John Ball Zoo: Major Upgrades & Life-Size Brick Sculptures Will Make You Stay All Day

john ball zoo brick alive giraffe

Giant Brick-Built Animals Take Over John Ball Zoo, in Addition to Other Changes

Visitors to John Ball Zoo this summer will be amazed at the significant changes that have happened since fall 2019.

Not only has the zoo been populated with over 40 life-sized animal sculptures (part of an international traveling exhibition — BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise), the zoo’s entrance has completely been reconstructed to make the Zoo more accessible for everyone.

The steep hillside that used to greet visitors has been transformed into a wide, gently curving pathway.

Other changes include the implementation of enhanced health and safety measures, an innovative new habitat for the meerkats and porcupines, and timed-entry ticket sales.


LEGO-Lovers will be Awestruck by the Magnificant Brick-Built Displays

John Ball Zoo is the third zoo in the country to host the traveling BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise exhibition — and the first in Michigan. These life-sized sculptures of endangered animals were created using nearly 2 million toy building bricks!

Sculptures have been placed around the zoo for you to discover.

john ball zoo brick alive summer 2020

Each sculpture features a facts sign containing information such as the size of each sculpture, how many bricks were used to build each one, and the amount of time it took to create. For example, the life-sized giraffe sculpture alone took over 96,000 building bricks to construct and measures over 12 feet tall.

You’ll find brick sculpture models of many John Ball Zoo favorites like the African lion, snow leopard, and ring-tailed lemur. Some sculptures represent animals not in residence at John Ball Zoo.

You’re encouraged to compare live Zoo animals with their brick lookalikes.

The GRKIDS team is creating a scavenger hunt that will include all of the Bricks Alive animal creations in the Zoo.

If you would like to be notified when this free resource is ready, please sign up for our newsletter below.

West MI Fun in Your Inbox!

john ball zoo brick alive elphant

john ball zoo brick rhino

john ball zoo brick alive leopard

john ball zoo brick alive polar bear

john ball zoo brick alive tiger

john ball zoo brick alive shark

john ball zoo brick alive chimpanzees


Protect the Herd

Safety and cleanliness are top of mind at John Ball Zoo. Taking time to implement precautions is one reason Zoo officials did not open on May 30 as originally planned.

Using the theme “Protect the Herd”, John Ball Zoo has implemented additional health and safety procedures. The most notable change is that all guests; including members, non-members, and MI Bridges cardholders must reserve a timed ticket online prior to arrival due to the Zoo’s limited capacity.

We also noticed John Ball Zoo staff wearing face masks. While not required, it is recommended that guests join in wearing a face mask as well. Face masks will be available upon request or for purchase at the gift shop.

john ball zoo safety

Along with timed ticketing, John Ball Zoo has added ground markers and signage throughout the Zoo, asking guests to maintain 6 feet of separation between groups.

In areas where social distancing is limited or in high touch point areas, there are closures of some guest spaces. These may include indoor spaces, outdoor play areas, and experiences. Closures are likely to change over the summer as information and strategies evolve. On our 6/5/20 visit, the aquarium, play areas, experiences, and petting zoo were closed (we still found plenty to do and had a wonderful visit.)

The John Ball Zoo Gem Company mining experience was open during our visit.

john ball zoo mining

The Zoo has also added hand washing and hand sanitizing stations. They are adding more frequent and detailed cleaning protocols to their already comprehensive cleaning schedule.

We saw many employees disinfecting handrails and other high touchpoints during our visit.

john ball zoo handwashing stations

john ball zoo handwashing stations

Gift shop sales have been moved outside.

john ball zoo gift shop

Picnic and dining areas have tables spaced out to accommodate social distancing. Bring your own water bottle – drinking fountains are not available.

john ball zoo picnic area


The meerkats and their habitat partner, the cape porcupine, are sporting new digs this year.

The wide viewing windows make for a fun experience with these curious animals. Just remember that touching the windows means a handwashing is in order.

john ball zoo meerkat exhibit

john ball zoo meerkat exhibit

Not to be forgotten, John Ball Zoo is home to an exciting array of animal life.

The tigers are a perennial favorite, as are many others.

john ball zoo tigers

john ball zoo chimpanzee

JBZ John Ball Zoo VIP feature image red panda Wyatt

john ball zoo otters

john ball zoo boardwalk

Another Zoo highlight: serene walking paths.

John Ball Zoo may be located on a hillside, but they have gone to great lengths to make the attraction walkable for those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers.

If walking along shady boardwalks is something you enjoy, you’ll love the trails and walkways at JBZ.

john ball zoo boardwalk

Animal ambassadors are positioned around the zoo at various times, letting visitors get an up-close look.

john ball zoo animal ambassadors


Tickets, Hours, and More

Visiting John Ball Zoo this year takes a little planning.

Prepurchased, timed tickets are needed.

During summer hours, the zoo is open 9 am – 6 pm most days and rates start at $11 for youth and $14 for adults. Children 3 and under are free.

John Ball Zoo is located at 1300 W. Fulton St, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

For more information on online timed ticket reservations and the safety guidelines, visit the John Ball Zoo’s website at If you have any questions, you can call (616) 336-4300 or email [email protected]

john ball zoo map 2020

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