Mitten List: Binder Park Zoo (Or “That Time I Went to Africa. In Michigan.”)

May 19, 2015

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This post is from my series of posts about all the places I visit, the things I do, the food I eat, and, of course, the beer I drink here in the Mitten State. To see the full list of things I’d like to do and things I’ve already done here in Michigan, check out my Mitten List.

Have you ever kind of really wanted to go on an African safari?

But you’re kind of really scared of the things that might happen to you if you went on an African safari? Like being charged by rhinos or being eaten alive by lions or getting malaria or getting your hair all messed up from riding around in a Jeep all day?

Well, I have the answer for you!

It’s Michigan!

(I have a feeling that was not the answer you were expecting.)

A few weeks ago when my friend, Katie, came to visit we went to the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek and it was almost exactly like going on an African safari.

There was a grassland full of grazing giraffes and zebras.

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Authentic African animals!

There were signs warning us of the dangers of poachers and dung beetles.


Authentic African dung beetle signs!

And there were Dippin’ Dots!


Authentic African cuisine!

They have those in Africa, right?

(I should probably mention here that I’ve never actually been to Africa. At least, not the part of Africa where they might have safaris. I’ve only been to Morocco, where there was much more danger of being coerced into buying a ridiculous rug than being trampled by rhinos.)

(I didn’t get coerced into buying a ridiculous rug.)

(I did, however, get coerced into buying an even more ridiculous brass tea table and a goat skin lamp, though.)



Back to the zoo.

So, the Binder Park Zoo is split into two parts.

There’s the Michigan part of the zoo which is very nice and pleasant, but is pretty much like most normal zoos. There were sleepy kangaroos and even sleepier red pandas and something called “Swamp Adventure,” with lots of weird signs warning us about fungus.


Ummm…. okay.

My favorite part about the Michigan part of the zoo were the prairie dogs. Probably because I have a weird obsession with prairie dogs and every time I see them I just want to shove them all in my purse and take them home with me BECAUSE OMIGOD SO CUTE.



(Kidding. I would totally never steal prairie dogs from a zoo.)

(Unless, you know the prairie dog accidentally just walked into my purse, and I didn’t even know it was in there until I got home. That wouldn’t be considered stealing, right?)


Oh yes, the two parts of the zoo.

So the second part of the zoo is the Africa part. Which is the best part of the zoo because I like pretending I’ve traveled to a completely different continent when I’m really only thirty minutes away from my apartment.

First, in order to get to Africa, you need to take a zebra-print tram.


Don’t you kind of wish this was how you could get to real Africa? I mean planes just seem so boring and blah. If you’re going all the way to Africa, shouldn’t you ride on something a bit more snazzy with animal print?

Upon arriving in Africa, we were greeted by a Customs and Immigration Office. Which was the most pleasant customs and immigration experience I’ve ever had seeing as it did not involve my filling out any forms or being questioned by anyone or really doing anything besides having a dorky photo of myself taken beside it.

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We were also greeted by a sign that informed us that we were probably going to be eaten alive by animals.

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Which I thought was a joke, until I attempted to feed a giraffe.

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Okay, so I’m pretty sure the giraffe could not have eaten me alive, but, you guys, THAT TONGUE!

There’s really no telling what kind of damage that thing could have done to me, had I not been a complete pansy and just started throwing lettuce leaves at it, so it would get away from me already.

In addition to the zebras and the giraffe and its tongue-of-terror, Africa was inhabited by a number of monkeys, domesticated cattle and the grouchiest tortoise ever.


Not a happy camper.

You guys, this thing actually growled at us! I didn’t even know tortoises were capable of making noise — let alone scary, angry growly noises.

Our final stop in Africa was the gift shop. Where all manner of authentic African goods were available.

Like, thingamabobs.

DSC08004And poo.


And while both seemed mighty tempting, I’ve already learned my lesson about buying ridiculous souvenirs in Africa.

Besides, I needed to keep my hands free so I could steal all the prairie dogs.

(So kidding! You know I wouldn’t steal those prairie dogs, right?)

(But I wouldn’t stop them from walking into my hands. I mean, a prairie dog wants what a prairie dog wants. And maybe a prairie dog wants to come home with me forever and ever and ever and be my best prairie dog buddy.)



What’s your favorite zoo that you’ve ever visited?


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On May 19, 2015 at 11:59 am Ken C. said:

    Ha! At my last job, they’d give you “poo” for free. Sometimes even if you didn’t want any. Some of the supervisors were full of it [full of poo, that is].

    I’d much prefer a snazzy Moroccan rug.

    We had visitors last month, and took them to the San Diego Zoo. The new elephant habitat had been completed since our last visit. We really enjoy zoos.

  2. On May 20, 2015 at 3:22 am Leslie in Oregon said:

    Ever since I spent a month roaming the East African bush (at a time when humans were in cages and the animals roamed free), I haven’t wanted to get anywhere near a zoo.

    If you want a really great garden here, you can purchase “zoo doo” (elephant poo) for it.

  3. On May 20, 2015 at 11:48 pm Priya said:

    Oh man. I forgot about Dippin’ Dots!! Best. Thing. ever.
    Priya recently posted..3 Tips For Going “Clubbing” When You’re An Introvert

    • On May 28, 2015 at 6:07 pm Sally said:

      Really?? I always thought they were kind of a disappointment. I don’t know. I guess I feel if it’s the “ice cream of the future” it should be much more futuristic. Like with crazy colors and flavors and maybe flying bits. Is that really too much to ask? 🙂

  4. On May 25, 2015 at 10:33 am Daina said:

    I’ve seen the signs for Binder Park Zoon a thousand times, but have never been — thanks for filling me in. Now I feel like I don’t have to go :), unless maybe to take my niece & nephew. BTW, I love giraffes!!
    Daina recently posted..Baltic Countries Advance to Eurovision Final

    • On May 28, 2015 at 6:04 pm Sally said:

      If you love giraffes, than you really HAVE to go. I mean, you get to FEED THE FREAKING GIRAFFE. It was great. And kind of scary (I mean, that tongue). But mostly great.

  5. On June 10, 2015 at 2:08 am Ron said:

    Another great reason to love and be thankful for Michigan. What I mean is, you don’t have to go out far to witness and experience amazing stuff and things, Michigan almost have it all. Right? 🙂
    Ron recently posted..12 Fascinating Facts About Michigan That You Probably Didn’t Know But You Should!


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