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 new wallaby exhibit to the high-flying zip line and Washed Ashore creations, 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!
Here for the giveaway? Keep reading for your chance to enter.
John Ball Zoo Map & Animals
New at John Ball Zoo for 2022 – Washed Ashore, Koalas & Wallabies
Every year John Ball Zoo brings in new exciting exhibits to teach and entertain. Here’s what we are looking forward to in 2022!
Washed Ashore Features Incredible Art Made from Beach Debris
April 1 – Oct 16, 2022
included with general admission
Artists have created stunning works of art from discarded plastics found on the beach and they’ll be on display at John Ball Zoo all season.
Get ready to see 16 dynamic sculptures of marine life that will bring awareness to conservation and sustainability in a way that will be very impactful for kids.
These pieces will captivate all ages and even includes a scavenger hunt to identify common discarded plastics like water bottles, bottle caps, flip flops, beach toys, sunglasses, and even tires.
It’s a great opportunity to ask kids how they think plastic can harm marine animals and how we can try to use less plastic at home.
It’s also just an amazing reminder of how we are all connected.
Two Koalas Visiting from San Diego Zoo
Running mid-May through end of summer
JBZ is partnering with the San Diego Zoo to bring two male koalas to Grand Rapids this summer.
This is part of a global conservation project to teach guests all about koalas – up close – and show us the impacts that koalas have on habitats near and far.
You can find the koalas in a new habitat across the pathway from Frogs & Friends.
New Wallaby Exhibit
Projected opening: mid-April
The beloved wallabies are getting a brand new structure this year. Watch for it to open sometime in April.
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.
1 – 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.
2 – Visit Penguins and Fish at 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.
3 – Wave the the Wallabies on the Wild Way Trail
Rub noses with the wallabies at the start of the Wild Way Trail, which is slated to open with a whole new structure this spring!
Watch the howler monkeys and ring-tailed lemurs scamper overhead.
4 – Take Your 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, wear closed-back shoes, and be wearing pants or shorts.
$10 per ride. (Ropes Course and Zip Line Combo is $16).
5 – Explore the Ropes and Nets Along 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.
6 – 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.
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). Currently open weekends only.
7 – 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.
8 – Feed the Budgies in the Aviary
Head to the bottom of the waterfall to find the Budgie Aviary, projected to open mid-late May.
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.)
9 – 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.
10 – 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.
11 – Discover the Zoo’s 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.
12 – 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 are allowed on the funicular. This is a great option if you’d like to walk downhill for the bulk of your visit.
13 – 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. 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. Opens early May.
$7 per person.
14 – 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!
15 – Take an Iconic Photo with John Ball Himself
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.
John Ball Zoo Camps & Classes 2022
John Ball Zoo Summer Camps – Sold Out
For over 25 years, West Michigan kids have flocked to John Ball Zoo’s Summer Zoo Camp, and JBZ is excited for the 2022 season!
And apparently, so is everyone else. According to the zoo, “camp sessions filled in record time this year. At this time there are only a handful of remaining spots. We do encourage you to register for the waitlist if you’re interested.”
So how do you even land a spot in a JBZ Summer Camp? You’ve got to be a member, and log in the minute registration opens.
Early summer camp registration for members runs March 23-27, 2022, and registration opens for everyone else on March 28. But as you can see, it’s already filled up in less than a day.
If you’re still interested in a special zoo opportunity for your kid, consider one of their zoo experiences.
What Summer Camp is Like
There are fascinating animals galore at John Ball Zoo, lots of hands-on adventures, and teachers who consistently bring the zoo to life with each class.
John Ball Zoo understands kids – and the staff intentionally crafts camps that inspire wonder and learning in kids.
Kids ages 4 years – 9th grade are placed in small classes by age and spend the summer exploring different animal themes through activities like games, zoo tours, park exploration, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, keeper talks, hands-on animal demonstrations, songs, stories, and art projects.
Classes range from Fancy Feet for 4-year-olds to Aquatic Adventures for 3rd and 4th graders; from the Kindergartner’s Now You See Me, Now You Don’t to the middle schooler’s Junior Keeper classes.
Click here for a complete schedule and class descriptions.
