WIN Tickets to Go Wild at John Ball Zoo!

john ball zoo tiger

What a Great Place! John Ball Zoo is for Everyone

Nestled in the heart of the city, John Ball Zoo is one of Grand Rapids, MI most beloved attractions.

Over 2,000 animals call this 100-acre park home, including tigers, monkeys, lions, penguins and more.

Head to John Ball Zoo for the perfect combination of exotic animal exhibits, special events and experiences that have visitors coming back to this place again and again.

Use this guide to the zoo and you may just find yourself buying a membership by the end! Read on to find out how you can enter to win free tickets!

Exciting Zoo Events & Experiences for 2024

John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids is set to dazzle and educate with its lineup of events for 2024.

A brand new attraction this year is the Dino Adventures, where over 20 lifelike, animatronic dinosaurs will roam the Forest Realm, offering a prehistoric journey like no other.

Also new is the immersive Wild Explorer Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Theatre, transporting guests to the forests of Rwanda for an unforgettable encounter with mountain gorillas.

The popular Grand Rapids Lantern Festival is back, too, offering a dazzling display of handcrafted Asian lanterns that beautifully merge wildlife with Asian culture.

These events, alongside several new animals, Rock, Roar and Pour nights, Wildlife Exploration Days, and Zoo Goes Boo, promise a year filled with discovery and fun at the zoo.

Take a look!

John Ball Zoo Lantern Festival

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Our Grand Rapids Zoo will host the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival again in 2024.

The lantern festival runs April 10 – June 16, 2024
Wednesday to Sunday from 7:30 – 11:30 PM

Handcrafted Asian lanterns illuminate the Zoo, telling the intersecting story of wildlife and Asian culture. Interactive interactive displays, fun activities, and endless enchantment, this event returns after its popular debut last year.

Dino Adventures at John Ball Zoo Grand Rapids Triceratops

Dino Adventures

Monday, July 15 – Sunday, November 10, 2024. Included with daily Zoo admission

Over 20 giant, animatronic dinosaurs come to life in the Forest Realm. They move, they fart, they pee! See a T-Rex, Velociraptor, and more up close. Go on fossil digs and learn about these majestic creatures of the past. Included with Zoo admission.

Rock, Roar and Pour

Rock, Roar and Pour is back by popular demand! Spend your summer nights at John Ball Zoo’s 21 and up concert series. Get into the theme of the night with featured local bands, themed entertainment, food trucks, and specialty drinks, all while strolling through animal habitats with no kids. Thursdays.

June 27: Project 90. Live up the 90’s neon theme. Street performers!

July 25: Cabildo. Latin vibes.

August 8: Earth Radio festival night.

August 29: Main Street Dueling Pianos.

October 24: Halloween edition. Scary food & spirits. Costume contest!

Wildlife Exploration Days

Once a month, join John Ball Zoo for a unique opportunity to celebrate Earth’s biodiversity and learn how to take action to make a difference. Find educational activities, entertainment, plant giveaways, and animal programs. Grab your Wildlife Explorer Passport when you arrive and collect a badge for each day you attend to become a Wildlife Explorer.

Sat, May 25: Michigan Wildlife Day with Anna, Elsa & Friends.

Thu, June 20: World Ocean Day with Ariel, Moana, Pocahontas and Captain Jack Sparrow.

Fri, July 19: Pink Flamingo Day with Rapunzel, Aurora, Elena and Rosetta.

Wed, Aug 9: World Lion Day with authentic African dancers & musicians.

Sat, Sept 14: Monarch Day with Tinker Bell, Tiana, Peter Pan & Giselle.

Breakfast with the Animals

Start your morning on the wild side! Enjoy sunrise breakfast on the South American Boardwalk, followed by a guided tour to two animal exhibits of your choosing. Either choice will make for a fun way to start the day!

