West Michigan Zoos & Animal Encounters

Explore West Michigan’s wild side with these nature centers, farms, zoos, and other animal encounters!

Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, both inside the nature center and out. There are several different habitats throughout Sarett’s property which provide homes to many different types of native species. Inside the nature center, you will find over twenty species of animals to view up close. Visitors can also walk-through a netted garden, home to hundreds of butterflies in the summer.

Home to hundreds of reptiles, the alligator sanctuary in Athens in Coldwater Country is a must-see destination. Visitors will enjoy daily guided tours and animal interactions. Walk through the swamp, feed your favorite gator, or just watch them bask in the sun and swim in this reptile paradise.

Have a great day trip to Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek where you can get up close with the giraffes. You can even feed them face to face on the deck in Wild Africa. 

Take a walk around the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Augusta to spot many different species of wild birds and get a close-up look at the sanctuary’s resident waterfowl and birds of prey. The grounds and trails around Wintergreen Lake are open to visitors Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Buildings, including restrooms, are temporarily closed. On the second Wednesday of each month, join sanctuary staff online for an in-depth chat about some birds of the season. The free Birds and Coffee Chats are held on Zoom and begin at 10:00 am.

Take a Virtual Stroll with Nature and learn about grasshoppers and crickets with Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, August 5th, 10:00 am-11:00 am. Explore how and why the musicians of the insect world make their unique sounds. This program will be live-streamed through Zoom so participants have the opportunity to interact with and ask questions of the program leader.  

Located on 80 acres of land in Alto, Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park is a unique, hands-on experience for the entire family. The park boasts a distinct collection of exotic animals and reptiles, and the variety and dynamic atmosphere make Boulder Ridge anything but your average zoo.

Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo, Michigan’s fourth-most-visited cultural facility, is open with new health protocols designed to keep both you and the animals safer. Reserve your timed tickets online, then enjoy meeting more than 2,200 animals from around the globe, including tigers, lions, grizzly bears, chimpanzees, penguins, and red pandas – now the proud parents of three adorable cubs. Keep your eyes peeled for BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise – 40+ life-sized animal sculptures made with over 1.8 million individually colored building bricks. All this and more awaits you at John Ball Zoo!

Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids is home to a number of animals, including owls, hawks, turtles, a bobcat and more. Blandford’s Wildlife Ambassador animals permanently live at the center due to severe injuries and now help educate students and give families a close-up view not often seen in outdoor exploration.

Where can you go to have lots of hands-on fun this summer? Zeeland’s Critter Barn is filled with growing baby animals, visitors, and lots of classes. Each year, thousands of children and youth join in Farm Classes and Field Trips that teach about feeding, handling, and caring for farm animals. These programs provide entertaining lessons and interactive learning experiences that focus on farm life and how our food is raised: “from the ground to the table.” Help collect eggs, try milking a goat, or hand-feed corn to the hens. 

Get up close and interact with the animals inside their enclosures with the zookeeper at Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo in New Era. Slow down with Brook and Sid, the resident sloths, hop in to meet the kangaroos, or feed baby camel Coco his bottle. And be sure to stop by August 8th for Jeffrey the camel’s 13th Birthday Party & Corn Roast!

Take a trip to the farm and meet the cows, heifers, and calves of Country Dairy in New Era. Schedule your tour by calling 231-861-4636 x119 or emailing

Horseback riding lessons are available at Paradise Ranch at Dunes Harbor Family Camp in Mears, a ministry of Grace Adventures, for kids ages 7 and up! Their friendly and professional instructors will help beginners through advanced riders with proper western horsemanship. Riding lessons are available in 1, 2, or 3 hour blocks. They offer lessons both if you own your own horse, or they will provide a horse to ride. Paradise Ranch is located in Mears, one mile from the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Schedule a riding lesson!

With 5,000 acres to explore, Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire offers a variety of options to just get outside and be one with nature. Grab a pair of hiking boots, walking shoes, or even a bicycle to enjoy the on-site trails at the resort. Or, head just 3 ½ miles down the road from the resort to Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area. Enjoy the 750 acres that make up this combined trail system suited for hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing.

Since opening to the public in 1997, Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry of Michigan’s UP has grown tremendously, both in size and in bears. With lots of room to roam, these rescued bears are given a chance to continue their lives in natural habitats and comfort.