|Boulder Ridge Zoo (Wild Animal Park)|
8313 Pratt Lake SE, Alto, MI 49302
Boulder Ridge Zoo is a Wild Animal Park
Park owners Dave and Dawn Hoekstra began collecting and breeding animals in the 90s and have been slowly building enclosures and attractions ever since.
Their Boulder Ridge Zoo opened to the public in 2011.
That’s great because one of my favorite things to do in the spring and summer is visiting the zoo. My kids love watching animals, too, and it’s a big bonus when they can get up close and personal with them. This is where Boulder Ridge shines. There are so many animal interactions here.
In fact, many of my friends were surprised to hear that Boulder Ridge has giraffes – and that you can feed them!
Another Boulder Ridge Zoo bonus is that the walkways are paved and on mostly flat ground.
This makes it easy to maneuver strollers and wheelchairs. There are also several covered picnic areas so you can easily pack lunches and eat them there.
Boulder Ridge Animals
Boulder Ridge has a wide variety of unique animals. (Some animals here also can be found at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, but actually, each of these zoos is quite different from the other.)
I’ve seen some animals here that I haven’t seen in other places like lovebirds, kookaburras, hyenas, and blue-tongued skinks.
In fact, Boulder Ridge has over 1,500 animals on-site, representing 180 species.
And yes, Boulder Ridge does have giraffes that you can feed!
They also have camels, monkeys, zebras, ostriches, alligators and crocodiles, snakes, lizards, kangaroo, wildebeest, a wide variety of birds, and a petting zoo.
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park cares for many threatened animal species, too. The park protects them from predators, habitat loss, and human threats.
Look here to see a complete list of the 1500+ animals at Boulder Ridge Zoo.
And read on to see some of our favorite animals:
Boulder Ridge Attractions & Activities
As mentioned, you can feed some of the animals here. But there are many other ways to stay occupied on your visit.
Some attractions are free, others require a fee.
Another extra activity the kids can do is “mine” for gemstones. The day that we went, gem mining was included with admission as an extra perk.
Otherwise, kids will purchase the large bag containing a mixture of sand, pea gravel, and gems.
They take it over to the “river” and pan it like miners to find the hidden treasures inside of it.
Each bag is guaranteed to have a few treasures, but contents (and the amount of treasures) vary by bag.
After the mining is over, kids can use the gem identification card to ID their new treasures.
Admission includes a safari ride on a converted school bus.
The safari is the only way to see the rest of the property and all the animals who live out there like bison, buffalo, antelope, wildebeest, hyenas and zebras.
The buses are open-air and include a narrated tour with stops along the way. Visitors are not allowed to walk these paths.
I didn’t time the safari ride but it was just long enough for me to rest my legs but not so long that the kids got bored. My guess? 20 minutes.
Feeding the Animals
*Note that you are NOT allowed to feed the animals any of your own food or concessions. It is only safe for them to eat animal food sold at the zoo.
Petting Zoo: Lettuce and carrots are available for purchase in order to feed the giraffes, camels, goats, and more.
Giraffes: My favorite is feeding the giraffes. They come right up to the chain-link gate so they are literally right there. You will have to lift your small children up in order for the giraffes to be able to reach the lettuce.
Camels: The camels are feisty and will compete with each other to get your handouts.
Alligators: Bring quarters so you can buy pellet food to toss to the gators from the bridge.
Along with feed for the animals, there are a few other extras you can purchase.
Kids can ride the kiddie train for $4 each.
This ride lasts a few minutes and takes the passengers in a small circle.
As mentioned, one of the best features of the park is the ability to feed many of the animals.
Purchase a seed stick (3 for $5) and go into the parakeet aviary and feed the birds.
They are not shy and will literally swarm you!
It is free to enter the aviary. There is only a charge if you’d like to feed the birds.
Boulder Ridge Zoo keeper talks are scheduled weekly and posted on their website.
Listen to the keepers talk about their animals’ care, diets, and lifestyles. You can ask them questions about the animals, too.
On our visit in late July 2021, there was one playground open (see photo below) and another larger playground for bigger kids under construction.
Boulder Ridge Zoo Map
This zoo is walkable and small compared to a place like the Detroit Zoo.
The yellow path on the map below shows the safari route – pedestrians are not allowed to walk this area.
The remaining part of the zoo is available to explore on foot.
How long does it take to go through Boulder Ridge Zoo? It depends on how long you spend at each activity, and which activities you choose to do. Many families that do everything will spend 3 or more hours at the zoo. Plan at least 90 minutes to be able to see all of the exhibits, take the safari ride, and do a couple of feeding stations.
Boulder Ridge Halloween
Park Before Dark at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park
The Park Before Dark is Boulder Ridge’s end-of-year Halloween Event.
It typically runs for several days in the middle of October.
Check their events calendar for up-to-date information. At this time (August 2021) no Park Before Dark information for 2021 has been released.
Picnic Areas, Concessions & Gift Shop
You are welcome to bring a picnic or snacks from home, or purchase food at the concession stand in the park.
There are several covered eating areas for you to enjoy.
There is also a gift store with candy, stuffed animals, t-shirts, and other souvenirs.
Admission & Hours
The park is open spring through fall (consult their website for specific opening and closing days).
- Monday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
- Sunday: 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Last admission is at 5 pm.
How much does it cost to get into Boulder Ridge Zoo? Admission rates for 2021 are as follows:
- Ages 2 & under: FREE
- Ages 3-11: 12.00
- Adults 12 & over: $16.00
- Seniors 62 & over: 14.00
Memberships are also available. Build a membership: $50 per adult, $30 per child ages 3-17.