Best Kids Attractions: 55 Things Every GR Kid Needs to Experience Before They Grow Up

best kids attractions grand rapids michigan

The Essential Bucket List for West Michigan Kids

Want to give your kids the classic Grand Rapids childhood? Try to hit as many kids attractions on this list as you can!

There’s something unique about West Michigan that you can’t reproduce anywhere else.

No one else has ArtPrize or the Big Red Button. I don’t know of any other grocery stores that have Sandy the Penny Horse.

I bet we have the only weather ball, and I KNOW that we have the only true Santa Claus.

These are the unique experiences that every Grand Rapids kids should be able to brag doing when they leave home and explore the world on their own. It’s what makes Grand Rapids seem so special to the world.

Because, it is special.

55 Kids Attractions – A West Michigan Bucket List

Here’s a big list of kids attractions in Grand Rapids.


Experience the Butterflies at Meijer Gardens

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Receive dozens of butterfly kisses in the spring when the Fred & Dorothy Fichter annual exhibit Butterflies Are Blooming comes to Frederik Meijer Gardens every March and April.

meijer gardens butterflies are blooming
Don’t miss the butterflies at Meijer Gardens

Meet John Ball & His Zoo of Friends

John Ball Zoo
1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Strike a pose on one of the most photographed sculptures in the city when you visit John Ball Zoo.

Then head on inside for a day with the lions, tiger, red pandas, meerkats, and more.

Be sure to ride the funicular and try their mason jar sundaes.

John Ball Zoo John Ball Statue
Snap a photo with the John Ball statue at John Ball Zoo

Climb the Big Red Button at Ah-Nab-Awen Park

Ah-Nab-Awen Park
220 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Enjoy a picnic with a view when you grab a blanket and head to Ah-Nab-Awen Park and spend some time climbing on Lorrie’s Button.

Kids love to climb on the Big Red Button

Play in GRCM’s Giant Bubbles 

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Stroll through Little GR, let your imagination run wild, and even put yourself in a giant bubble at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

GRCM kids in bubble feature image
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is one of Grand Rapids’ favorite kids attractions

Cheer on Street Scrubbers at Tulip Time

Encourage the Street Scrubbers as they prepare the parade path through downtown Holland during the Volksparade at Tulip Time.

Watch the Dutch dancers during Tulip Time in Holland

Treat Your Taste Buds at Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

Fulton Street Farmer’s Market
1145 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Bring some sunshine home when you buy a big bunch of sunflowers at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market.

The colors and scents of  Michigan homegrown can’t be beat.

Get delicious produce at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

Get Lost in the Stacks at GRPL’s Main Library

Grand Rapids Public Library Main Branch
111 Library St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Explore the endless books at GRPL’s Main Branch  and don’t forget to admire the beautiful lobby.

The lobby at GRPL’s main branch is gorgeous

Catch a Flick or Concert at a Park

Watch a favorite family film or jam to cool tunes at an area park.

Families will have a great time at an outdoor movie or concert

Go Berry Picking at a UPick Farm

Enjoy a blueberry cobbler or strawberry shortcake using berries that you picked yourself at a nearby farm!

Local farms offer strawberry, blueberry, peach, cherry and raspberry picking!

West Michigan is full of delicious berries waiting to be picked

Feed the giraffes at Boulder Ridge

Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park
8313 Pratt Lake Ave SE, Alto, MI 49302

Ride a safari bus, feed a giraffe, and get close to exotic animals at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park.

grand rapids summer activities - boulder ridge wild animal park
Everyone will want a turn to feed the giraffes at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park

Ride the Carousel at GRPM

Grand Rapids Public Museum
272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Take a spin over the river when you ride the antique Spillman Carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Go for a spin – or two – on the carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum

Eat a Yesterdog

1505 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Grab a world famous lunch when you dine at Yesterdog (and don’t forget some quarters for the popcorn machine).

