New to the Grand Rapids area? In a rut, and have found yourself wondering where can I take my toddler in this city? Don’t worry, there is plenty to explore!
Growing up in Grand Rapids, I have many favorite spots and I plan on taking my young kids to all of them. There are so many great family activities to do and kid-friendly places to visit. So many in fact, trying to pick just a handful was no easy task.
Whether you are here for a week or for the next decade, we hope you love all this city has to offer as much as we do!
Perfect Spots to Play Indoors
- Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum houses two stories of hands-on learning fun with a specific ‘Wee Discover’ exhibit specifically designed for children ages zero to four, providing many activities where your toddler can learn and have fun.
- The Kroc Center. With special toddler hours in the aquatic center and gymnasium, it is a perfect spot to keep your toddler busy and active.
- Kent District Library and Grand Rapids Public Library. Before having children, I had no idea the local libraries house more than books, but boy do they ever! With most branches having a designated children’s section filled with toys and fun learning opportunities, kids can play and learn for free (and you can leave with some great books to take home and read together!). In addition to fun free play opportunities, these libraries offer regular story times. Check individual branches for dates.
- Gymco. Within this five acre gymnastic facility is plenty of room for your toddler and you to tumble, run, jump and play together during their daily open gym hour (every day except Sunday). If your toddler develops a love for tumbling, check out our list of area Gymnastic class options here.
- Rivertown Crossings Play Area. Known as the ‘tree mall’ in our family, this free play area looks like a tree house, with slides, tunnels and a soft play area. Afterwards, your toddler might just be tired enough for you to do a little shopping at one of the mall’s 100+ stores (and don’t forget to check out another toddler favorite, the carousel on the second floor).
Wonderful Places to Play Outdoors
- Lena Meijer Children’s Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens. With a tree house, log cabin, butterfly maze and a great lakes garden for sailing plastic ships (plus so much more), this garden will seem new each time you visit.
- Millennium Park. If your toddler loves the water, but the waves and deep waters of nearby Lake Michigan make you uneasy, this is a great option for little ones to get outside and enjoy the water. This park is home to a 100 acre lake with some shallow areas and no waves. And as an extra bonus, it has an amazing splash pad, too. Check out the link here for some other amazing splash pads to visit in the area.
- John Ball Park Zoo. With 250 species and 2,000 individual animals, there is plenty for your toddler to see at the zoo. Plus, with so many trails circling through the zoo, it is a great place to let your active toddler walk around. If they still have energy at the end of the trip, explore one of the John Ball Park Playgrounds on the property.
- Frog Hollow Park. This two acre park is packed with plenty of options for play, but what makes it so great for toddlers is that it is well contained with only one exit, making it easy to keep on eye on your toddler, especially those toddlers who like to wonder off.
- Rosewood Park. While your toddler might find the two-story slide intimidating, rest assure, there is a toddler-sized slide and splash pad that will keep them running around. Feel free to pack a lunch and stay a while, there are plenty of areas with shade, plus picnic tables. With a sledding hill, soccer field, playground, and a splash pad this park can be used year round!
Great Spots to Eat
- Bagger Dave’s. With a moving train that wraps around the the restaurant, your toddler may be able to sit still long enough for you to enjoy your dinner.
- Buffalo Wild Wings. At most locations, B-dubs offers Kids Night on Wednesdays. When we took our kids, they had a magician walking around, tablets for the kids to play on, and the Disney channel turned on instead of sports on at least three of the TV’s in the dining area.
- The Omelette Shop. If you are looking for great breakfast or lunch food, you have found it! Plus your little one receives a bag of animal crackers when seated, the perfect distraction until the food arrives.
- The Score. This place is a great spot for dining with kids in the summer. Outside, they have a small play area for kids, live bands, and a sand volleyball court. Kids will think they are at the beach!
- Uccello’s. A family-friendly restaurant with just enough noise so you can feel comfortable if you don’t have the quietest toddler. Plus, Uccello’s offers a free kids meal per adult order on Sundays. Check out our list here to see all of the other places in the area where kids can eat free or cheap.
Awesome Places to Learn
- Kent District Library. Not only is KDL a perfect place to play indoors, but it is also an awesome place to learn, for FREE! With each branch offering classes on different days, at different times, with different content, and usually with no pre-registration required, the flexibility can’t be beat.
- Goldfish Swim School. Have a toddler who loves to swim, or maybe one that needs a little extra time in the water to learn to love the water? With a 90 degree pool, small class sizes and a great space, Goldfish Swim School might be just the right place for your toddler.
- Renew Mama Studio. Looking for a class that you can participate in with your toddler? Renew Mama Studio offers toddler classes that allow the two of you to flow through yoga animal postures, breathing and stretching with props, movement and stillness, as well as relaxation.
- Hearts in Motion. If you have a toddler interested in dance, Hearts in Motion offers drop-in classes, giving your little one a chance to try it out before committing to an entire session of classes. Looking for more dance class options, check out our list of local options here.
- Local Community Education. If you like the ability to learn right in your own neighborhood, many communities offer programs like swim and dance classes, located where you are at, usually at very reasonable rates.
- Grand Rapids Public Museum. This may not strike you as a place for toddlers but some of my favorite times to visit this museum were when my kids were toddlers. I could push them in the stroller (mine were the type to accept restraints) and they could take in all the sights while I did, too. Once they got older they were a handful to keep an eye on, but the toddler age is right when they start noticing interesting things but also not dart out of sight. Plus, there’s the carousel.