Location: Detroit, Michigan
Highlights: Free flight birds house, reptile house, amphibian house
Photos: February 2013
Children Friendly (10): Definitely the most children friendly zoo I’ve been to. All bathrooms had a step stool that folded down at the sinks and in the one bathroom I saw a miniature toilet as well! Many interactive displays and small activities. There was a playground and farm animal’s area as well. The whole zoo is fairly compact and level – so no tired legs at this zoo. They do have a note that all children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult as well which I feel is a wonderful rule.
Animal Diversity (8): This zoo does have a wide variety of animals on exhibit with a huge amount of diversity in the reptile and amphibian houses. Different areas of the world are represented well. They do hit the majority of the areas that are the major draws for people (bears, lions, tigers, giraffes, etc). I do feel however they could beef up their diversity with more multi species exhibits or indoor pavilions.
Animal Viewing (6): I do want to make a special note that if I had visited this zoo in the summer it would have received a ten for sure. The exhibits were beautiful showcasing what each animal liked to do and therefore the animals that were on display were for the most part visible. Most exhibits also allowed for guests to see the animals from almost every view. The major downfall of this zoo is that many of the animals are sensitive to colder temperatures. This means that when we visited in the winter half of the exhibits were off display with no options for indoor viewing.
Animals Happiness (8): As mentioned the exhibits are for the most part well thought out with a lot of stimulation available to the species it holds. I did note pacing and perceived uneasiness at the polar bear exhibit, as well as overgrooming in some of the bird species.
Photography (8): With the readily seen animals in well thought out exhibits the majority of the picture taking went well. Most exhibits did not have fences which was a HUGE bonus. The worst areas were the exhibits with glass – most notably the penguins. The lion exhibit was also difficult as they had used glass on a curve. It allows for great viewing of the lions, but bad reflections in every photo.
Layout/Map (5): This was the worst part of this zoo. I feel the layout is absolutely awful. Nothing flows well between exhibits and the layout is not organized in any way. As this is one of the older zoos it does make sense that they have to make due with the exhibits were there previously but I feel they could have worked with them better. All the pavilions are one way (which is wonderful) however the entrances and exits do not flow very well with a natural progression through the zoo. There was a lot of back tracking throughout my visit so I made sure I saw everything. The map was amazing and accurate, which allowed us to figure out where we were and how to get to the next place quickly, but the fact that we had to use it after every exhibit was this zoos downfall.
Hours (9): Good hours, open year round which is a bonus. The only reason it lost points is that I feel it would be easier for guests if the opening time remained the same year round, also their summer closing times could be extended on weekends or holidays.
Price (8): Admission and parking prices were reasonable. Discounted prices for seniors, active military, and children 14 and under. They did lose points on their membership however, which I feel is priced slightly high.
Food (9): Food options were great with an extra specials menu which sounds pretty classy for a zoo. The food we had was great and reasonably priced. Plenty of snacks everywhere and food booths stationed around the park meant that it would reduce line-ups everywhere.
Website (9): Website is well laid out and provides plenty of information. I like the design of it as well as the information they provide on their animals and a lot of their current events. The only thing I feel their missing is a list of off exhibit animals to pre-warn visitors.
Gift Shop (10): The gift shop was great. It has most of the standard zoo gift shop items (T-shirts, stuffed animals, books, etc) but I feel they had a number of items that were unique and of good quality. Their own photo frames and mugs were beautiful and not tacky at all (which many have a tendency to be), and they have great gift and souvenir options.
Quiet Areas (10): I found this zoo had plenty of benches and places to sit spread throughout the park. They also had plenty of quieter walkways which allowed you to feel outside of the city. Many grassy areas also showed potential for picnicking or resting before moving on to the next exhibit.
Safety/Cleanliness (9): I found this zoo very clean and updated. Bathrooms and dining areas were spotless (probably helped that we went in their off season). I didn’t find any exhibit particularly unsafe – as mentioned they were well thought out and well taken care of. The only thing I noticed was all their fences/barriers to keep people on the pathways were the driftwood type of fence. Many signs stated to stay off the fences but I do think many children could easily disregard these and get into some of the exhibits easily.
Extras (10): We didn’t have the chance to do most of the extras but many extras are offered throughout the zoo. These include a giraffe feeding opportunity (for a decent price!) and many movies and interactive shows. They have a whole education building with appeared to have movies as well as a ride that would be great for the whole family. As well there is a small art gallery on the premises and many sculptures and fountains with are great for photo opportunities. One of my favourite things about this zoo was its very apparent dedication to conservation showing tips and tricks all over the zoo.
Overall (8.5): Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this zoo. All updates they have done have been well throughout out. More than once I left a building thoroughly impressed on how they showcased the animals and provided information to make the visitors experience better. My only major critique is that I was not able to fully enjoy the whole zoo – I’ll have to go back again in the summer!