Things to Do in the City of Grand Rapids
I may be a little biased because it’s where I live, but I love downtown Grand Rapids.
Our wonderful mini-metropolis has so much fun squeezed into the city that families can come back again and again and experience something new each time.
How do I know there’s always something new? Because I’ve been taking my kids downtown for over eight years and there are five things on this list that I still haven’t done with them yet.
We live and die by our museum and zoo memberships.
My kids think that everyone has a John Ball Zoo where they can visit exotic animals weekly and have no idea how unique it is to ride a carousel. (Did you have a neighborhood carousel growing up? Neither did I.)
And doesn’t everyone have a massive acres-big children’s garden full of incredible landscaping, water play and swinging bridges in the woods? Only Grand Rapids kids can hit up Frederik Meijer Gardens on the regular.
Beyond that, there are beautiful parks and playgrounds, sculptures, murals, and more dotting the city.
Tell us, what’s your favorite City of Grand Rapids activity? Did it make our list?
What it’s Like to Live in the City of Grand Rapids
There’s a lot that people love about living in the city of Grand Rapids so we’ll start with the biggies: food + brewing and coffee, art, music, and mega crowd-drawing events.
Life in Grand Rapids
Why people love to live here: The calm hum of each neighborhood lends to a chill and lovely space to call home. On any given day there’s always some event or activity happening all over the city, often free. Find many of these on the event calendar.
This ‘small city with a big city vibe’ draws people to live in Grand Rapids.
Families love the walkability and easy access to these perks and fun things to do listed below.
You should know: When people talk about Grand Rapids many picture the downtown area. But the actual city of Grand Rapids spans as far as Frederik Meijer Gardens to the East, just shy of Horrocks Farmers Market to the south, the tip of Millennium Park to the West, and just below the Whitecaps Stadium to the north.
The Top 25 Things to Do With Kids in the City of Grand Rapids
Visit the Animals at John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo
1300 Fulton W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Lions and tigers and bears- and more! Every kid loves a trip to the zoo!
Not only can you enjoy the many animal exhibits, but John Ball Zoo in the city of Grand Rapids also offers classes, camps, Twilight Tours, Overnight Adventures, Animal Adventures and special events, like IllumiZoo, throughout the year for even more hands-on learning.
Dive in at a City Pool
900 Fuller Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Briggs Park Pool
350 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Richmond Park Pool
1101 Richmond St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
From mid-June to mid-August, City of Grand Rapids residents and guests can cool off at one of three mega pools in the city. Boasting huge slides and shallow and deep ends, pools are big fun in the city.
What they love even more is the price: historically for residents it’s just $1/kid and $2 for ages 18+ to take a dip! (Non residents can come, too, for $4/person.)
Play and Learn at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
With so much to do, your kids will have fun for hours. Exhibits rotate on a monthly basis, but some favorites include Little GR, Amazing Dinosaurs, Just Fort Fun, Wee Discover, Just Playing Around and Bubbles.
Members: Every Tuesday is members-only from 9am – 2pm.
Museums for all special admission (EBT or WIC card holders, up to 12 people per card) – $1.75 per person.
Take a Walk Down Wealthy Street to Cherry St SE
Start at Art of the Table – this is a stop for the parents but oh, is it a treat. With a unique range of food, libations, and table accessories, you might just find something your kitchen – or your next picnic – can’t live with out.
606 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Outside Coffee Co.
734 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Next, head east to grab a coffee and treat at Outside Coffee Co (one of the most fun spots in the city of Grand Rapids) to continue your trek throught the Wealthy Street area.
Along the way, you’ll find cute shops like Rebel
1555 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
And all types of delicious food.
A fave you should try is Forty Acres Soul Kitchen at 1059 Wealthy St SE, with an all-around good vibe for the whole family.
Give the kids a chance to run, climb and play with a pitstop at
100 Youell Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Catch a Concert or Show at Van Andel Arena
Van Andel Arena
130 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Van Andel Arena is a 10,834-seat multi-purpose venue offering numerous entertainment options throughout the year.
From concerts to Grand Rapids Griffins hockey games to Disney on Ice and monster truck shows, you are guaranteed to find something to make your kids smile!
Many national touring shows make annual stops to the city of Grand Rapids.
Settle in for a Story at Grand Rapids Public Library – Main Branch
Grand Rapids Public Library – Main Branch
111 Library Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Come for story time, play and learn in the kids area, and then check out some books to continue the fun at home!
