It took nearly three years to construct, but the Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo is finally open! And it’s hard to tell who’s more excited: the humans or the penguins. But one thing’s for sure: The new penguinarium is a must-see if you’re visiting the Detroit area. Here are a few things to know before you go:
- Admission to the penguin center is free with zoo admission. However, timed-entry passes are required. They will be issued to you automatically on a first-come, first-served basis at admissions on the day of your visit. Timed-entry passes are not available online.
- There’s a stand-by line, so if you show up early or late for your assigned time slot, you can wait in the line to be selected to enter as capacity allows. The good news is anticipated capacity is 1,000 viewers per hour!
- While you’re waiting for your turn to see the penguins, check out another exhibit, “Sir Ernest Shackleton Endurance Expedition 1914-17: Triumph Against All Odds,”at the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery. The exhibition recounts Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic experience and epic crossing of the Drake Passage.
- Shackleton’s journey served as inspiration for the exhibit’s dramatic exterior as well as the icy 4-D effects, such as polar blasts, rough waves and snow, that greet you upon entering the facility.
- A real-life photo of the iceberg that inspired the exterior design of the penguinarium is incorporated into the Endurance 4-D experience.
- Among the most spectacular features of the 33,000-square-foot facility is a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area where you can watch as more than 80 penguins of four species explore their habitat. (That’s 10 times the amount of water the penguins had in their original area!)
- An underwater gallery with a vast acrylic window and two acrylic tunnels provides breathtaking views of the birds above, around and below and lets you get nose to beak with the charismatic birds.
- Kids can test the waters at the penguinarium too! There’s a splash play area just outside of the facility that’s open during the summer. It transforms into an ice skating rink in the winter.
- If you’re interested in the penguins, but aren’t in the Detroit area, check out the live penguin cam for a look at what’s going on in real time.
So what will become of the penguins’ former habitat? It’s slated to become a bat conservation center. Yet another reason to visit the zoo. In fact, maybe now’s the time to become a Detroit Zoo member if you’re not already? Annual memberships start at $53 for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. Learn more about Detroit Zoo membership.