Grab lunch at Yesterdog in Grand Rapids

Rock a Musical at the Civic Theatre

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
30 Division Ave N, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Catch a show (and maybe even sing along) at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.

The Civic Theatre always puts on fabulous shows

Swing on Motu Viget

Take an epic swing on the interactive art piece Motu Viget (aka the Giant Tire Swing).

The Giant Tire Swing is one of downtown Grand Rapids’ best kids attractions

Catch a Kid-Friendly Symphony

Grand Rapids Symphony
300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Introduce your little to a wide world of musical experience when you go to a Lolli-Pop concert presented by the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Lolli-Pop concerts are great introductions to the Grand Rapids Symphony

Run the Bases at LMCU Ballpark

LMCU Ballpark
4500 W River Dr NE, Comstock Park, MI 49321

Run the bases before or after a West Michigan Whitecaps game at the LMCU Ballpark.

Grands Rapids families love to go to Whitecaps baseball games

Gape at Amway Grand Hotel’s Lobby

Amway Grand Hotel
187 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Don your fanciest apparel for a special outing when you stop by the opulent lobby of the Amway Grand Hotel or another Parent-Child special night!

Dress in your finest and take pictures at the Amway Grand

Go Camping. Up North.

Go camping up north (even if it’s only for one night, and it also doesn’t need to technically be too far north).

best camping in michigan
Relax on your next camping trip

Spend the day at the Huge Millennium Park

Millennium Park
1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534

Swim in the lake, stay cool at the splash pad, and even rent a paddleboat for extra exploring at Millennium Park.

millennium park splash pad - siemens
Be sure to cool off in the splash pad at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids

Attend the Historic Festival of the Arts

Paint, glue, dance, and taste your way through one of Grand Rapids longest running events: Festival of the Arts!

Paint In Festival of the Arts Grand Rapids
Kids can be artists, too, at Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts

Play the Day Away at Kent County Youth Fair

225 S Hudson St, Lowell, MI 49331

Spend the entire day exploring the Kent County Youth Fair.

Adults love to get in on the fun at the Kent County Youth Fair

Hit a Bike Trail

There’s nothing quite as #puremichigan as a summer bike ride that involves a stop by an ice cream shop.

things to do outside: bike trail near me
West Michigan is full of bike trails waiting to be explored

See Impressive Boats at the Coast Guard Festival

Ride around Grand Haven on the trolley (bonus if you do so during the Coast Guard Festival!).

Watch the ships come in during the Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven

Learn the Weather Ball Song

Learn the Channel 13 Weather Ball rhyme and always get a quick weather report when you drive near the 131-96 interchange.

Weather ball red: warmer ahead.
Weather ball blue: cooler in view.
Weather ball green: no change foreseen.
Colors blinking bright: rain or snow in sight.

Grand Rapids locals get their forecast from the Weather Ball

Drive Your Boat in the Great Lakes at FMG

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Set sail, learn about the Great Lakes, and maybe get a wee bit wet, when you play at Children’s Garden within Frederik Meijer Gardens.

Kids love the Great Lakes water table at Frederik Meijer Gardens

Visit Our Presidential Museum – the Gerald R. Ford

Gerald R. Ford Museum
303 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Learn about our very own hometown President and take a gander at a replica Oval Office at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Many Presidential replicas await inside the Gerald R. Ford Museum

Marvel at a Lake Michigan Sunset

Watch the sunset over the Big Lake from one of many awesome beaches along the fresh coast.

lake michigan sunset
Lake Michigan has breathtaking sunsets

Ride the Mega Slide at Rosewood Park

Rosewood Park
1899 Rosewood St, Jenison, MI 49428

Ride the 2-story slide at Rosewood Park while you wait for your turn at the annual Saturday Slip-N-Slide event at Charlie’s Dump each June. (Saturday slip-n-slide canceled for 2021, but the park is still open, along with the splash pad!)

