story by Jamie Rector and Kayte Deioma, photos by Jamie Rector
Not every zoo is a great destination for a rainy day, but the Detroit Zoo has plenty of indoor exhibits to keep the kids entertained and occupied.
Your first stop should be the Ford Education Center. For an extra charge, you can try out the Wild Adventure Simulator, a virtual reality ride offering movement and sound to create an adventure for your senses. There are a variety of different animated simulations that alternate, so depending on when you visit, you may find yourself saving dinosaurs from extinction, searching for life on the bottom of the ocean or seeing the world through the eyes of birds, bees, tigers and other creatures.
Another popular indoor exhibit is the Arctic Ring of Life, the world’s largest Polar Bear exhibit. The exhibit covers over four acres with tundra, open sea and a polar ice pack habitat. Most of the Arctic ring of Life is outside; but indoors you can explore a 70 foot Polar Passage that allows you to walk under and through the sea environment. You’re underwater, but you stay dry! Lumbering polar bears and three varieties of seals swim right over your head. At the end of the Polar Passage is the polar ice pack habitat stocked with Arctic research supplies. Kids can stand in a glass bubble to be surrounded by the seals. The Nunavut Gallery is another indoor part of the Arctic Ring of Life that transitions visitors from the tundra to the underwater environment. The Gallery features stone sculptures and other art by Inuit artists.
The award-winning Amphibiville is populated with hundreds of amphibians like frogs and salamanders, some living on two acres of outdoor wetlands, and others in recreated environments inside the National Amphibian Conservation Center. The intricately constructed exhibits in the Center are inhabited by creatures from around the world. Some of the indoor habitats are created with glass walls to the outside so you can see what’s going on in the outdoor habitat, even if you’re staying inside out of the rain. Even if it’s not raining outside, it might be raining in the Immersion Gallery where you can walk through a recreated environment that may be experiencing rain or fog.
The Wildlife Interpretive Gallery is housed in the zoo’s oldest building which is 10,000 square feet of interactive displays, wildlife theatre, video and multi-media to draw in visitors for a fun way to learn about the animals and nature. There is also an exhibit hall within that offers rotating exhibits.
The Butterfly Garden offers first hand experience with a wide range of beautiful butterflies from Costa Rica and El Salvador. The Holden Reptile Museum houses the zoo’s reptile collection. The Penguinarium also offers a covered climate-controlled display of a variety of breeds of the ice bound birds.
If you get a break from the weather, there are even more opportunities around the park. Strollers and wheelchairs are available for rent. The Mini Railroad is good for taking a load off tired feet for the whole family or moving around the park.