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.
And now, we have IllumiZoo 2021 to look forward to!
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!
John Ball Zoo Map & Animals
New at John Ball Zoo for 2021
BRICKLIVE Supersized! Stand Near Towering Brick Sculptures Over 10 Feet Tall
Here for 2021: This traveling exhibit, BRICKLIVE Supersized!, 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.
Pet the Animals at Red’s Hobby Farm
Give the sheep and goats a comb down in the Petting Corral at Red’s Hobby Farm.
But be sure to remove dangling items and keep an eye on your skirt – goats love to nibble on them.
Be Thrilled in the Aquarium
Join the frenzy in the Living Waters Aquarium building during a penguin feeding.
Watch the tide go in and out, in and out, in the tide pool.
See How Far You Can Jump on the Wild Way Trail
Rub noses with the wallabies at the start of the Wild Way Trail.
Watch the howler monkeys and ring-tailed lemurs scamper overhead.
Take Your Turn on the Ropes Course
Brave the four-story tall Sky Trail Ropes Course.
With over 15 obstacles, you’ll spend your turn seeing just how high and how far you can go.
Guests must be 48 inches tall, wear closed-back shoes, and be wearing pants or shorts.
$10 per ride. (Ropes Course and Zip Line Combo is $16).
Play Like a Monkey
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.
Don’t Look Down! Soar over the zoo as you cruise down the 600-foot Zip Line.
The Zip Line starts above the waterfall and ends on the Wild Way Trail.
Guests must be 48 inches tall, weigh between 65-250 pounds, wear closed-back shoes, and be wearing pants or shorts.
$10 per ride. (Ropes Course and Zip Line Combo is $16).
Strike it Rich at the John Ball Zoo Gem Company
Pan for treasure at the John Ball Zoo Gem Company.
Choose from 3 different Gem Bags and then pour them into your screen to reveal your treasures.
Use the provided Gem ID card to figure out what treasures are now yours.
Treasure bags range from $8.99 – $29.99.
Feed the Birdies in the Aviary
Head to the bottom of the waterfall to find the Budgie Aviary.
Buy a feed stick ($2) and get some of the over 200 budgies to feed right out of your hand!
(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.)
Tune Into the Frog Hut
Don’t skip the Frog Hut!
Inside this little place, you’ll find 50 or so frogs, toad, and salamanders. Press the buttons to listen to native Michigan frog songs so you’ll be able to identify them at home later on.
Watch the Bears Eat Breakfast
Hightail it to the bear enclosure when the zoo opens and you might just get to see the bears eating breakfast.
Keepers give bears their food in a clever, enriching way that is often entertaining to watch.
Discover the Zoo Play Zones
Let loose as you run, climb, and explore at the Treetop Outpost play area and Children’s Nature Play Zones in the Idema Forest Realm.
To reach these play areas, you’ll need to take the boardwalk or the funicular to the top of the hill in the back of the zoo.
Just outside of the zoo there are several playgrounds in John Ball Park.
Take the Easy Way Up.
Admire the view as you ride the Idema Funicular.
Board the funicular near the zoo entrance at the bottom of the hill.
Strollers are allowed on the funicular. This is a great option if you’d like to walk downhill for the bulk of your visit.
Camel Rides at John Ball Zoo
Make any day a hump day when you take a ride on a camel at the top of the Western Valley Pathway.
Up to three riders per camel ride. Rides are shared with other participants to keep the line moving at times.
You need to be 34 inches tall to ride without a guardian. Max weight is 300 pounds.
$7 per person.
Pop Into the Meerkat Exhibit
The newer meerkat exhibit has little tunnels for kids that invite you to pop into plastic viewing bubbles, just like the meerkats!
Get the Iconic Photo with John Ball
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 quickly (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!
IllumiZoo at John Ball Zoo for 2021
Last year, 2020, was the debut for this mile-long magical nighttime Light Show at John Ball Zoo and it’s coming back for 2021!
IllumiZoo – What to Expect
IllumiZoo Wild Hues is the theme for this year.
About the Wild Hues theme
As there are many hues of color, there are also many ‘hues’ of species and environments throughout the world. Each with its own unique colors, traits, and stories to tell. The survival of many of these species and environments are in jeopardy, with more than 16,000 animal species facing endangerment and extinction in the world.
When you visit, you’ll experience interactive storytelling LED walls, the Fluorescent Flower Field, and a mesmerizing, inviting oversized “campfire” in the forest realm, complete with colored, flickering digital embers.
