Animal Encounters – Perfect for the Animal Lover in Your Family
Kids and animals go hand-in-hand.
Summer is the perfect time to visit and learn more about our furry, scaly, or somewhere in-between friends. Southwest Michigan is home to many amazing places to get up close and personal to a wide variety of animals. We’ve also covered a few places worthy of a drive!
Calling all future veterinarians and animal lovers – Read on to discover animal farms, sanctuaries, and zoos you’ll want to make sure and visit.
15+ Zoos, Petting Farms, and Cool Spots Where Kids can Hang with Animals
Binder Park Zoo | 7400 Division Drive, Battle Creek, MI | 269-979-1351
Binder Park Zoo boasts a spectacular African savannah, complete with zebras, cheetahs, giraffes, and of course the lion exhibit! A highlight of the experience here is the feeding station where you can get up close and personal with the giraffes.
The zoo features many other themed areas, including a barnyard and petting zoo. Don’t forget to feed the hungry goats. The zoo is fairly spread out, so be prepared to walk and bring strollers for the little ones. We also recommend packing bug repellant; many visitors encounter mosquitoes in the heavily shaded regions of the zoo.
Dutch Creek Farm Animal Park | 6255 N. 1000 W, Shipshewana, IN | 260-768-7194 ext. 2
A hidden gem for Kalamazoo families. Located just over the Michigan line in Shipshewana, you’ll find Dutch Creek Farm Animal Park. The farm features a wide array of animals to feed and pet. From antelopes to camels, reindeer to zebras, the family will have a chance to see animals that you may have never seen before.
Helpful tips from a reader – bring cash for extra feed for the animals, wear shoes that can get dirty, and bring extra hand sanitizer and hand wipes. A major attraction is the horse-drawn wagon ride where the larger animals come right up to the wagon to greet you.
MOO-ville Creamery | 5815 S M-66 Hwy, Nashville, MI | 517-852-9003
MOO-ville is located in a rural setting in Nashville, and best of all, it’s FREE! The kids can enjoy the petting farm, farm toys, and a giant sandbox in the play yard. Learn about the dairy process with a self-guided tour. Pack a lunch or grab a bite from the cafe. Make sure to save room for their homemade ice cream – a must try is the “Moo-valanche“. This farm is special needs accessible.
Critter Barn | 9275 Adams Street, Zeeland, MI | 616-748-1110
This non-profit farm in Holland is a wonderful reason to hop in the car and make the drive to Holland. You will find pot-bellied pigs, horses, donkeys, and ducks. Don’t forget to spot the little lambs!
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | 1698 M-66, Athens, MI | 269-729-4802
This wildlife sanctuary houses hundreds of rescued reptiles that are able to live comfortably for the remainder of their lives. Check out the alligators, tortoises, lizards, and even birds and fish. The animals vary in age and size, from babies to “Godzilla,” a 30-year-old, ten-foot alligator that weighs over 350 pounds.
The sanctuary offers Animal Encounters – a one-on-one interaction with a staff member and a small animal (alligator or snake). Children will be able to touch, hold, and take pictures.
Scidmore Park Petting Zoo | 112 Spring Street, Three Rivers, MI | 269-273-1845
Make the short drive to Three Rivers to check out a whole menagerie of animals that love attention. See llamas, python snakes, pot-bellied pigs. Don’t forget the rabbits and hedgehogs too. (Open on the weekends).
Kalamazoo Nature Center | Market Barn, 357 W. E Ave, Kalamazoo, MI | 269-381-1574
The Nature Center is a perfect outing for your youngest animal lovers. The drive is short, and you can visit with all of the animals within an hour.
Visit Lacey the Haflinger horse, Neo the pig, and all your farmyard favorites during the summer and weekends through September. There are a variety of Family Programs that focus on animals – Creature Features, Farmyard Wednesdays and other opportunities.
Make sure to stop at DeLano Farms, located on the western portion of the Kalamazoo Nature Center land. This working educational farm features learning gardens and summertime farmyard animals.
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park | 8313 Pratt Lake SE Alto, MI | 616-868-6711
The park boasts a distinct collection of exotic animals and reptiles, with opportunities to get close and feed some of them. The park also provides tours (on a repurposed school bus) to visit ostriches, bison and many other wild animals.
Kellogg Bird Sanctuary | 12685 E C Ave, Augusta | 269-671-2510
Explore three miles of trails and experience a variety of habitats surrounding Wintergreen Lake, the heart of the Sanctuary grounds. Visitors will see a variety of birds that call the sanctuary home: waterfowl (including geese, ducks, and swans), game birds, and raptors are on display year-round.
The trails within the sanctuary are paved and stroller-friendly. Grab a map and a bucket of corn (available for a nominal fee) to feed the waterfowl. The raptors each have their own posted stories worth reading (many have broken wings and therefore cannot return to the wild safely).
Reindeer Ranch | 2921 North 6th Street, Kalamazoo | 269-491-8507
Take guided tours of the Reindeer Ranch farm. Kids will love to visit with reindeer and see the rest of the herd. Book tours (seasonally) online.
Gull Meadow Farms (Fall) | 8544 Gull Road, Richland | 269-629-4214
In the fall, Gull Meadow Farms features a petting zoo as part of their Back Forty exhibit. It includes Shaggy the Scottish Highland Cow, alpacas, and over a dozen goats. Bring quarters to feed the goats. Activities in the Back Forty are generally only open during weekends (we recommend going when they open in the morning) and evenings starting at 4:00 PM.
Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery | 34270 County Road 652, Mattawan, MI | 269-668-2876
This hatchery is home to lake sturgeon, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, northern pike, northern muskellunge, walleye, largemouth bass and a variety of sunfish on over 78 acres of ponds.
For kids, the hatchery can provide a fun outing to feed fish and observe nature. Admission is FREE and hatchery tours are also available upon request.
Must-See Zoos to Visit with the Family
Take your animal lovers to the following family-friendly Zoos – worthy of the excursion.
John Ball Zoo | 1300 Fulton W, Grand Rapids, MI | 616-336-4300
Don’t Miss: Tigers of the Realm, Feeding Budgies (birds), Camel Rides. Check out Twenty Fun Things You Can Do At John Ball Zoo
Potter Park Zoo | 1301 S Pennsylvania Ave, Lansing, MI | 517-483-4222
Don’t Miss: Big Cat & Primate House, Pony Rides. Potter Park Zoo is open year-round.
Toledo Zoo & Aquarium | 2 Hippo Way, Toledo, OH | 419-385-5721
Don’t Miss: Touching aquatic creatures in the Aquarium, “Batu” the Silverback Gorilla, African Elephant exhibit, the ProMedica Museum of Natural History, outdoor Splash Pad.
Detroit Zoo | 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI | 248-541-5717
Don’t Miss: Polk Penguin Conservation Center (over 75 penguins), Arctic Ring of Life (Polar Bears)
Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square | 1730 S Washington Ave, Saginaw, MI | 989-759-1408
Don’t Miss: Black-Footed Penguins, Walkthrough Aviary
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