Grand Rapids Public Museum: Endless Family Exploration!

Grand Rapids Public Museum Trip Planner

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

Grand Rapids Public Museum offers exciting experiences for toddlers on up. People often consider museums for much older kids and adults, but Grand Rapids Public Museum is designed for all ages to enjoy, especially people that live in or around Grand Rapids, MI.

From long-standing favorites to imaginative temporary exhibits, every visit to GRPM will fill kids with wonder and inspire their curious minds.

Grand Rapids Public Museum spans three levels of educational fun, making it easy to spend hours exploring. (Start exploring with this Interactive Map of the museum.)

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs – Special Exhibit

High Flying Pteranodons + Friends  are Soaring into GRPM and it’s included with your general admission

Flight simulators, life-size replicas & interactive exhibits draw you into an unbelievable prehistoric world.

Pterosaurs ruled the skies during the dinosaur age, and they’re soaring into GRPM to bring an interactive experience that will leave you amazed.

I mean, look at the size of this guy!  

Pteranodon, Tupuxuara, Pterodaustro, Jeholopterus, and Dimorphodon are some of the species of pterosaurs that you can learn about at interactive stations. 

Find lots of fossil replicas from museums around the world, including the American Museum of Natural History. 

A big hit are the flight simulators that allow you to try your hand at flying prehistoric skies.

Pterosaurs Exhibit Highlights

  • Interactive flight simulators let you “fly” like a pterosaur
  • LIfe size models
  • Experience flight in a wind tunnel that responds to your movements
  • iPad stations that bring pterosaurs to life through video
  • Explore casts of rare fossils
  • Stand face-to-face with life-size pterosaurs

 The Pterosaurs exhibit is included with general admission and runs through September 4, 2022.

Grand Rapids Public Museum, Floor by Floor

Before you dive into the museum, consider picking up (or bringing along) the A-Z scavenger Museum Hunt. This scavenger hunt offers you clues and will easily take you all around the museum.

Grand Rapids Public Museum is three floors of discoveries. From Streets of Old Grand Rapids to rotating exhibits, there is something new to explore on every visit.

Streets of Old Grand Rapids

Permanent Exhibit

The first floor features the Streets of Old Grand Rapids exhibit, a 3/4 scale replica of 1890s Grand Rapids storefronts and streetscapes.

This exhibit is a favorite for many visitors.

This is a particularly fun way to step back in time. In fact, if you’re lucky, you’ll find volunteers dressed in period clothing interpreting the streets of Old GR. While there is no set schedule for volunteers, visitors can expect to interact with museum volunteers most every day at various times.

Visitors exploring Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Streets of Old Grand Rapids

1928 Spillman Carousel

Core Exhibit – Reopening May 25, 2022

The other main attraction on the first floor is the historic 1928 Spillman Carousel.

This is my daughters’ favorite section. Take your pick of one of the 44 hand-carved wooden horses and enjoy the ride just like your grandparents did!

Carousel rides are free for members or $1 with general admission.

Grand Rapids Public Museum Carousel

A is for Auto

Core Collection

A is for Auto will kick off your visit to the Museum by showcasing historic vehicles.

This is one of many installments in the Collecting A to Z exhibition throughout the building to give you a peek inside the breadth of the GRPM Collections.

Grand Rapids Public Museum A is for Auto
The Grand Rapids Public Museum A is for Auto Exhibit is the Start of the Scavenger Hunt

D is for Dolls

Core Collection

There is also a little-known cove full of dolls from different eras.

(Hint: it’s right by the bathrooms!) There is a “please touch” section here which is fun for small hands.

This small gallery highlights 438 dolls from the Museum’s Collections, spanning cultures around the globe over various centuries.

Curiosity Gift Shop

Located Near Admission Desk

The first floor also features a curiosity shop where fun and unique gifts can be purchased.

Take home a memento from your visit or the perfect gift for family or friends from the Museum’s Curiosity Shop. Products and merchandise are updated regularly to reflect Museum offerings and exhibits, the local community and the State of Michigan.

Second Floor: Captivating Planetarium, Cafe, and Gigantic Steam Engine

The museum has a very open feeling and the floors can easily be viewed from the banister on the top two levels.  There is a pretty amazing old clock tower which my daughter will sometimes just sit and stare at.

Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium

Core Exhibit

The Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium is one of the most unique spots at GRPM. Named after GR’s very own hometown astronaut, young and old alike can explore our galaxy through a variety of fascinating shows ranging from space, science, entertainment, art documentary, and live sky shows to see what is in that evening’s sky.