John Ball Zoo Goes Boo

John Ball Zoo Goes Boo 2024

Your family friendly trick-or-treat destination is back! Behold the enchanting transformation as the Zoo turns into the ultimate Halloween destination. Enjoy bewitching decorations, twisted treat stations, and an endless supply of animal fun. Immerse yourself in the festivities, grab your best cape, and be captivated by magicians, fire performers, jugglers and more. You may even catch a glimpse of some villains, too! A wickedly fun family tradition. Zoo Goes Boo: your place for spooky kooky fun for the whole family.

Three weekends: Friday – Sunday (10 AM – 5 PM, Members Only 9 AM – 10 AM)

October 11-13

October 18-20

October 25-27

New Rides and New Animals at John Ball Zoo

Wild Explorer Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Theatre: This new paid experience puts guests in the middle of the forests of Rwanda, courtesy of Virtual Reality. Hop on the ride and you’ll feel like you’re sitting alongside mountain gorillas, watching adorable baby gorillas frolic while the powerful silverback protects the herd.

New Animals: This year, John Ball Zoo welcomes several new members to its animal family.

Zuhura, or “Zu” for short, joins the chimpanzee troop from the Detroit Zoo. Her name means “morning star.”

You can also look forward to meeting four male Chocoan Peccaries. This pig-like endangered species is native to Paraguay. Visit them along the zoo’s South American boardwalk while they are here.

WIN 4 Tickets to John Ball Zoo!

Are you already pumped to visit John Ball Zoo? We’re giving ONE lucky reader the chance to WIN four (4) tickets to visit John Ball Zoo.

Best of all, you’ll get them just in time to explore Dinosaur Adventure, coming July 15.

Fill out the form below to be entered to WIN:

Enter Here

FINE PRINT: This giveaway will close on July 10, 2024, at 11 PM EST 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. 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. GRKIDS’ liability is limited to the value of the prize.

John Ball Zoo Map

1300 W. Fulton, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

From the amusing tamarins and the new pygmy hippo exhibit to the high-flying zip line, this place is brimming with adventure!

John Ball Zoo Map
Map of John Ball Zoo Attractions

2024 Camps & Classes at John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo Summer Camps

For over 25 years, West Michigan kids have flocked to John Ball Zoo’s Summer Zoo Camp, and JBZ is excited for the 2024 season!

Camps fill up almost instantly when registration opens.

So how do you even land a spot in a JBZ Summer Camp? Be a member and book your spots the minute registration opens! (Member summer camp registration starts February 3. Non-member registration begins on March 9.)

John Ball Zoo Map

Preschool Zoo Classes

John Ball Zoo doesn’t leave preschoolers out of the fun! 3 and 4 year olds can enroll in the Zoolittles nature-play program.

These 3-hour classes are designed for the child only and offer a fun, enriching learning environment where 3 & 4 year-olds can explore the animal world.

Kids Day Out

At the monthly Kids Day Out, parents enjoy a break while kids enjoy an afternoon of super fun zoo time and crafts.

Kids Day Out gives children ages 4 – 10 time to have at the zoo, make crafts and enjoy pizza and snacks.

Classes are announced seasonally and fill up quickly.

Best 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. Here are a few visitor favorites to help you narrow it down:

john ball zoo aquarium

Find Penguins & Fish at the Aquarium

Join the frenzy in the Living Waters Aquarium building during a penguin feeding.

John-Ball-Zoo-red-pandas-mom-dad-baby

Find Your Favorite Animals at John Ball Zoo

Popular animals at the Grand Rapids zoo include:

Pygmy Hippos

Red Pandas

Chimpanzees

Spider Monkeys

Tigers

Snow Leopard

Meerkats

Lemurs

Flamingos

Lions

Bear

Otters

Penguins

Wallabies

Capybara

Anteater

Bongos

Warthogs

Hornbills

Tamarins

Barnyard Petting Zoo

Frogs & Snakes

Budgies

Mountain Lion

Bald Eagle

Porcupine

Bobcat

Sharks

John Ball Zoo feeding pelicans

Attend a Daily Animal Program

Animal trainings, animal feedings, and animal enrichment are all on the calendar at John Ball Zoo. Check the board when you arrive or the online event calendar to see what’s scheduled for that day.

