For an 11th straight year, the Detroit Zoo’s attendance has surpassed one million guests. In fact, they smashed that number.

According to Zoo officials, the Royal Oak-based attraction netted 1,698,053 visitors in 2016, exceeding their projected goal of 1.5 million.

The big story this year was the 33,000 square foot Polk Penguin Conservation Center. It’s the largest facility in the world for penguins, and it opened in April. The penguins proved to be popular. More than a million visitors checked out the 80 penguins of four species in their new home in the first six months.

Wild Lights, an annual tradition of holiday lights, drew a record 152,539 guests, contributing to the year’s robust attendance.

Next year will bring more construction and new events. Both the giraffes and the tigers are going to get new habitats.

The renovation and expansion of the giraffe habitat is thanks to a $1 million gift from Cynthia and Edsel Ford, and the renovation and expansion of the tiger habitat is made possible in part by a $1 million gift from the Richard C. Devereaux Foundation.

There are a few new events next year as well, but one that caught our eye was a family-friend bicycle safari in June.

Winter Zoo Fun

You might be surprised to know that the Detroit Zoo is open all winter. Many animals become more active in colder weather – including gray wolves, wolverines, bison, Japanese macaques, tigers, camels, polar bears, arctic foxes and red pandas.

The Zoo’s new Winter Rink is open through the end of February for guests ages 4 and older. The cost to rent skates and take a spin on the rink is $7 for a 25-minute session; for those who bring their own skates, the cost is $3.

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