There’s a variety of shows to choose from, and cost is $2-$5/person.

Corliss Steam Engine

Core Exhibit

When regulars think of the Public Museum, they often think of the massive steam engine you can view from the second floor.

It’s a massive, real life steam engine – over 30 tons! It’s amazing for kids to imagine that a machine this large was used to make things, when today, we can create just about anything with tiny little computer chips.

Museum Cafe

Located next to the planetarium.

Snack or dine at the museum cafe while overlooking the Grand River.

Offering prepacked snacks and drinks, and open till 3 PM weekdays, and 5 PM on the weekends.

Additional things to see on the second floor:

  • Fashion & Nature exhibit (opening April 23, 2022).
  • Watch a Mighty Wurlitzer Organ concert at the Meijer Theater.
  • See a mummy in the ancient Egypt exhibit.
  • Explore historic Grand Rapids – via Lego displays.

Third Floor: Special Exhibits + West Michigan Habitats & People

West Michigan Habitats

Core Exhibit.

Experience habitats native to West Michigan, from dunes to woods to lakeshore. This exhibit has hands-on fun for kids, like a bug drawer, treehouse, animal footprints and more.

The People of This Place

Core Exhibits.

Grand Rapids has more history than you know! Learn that Grand Rapids didn’t suddenly exist when white fur traders arrived – it had been a thriving home to the Anishinabe. Since then, many have called Grand Rapids home. This is where you can learn about them.

Bi-Plane & City Hall Clock

Core Exhibits.

Check out more amazing larger-than-life displays suspended in the air on the third floor. Both of these special objects came straight from West Michigan and each have their own special history.

WIN a Trip for 6 to GRPM

This giveaway has closed.

GRPM is giving away six general admission tickets to one lucky reader.

This includes Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs and six planetarium show passes. (If you’ve not experience the planetarium yet, you’re in for a treat!)

To Enter

Leave a comment on this article for every entry you make from this list:

1 – For one entry, tell us what you’re excited to see at GRPM this year.
2 – Get a second entry when you like and follow GRPM on Facebook.
3 – Get a third entry for following GRPM on Instagram.


This giveaway will close on May 30, 2022, at 7 pm and the winners will be notified via email. The winner will have 24 hours to respond by email accepting the prize. No purchase necessary to enter the contest. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used to enter the contest and notify winners. Entrants will release Facebook from all liability. Entrants must be at least 18 years of age and reside in Michigan. Only one entry per household or IP address. Grand Rapids Kids’ liability is limited to the value of the prize.

Summer Camps at GRPM Include New Camps for Kids with Autism

Summer fun happens at the Grand Rapids Public Museum with Camp Curious

It’s a favorite place for kids to explore the wonders of the world around us through engaging exhibit exploration, primary source artifact learning and more.

“Camps are a fun way to keep kids learning through the summer and the Museum offers unique opportunities for campers to get hands-on with artifacts and specimens, enjoy behind-the-scenes exploration of exhibits and the Chaffee Planetarium, and use local resources like the Grand River as learning tools,” said Rob Schuitema, the GRPM’s Director of Public Programs.

What you Can Expect at Camp Curious

June 13 to mid-August 2022

Kids pre-K – 12th grade get special access to make GRPM their own learning lab each summer – experimenting, creating, exploring, and having fun.

Choose from single-day or multi-day camps.

Popular camp themes range from Slimy Science and Fossil Hunters to LEGO® Brick Adventures and Young Wizards Academy and more.

New, in-person camps this year include Flight of the Pterosaur, What’s in the Grand River and more.

To register, visit their website.  And don’t delay – many of these camps are sold out or have very few seats left!

New Summer Camps for Kids & Young Adult With Autism

For ages 16 – 24.

GRPM has teamed up with Grand Valley State University’s Occupational Therapy Program to offer one-day sessions for teens and young adults with autism ages 16-24. These sessions will be led by GVSU Occupational Therapy students.

These camps, titled Tales from the Archives, will provide opportunities for neurodiverse teens and young adults to explore the depths of the Museum Archives, meet new people with shared interests, and practice social skills in a structured environment.

With a small team of ‘experts,’ campers will curate an exhibit to display a collection of historic artifacts.

Campers will develop a narrative to share their interpretation of the artifacts in a collaborative and creative way.

Early registration recommended, as camps will sell out.

Camp Curious Grand Rapids Public Museum

Free Summer Leadership Program for Juniors & Seniors

The Museum will once again partner with Grand Rapids White Water to offer the Grand Rapids White Water Summer Leadership Program for 11th and 12th graders.

