visitors with penguins, kangaroos, wolves, otters, reptiles and amphibians and a wide array of birds. There is a miniature train and a carousel, and plenty of interactive opportunities for children. 1730 S Washington Ave, Saginaw, MI

Deer Tracks Junction, Cedar Springs – This animal attraction north of Grand Rapids made viral news in 2015 with the addition of Dragon, a rare white-faced deer that was rejected by his mother. Other things to do here include the wildlife safari tour that goes past elk, reindeer, yaks and deer. The Hands-On Farm features pigs, goats and more. Don’t forget to grab a treat at the Plop Plop Ice Cream Shop after your animal encounters! 7850 14 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs, MI

Wilderness Trails Animal Park, Birch Run – An excellent addition to the Birch Run area’s shopping and dining opportunities, the Wilderness Trails Zoo hosts 200 animals in a natural setting. A petting area offers special animal interactions, and other animals at the zoo can be fed as well. There is a picnic area and playground and a gift shop. White tigers, lions, leopards, camels, lemurs, birds and reptiles will entertain you during your visit. 11721 Gera Rd Birch Run, MI