Camps are in two sessions: 4 half days, or 2 full days. Prices are:
- 4-Day Camp – $95/member, $105 non-member
- 2 Day Camp – $115/member, $125/non-member
COVID-19 Safety Guidelines: John Ball Zoo does not currently require program participants to wear face masks. We will continue to follow masking guidelines set by local, state, and federal agencies and update this policy as needed.
Spring Break Camps at John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo Camps are a totally unique hands-on learning experience for animal-loving kids. Each camp is designed around a theme and brings the zoo to life in a way your kids have never seen before.
Kids will delight in interactive trips around the zoo, real animal encounters, games, and more.
Spring Break Camps & Classes – Sold Out
For students in kindergarten – 5th grade
8:30 AM – 11:00 AM or 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM
$90 – Members $95 – Non-Members
K-2nd Grade – Animals: Near and Far! From chipmunks to chimps, toads to tigers, the zoo is home to some incredible animals! Take a hike through John Ball’s nature trails to see what critters we can find in our own backyard. Then, head into the zoo to discover creatures from all over the world!
3rd-5th Grade – Animal Professionals Working with animals is wild! This week, step into the shoes of zoo keepers, wildlife researchers, and veterinarians. Do you have what it takes to be an animal professional?
Preschool Camps & Classes
John Ball Zoo doesn’t leave preschoolers out of the fun! 3 and 4 year olds can enroll in the Sprout Series classes in the fall.
These classes are designed for the child only and offer a fun, enriching learning environment where 3 and 4 year olds can explore the animal world. **All children must be completely self-sufficient in the bathroom. Diapers and pull-ups are not permitted.
Sprout Series – Sold Out
For 3 and 4 year old learners
Thursdays & Fridays, 9:00 AM -11:30 AM
$20 – Members / class, $22 – Non-Members / Class
Each week the Sprouts will explore the Zoo and Park as they explore the animals and habitats of different stories.
Kids will learn from fiction and non-fiction books, explore real materials and get an up-close animal encounter.
Opt for one class, three classes or all of the classes – it’s all up to you!
Thursday and Friday’s class of the same week will be identical.
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!
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.
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.
WIN a Membership to John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo is giving away a family membership to one lucky reader! Memberships are a great way to experience the zoo, as you can visit again and again, and make short or long trips, depending on the day.
(Family membership includes free general admission for one or two name adult cardholders living at the same address and their dependent children or grandchildren ages 19 or younger.)
This giveaway will close on May 31, 2022, 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 (June 4 – Aug 21, 2022), 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.
Summer Admission Rates for John Ball Zoo
|Adults (ages 13 – 61)||$19|
|Youth (ages 3 – 12)||$15|
|Seniors (ages 62 +)||$15|
|College Students (with valid student ID)||$15|
|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]
John Ball Zoo Goes Boo 2021
JOHN BALL ZOO GOES BOO 2021
John Ball Zoo’s is time-treasured Halloween Zoo Goes Boo event will once again transform the zoo into the ultimate Halloween destination.
We know there will be amazing decorations, costumes, and candy.
And, of course, the Zoo’s amazing animals will be there, too.
Tradition returns to Zoo Goes Boo this year, as well.
Instead of last year’s one-way treat trail, treat stations will once again be set up throughout the zoo.
Strolling entertainment is back for 2021 — plus some villains may be stopping by to mix things up.
Guests are highly encouraged though to get in on the Halloween fun and wear costumes to this Grand Rapids Halloween event.
And of course, don’t forget to visit the animals while you’re making you’re way through John Ball Zoo Goes Boo – they might just be having treats of their own!
Also, John Ball Zoo is always looking for ways to be a friend of the environment, so they request that guests bring their own reusable treat bag or purchase one from their gift shop.
John Ball Zoo Goes Boo 2021 Details
FRI – SUN: OCTOBER 15-17
FRI – SUN: OCTOBER 22-24
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM each day
Adult tickets: $13 (Ages 13-61)
Senior tickets: $11 (Ages 62+)
Youth tickets: $100 (Ages 3-12)
Child tickets: FREE (Under age 3)
Non-members will need to purchase dated tickets for this event, but there is no longer a specified entry time.
Members are free and do not need to pre-purchase tickets.
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.
John Ball Zoo
1300 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI, 49504