Monday, September 29, 2014

An Autumn Road Trip to the Potter Park Zoo

We decided to get out of town and take a family road trip to someplace we hadn't visited before on the last weekend in September traveling to our state capital to visit the Potter Park Zoo.  Lansing is centrally located in Michigan's lower peninsula about an hour and a half drive from our home in Metro Detroit on the state's east side and 1.5 hours from Grand Rapids on the state's west coast.  It was a nice sunny 75 degree fall afternoon when we arrive to take a 2 hour leisurely stroll through the zoo. Sunday's in autumn must be a nice time for a visit as we essentially had the place to ourselves as my family wandered around the exhibits and gardens that make up the zoo.

While the Potter Park Zoo doesn't have an extensive list of creatures to view or expansive grounds to wander, it does have a quaint scenic layout with enough animals to keep your attention for a few hours.  For a smaller zoo it also has an impressive array of larger creatures to view and admire including lions, tigers and rhinos.  While it may not have as many animals and amenities as larger urban zoos, I found that it provided a more intimate opportunity to observe those creatures by allowing people to get closer to the exhibits than they normally can get at larger zoological parks.  My kids and I were able to get much closer to many of the animals than we ever can at the Detroit Zoo which is just down the street from our house.

While I was impressed by the visual vantage points for watching the animals at the Potter Zoo, it wasn't the most ideal location for taking photos.  While glass walls and metallic cages allow for great views with your naked eyes they don't work as well for capturing the images you are enjoying with a camera.  In comparison, at the Detroit Zoo you can't get as close up of views to the animals but they have more displays that are buffered with trenches rather than fences to give unobstructed viewpoints for taking photographs.  As this was a special trip, we appreciated the differentiation and the chance to observe animals from a different perspective.

The Potter Park Zoo also differentiated itself from the Detroit Zoo, where we have an annual membership and visit frequently throughout the year, with some different animals on display.  Potter Park has a rare snow leopard, spider monkeys, ravens, and a moose which we can't see at our local zoo. In addition to the exotic animals, Potter Park Zoo also has many local animals for people to enjoy including a petting farm with goats, llamas, pigs and chickens and a duck pond where you can feed the birds.

The grounds of the zoo are filled with nice artwork that was fun to check out.  Plus they had numerous cutout photo ops for taking some zany pictures.

Other things to do, for an extra fee of course, are taking pony rides (or if you want to be more adventurous camel rides), feeding a room full of parakeets with a seed covered stick in "Wings Down Under" or taking an electronic train ride around the zoo's picnic area.  Prices for these extra activities aren't bad ranging from $1 to $3.  In fact, admission into the zoo was very reasonable costing us $5 for parking and $2 per kid and $10 per adult for entry.

The zoo is essentially a loop to follow that starts off going past river otters, bald eagles and a wolf leading up to the farmyard.  After passing the farmyard there is the impressive feline and primate exhibit area followed by rhinos, mongoose, meerkats and a display building filled with small mammals, birds, and reptiles.  The final lap takes you past magellanic penguins, the duck pond and some tufted deer.  Of course there are a few other animals filling in the gaps as the zoo is home to 160 species.

Now they warn people not to pester the animals, but it appears no one instructs the animals to be nice to us humans as the funniest part of our trip was watching a mandrill approach my daughter as she was quietly looking at it through the glass and start imitating and taunting her in a friendly way.

If you are going to be in the Lansing area, I give A Geek Daddy nod of approval to making an effort to stop by the Potter Park Zoo for an enjoyable family outing.  My family had a great time on what will be a memorable road trip to check out this very nice zoological park.

The Potter Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and operated by the Ingham County Parks & Recreation Commission.  For more information, visit


  1. Looks like a fun zoo! I've never been before, but would love to check it out.

  2. I went there several times as a kid but I haven't been there in years. Looks like fun!

  3. I also have never been to the Potter Zoo. We too are minutes from the Detroit Zoo, but it is nice to change the pace once in a while and do something new. I am adding this to our to do list.

  4. Oh man, I love the zoo! We should all meet up and go together. Great pics too, btw.

  5. Oh this is my hometown. The Potter Park Zoo is a lot of fun-- we go at least once per year! Glad you guys had a good time!