Potter Park Zoo Planner: 13 Reasons to Visit this Lansing Zoo, Plus 4 Trip Tips

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Experience Potter Park Zoo in all of its Splendor

Potter Park Zoo is a hidden gem in the heart of Lansing and it’s a blast to visit all year long – spring, summer, fall, and yes, even winter!

The many fun events and learning opportunities Potter Park Zoo offer are a gift to all that visit.

As a kid, I remember thinking Potter Park Zoo was a hidden oasis, reserved for precious moments with my family.

Now, as an adult, I’m thankful for the way they not only create year-round opportunities for kids but plan community events for the public.

I’m so glad that Potter Park Zoo is right here, accessible for all Lansing families, and families from farther away, to enjoy.

Viewing the Otters at Potter Park Zoo

Potter Park Zoo is Worth Exploring Year-Round

Did you know there’s more to Potter Park Zoo than hoping animals look your way and engage with your family?

You can become a zookeeper for a day, feed animals, and even have a slumber party!

Read on to find out why Potter Park Zoo is worth visiting year-round + tips for your next visit.

Fall at Potter Park Zoo

One of Lansing’s favorite events of the season is Boo at The Zoo.

Trick-or-treat through the grounds, wear your costume, ride the wagon, and go through the straw maze.

The fall season is one of our family’s favorites because the weather is perfect for a leisurely stroll through the zoo.

Boo at the Zoo is held at Potter Park Zoo over several days in October

Winter at Potter Park Zoo

Winter means FREE parking at Potter Park Zoo.

We love FREE, plus during the wintertime, the animals are very active.

The beloved event Wonderland of Lights is another bonus for this time of year.

The whole zoo is covered in lights, reflecting the wonder of the season. It helps get us excited for the holidays.

For guests 21+, winter time brings Zoo Nights with Lights, a casual happy hour-style event featuring holiday music and décor. Be sure to dress for the weather!

Potter Park Zoo Wonderland of Lights Kids Lansing
Wonderland of Lights at Potter Park Zoo

Spring at Potter Park Zoo

Spring means it’s time for Night at a Living Museum.

Night at the Museum is an event where families get to explore all kinds of museums and destinations in the evening with interactive family activities.

Summer at Potter Park Zoo

Summer zoo visits mean a full day of fun.

Walking the grounds in the warm sun, taking a camel ride, having a picnic, playing on the playground, and summer camps are all a “go” during the summer season at Potter Park Zoo.

potter park zoo, zoo, kids at zoo, zoo entrance
Potter Park Zoo is fun for children of all ages.

13 Reasons to Visit Potter Park Zoo

No matter the day of the year, if you’re looking to get the kids out and have a good time – Potter Park Zoo is clutch.

It’s a guaranteed good day out. Yes, it may require a bit of prep and planning but it’s so darn worth it.

Here are some things you’ll love:


Zoo in Your Neighborhood

Throughout peak months, you’ll enjoy Zoo in Your Neighborhood, an interactive event that includes presentations, animal facts, artifacts, and more!

Potter Park Zoo story time live animals downtown Lansing kids
Interactive exhibit at Potter Park Zoo

Monday Mornings are FREE at Potter Park Zoo

If you’re an Ingham County resident, you get FREE admission to the Zoo every Monday between open and 12 PM with the exception of holiday Mondays.

Parking is $3 during peak months and FREE during winter (off-peak.)

A little “joey” posing for a picture at Potter Park Zoo

Animal Meet & Greets

Get up close and personal with your favorite animals.

If you or your little one have dreamed about working closely with animals these encounters are a perfect way to start. Choose from Big Cats, Otters, Penguins or the Black Rhino. These encounters book months in advance. Reserve your experience today!


Summer Camp at the Zoo

Enjoy some of the wildest weeks of your summer at Potter Park Zoo’s Zookambi Summer Camp program. PRO TIP: These fill up quickly so keep an eye out for next year’s information to drop early in the year.

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One of the Kings of the Jungle resides at Potter Park Zoo


Designed to allow children and adults with special needs and unique challenges access to the zoo along with their families. This program is seriously AMAZING.

Through a sponsorship received, there will be one sensory-friendly event per month through the end of year! Many of these events include hands-on activities. There will also be sensory friendly nights for Boo at the Zoo and Wonderland of Lights.

BONUS: Potter Park is certified Sensory Inclusive. Look for signage throughout the zoo where you can pick up sensory bags or headphones, and for areas deemed “quiet zones”.


Stay Overnight with the Animals

A friend of mine likes to fish by the river close to the zoo and explained how the animal sounds he heard were a priceless experience!

So, when I learned that you could spend the night at Potter Park zoo, I could only imagine what kind of sound you’d hear and how it would be such a unique experience.

I’ve added “spend the night at the zoo” this to my bucket list for sure! Have you done this? If so, let us know how went by commenting below.


Events are Special on Potter Park Zoo Grounds

Dress up for Boo at the Zoo, bundle up during Wonderland of Lights, and relax through the year during Zoo Nights, plus many additional fun outings.

You can also hold your special event, birthday party, or even wedding on their grounds. Details here.


