5 Family Friendly Animal Attractions in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
A visit to the Upper Peninsula brings some of the best chances for wildlife viewing in the entire state, as black bears, moose, foxes, whitetail deer, wolves and more are abundant. There are no guarantees of seeing any of those mammals when you visit popular spots like Tahquamenon Falls, the Porcupine Mountains, or the Keweenaw Peninsula, however. For that reason we have compiled the following list of family friendly places in the U.P. where you are guaranteed to see some animal activity. With the exception of Seney National Wildlife Refuge, each of these attractions charges at least a small fee and for that reason we have included links to available web pages to provide that information as well as dates and hours of operation.
Oswald’s Bear Ranch – See more than 20 bears up close just north of Newberry. If you’re going to be in the Tahquamenon Falls or Whitefish Point area anyways, this is a side trip you should definitely make. There are big bears, small bears, and even baby bears here – all well taken care of by the Oswald family. Viewing platforms help get you great pictures, and for an additional fee you can even get your picture taken while you feed one of the small bears.
DeYoung Family Zoo – There are over 400 animals at this zoo in Wallace, but the real stars of the show are the big cats. Tigers, leopards and lions will thrill visitors as they roam around their enclosures and let out the occasional roar. Other popular animals are the ring-tailed lemurs, hippo, wolves, lynx, bears and alligators. There is a petting zoo area for young visitors, and the entire zoo provides visitors with an up-close experience thanks to well-built enclosures. The zoo is featured in the National Geographic Wild show My Life is a Zoo. It is located about 15 minutes north of Menominee and within a short drive from Escanaba, Cedar River/J.W. Wells State Park, and Iron Mountain.
GarLyn Zoo – The largest zoo in the Upper Peninsula opened its doors in 1994, and has been providing families with up-close animal encounters ever since. Located less than an hour from the Mackinac Bridge, GarLyn Zoo hosts otters, bears, llamas, wolves, bobcats, alligators, bison and many other native North American species. Visitors will also find tigers, camels, lemurs, camels, tortoises and other exotic animals.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge – Located on the remains of the Great Manistique Swamp, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge is one of the country’s best stories of reversing the damage of years of logging and restoring wildlife habitat. The refuge has an area of more than 95,000 acres and is home to more than 200 species of birds as well as a handful of Michigan’s larger mammals. Sightings of bear, moose and wolves are uncommon but possible, while seeing swans, beavers, otters, geese, loons or turtles is much more likely. The seven-mile Marshland Wildlife Drive takes visitors on a slow, scenic drive through several different habitats with multiple chances to get out and take photos. There are also trails near the well-staffed visitor’s center and frequent hands-on activities for younger visitors. The refuge is located near Germfask on M-77, south of M-28 and north of US-2.
Deer Ranch – It’s easy enough to see whitetail deer alongside many of Michigan’s highways, byways and back roads – but the Deer Ranch in St. Ignace lets visitors see deer up close and even feed them. This reasonably priced, family-friendly attraction also features albino deer and fawns and it is located right on US-2 within a short drive from the Mackinac Bridge.