Potter Park Zoo, located along the Red Cedar River in Lansing, Michigan is an adventure waiting to happen for adults and kids alike. Outside the zoo, picnic tables and small fields for playing dot the Red Cedar, providing a place to relax, eat, and play before or after your visit to the park. Because the zoo’s admissions fees not only go toward the zoo, but also toward the support of Ingham County, there is an entrance fee for vehicles (which means even if you just want to play outside, there’s a fee) of three dollars for Ingham County resident vehicles, and five for non-resident. To enter the zoo, the fee is four for each resident adult and two for children ages three-16. However, because of the cold climate in the winter, admissions are free for everyone from November to February; which includes entrance to their Christmas display special; Wonderland of Lights.
The zoo is home to over 500 individual animals over 20 acres of land, featuring around 160 different species. Potter Park is also home to the Potter Park Gardens, which feature a beautiful display of local plant life. Potter Park is proud to be a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and a participant in the Association’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs. Through this affiliation, they are committed to the protection and preservation of endangered species, and participate in developing strategies to protect these species and their natural habitats. Among the zoo’s many endangered species are the Amur Tigers, Red Pandas, Bali Minah Birds, Snow Leopards, Tamarin Monkeys, Bongos, and the Bactrian Camel.
The entrance to the Zoo features their coral and reef building, the arctic fox, and a truly specular animal; the Bald Eagle. The pair of eagles sustained injuries at some point in their lives that left them incapable of flight, and are on loan to Potter Park by the United States Government. Farther into the zoo, the animals are separated mostly by region in which they are found, with Asia, Africa and Australia each grouped together and animals native to the Americas placed between them.
The zoo also features a number of interactive exhibits. First, the Farmyard, located near the rear of the Park allows children and adults to pet and feed some wildlife, including goats, pigs, donkeys and reindeer. Next to the Farmyard are pony rides for children under 80lbs. With a male and a slightly smaller female pony, children can have safe fun riding around the ring and petting the calm animals. Also on the list of rideable animals at the park is the Dromedary Camels; native to Northern Africa and India, these beautiful creatures provide both children and adults a riding experience like no other. The last of the interactive exhibits at Potter Park is the Wings Down Under exhibit, where, within a large holding area, are around 50 to 100 parakeets. With a small fee, visitors can purchase seed sticks to feed the parakeets with, and while the rules say not to touch the birds, having one (or five) land on you has a fairly high possibility, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to get them off but put them back onto a branch yourself.
After the interactive exhibits, the animals themselves can be a beautiful sight alone. Animals with outside only exhibits include the rhinoceros, penguins, meerkat, golden pheasant, and spider monkeys. Exhibits that take you indoors include the Bird & Reptile House, which is home to a laughing kookaburra, a fully grown Burmese rock python that’s over twelve feet long, and many others. The other exhibit that takes visitors indoors in the Feline/Primate House, which is home to the zoo’s large cats: The African Lion, Snow Leopard, and Amur Tiger. These cats can often be found in the outdoors portion of their habitat, but on very hot or very cold days they much prefer to escape Michigan’s natural climate by resting indoors.
Potter Park Zoo is an amazing adventure for the whole family. A quick trip through the zoo can last as little an hour and a half, while a day trip, where you read everything and talk to the zookeepers, can last an entire day. Whichever you prefer, remember to have fun.