The Behind the Scenes Experts at John Ball Zoo Make Kids Feel Pretty Special, for Humans

John Ball Zoo Experience feeding pelicans feature image

This Time, Please do Touch the Animals!

While John Ball Zoo is all about the animals, they have some special ways to get your kids in on the action, too. A little birdie told us about exciting and educational activities that will give your family something to crow about.

Krista Jackson was one of two local moms to win a fabulous VIP Zoo Experience from our recent giveaway, and we just had to see how her trip went.

JBZ VIP girl smiling

Although she and her husband grew up going to John Ball Zoo, Krista was unaware how John Ball Zoo has expanded over the years.

“John Ball Zoo is completely accessible. It is a really good mix of activities and animals.” 

Earlier this month, Krista and her children Nora (7) and Thomas (4) enjoyed some of the zoo’s extra hands-on perks.

It was great,” said Krista. “It was well-planned out. The staff was very kind to the kids, answered all of their questions, and were very patient.”

Kids Get a Glimpse of a Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

Checking out Ducks and Turtles

On the day of their adventure, JBZ zookeeper Keith met them inside the entrance. This first stop was the duck enclosure.

Krista and her children were surprised to learn that zoo ducks are not the only inhabitants of the exhibit! Wild ducks also reside there. Keith showed Nora and Thomas how to tell the difference between the species of ducks that dwell there and the party crashers.

The children noticed turtles enjoying this watery home as well. Keith encouraged them to study the turtles, allowing them to inspect closely.

John Ball Zoo behind the scenes

Tossing Fish to the Pelicans

Feeding time for the pelicans was a Close Encounter that provided lots of learning and laughs. Keith thoroughly described what the pelicans eat, detailing types of fish and taste preferences.

At first, Nora was “a little grossed out” about touching the fish. She quickly became engaged in the process. The kids loved how the fish were just tossed into the eagerly-awaiting pelicans’ mouths. At one point, a VIP (Very Impatient Pelican) casually snatched a fish right from the hand of distracted Thomas!

“They really loved feeling like they got to do something special, that not everyone else does,” Krista told me.

John Ball Zoo JBZ feeding pelicans


The Zookeepers are What Make the Experience Great

Spending a great deal of time with the pelicans, zookeeper Keith was in no rush with the interested family.

“He answered the most bizarre questions, taught them about the education required to be a zookeeper, what his job is like, and how to feed dangerous animals.”

Krista was impressed with all of the staff at the zoo. “I just can’t say enough about the zookeeper, Keith. He was so accommodating. The staff members were all so kind and professional.”

Camel Rides, Feeding Budgies, Ice Cream and More

Next up, the children ventured into the North West Region of the zoo for a camel ride before feeding the colorful Budgies, having ice cream treats and sluicing for gems.

And in between all that fun, they visited creatures great and small throughout the zoo. 

zoo experiences

Krista looks forward to a return trip to enjoy the Realm of Flight Bird Show and the Funicular. The ropes course and zipline are in their scope for the future as well.

“The kids were worn out from the zoo!” said Krista. “It was a lot of fun.”

John Ball Zoo JBZ Funicular kids

John Ball Zoo 4

1300 W. Fulton St.
Grand Rapids

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