Thank Goodness for Grandparents!
While we may differ over how much candy or screen-time our children should have, there is no denying that an involved grandparent is a major blessing.
They give our kids extra love and attention while also providing parents much needed support and guidance. Not to mention, free babysitting from grandparents can be a huge lifesaver!
For those of us fortunate enough to have grandparents around and able to spend time with our children, we thought it would be fun to list a roundup of outing ideas for Grand Rapids grandparents and grandkids around West Michigan.
JOHN BALL ZOO
Thank you to our sponsor, John Ball Zoo!
Take a day trip to visit meerkats, tigers, chimpanzees, penguins, baby red pandas, otters, and more. Plus, don’t miss BRICKLIVE Supersized – featuring over 40 life-sized animal sculptures created with over 1.8 million individually colored toy building bricks!
Our Favorite Things to do With Grandkids in Grand Rapids
Share this list with Grandma or Grandpa and help them plan a fun outing with your kids!
1- Explore Grand Rapids Museums
Grand Rapids offers fantastic museums available for grandparents and grandkids to explore together. Whether you opt to ride the vintage carousel together at Grand Rapids Public Museum, get hands-on at the GR Children’s Museum, explore your artistic side at Grand Rapids Art Museum, or see a replica of the Oval Office at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, your grandkids are sure to learn a lot while having a blast!
2- Take a Nostalgic Train Ride
The Coopersville & Marne Railway Company, offers the perfect outing for grandparents and their favorite littles. Their passenger cars are from the early 1900s and they have a diesel locomotive that was built in the 1950s. The railway company regularly offers live music and holiday-related special events to enhance this relaxing outing that will take you back in time.
3- Shop, Lunch and Carousel at the Mall
For older grandkids, shopping together at the mall can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Even with young grandchildren a trip to the mall is always fun when it involves the children’s play area.
4- Go Wild at John Ball Zoo
Head over to John Ball Zoo to visit all kinds of different animals. Family favorites include the tigers, red pandas (including triplet babies!), gorillas and penguins.
Get a fantastic view of the zoo – and the city – from the Funicular or have grandkids ride a camel. Play areas throughout the zoo allow kids to burn off extra energy. Plus there’s three great playgrounds outside of the zoo, including a new fully accessible one.
5- Spend the Day at Frederik Meijer Gardens
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s indoor and outdoor gardens and vast array of sculptural wonders are a must-see for anyone in Grand Rapids. We’ve listed all our insider tips to maximize your next outing to FMG’s Children’s Garden.
Meijer Gardens even has classes offered especially for grandparents and kids like “Grandma and Me: Totally Turtles.” You can check out all their class options here.
6 – Run Wild at the Playground
This is one of the most affordable, easiest ways for kids to work out their energy and also show grandma and grandpa their best tricks.
Get ready for about 1,000 “Grandma, watch this!” comments while you’re there.
If you’ve got a runner, you’ll appreciate Frog Hollow Park, which is completely enclosed save for the entrance (it’s also ADA accessible). Allendale Community Park has a sandbox in addition to play equipment. For a playground with super cushy turf (great for avoiding scraped knees), try Cascade Township Park.
There are over 50 more parks featured in our massive Grand Rapids parks directory, which will allow you to search for a park by amenites like bathroom facilities, toddler playground and more.
7- Have Some “Right Brain” Fun with Creative Classes and Open Gym
There are lots of creative classes around Grand Rapids that grand-friends can attend together. Local library programming (like GRPL or KDL) offer a host of children’s story hours and other special programming.
Also be sure to check out our Grand Rapids Gymnastics Guide for open gyms and toddler times. Even if you can’t participate with your grandchild, it’s always good to help them be active.
A visit to an art studio can offer great fun and most of the GR museums also feature a variety of one-time classes that may pique the interest of grandparents and grandkids alike.
8- Cheer on Local Sport Teams!
Grand Rapids is the home to many awesome minor league and club sports teams. Whether Grandpa is a hockey fan or Grandma is a baseball buff, you’ll be able to find a great sporting event in GR anytime of the year!
