The new space is going to be one of the most popular spaces at the Detroit Zoo this summer and the years to come, but is it worth taking your kids to see the new space now that it's open? I was able to check it out before it opened to the public, and think there are dozens of reasons to take your kids to see the new space and probably favorite animals - but here are five great reasons to check out the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center!
1 - Penguins!
This should be an obvious. Who doesn't love penguins? The new space is not only larger than the previous penguin house but offers more ways to view them. The glass is ultra clear, and the new space doesn't smell like the older penguin house did. The Polk Penguin Conservation Center has two upper level viewing areas, two tunnels that penguins can swim around you, similar to the Arctic Ring of Life and Polar Bear exhibit at the zoo, a small cut out area for kids to climb into, an area you walk over the penguin swimming area, and a large lower viewing area. You can can not only watch the penguins play on their habitat, but they can swim completely around you. This is one of the best ways to check out the four different types of penguins that call the new center home, and will be one of your favorite places to visit at the zoo.
2 - It's Educational
The Polk Penguin Conservation Center offers great ways for your kids and you to learn throughout the whole space. When you first enter the space there is an information on Shackleton’s Journey to Antarctica, how ice layers form, and information centers as you go. One of our favorites was the projection of facts about penguins on the lower level viewing tank that not only gives you information about different species of penguin, but how fast they swim and more. It's neat watching the penguins swim through and watching the facts change over the different parts of the tank.
3 - It's an Immersive Experience
There are penguins above, below and all around you in the Polk Penguin Center. But it doesn't stop there. The ramp on the way down to the lower level (which is quite long) has guests surrounded by crashing waves, a starry night and a breeze like you're on Shackleton's ship. The lower levels of the ramp have portholes with digital projections of sea creatures you would normally see at that level. On the other end of the lower level, there are ice bergs crashing down. The projects are on the walls and the sound isn't too loud, however they may be too much if your child has sensory issues. Because of this, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center offers stairs and elevators as alternative routes.
4 - Exterior Fountains
While this isn't IN the space, I see this is going to be popular on hot summer days. On the South side of the penguin center, between the entrance and exit the building offers an outside waterfall (that is not accessible) as well as jets in the sidewalk. The water jets come out of an inset map of Antarctica in the sidewalk, and dance. These are similar to the ones you've probably seen up at Partridge Creek and children of all ages are going to love this on hotter days. The edges of the area offer raised edges that can work for sitting and enjoy the new space.
Before you leave the Polk Penguin Conservation Center be sure to stop into Drake Passage Gifts right before the exit. It's filled with fantastic penguin gifts for everyone in your family. You can find small toys, hats, mugs, shirts, artwork, pottery and chess sets. The variety of items is amazing and a penguin lovers dream. It'll be hard to walk out of there without an item of two, and after your day at the penguin center you can find something to remember your trip.
There are so many reasons to visit the new penguin center, and it's going to become one your favorite places to visit when you go to the zoo. It's a really "cool" place to visit, and with it's proximity to the front of the zoo it is a great place to hit right as you come in to start your day, or a great place to end your visit to the zoo!
For more information on the Polk Penguin Conservation Center and its features visit the Polk Penguin website. The Polk Penguin Conservation Center opens to the public on April 18th, and is free with any zoo admission. Due to the popularity of the exhibit, entry will be timed entry at the beginning. This is temporary, but will make sure guests get to experience the exhibit without any problems or overcrowding.
The Detroit Zoo is offering Twelve free after-hours events will be held exclusively for Detroit Zoological Society Members to be among the first to tour the Polk Penguin Conservation Center: April 18-21, April 25-28 and May 2-5. If you’re a member you can reserve your date and time on the Detroit Zoo MemberFest Site.