Western Michigan is for (Animal) Lovers

Looking for a petting zoo, farm animals, or a place to ride horses? Read on to see what opportunities area zoos, farms, sanctuaries, and more have to offer kids and families across West Michigan.

When My Kids Want to Take a Walk on the Wild Side, Here are THE Places to Visit.

My daughter is passionate about animals and wants to fill our house with every pet that exists. When my brother’s puppy wouldn’t eat, Isabel sweet talked the creature into eating every meal from a tiny spoon for days; that dog ate every last morsel! And when it’s time to kick back and relax, she makes sure to include her best friend, Lucy.

If you’ve got a kid like this at home, this list will probably be your lifesaver this summer.

(“No, I can’t share the tablet with you,” she told her sister, “because Lucy and I are using the earbuds.”)

This post brought to you by John Ball Zoo.

John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo strives to inspire the community to be active participants in the conservation of wildlife and the natural environment. Education Programs at the Zoo offer fun, hands-on animal experiences that children and families won’t soon forget.

616 336-4300

26 Exciting Animal Encounters for Kids Around Grand Rapids

01: John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo has everything you’d expect in a zoo… and more! Offering camel rides, a funicular, lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, and a petting zoo, there is something for everyone. The Zoo is built on a hillside, so come prepared to walk. It is stroller-friendly, but some find it easier to use a child carrier.
1300 W Fulton St, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 | (616) 336-4300

02: Humane Society of West Michigan

Sign up for one of their monthly Family Drop In Days. Children must be 5 years or older (10 years or older to work with dogs). Spots are limited, so registration is required. A $10 donation is requested to help cover the cost of staffing this program. Other kid friendly opportunities are available- check out the website for the latest events!
3077 Wilson Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49534 | (616) 453-8900

03: Blandford Nature Center

Between the wildlife and the farm animals, there are opportunities everywhere at Blandford Nature Center to get close to animals! Many of their resident animals are used for educational programs: both on the grounds and on excursions to local schools and other facilities.
1715 Hillburn Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 | (616) 735-6240

04: Legacy Stables (Karin’s Horse Connection)

This is a horse lovers’ playground where horse lovers can connect with horses in many different ways. Programs available include vaulting, riding, therapeutic riding, 4-H, birthday parties, and own-a-horse camp!
8001 Patterson Ave. SE, Caledonia, MI 49316 | (616) 570-1106

05: Critter Barn

Opportunities abound at Critter Barn to interact with rabbits, chickens, ducks, cats, hogs, cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, turkeys, pot-bellied pigs, geese, a pony and a horse! From feeding, to petting, to caring for the animals and learning all about them, Critter Barn has it all! Please visit their website before you go to learn more about what’s awaiting you at the Critter Barn!
9275 Adams Street, Zeeland, MI 49464 | (616) 748-1110

07: Coopersville Farm Museum

Visit on the last Saturday of the month for Kids, Crafts and Critters to participate in their indoor petting zoo, featuring small and baby farm animals for holding and learning about, to corn shelling, a bead table, rope making and more!
375 Main Street, Coopersville, Michigan 49404 | (616) 997-8555

08: Schwallier’s Country Basket

Primarily an autumn spot, most of Schwallier’s Country Basket activities are free! Goats, bunnies, kittens, chickens, and the occasional dog, Schwallier’s lets you get up close and personal with most of them. Get in the pen and pet the bunnies, or feed the goats! If you take a stroller, make it a jogger; this is an orchard and not friendly to umbrella-type strollers.
1185 9 Mile NW, Sparta, MI 49345 | (616) 785-9896

09: Deer Tracks Junction

Petting zoo, deer, yak, elk, goats, stagecoach tours and ice cream! Where else are you going to get this close to a deer?
7850 14 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs, MI 49319 | (616) 863-3337

10: Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park

Located on 80 acres of land, Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park is a unique, hands-on experience for the entire family. The park boasts a distinct collection of exotic animals and reptiles, and the variety and dynamic atmosphere make Boulder Ridge anything but your average zoo.
8313 Pratt Lake SE, Alto, MI 49302 | (616) 868-6711

11: Dairy Discovery

Bottle feed a newborn calf and learn all about dairy cows in the Dairy Discovery Farm tours! Explore in the straw fort, get lost in the straw maze, play in the corn box and meet animal friends.
12877 84th St. SE, Alto, MI 49302 | (616) 293-0432

12: Teusink’s Pony Farm

Teusink’s has been providing ‘Fun on the Farm’ for over 100 years. Fun on the Farm Activities include pony ring ride, hayride, fishing, barn animals, exotic birds, and feeding the sheep and goats!
1468 West 32nd Street, Holland, MI 49423 | (616) 335-6226