Rosewood Park has a mega slide along with lots of other fun equipment – and a splash pad

Cross the Covered Bridge at Fallasburg Park

Fallasburg Park
1124 Fallasburg Park Dr NE, Lowell, MI 49331

After you walk the bridge, hop on the stones to cross over the creek at Fallasburg Park and ride the triple tire swing at the playground.

Fallasburg Park Covered Bridge
Soak in nature alongside the covered bridge at Fallasburg Park

Watch Fireworks from the Blue Bridge

The blue bridge is the only place to watch Fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Walk across the Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids

Meet a Hundred Animals at Deer Tracks Junction

Deer Tracks Junction
7850 14 Mile Rd NE, Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Have a snack with a yak and mosey through the wild west town at Deer Tracks Junction.

There’s more than deer at Deer Tracks Junction in Cedar Springs

Experience Iconic Fall at an Apple Orchard

Visit a local orchard in the fall, and be ready for petting zoos, rides, bounce houses, hayrides and maybe some apple picking, cider, and of course donuts.

Picking your own apples is a classic Grand Rapids must-do

Watch Griffins Hockey on Star Wars Night

Van Andel Arena
130 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Catch a Griffins game at Van Andel Arena on theme night. (Our favorite is Star Wars!).

Star Wars Night at the Grand Rapids Griffins is a fan favorite

Master the Kroc Center’s Rock Wall

Salvation Army Kroc Center
2500 S. Division Ave, Grand Rapids, 49507

Climb the rock wall at the Kroc Center and see if you can find the secret code that is hidden there.

Climb the rock wall at the Kroc Center

Picnic with the Airplanes at GRR Airport Viewing Area

GRR Airport Viewing Area
4820 Kraft Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512

Feel planes fly right over your head at the GRR Airport Viewing Area.

airport observation park grand rapids
Pack a lunch and watch planes come and go from Grand Rapids Ford Airport

Have Lunch at Downtown Market

Downtown Market
435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Discover all the tasty treats and events at Downtown Market.

Ice cream is just one of the many tasty treats at the Downtown Market

Get Hands-On at Grand Rapids Art Museum

Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM)
 101 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Bring home your own masterpiece from the GRAM when you visit on a Saturday for their Drop-in Studio.

Get in touch with your creative side at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

Immerse Yourself in ArtPrize

Be a part of ArtPrize when you vote for favorite artwork on even years, and actually get to help artists create during community projects on odd years!

Kids and adults alike will be enthralled by the entries at ArtPrize

Take Your Pic at the Calder

Vandenberg Plaza
300 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Explore downtown in a circuit with stops at the fish ladder, Riversedge trails, and a stop by Vandenberg Plaza to see Calder’s iconic La Grande Vitesse.

The Calder is one of downtown’s kids attractions

Be Lulled by the Rockford Dam

Rockford Dam Overlook
215 N Main St, Rockford, MI 49341

Get misted by the Rockford Dam overlook and peruse the downtown shops afterward.

The White Pine Trail is just one of many ways to see the Rockford Dam

Ice Skate Downtown at Rosa Parks Circle

Rosa Parks Circle
135 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Ice skate under the stars (or during the day!) at Rosa Parks Circle.

Ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle is a wintertime classic Grand Rapids activity

Dress up for Zoo Goes Boo

John Ball Zoo
1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Put on your best costume and visit the tigers, bears and penguins at John Ball Zoo Goes Boo

Zoo Goes Boo family in costumes
Get into the Halloween spirit at John Ball Zoo Goes Boo

Cut Your own Tree at a Christmas Tree Farm

Ring in the Christmas season by cutting your own Christmas tree from a local farm.

Cutting down your own Christmas tree is a west Michigan favorite holiday tradition

Take a Night Hike

Wittenbach Wege Nature Center
11715 Vergennes St SE, Lowell, MI 49331

Take a magical luminary hike at Wittenbach Nature Center.