- Grand Rapids Drive (Basketball)
- Grand Rapids FC (Soccer)
- Grand Rapids Griffins (Hockey)
- Grand Raggidy Roller Derby (Roller Derby)
- West Michigan Whitecaps (Baseball)
9- Get Cozy Together With a Book at a Coffee Shop
Visit a local bookstore (or comic book store!) and let the grandkids pick out a book. Show them some favorites from when you were a kid – they may love it, too! Three of our favorite local stores in Grand Rapids are Books & Mortar, Schuler Books & Music, and Vault of Midnight.
Wanna grab a sweet treat after finding your new favorite book? Schuler Books & Music has cafe right inside, so you can enjoy your book without leaving. Outside Coffee Company, Le Bon Macaron or The Sparrows are also local cafes we love to recommend.
Grandma and Grandpa and their grandkids will love reading together and you could even bring a favorite board game along from home. Who doesn’t love going out for hot cocoa (or coffee/tea for the grandparent) and getting lost in a book? Sounds like a perfect outing for grandparents and grandkids to me!
10- Attend a Live Performance (or See a Movie!)
Concerts, ballets, musicals…there are many venues and options when it comes to attending a live performance in Grand Rapids. The Civic Theatre presents kid-friendly performances and the Grand Rapids Symphony has Lollipop Concerts for families. CARE Ballet is another great way to introduce young children to the arts.
Everyone can enjoy getting dressed up for a fancy date to the symphony or you may prefer some good old fashioned cinematic fun! Celebration Cinemas offers free kid movies periodically, and AMC Theatres has their own specials on Tuesdays.
11- Head for the Water: Splash Pad, Pool, Beach or Fishing
A trip to the beach always makes for a fantastic grandparent outing. Check out this list of FAVORITE West Michigan beaches, according to Grand Rapids Kids readers, to plan your next beach trip.
If Grandpa enjoys fishing, and you’d like to do some catch and release fishing, here are 7 great fishing ponds around GR:
- Millennium Park – 1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534
- Whistlestop Park – 2120 76th Street, Byron Center, MI 49315
- Heritage Park – 4264 Canal Ave, Grandville, MI 49418
- Ada Township Park – 1180 Buttrick Ave SE, Forest Hills, MI 49301
- Waterfront Park on Reeds Lake – 2205 Reeds Lake Blvd, East Grand Rapids, MI 49506
- Riverside Park – 2001 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
- Kroc Center Catch and Release Pond – 2500 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
- Pickerel Lake Park – 6001 Ramsdell NE, Cannonsburg, MI, 49317
12- We All Scream for Ice Cream
Warm days in Michigan call for ice cream with Grandma and Grandpa, don’t you think? Click here to view a list of top-voted ice cream shops in West Michigan. If the grandkids are up for something crazy, check out our Quirky Ice Cream Creations in West Michigan list!
13- Teach Them an Appreciation of Old Things at an Antiques Shop
If you love antiquing, Grandma and Grandpa, you may enjoy checking out our Vintage, Resale Trail Guide for Greater Grand Rapids. Bonus? The grandkids may even get a history lesson or two while rummaging around for old artifacts and cool knick-knacks.
14- Arm Yourself With Indoor Fun Ideas
Because of our often crazy weather patterns, grandparents should keep some indoor play options up their sleeve for those icky outside days when you are stuck inside and kids are bouncing off the walls.
Grand Rapids has fantastic indoor play options at every turn! So put on those rain boots (or snow boots or sandals) and get your energy out at one of these exciting venues!
15- Learn Together
Grandparents and older grandkids can enjoy an architecturally-inspiring tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House in Heritage Hill, Grand Rapids. This gorgeous home can be toured for free on Sundays from 1-4PM or on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10AM-1PM.
16- Take a Hike
Plus, here’s a list of All the Excellent Hiking Trails for West Michigan …to plan the perfect adventure for active grandparents and their favorite kiddos!
17 – Head to Holland and be Dutch for the Day
Grandparents and grandkids will love exploring all things Dutch with a day trip to Holland. You can kick off the day with a delicious breakfast at deBoer Bakkerij or the Windmill Restaurant in downtown Holland. Then you can spend the day at Windmill Island or Nelis’ Dutch Village…or both!
If you are a grandparent, we would love to hear from you.
What are your favorite things to do with grandkids around town? Please leave us a comment below!