Teusink's Pony Farm

13: Fellinlove Farm

Described as one of Michigan’s hidden gems, this farm in Holland was created to be a place where their daughters with disabilities could work. Fellin Love is also dedicated to making their farm accessible when able. Families love this petting zoo and the beautiful farm which is home to an African Tortoise, New Zealand pigs, rare Fell horses, a koi pond, bunnies, Yoga with Goats and so much more.
6364 144th Ave, Holland, MI 49423 | (616) 335-8761

14: DeGraaf Nature Center 

If you have 20 minutes or 2 hours, you will enjoy exploring the woodland, shrub, marsh and pond trails of this 18 acre nature preserve located within Holland city limits. The Brower Interpretive Center is brimming with informative and hands-on displays and live animal exhibits.
600 Graafschap Road, Holland, MI 49423 | (616) 355-1057

15: Nelis’ Dutch Village

Children delight in feeding the farm animals, visiting the petting zoo and interacting with the farm animals including, “Taking A Goat For A Walk.” The rides are age appropriate and include the giant wooden shoe slide, the restored antique carousel, and the “big swing” – the popular Zweefmolen (Dutch Swing Ride).
12350 James Street, Holland, MI 49424 | (616) 396-1475

16: Double R Ranch

Offers camping, and while you’re there, go out on a horseback ride, canoe on the sparkling Flat River, tube with the family, or enjoy a game of golf on the 9-hole course!
4424 Whites Bridge Rd, Belding, MI 48809 | (616) 794-0520

17: Kalamazoo Nature Center

Visit Lacey the Haflinger horse, Neo the pig, and all your farmyard favorites during the summer and weekends through September. There are a variety of Family Programs that focus on animals – Creature Features, Farmyard Wednesdays and other opportunities.
357 W. E Ave, Kalamazoo, MI | 269-381-1574

18: Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery

Feed and view fish on the giant show pond, which include some sturgeon that are over 5 feet in length!
34270 County Road 652, Mattawan, MI | 269-668-2876

19: Binder Park Zoo

433 acres of animal-filled wonder in natural forests and wetlands. This zoo offers the rare opportunity for you to get up close and personal with a giraffe feeding!
7400 Division Drive, Battle Creek, MI 49014 | (269) 979-1351

20: Anderson & Girls Orchards

This farm offers a wide variety of animals not found anywhere else in Montcalm County. He has everything from reindeer to camels to hedgehogs to lemurs. Don’t forget to visit the goats!
2985 N Sheridan Road, Stanton, MI, 48888 | (989) 831-4228

21: Lewis Farm Market

A seasonal market, the Lewis Farm Market boasts a huge petting farm featuring a camel, zebus, llamas, alpacas, fallow deer, goats, miniature horses and donkeys, pheasants, peacocks, ducks, parakeets, emus, wallabies, prairie dogs, and cats! Also found here are pedal carts, giant jumping pillows, honeybee observation area, rubber duck race, wagon rides and much more!
4180 West M-20, New Era, Michigan 49446 | (231) 861-5730

22: Scidmore Park Petting Zoo

See llamas, python snakes, pot-bellied pigs, and much more! Make sure to check out the rabbits and hedgehogs too.
112 Spring Street, Three Rivers, MI | 269-273-1845

23: Country Dairy

Tour the farm and learn about the milking process and visit the cows. Learn about making cheese and tour the factory. Includes a wagon ride. Finish up with glasses of chocolate milk and samples of cheese curds.
3476 S 80th Ave, New Era, Michigan 49446 | (231) 861-4636

24: Double JJ Resort

This resort offers many horse-related options. Choose from trail rides, private lessons, and more.
5900 S Water Rd, New Era MI, 49446 | (231) 894-4444

25: Rainbow Ranch

Another place to get your horse fix, Rainbow Ranch is ready for riders as young as one-year old (they ride in a double saddle with an adult.) Horse-drawn sleigh and hay rides are also available.
4345 South 44th Ave, New Era, MI 49446 | (231) 861-4445 

26: Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary

This wildlife sanctuary houses hundreds of rescued reptiles that are able to live comfortably for the remainder of their lives. Check out the alligators, tortoises, lizards, and even birds and fish. The animals vary in age and size, from babies to “Godzilla,” a 30-year-old, ten-foot alligator that weighs over 350 pounds!
1698 M-66, Athens, MI | 269-729-4802

Preschooler Life in Grand Rapids – Where Little Kids can Find Big Fun

What Preschoolers Love to do in Grand Rapids

Preschoolers are starting to enter into the world of school, but are not quite ready for all-day learning. That leaves a lot of partial days to fill, whether they are at half day preschool or have simply given up naps. As they’re starting to see the world differently they will enjoy more stimulating and learning-centered play.

Check out some of our favorite ways to interact with your preschoolers around Grand Rapids.

Thanks to our sponsor, Children’s Workshop.

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