You and Your Kids Can Volunteer

Spend time with the animals in a way you’ve never experienced before.

Volunteering is so helpful to Potter Park Zoo but it always blesses us more when we give – bringing extra joy to our lives. If you love animals and nature – you should consider. No experience necessary.


Camel Rides

The camel rides are a big hit with my kids. And if I am honest, I love it just as much as they do because their smiling faces light up as they circle around.

Riders 2 and older welcome. Ages 2 through 4 must have a paying adult rider with them. $7 per rider. For an additional $7, you can purchase a souvenir photo. Be sure to say hi to Molly, Maple, and Joy for us.

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Camel ride at Potter Park Zoo

Stop by the Petting Zoo

The petting zoo is another highlight. You can pet the goats and say hi to the other farm animals like pigs and llamas.

For a quarter you’ll get a handful of food to feed the goats.

Using a hand-brush to brush one of Potter Park Zoo’s goat friends

It’s a Great Bonding Experience

Going to the zoo is a great way to bond with all ages.

It’s interactive, active, and Potter Park Zoo has a lot of places along their pathways where families can sit down, talk, and play together.


The Zoo is Constantly Getting New Exhibits

Have you visited the red panda, ring-tailed lemur, or the black rhino exhibits? The zoo adds new animals through its conservancy program.

Potter Park loves sharing this with families and also gives the opportunity for you to adopt some of them!


The Playground

The Potter Park Zoo playground is outside of their grounds and can be accessed anytime for free! Park in their parking lot or walk/ride up on your bikes.

It’s located along the Lansing River Trail and has a variety of play areas for different ages and play levels.

Potter Park Zoo Trip Tips

True confessions – these are here because I’ve made the mistake of NOT doing them.

Let’s just say these times weren’t our favorite visits to the zoo but with little tweaks and a bit of planning, Potter Park Zoo trips are now high on our list of year-round fun.

Here are 4 things that will help make your next trip to Potter Park Zoo less stressful, more fun, and a nice treat for your whole family:

1) Pack Snacks and Water 
No matter the time of day or how many times we go to the zoo – snacks are always a plus. Lots of walking means hungry tummies. The days I have snacks ready tend to be the most enjoyable trips.

2) Take a Bathroom Break at the Entrance When You Arrive
Head to the bathroom as soon as you walk through the gate. Many times we’ve been far out by barnyard and I’ll hear the dreaded phrase “I HAVE TO GO POTTY!” Rushing back to the nearest bathroom can be avoided most times if we try to go first thing.

3) Bring a Small Diaper Bag or Umbrella Stroller
Grab your mini-diaper bag or mini-stroller with compartments. There’s nothing wrong with the big bags and big strollers (I love them!), but when you’re dealing with crowds and multiple kiddos it’s so much easier to be as hands-free as possible.

4) Consider Getting a Potter Park Zoo Membership
I love having memberships to key places like Potter Park Zoo because it frees up time and lets us go for shorter visits more often.

Potter Park Zoo members get perks at over 100 other zoos and aquariums around the country, including FREE admission to John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids and half-off admission to the Detroit Zoo.

If you visit several zoos in a year with your family, the membership pays for itself!

We used our Potter Park Zoo Membership to get in free at John Ball Zoo

Hours, Parking, & Admission

Hours of Operation

Potter Park Zoo is open 364 days a year! Be sure to check Potter Park Zoo’s website before heading out to see if any beloved animal exhibits are closed.

April 1 – Labor Day9 AM – 5 PM daily
Day After Labor Day – October 319 AM – 4 PM on weekdays and 9 AM – 5 PM on weekends
November 1 – March 3110 AM – 4 PM daily


April 1 – October 31*Resident – $3 / Annual Parking Pass – $35
Non-Resident – $5 / Annual Parking Pass – $45
School Bus Parking – Free
November 1 – March 31All parking is free

* Resident refers to anyone living in Ingham County
* Oversize vehicle rates same as all other vehicles


Entry tickets can be purchased online before your visit or you can purchase tickets at the gate. NOTE: Any special discounts, free admission days, etc. require tickets to be purchased at the gate.

April – October*Resident – $8
Non-Resident – $15
*Resident Senior (age 60+) or Military – $6
Non-Resident Senior (age 60+) or Non-Resident Military – $13
All Children (ages 3-12) – $5
All Children Under 3 – Free
November – MarchAll Adults – $5
All Children (ages 3-12) – $4
All Children Under 3 – Free

*Resident refers to anyone living in Ingham County.
*Kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
*Residents are admitted on non-holiday Mondays from 9AM – 12PM for FREE.

Why Do You Love Potter Park Zoo?

We’d love to hear from you! What does your family like best about a visit to Potter Park Zoo?

Our favorite animals are the otters. Otters seem not to have a care in the world. It’s fun to make these types of observations with my kids.

Although we love hanging out with the animals at Potter Park, I don’t think my family could be like the one in the movie “We Bought a Zoo.” That’s why I’m so grateful to Potter Park Zoo for the care they take with animals and for giving us access to the gift of wildlife in the heart of our city.

Have fun on your next visit to Potter Park Zoo!

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Camel Rides are offered at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, MI

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