This program engages students in a hands-on interaction with the River Restoration Project, teaching them principles of sustainability and inspiring them to become future leaders willing to tackle complex projects that offer widespread benefit.

This camp is free to attend but space is limited and based on an application process.

Field Trips at Grand Rapids Public Museum

Grand Rapids Public Museum Offers Field Trips for Kids

The Grand Rapids Public Museum provides school groups with the opportunity to explore three floors of exhibits and artifacts related to science, history, and culture, all with a unique tie to Grand Rapids.

Classrooms can explore the GRPM on their own or book a guided education program, as well as visit the Chaffee Planetarium for a show to learn about space and science, and ride the antique Spillman Carousel. Guided education programs are delivered by the Museum’s dedicated educators.

Streets of Old Grand Rapids: The Streets of Old Grand Rapids exhibit is a favorite, as it transports classrooms to the 19th century of what it was like to walk through downtown Grand Rapids. Each storefront has been recreated, and volunteers open four shop fronts for an immersive peek inside what it was like to work and visit local stores in the 1890s.

West Michigan Habitats takes classes through the animals and their environments throughout West Michigan, from the dense forests to swamps, sand dunes, the depths of our lakes and then to the snowy outdoors. With lots of hands-on activities, including drawers filled with bugs, the water bubble at 200 times the actual size, a tree house, animal footprints to touch, and more, it’s a great area for kids to spend time and learn about the vast number of animals we have around us.

Native Peoples: Learn about the Native American culture of Michigan in the Anishinabek: The People of this Place exhibit. With many direct descendants of the original Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Chippewa people still living in the region today, this exhibit tells the story of the Anishinabek – “the people” – in their own voices, with rare and fascinating objects, photographs, and documents handed down through their families. On display are hundreds of artifacts representing Native American decorative arts, clothing, weapons, and tools.

Newcomers: Those Who Call West Michigan Home. With 45 ethnic groups in West Michigan, the Newcomers: The People of This Place exhibit showcases how these people have come to call it home. Showcasing more than 600 artifacts and images dating from the first French fur traders to the latest influx of refugees escaping wars and others seeking a better standard of living. Each object tells a fascinating story about our newcomers: stories of work, play and families; of religion and prejudice; cultural traditions, and more.

Outer Space: The Chaffee Planetarium is a great add-on for field trips offering shows ranging from space, science, entertainment, art documentary, and live sky shows to see what is in that evening’s sky. The planetarium now boasts Digistar 6 technologies featuring the latest in resolution quality, content features, and immersive surround sound for an out-of-this-world experience.

The Museum also offers guided tours of the Community Archives and Research Center that house 95% of the Museum’s Collections.

To learn more and reserve your trip, visit their website.

Pro Tips for Visiting GRPM

Free GRPM Admission for Kent County Kids

Thanks to a Kent county millage, kids who live in Kent county get FREE admission to GRPM, and adults are only $5 with a valid ID. AND Kent county residents enjoy free parking in the parking ramp across from GRPM with the purchase of a ticket!

Pro Tips for Visiting GRPM

  • Parking: Off street meter parking as well as a parking garage west of the Museum. (Kent County residents get free validated parking in this ramp, with the purchase of a ticket.
  • There is a circle drive for buses and disabled persons to be dropped off at the main door.
  • The museum has elevators and is stroller friendly.
  • Admission to the planetarium and carousel rides is extra, as are some of the temporary exhibits.
  • Watch for additional themed programming for kids during winter and spring break.

About The Author

21 thoughts on “Grand Rapids Public Museum: Endless Family Exploration!”

  1. Sheila DeGroot

    I have been meaning to go back to the Planetarium for so long! Haven’t been since I was a kid. This year, I’m GOING TO make it happen!!!!

  2. I’m excited for my grandsons (6 and 8) to see the Pterosaurs exhibit and my 2 year old granddaughter would love the carousel! They would all have such a fun time there! (And I would love to see the doll exhibit!)

  3. Honestly I want to take my 5 grandkids and just explore from top to bottom…I live in Holland …what a treasure but was only able to spend a short time there. I want my grandkids to explore more with me. Ages 9 to 18!!!!👍🙂❤️

  4. We would love to see the planetarium and rude the carousel. Liked GRPM on Facebook and followed on Instagram

  5. Amber McDaniel

    We’re excited to see the pterosaurs and the planetarium! My son loves anything space and dinosaur related! Liked and followed on Facebook! Followed on Instagram! Thank you! 😊

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