Potter Park Zoo

30 05 2009
  • 1301 S. Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Lansing, MI 48912
  • (517) 483-4222
  • Website
Potter Park Zoo on Pennsylvania Avenue in Lansing.

Potter Park Zoo on Pennsylvania Avenue in Lansing.

Last year, J and I did a lot of exploring on the day of the “Be A Tourist In Your Own Town” event.  The first place we went was the Potter Park Zoo.  Both J and I have fond memories of trips to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo from our childhood.  The Potter Park Zoo isn’t quite comparable, but the day we spent there was a lot of fun and something we were looking forward to for this year’s “Be A Tourist..”

The Potter Park Zoo is on Pennsylvania Avenue on the banks of the Red Cedar River.  On a normal day, you would have to pay for parking then pay to get in.  Since we’ve made both our trips on the “Be A Tourist….” day, we’ve gotten both fees waived with our passports.  From Pennsylvania, you drive down a long driveway before hitting the parking lot. 

This year, the parking lot was packed.  We drove around for a while before we found a spot.  We also timed it just right with a CATA bus.  They had just dropped off a load of people, so when we got up the ticket window to show our passports, there was a line.  Even without having to pay, it took about ten minutes to get in. 

Once inside, we were a little surprised by just how nice it was.  When we lived in Peoria, we visited the Glen Oak Zoo on several occasions.  At one point in the 1980’s, that zoo was named “Worst Zoo in America.”  They’ve done some work since then, but it’s still not really anything special.  The Potter Park Zoo is set in a gorgeous natural setting with concrete walkways.  The big difference between Potter Park and the one in Peoria is that they’ve preserved a lot of the foliage.  It sounds like a no-brainer for a zoo located in a park, but you’d be surprised.

A flightless bald ealge on loan from the US Dept. of Interior.

A flightless bald ealge on loan from the US Dept. of Interior.

There were a lot of people at the Zoo today which was nice to see, but it also meant we had to navigate around a lot of little kids running around and strollers.  One of the first exhibits we came across was the bald eagle enclosure.  They have two flightless female bald eagles on loan from the US Department of Interior.  I’ve seen bald eagles in the wild, but never up close before.  They’re really magnificent birds.

A couple birds from the Birds from Down Under exhibit.

A couple birds from the Wings from Down Under exhibit.

We weaved our way back to their new exhibit, Wings from Down Under which is a steel enclosure with over 400 Grass Parakeats, Cockatiels, and Eastern Rosellas.  You actually walk into the exhibit and can interact with the birds.  For $1.00 they were selling feed sticks where the birds could actually land on them while you held them in your hand.  We didn’t do it, but there was a family with a couple little ones who were having a blast with the birds landing on dad’s hand.

One of the peacocks before making his escape.

One of the peacocks before making his escape.

After walking around a little more, we came to an exhibit with ducks, geese, and peacocks.  This provided for the funniest moment of the day.  There’s a building next to the habitat that both peacocks flew up to.  At first, they were jut on a ledge.  Then they were on the fence.  Then they jumped to the building and before we knew it, they made a break for it and were out of the exhibit area.  They startled some of the little kids running around with their loud screeches.  One of them eventually made their way to one of the concession stands and walked right into the middle of a group of people.  One kid kept getting his legs whacked with the peacocks tail. 

A couple meerkats from the Potter Park Zoo.

A couple meerkats from the Potter Park Zoo.

Speaking of the concession stand, there are two located on the grounds.  One is by the entrance.  The other is near the lion cage.  The interesting thing, to me anyway, is that they don’t give lids or straws with the pop.  That’s got to be hard for kids, but they do have a good reason.  They don’t want the plastic to end up in the wrong stomachs.  The fare is pretty much what you’ expect from a concession stand.  Hot dogs, etc.  Near the camel enclosure, J found a cotton candy stand and picked up a bag for a buck. 

I know when I post this, I’m going to get people who talk down the Potter Park Zoo and tell me I should go to Detroit, Grand Rapids, or Battle Creek.  It always happens.  The thing is, we really liked Potter Park.  Sure, they don’t have the huge exhibits and they have a limited number of animals, for a town Lansing’s size, I think they have a wonderful setup and it’s a great place to take the family….at least if you live in Ingham County (prices for non-county residents are a little steep).   I really do think Potter Park Zoo is a wonderful asset for the the City of Lansing.

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One response

4 08 2009
Jessica C.

Thank you for this wonderful post! I am a volunteer animal trainer at the zoo and I have heard a lot of people talk down about Potter Park due to its size and lack of animals. But there are some extremely wonderful things about this zoo that a lot of people do not realize. There is a lot of opportunity for teens and college students alike to get animal and zoo experience. In the summers, there is a teen keeper program and throughout the school year and summers, college students have the opportunity to intern or complete an independent study for credit (and after, can volunteer). Because this zoo is smaller, students get more hands on experience with the animals. For the small area Potter Park has, they make up for it in variety of species and things to do. So thanks again for your description!

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