John Ball Zoo petting farm

Brush a Goat in the Petting Zoo

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.

Enjoy the Extra Attractions

These bonus zoo attractions are available for an added fee.

Get Up Close Through Virtual Reality

You’ll be transported to the jungles of Rwanda to get in the mix with a herd of mountain gorillas with the Wild Explorer VR Experience.

John-Ball-Zoo-high-ropes-course

Take a Turn on the Ropes Course

Brave the four-story tall Sky Trail Ropes Course, open on weekends. 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. $10 per ride.

Ride the Zipline

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. $10 per ride. (Ropes Course/Zip Line Combo $16). 

Ride the Funicular for the Easy Way Up to the Top

Admire the view as you ride the Idema Funicular. Board the funicular near the zoo entrance at the bottom of the hill. Strollers and wheelchairs are allowed on the funicular. This is a great option if you’d like to walk downhill for the bulk of your visit.

john ball zoo gem mining

Strike it Rich 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 start at $8.99 – $29.99.

John Ball Zoo Camel Ride

Ride a Camel

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. Must be 34″ tall to ride without a guardian. 300 pound weight limit. Opens early May. $8

grand rapids museum - john ball zoo

Feed the Budgies

Head to the bottom of the waterfall to find the Budgie Aviary, normally open mid-late May. Buy a feed stick ($3) and get some of the over 200 budgies to feed right out of your hand!

Included with Admission

JBZ Treetop Outpost

Find All of the Play Areas

Rope Playground: Explore the ropes and nets along the Wild Way Trail. Anyone can monkey around on this smaller rope course and net tunnels all along the Wild Way Trail.

Treetop Outpost play area: 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.

Children’s Nature Play Zone: Explore beyond the tigers to find a play area made from nature.

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.

JOhn Ball Zoo Meerkat habitat

Pop Up Into the Meerkat Habitat

The meerkat exhibit has little tunnels for kids that invite you to pop into plastic viewing bubbles, just like the meerkats!

Watch a Bear Eat Breakfast

Hightail it to the bear habitat when the zoo opens and you might just get to see the bear eating breakfast.

Keepers give the bear food in a clever, enriching way that is often entertaining to watch.

Treat Yourself to Special Zoo Animal Experiences

Go beyond a typical daytime visit to the Grand Rapids Zoo with these immersive experiences. Must be booked in advance.

Close Encounters

Winter, spring, summer, and fall, John Ball Zoo’s close encounters can get you up close and personal with multiple different animals. Be aware that availability changes with seasonal animal behaviors, like bear hibernation or penguin molting.  

Animal ExperienceMin Age & Number of People
Penguin Feeding13 years, 1 person
Penguin Encounter6 years, up to 4 people
Brown Bear Encounter6 years, 2-6 people
Red Panda Encounter8 years, up to 2 people
NEW Sloth Encounter13 years, up to 2 people
NEW Pygmy Hippo Feeding13 years, 1-4 people
john ball zoo bear encounter
John Ball Zoo Bear Encounter

Sneak a Peek Tours

Get a special look at the zoo on a sneak peek behind-the-scenes tour of the habitats.

Groups of up to 10 people join zoo staff to see where the animals spend their time while not on exhibit and learn how the animals at the zoo are cared for.

Choose Under the Sea to learn how John Ball Zoo keeps an aquarium up and running for the fish, penguins, sharks, and marine invertebrates that you see in the habitats.

You will also have an opportunity to touch a sea star and an urchin while behind the scenes. Available 7 days a week, year round.

Guided Tours

Start your day with a guided tour of your favorite area of the Zoo.

Have the whole place to yourself while also having a Zoo Educator guide to answer all of your Zoo questions.

