No matter how you slice it, Detroiters love the zoo.
By Halloween, 1,478,760 people had visited the zoo, and that still leaves two months to go.
It’s the second year in a row the zoo has had record-breaking attendance.
This year’s attendance beat out last year’s total of 1,476,378 visitors, which went above and beyond the previous record from 1997 of 1,364,905. All these numbers are part of an 11-year trend of more than a million people showing up each year.
“We’ve had a great year so far,” said Detroit Zoological Society Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan. “We appreciate the nearly one and a half million visitors who have already supported the Detroit Zoo this year, not only with their feet by walking our 125 acres but also with their votes on the millage renewal in August.”
One of the things that may have pushed the guest is the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center, which has drawn in people from Detroit and the rest of the world. Since its opening in April, it has been the largest penguin habitat on Earth. Its 33,000-square-foot facility features a 326,000-gallon and a 25-foot-deep aquatic area where visitors can watch as more than 80 penguins of four species explore their habitat.
More than one million visitors saw those pudgy flightless birds in the first six months the exhibit was open.
Still to come this year is an event that will drive that number up more. Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo starts on November 18. This holiday display of 200 animal sculptures, buildings, and more, illuminated by five million LED lights, is expected to bring in 150,000 people during its 29-night run. You can purchase tickets here for $10. It’s $13 at the gate. The show display is November 18-20, 25-27; December 1-4, 8-11, 15-23, 26-31 and is open 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sun or snow, the zoo not only seems to have a special place in the hearts of Detroit, but also a growing one.
– Lead photo by Jennie Miller