Accessible and Sensory-Friendly fun at Some Favorite Places around West Michigan
From parks to museums to play places to libraries, there are several cool opportunities for children here in the Grand Rapids area. There are a growing number of local businesses that recognize the unique needs of children with disabilities.
Because every child deserves the space to learn through play and exploration, we are happy to highlight some of the handicap accessible and sensory-friendly places here in West Michigan so that all children can join in on the fun.
Accessible Outings for Grand Rapids Kids
1 – Play Baseball with The West Michigan Miracle League
3300 Ten Mile Road, Rockford
The West Michigan Miracle League (WMML) was created to give kids with mental and physical disabilities an incredible opportunity to play baseball. With spring and fall sessions, children ages 5-18 can register to participate on the completely accessible baseball field, which is housed at the Art Van Sports Complex.
This sports complex, used for a variety of tournaments, is also equipped with an accessible park adjacent to the field. The park is generally open for visitors to use whenever a game is underway. Check out the calendar to find out about upcoming games if you are interested in visiting the park!
*Scholarships are available for families who need financial assistance.
2 – Wander Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
1000 East Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids
With 158 acres of beautiful scenery, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is an extraordinary environment to enjoy nature and art in one place.
While there are several areas and exhibits around the campus that allow for quiet reflection and enjoyment, in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, kids are encouraged to dive in and explore nature through the use of their senses.
The entire campus, both indoors and outdoors, is accessible due to its barrier-free ramps and pathways, and tram tours. There is also a specific children’s tram tour that runs during the summer and early fall months.
3 – Drop into an Open Studio at Artists Creating Together
1140 Monroe Ave NW, Suite 4101, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Artists Creating Together welcomes students with disabilities and their friends for a wide variety of art experiences. For ages 16 +, here you can create paintings, drawings, collages, recycled art, weavings, jewelry, sculptures , and more. Cost is $10 for the student (aides & caregivers accompanying students are free).
4 – Soak up the Sun at North Beach Park
18775 North Shore Dr., Ferrysburg, MI 49409
Experiencing Lake Michigan is a necessity for us residents, especially during summer. This cool beach offers a barrier-free beach walkway and dune overlook deck that makes it possible for those who need extra physical support to indulge in the fresh air and take in the beautiful view.
Other barrier-free amenities include restrooms, the playground, the picnic shelter, and some picnic tables and grills. There is also an accessible beach wheelchair that navigates through sand and floats in water. It is available free of charge for public use.
5 – Picnic and Watch the Sailboats at John Collins Park
650 Lakeside Dr. SE, East Grand Rapids
This lakefront park is perfect for a picnic, a play date, or just some quiet time to enjoy nature.
John Collins Park in East Grand Rapids looks out onto Reed’s Lake and is in close proximity to the East Grand Rapids Branch of the Kent District Library.
It is equipped with several benches and tables for seating, lots of grassy acreage for playing and lounging (watch out for goose poop!), trees for shade, and paths for walking. There are accessible ramps and bathrooms available for use. Pets are also welcome!
6 – Explore Frog Hollow Park
2050 Metro Court, Wyoming
What kid doesn’t love the playground? Located just southwest of Grand Rapids in Wyoming, Frog Hollow Park was designed with children with disabilities in mind.
It is a Boundless ™ Playground, which means its rubber playground surface and barrier-free play stations allow this space to be highly inclusive and wheelchair accessible. It features adaptive swing seats, grassy areas for play, a picnic table area, and accessible bathrooms. You can find a full list of accessible playgrounds around Michigan here.
7 – Take a Safari Ride at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park
8313 Pratt Lake Dr. SE, Alto
Reading a book or watching a television show about animals is cool, but being able to see them up close is even better!
At Boulder Ridge Animal Park, there are many exotic animals that kids can view, pet, and feed. There is also a free safari ride that allows parents and children to see a variety of larger animals. The entire park is equipped with concrete paved paths and there is a wheelchair accessible tram that is used for the safari tour.
8 –Spend an Afternoon at Kent District Library- East Grand Rapids Branch
746 Lakeside Dr. SE, East Grand Rapids
Nothing beats a family outing that’s free and that caters to every age and interest. Although there are many branches throughout the Grand Rapids area, the Kent District Library in East Grand Rapids is extraordinary for children of all ages and stages.
The lower level is designed specifically for children and teens with books for every age and a variety of activities and toys. While there are rooms and spaces within the children’s library that can be used for quieter interaction and undisturbed reading, this level does not require the common library etiquette. Kids can feel free to be kids!
Programs and events such as Family Storytime are offered throughout the week, and there is also a free service called the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped that provides literature in alternative formats for those that are incapable to read due to a visual or physical impairment. The ramps and elevators make this branch very accessible for wheelchair users.
*Story times are very popular and can often have high attendance, so it may be beneficial to explore this branch when it is less busy.
Sensory-Friendly Outings for Grand Rapids Kids
9 – Get Hands On at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
11 Sheldon Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
This amazing place is a staple for parents and children all over the city. There are numerous hands-on activities that allow children to tap into their senses, to use their imagination, and to learn through play. With ample floor space between exhibits and an elevator to transport between the two levels, this space is easily wheelchair accessible.
There are also sensory tool kits available for check out to ensure that children have the support that they need to enjoy all that the museum has to offer.
*Thursday Family Nights are very popular, so it may be more beneficial to go during a day and time when it is less busy.
10 – Jump into Sensory Night at Sky Zone
3636 29th St, Kentwood
What better way to get your kids to expel some of their energy than by jumping?! Skyzone is an indoor trampoline park with different attractions such as wall-to-wall trampolines, zip line, trapeze, Ninja Course, and Foam Zone.
Each month, they hold a sensory night where lights and music are lowered to create a comforting atmosphere for jumpers who can benefit from fewer distractions.
All jumpers must wear Skysocks (available for purchase at location for $2) and must complete a waiver before participation. Dates for sensory nights vary. Call (616) 214-4221 or check the Sky Zone calendar to find out when the next one will be held at the Grand Rapids location.
11 – Catch a Flick in with Relaxed Rules at Celebration! Cinema
Celebration Cinema! North | 2121 Celebration Dr. NE | Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Celebration Cinema! South | 1506 Eastport Drive SE | Grand Rapids, MI 49508
Catching a movie is a great way to spend time as family. Sensory Showtimes are available at many Celebration! Cinema locations across West Michigan. With dimmed lights and lowered volume, movies are shown in 2D with Opened Captioning.
Viewers are welcome to forego the usual movie theater etiquette and feel free to move around and talk throughout the show. There are also movies shown with the use of Descriptive Video Services and Closed Captioning, so that viewers with visual or hearing impairments can also enjoy the show.
Do you know of other Accessible or Sensory-Friendly outings for Grand Rapids families? Tell us in the comments below – we don’t want to miss anything!