Boulder Ridge Zoo: Wild Animal Park & Safari Walkthrough

Boulder Ridge Zoo Trip Planner

Boulder Ridge Zoo is a Wild Animal Park

One of the coolest local places to get close to animals is Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto MI. This zoo is located 30 minutes southwest of downtown Grand Rapids and officially opens for the season on May 1, 2024.

Park owners Dave and Dawn Hoekstra began collecting and breeding animals in the 90s and have been slowly building enclosures and attractions ever since. (They opened 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.

boulder ridge zoo baby animals

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.

Animals at Boulder Ridge Park

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.

Boulder Ridge rhinos

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!

In 2022 penguins and two rhino sisters joined the zoo family.

They also have camels, monkeys, zebras, ostriches, alligators and crocodiles, snakes, lizards, kangaroo, wildebeest, a wide variety of birds, and a petting zoo.

And more of our favorite animals:

Emu at Boulder Ridge Zoo Grand Rapids

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.

Photo: Emu at Boulder Ridge

Squirrel Monkeys

Squirrel Monkeys

Boulder Ridge Attractions & Activities

As mentioned, animal feeding is one of the fun things to do at Boulder Ridge. There are many other ways cool things to check out when your visit beyond hanging out with the critters. Take a look!

*Some attractions require a fee.

boulder ridge gem mining

Gem Mining

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.

Gem mining activity Grand Rapids Boulder Ridge

Each bag is guaranteed to have a few treasures, but contents (and the amount of treasures) vary by bag.

When the treasures have been revealed, kids can use the gem identification card to ID their new gems.

safari walk boulder ridge zoo

Safari Walk

Boulder Ridge replaced their Safari ride with a Safari walk in 2022 season.

Visitors now get to walk through the far-reaches of the zoo on an elevated, paved walking trail through the woods.

Benches along the pathway allow for frequent breaks.

Boulder Ridge has quite a few Zebras

The safari walk is the only way to see the back of the property and all the animals who live out there like bison, buffalo, antelope, wildebeest, hyenas and zebras.

Boulder Ridge has quite a few Zebras. You may even see a baby zebra!

Feeding the Animals

One of the best features of the park: they let you feed many of the animals!

boulder ridge giraffe

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.

You can feed the alligators at Boulder Ridge

Alligators: Bring quarters so you can buy pellet food to toss to the gators from the bridge.

boulder ridge kangaroos

Feeding the kangaroos

Petting Zoo: There is no fee to enter the petting zoo.

boulder ridge zoo petting farm

Feed: Lettuce and carrots are available for purchase to feed the petting zoo giraffes, camels, goats, and more.

boulder ridge zoo camels

Camels: The camels are feisty and will compete with each other to get your handouts.

feeding birds at boulder ridge aviary

Aviary: 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.

kiddie train at boulder ridge

Kids Train

Kids ride the kiddie train for $4 each. This ride lasts a few minutes and takes the passengers in a small circle.

Keeper Talks at Boulder Ridge

Keeper Talks

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.

boulder ridge playground


Multiple playgrounds, perfect for different ages, are located inside of the park.

Map of Boulder Ridge Zoo

boulder ridge wild animal park map

This zoo is walkable and small compared to a place like the Detroit Zoo.

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 in the main area and do a couple of feeding stations.

Special Events at Boulder Ridge Zoo

Lots of special events are coming your way at Boulder Ridge this summer.

Park Before Dark is Boulder Ridge Zoo's Halloween Event. Photo: Boulder Ridge

Halloween: Park Before Dark

Park Before Dark is Boulder Ridge’s end-of-year Halloween Event.

In 2024, Park Before Dark will be held October 12-13 from 10 AM – 6 PM each day.


Boulder Ridge concessions

Concessions: A picnic area, concessions stand and gift shop are among the amenities offered at Boulder Ridge.

boulder ridge picnic and concessions

Bring Your Own Food: 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.

boulder ridge gift shop

The gift store is brimming with candy, stuffed animals, t-shirts, and other souvenirs.

Admission Information

Boulder Ridge Zoo (Wild Animal Park)
8313 Pratt Lake SE, Alto, MI 49302

The park is open spring through fall (consult their website for specific opening and closing days).

boulder ridge wild animal park sign

Open Hours

  • Monday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Last admission is at 5 pm.

boulder ridge kids train

Boulder Ridge Zoo Cost

Admission rates for 2024 are as follows:

  • Adults 12 & over: $20.00
  • Seniors 62 & over: 18.00
  • Ages 3-11: 16.00
  • Ages 2 & under: FREE

Memberships are also available. Build a membership: $60 per adult, $40 per child ages 3-17.

3 thoughts on “Boulder Ridge Zoo: Wild Animal Park & Safari Walkthrough”

  1. Pingback: Ultimate Kalamazoo Summer Fun Guide - 101 Ideas for Families - Michigan Family Fun

  2. I recently viewed a Michigan Destination program featuring your park that I did not know existed. It certainly looks like a great place to visit. I assume if one uses your address, can put it in the Garmin to get direction there sometime after early May. We live in the Brighton area so it would be a nice day.

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