The trails at Wittenbach Wege Center are gorgeous anytime of day

Dance, Wiggle and Wonder at Library Story Time

Attend a story time at your local KDL branch.

Kent District Library offers many different story time options throughout the week

Go Tubing Down a Huge Hill

Zip down the tubing slopes at Cannonsburg.

Tubes aren’t just for the water when you live in west Michigan

Watch a Live Nativity

Experience a live Nativity at the Critter Barn every Christmas.

Going to a live Nativity is a west Michigan Christmas tradition

Learn About Holiday Traditions Around the World

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Play I Spy with the holiday trees display at Frederik Meijer Gardens at Christmastime.

meijer gardens christmas trees
Learn about Christmas in different countries as well as other holiday traditions at Meijer Gardens

Meet the REAL Santa Claus

Wave to the real Santa at the Grand Rapids Santa Parade. (And visit him in Lowell and at Frederik Meijer Gardens each Christmas season.)

The REAL Santa appears in the Santa Parade, at Meijer Gardens and in Lowell

Roll Through a Giant Christmas Lite Show

LMCU Ballpark
4500 W River Dr NE, Comstock Park, MI 49321

Take in the spectacular Christmas Lite Show at LMCU Ballpark, West Michigan’s largest, animated, drive-thru light show. (Or drive around and look at houses.)

Be dazzled by thousands of lights at the Christmas Lite Show

Run a Race! 

Walk or run along the Grand during the Amway River Bank Run in May or the Helen DeVos Kids Marathon in October or participate in other exciting races!

Kids can run as fast as they can at a West Michigan race

Watch The Nutcracker, Live

Grand Rapids Ballet
341 Ellsworth Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Let the Grand Rapids Ballet Company (along with accompanying artwork from local illustrator, Chris Van Allsburg) become a holiday tradition as they present The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker is one of the holiday’s best kids attractions

Saddle up With Sandy the Penny Horse

Take a ride on Sandy the Penny Horse after a trip to Meijer. (The grocery store, not the sculpture park.)

Every West Michigan kid loves to ride Sandy at Meijer

Fly High at the Air Zoo

Air Zoo
6151 Portage Rd, Portage, MI 49002

Sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet and other aircraft at the Air Zoo.

Air-Zoo-for-Families-Feature-Photo-May-2020 (1)
Soar to new heights at the Air Zoo

What did we miss? What are the other iconic kids attractions to experience here before they grow up?


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17 thoughts on “Best Kids Attractions: 55 Things Every GR Kid Needs to Experience Before They Grow Up”

  1. Pingback: The One Thing Kids Must do in Each Michigan County - Michigan Family Fun

  2. Blandford nature center was a staple in my childhood, it had the best maple treats and the care they gave to wild injured animals was brilliant, it was a very educational place and great to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city every now and then.

  3. Yes. I can’t believe the fish ladder wasnt mentioned. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the post. I’d say splash pads. I think we have 10 or 11 around grand rapids. I once took my kids on a splash pad crawl. Lookout point at least once. Kent trails. Sledding at Johnson park.

  4. GREAT article! Not just for kids. I want to make sure that I don’t miss any of those myself! Please consider Grand Rapids Running Tours… family-friendly walking versions. Take a stroll through downtown and learn the history of GR, or about the public sculptures, or re-live President Ford’s youth, and oodles of other tour options.

    1. Yes, Loves has the BEST ice cream and it’s from grass-fed cows! Rocket Pie’s pizza (right by Loves) is pretty awesome too and has great ingredients. Just walking around the downtown market and trying all of the samples is a lot of fun. 🙂


  5. I am really happy to be #42 on the list because I really do love kids and love the parents who are willing to share their kids with me since mine are all grown up.

  6. You have the Grand River running right through your beautiful city and you didn’t once mention take your children fishing. It is a very popular fishing river. You did mention watch fish at the ladder, but fishing is a lifetime hobby.

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