Each tour lasts about 45 minutes.

Tour options are North American & Aquarium, Natural Treasures & Chimpanzees, or Red Pandas & Meerkats.

$100 per group of up to 6 people ($75 for zoo members). $10 for each additional person. Maximum of 20 people per group. Available only when the Zoo is closed for the season.

Tips for Navigating John Ball Zoo

john ball zoo new entrance path

A stroller is highly recommended if visiting with little kids. The zoo is built on a hill, so there is lots of uphill walking. The zoo offers pull-wagon and tiger stroller rentals.

Pack hand sanitizer. The zoo has several hand sanitizer stations throughout, as well as many bathrooms, but having your own stash of sanitizer is helpful.

Bring or buy lunch. You can bring a brown bag lunch and eat it inside the zoo at the picnic pavilion. There are also several concession stands serving everything from ice cream to sandwiches to slushies and beer.

John Ball Zoo Ticket Booth

John Ball Zoo Tickets & Hours 2024

Open dates for 2024: March 22 – November 24, 2024

HOURS: The zoo’s hours vary with the time of year. During the summer they are open from 9 AM – 6 PM seven days a week. However, there are exceptions so be sure to check their calendar before going.

TICKETS: Tickets can be purchased at the gate or in advance online.

ADDRESS: 1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Admission Rates for John Ball Zoo

May 11 – Sept 29Spring/Fall
Adults (ages 13 – 61)$22$17
Youth (ages 3 – 12)$17$13
Seniors (ages 62 +)$17$13
College Students (with valid student ID)$17$13
Military (with valid military ID.
Available to active & Veteran US Military
personnel and their spouses)
$17$13
Kids under 2FreeFree

For more information on tickets and memberships, visit John Ball Zoo’s website. You can also call (616) 336-4300 or email [email protected].

John Ball Zoo Memberships

If you live in West Michigan, a membership can often the best way to experience the Grand Rapids zoo.

In addition to free admission for a year, the membership comes loaded with bonus perks.

john ball zoo summer camp campers
John Ball Zoo Summer Camp

10 Reasons a John Ball Zoo Membership is a great idea for West Michigan residents

1 – Free Every Day! Let’s say it again! With zoo membership, you get free regular admission for one calendar year. Since memberships start at $85 they usually pay for themselves by the third visit.

2 – FREE DINO VISITS: Unlimited FREE visits to the zoo’s dinosaur exhibit are in your future if you’re a member in summer 2024. Plus, you’ll get into Zoo Goes Boo for free at Halloween. Nice.

3 – Wildlife Explorer Days. For these (6) days this summer, the zoo lets members in an hour before the general public so you can see the animals and characters (think princesses, etc) first. Even better, these events are FREE for members!

4 – Free Admission to Local Museums: John Ball Zoo members get in free at other West MI attractions all summer long – here’s the list: Impression 5 in Lansing in May, GR Art Museum in June, GR Public Museum in July, GR Children’s Museum in August, Lakeshore Museum in Muskegon in September.

Even More Reasons a Zoo Membership is a Great Idea

5 – Short Trips: Members feel great about making short trips to the zoo. See different animals at different times of day, work around naptime, take home a crabby kid – no problem.

6 – First Dibs: You get first dibs on zoo events, zoo camps, and zoo classes. Some of these sell out, so membership is a serious perk. Getting to buy Lantern Fest tickets before everyone else is sweet.

7– Special Events: Special member nights and event invites come your way if you’re a member.

8 – Discounts are a thing if you have a membership. Save on special events, birthday parties, concessions, and at the zoo gift store. Members get a 20% Discount on Food, Retail, and Experiences, for starters.

9 – Magazine: The zoo’s print magazine is delivered to your mailbox.

10 – Bonus Privileges: Your membership gets you bonus privileges at many other zoos and aquariums in North America. For example 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. (Consult John Ball Zoo’s reciprocal membership FAQ for the most up-to-date information.)