John Ball Zoo Trip Planner
|John Ball Zoo|
1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
John Ball Zoo is a pretty special place for Grand Rapids families.
It’s got the perfect combination of exotic animal exhibits and pit stops for fun that has kids coming back to this place again and again.
From the amusing tamarins and majestic tigers to the high-flying zip line and BRICKLIVE exhibits, John Ball Zoo is brimming with adventure.
But how do you make the most of your visit? How do you avoid missing out on an iconic zoo activity?
Follow our guide to doing the zoo with kids, and you may just find yourself buying a membership by the end!
What’s New at John Ball Zoo for 2021
Stand Near Towering Brick Sculptures Over 10 Feet Tall at BRICKLIVE Supersized!
This traveling exhibit is making its first US stop (straight from Great Britain!) to bring over 30 astonishing larger-than-life toy brick animal sculptures right here to West Michigan.
BRICKLIVE Supersized! was created using more than 2 million toy bricks.
Supersizing nature’s small and mighty is the theme for this amazing exhibition.
From the small and stinky honey badger to the small and highly venomous blue-ringed octopus, all creatures have been chosen for their colorful appearance in nature, unusual natural abilities, and because they can be magnified to an eye-popping size.
You’re going to have to see this in person to take it all in.
BRICKLIVE Supersized! will be on display at John Ball Zoo through September 26 and is included with general admission.
As guests make their way through John Ball Zoo, they will discover more about these often misunderstood creatures, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, insects, mammals, and marine species that are truly small and mighty in nature.
Each sculpture will have educational signage featuring facts about where they live in the world, what they eat, and their real-life size, along with how magnified the sculpture is, how many toy bricks were used, the amount of time and the number of builders it took to create.
Additional highlights include a brightly-colored common kingfisher who is small and territorial in real life is magnified over 30 times to a towering 11 feet tall toy brick sculpture.
The small and new Bornean neon blue-legged tarantula is a recently discovered species in nature that fits in the palm of a hand, but with BRICKLIVE Supersized! it is magnified 84 times to an astonishing 12 feet tall.
15 Things to Do on a John Ball Zoo Day Trip
It’s easy to spend hours at John Ball Zoo and still not experience it all. The following are some visitor favorites to put on your Zoo Bucket List.
Don’t think you can do it all in a day? You can get a membership so you can return again and again, and explore something new each time.
NOTE: Availability/offerings can change at John Ball Zoo. We are keeping this section as up-to-date as possible, but please consult the zoo’s website to confirm information before heading out.
Join the frenzy in the Living Waters Aquarium building during a penguin feeding.
Rub noses with the wallabies at the start of the Wild Way Trail.
Not ready for the full ropes course? Anyone can monkey around on this smaller rope course and net tunnels all along the Wild Way Trail.
Be a perch for a parakeet in the Budgie Aviary. (Insider’s Tip: If the budgie area is full of people, come back in a little bit. More people = more treats, and the birds may not be hungry enough to land on your stick after a rush of people have been in.)
Listen to the varying frog songs of native Michigan amphibians in the Frog Hut.
Meet an owl, armadillo, or maybe even a skunk when you learn what it takes to be a zookeeper at Tools of the Trade Animal Encounters. Located at the Forest Realm Amphitheater, this experience happens three times a day.
Let loose as you run, climb, and explore at the Treetop Outpost play area.
See if you can jump as high as a snow leopard along High Street.
You have to do one thing as soon as you’ve entered the gates: get a pic with John Ball! A long-lasting symbol of the zoo, kids love saying hi to this friendly statue.
Special Experiences at John Ball Zoo
There are even more ways to experience the zoo beyond your typical daytime visit.
School-age kids love zoo camp. Zoo Camp is so popular that they often sell out quick (membership perk: you can register for these before non-members).
Close Encounters | Kids work with a zookeeper to provide hands-on caring for penguins, pelicans, chimpanzees, bears, or other ambassador animals.
Kids Night Out | Parents enjoy a break while kids enjoy super fun zoo time and crafts at night!
Keeper for Half a Day | Work side-by-side with a keeper as they go about their duties.
Twilight Tours | Explore John Ball Zoo with your family after the sun goes down!
Sneak a Peak | Gather a group and get a behind-the-scenes look with either the Under the Sea Tour or African Savannah Tour.
Pro Tips for Navigating John Ball Zoo
Families can easily spend hours at this zoo, between the animals and the activities and play structures interspersed. Here are some tips for being prepared:
- A stroller is highly recommended. The zoo is built on a hill, so there is lots of uphill walking (and then downhill to get back to the entrance). They’ve recently renovated their entrance area so the uphill climb is more chill, but there are still areas where you’ll be heading up steeper hills. The zoo also offers pull-wagon or tiger stroller rentals at their Safari Supplies outpost near the John Ball Zoo statue.
- Hand sanitizer. The zoo has several hand sanitizer stations throughout, as well as many bathrooms, but having your own stash of sanitizer is helpful. There are various animal encounters here that make you glad you brought it!
- Pack a lunch. Did you know that you can eat lunch at the zoo? You can. There are picnic tables under a nice pavilion within the zoo, and some families enjoy the playground outside the zoo for picnicking/playing (have you checked out the new playground yet?). Don’t worry – there are also concessions if you find yourself starving and without a sandwich, and the concessions are delicious.
- Use sun protection. Despite the many shaded areas, there are also lots of sunny spots as well, so a layer of sunscreen or a hat can help avoid sunburns.
WIN Tickets to John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo is giving away a family 4-pack of tickets to one lucky reader. Enter to win below.
This giveaway will close on July 26, 2021, at 11 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 grkids.com and not to Facebook. Entrants will release Facebook from all liability. Entrants must be at least 21 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.
John Ball Zoo Tickets, Hours & Timed Entry
The zoo is located at 1300 W. Fulton, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.
The zoo has varied hours, depending on the time of year. During the summer (May 29 – Sept 6, 2021), they are open from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM seven days a week. However, there are exceptions so be sure to check their calendar before going.
This year they are also running timed entries to avoid overcrowding. They highly encourage reserving your tickets in advance to ensure your entry time into the Zoo.
Summer Admission Rates for John Ball Zoo
|Adults (ages 13 – 61)||$15|
|Youth (ages 3 – 12)||$12|
|Seniors (ages 62 +)||$12|
|College Students (with valid student ID)||$12|
|Military (with valid military ID.|
Available to active & Veteran US Military
personnel and their spouses)
|Kids under 2||Free|
John Ball Zoo Membership Info
A membership is the best way to experience the zoo for local families. A membership for a family of four ($115) costs less than 3 family visits to the zoo. This year my family sprung for the preferred membership ($165), which allows us to bring up to two additional guests per visit. My kids are really excited to bring friends to the zoo this summer.
For more information on tickets and memberships, visit John Ball Zoo’s website.
You can also call (616) 336-4300 or email [email protected]