Colorful animated animal footprints and lush green leaves will illuminate the trail reacting to visitors’ steps.
The “invisible” animals will also speed up and run away when guests get too close to their footprints. The night sky will also be illuminated with animal constellations and more
Guests of IllumiZoo Wild Hues will travel in the opposite direction of last year’s path.
Experience the magic as you walk through the zoo after dark.
Lights, colors, and sounds surround visitors winding their way through the upper and lower realms of the Zoo.
Expect your journey to take about 60 minutes, depending on your walking pace and how long you linger.
You’ll make your way into new areas for this nighttime journey through John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The pathway isn’t haunted, though. This adventure is great for the whole family – as long as it isn’t past your bedtime!
The magical light show follows many of the same pathways that guests walk during the daytime at John Ball Zoo so it is wheelchair as well as stroller friendly.
Here’s a flashback to last year’s IllumiZoo event:
IllumiZoo Dates & Tickets
IllumiZoo Wild Hues at John Ball Zoo admission and ticket info:
- IllumiZoo runs Wed-Sun, starting Friday, September 3 – Sunday, November 14, 2021.
- Timed ticketing will vary as sunset times change.
- Tickets will are $20 for adults, $13 for children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and under.
Guests are highly encouraged to reserve tickets in advance to guarantee their preferred date and time to experience IllumiZoo Wild Hues. Tickets are available at www.jbzoo.org/tickets.
This illuminating connection to wildlife and wild places is a collaboration between Bluewater Technologies of Grand Rapids and John Ball Zoo.
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
No active John Ball Zoo giveaway is happening now. Check back, though – we’re always adding new giveaways to the website. For current active giveaways, check here.
John Ball Zoo Memberships
A membership is often the best way to experience the Grand Rapids zoo for local families.
In addition to free admission for a year, there are so many other perks to a zoo membership that its worth more than its weight in gold!
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.
Here are Seven Reasons why we think a John Ball Zoo Membership is a great idea for West Michigan Families
Kids Love It!
Kids (and parents!) of all ages love going to the zoo!
From little kids who just want to run from exhibit to exhibit to older kids who are eager to learn about the different animals, there is something for everyone to get excited about at the zoo.
With a John Ball Zoo membership, you get free regular admission for one calendar year. (Zoo Goes Boo is not included, but members do get a discount on admission.)
Short Trips Can Be Easier
Sure, you can have a blast staying at the zoo from open to close, but that kind of day can be hard on parents and kids alike.
It’s easier if you can break your zoo trip into smaller chunks.
In doing so, you’ll be rewarded with seeing different animals at different times of day.
Get First Dibs on Zoo Camps and Classes
If you’ve tried to get into a zoo camp or class as a non-member, you know how tricky it can be.
That’s because Zoo Camp is offered first to zoo members, and classes can sell out during this offering
Discounts at the Zoo
Discounts abound for John Ball Zoo members, including:
-Discounts on special events
-Discounts on Birthday Parties
-Discounts on Education Classes
-20% discount on John Ball retail, including food and beverage purchases
-10% discount at concession stands
-20% discount on seasonal experiences such as the Zip Line, Ropes Course, Camel Rides, Budgie Feed Sticks & Gem Company
Member Nights & Special Events
Member nights at John Ball Zoo are busy for a reason: they are very, very cool.
During member nights you get to see special animal trainings, keeper talks and other specials that aren’t part of a typical zoo visit.
You Get the Cool John Ball Zoo’s Quarterly Magazine
Kids LOVE it when the Zoo News Magazine comes in the mail every few months.
They can read about what is happening at the zoo, what events are coming up, and what is going on with their favorite animals.
I appreciate the updates on events and happenings as well as the beautiful photos included in their publication.
Cash in on Reciprocal Membership Perks
Nowadays I get so much use out of the reciprocals included with the membership. JBZ membership includes “Free or reduced admission to over 150 reciprocal zoos and aquariums across North America.”
Potter Park Zoo in Lansing is free with your John Ball Zoo membership.
Admission to Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek or the Detroit Zoo is 50% off with your card. PLUS the Sea Life Aquarium in Auburn Hills is 50% off with your membership card!
Consult John Ball Zoo’s reciprocal membership FAQ for the most up-to-date information.
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|
For more information on tickets and memberships, visit John Ball Zoo’s website.
You can also call (616) 336-4300 or email [email protected]