The Grand Rapids Public Library offers free story time, classes, activities and special events for ALL ages.
Be Dazzled by a Performance at the Civic Theatre
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
30 Division Ave N, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The Civic Theatre is a staple in the city of Grand Rapids.
Powered by almost all volunteers, this 100+ year-old organization presents live performances year-round for all ages, including timeless titles and new-to-the-stage acts.
See what’s playing and grab some tickets for the family. Many shows have daytime matinee performances for younger audience members.
Visit the Iconic Alexander Calder Sculpture
“The Calder” – La Grande Vitesse
351 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
A visit to downtown Grand Rapids is not complete without a stop at La Grande Vitesse, the massive red sculpture affectionately referred to as “The Calder” by locals.
As a part of the city since 1969, it serves as a distinctive landmark and symbol of the city of Grand Rapids.
Take a Spin on the Grand Rapids Public Museum Carousel
Grand Rapids Public Museum
351 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Your kids will love to take a magical ride on Grand Rapids Public Museum 1928 Spillman Carousel. (The carousel is undergoing extensive renovations in 2021.)
The city of Grand Rapids’ beloved carousel is made up of 53 hand-carved, elaborately jeweled wooden horses, two chariots and six menagerie animals that plays music from a Wurlitzer band organ as it revolves.
The Carousel is one of only three of its style known to have been produced.
Explore Huff Park
2399 Ball Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
This northeast gem recently received playground upgrades and a beautiful new boardwalk through woods and marsh areas teeming with wildlife.
The city deer are plentiful here, making it easy for kids to spot one on the hike.
Please note: the trail entrance, parking lot, playground, and picnic area are located off of Aberdeen, not Ball as the address suggests. Use “1435 Aberdeen NE” as the address in your map app. You should see a sign and a parking lot on the south side of the road.
Stroll the Blue Bridge Loop + See all the Art
GR Walking Loop + Mural Crawl
Blue Bridge, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Have you really experienced Downtown GR if you haven’t walked the full Blue Bridge walking loop?!
Start anywhere on the river trail and it will loop you around the downtown area. We like to start near the blue bridge so we can experience it twice.
One of the best parts about this walk is the art you experience along the way.
If that whets your whistle for art in our city, start a bucket list with this comprehensive mural crawl!
Splash Around at the Kroc Center
2500 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
There’s tons of stuff to keep the kids busy at The Kroc Center!
The aquatics center features three 25-yard lap lanes, a 28-foot water slide, a lazy river, a 17-person hot tub and a “zero–depth” entry area with a play structure, as well as an outdoor splash pad during the summer months. And if you’re not looking to swim, check out the fitness center, gym, climbing wall, game room or outdoor campus.
Note: Typically, the Kroc Center sells day passes for non-members. During covid times, however, the The Kroc Center is currently available for member use only. No day passes are being sold until further notice – check their website or call for the most up-to-date info.
Grab a Bite at the Downtown Market
435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Stop in at the Downtown Market for some delicious food at their many eateries.
Keep an eye on their calendar to find cooking classes and events throughout the year that are geared toward children, teens, families, and everyone in between.
Stroll Through Ah-Nab-Awen Park
220 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Ah-Nab-Awen Park is the perfect place to take in the beauty of the city of Grand Rapids.
The park runs along the Grand River with a nice paved sidewalk along the bank that’s perfect for strollers. And the kids will love to stop and enjoy the fountain in front of the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Ice Skate at Rosa Parks Circle
Rosa Parks Circle
135 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Enjoy outdoor ice skating right in the city of Grand Rapids at Rosa Parks Circle.
Skate rental is free with admission, so grab the family and head to Open Skate.
Watch Fish Climb the Fish Ladder
Fish Ladder Park
560 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
With free parking and bathrooms, Fish Ladder Park is a convenient place to drop by with the kids- and they will love watching the fish try to jump their way up the ladder or fisherman making a big catch.
Such a fun way to spend some time in the city of Grand Rapids!
Learn and Discover at Frederik Meijer Gardens
Frederik Meijer Gardens
560 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
You’ll never get bored at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, located at the edge of the city of Grand Rapids limits.
Covering 158 acres, Meijer Gardens has Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory, five indoor theme gardens, outdoor gardens, nature trails and boardwalk, sculptures and more!
And you definitely won’t want to miss the interactive Children’s Garden which includes sculptures, a sand quarry, a Great Lakes water feature, tree houses, a log cabin, a butterfly labyrinth, a sensory garden, and even a child-sized beaver lodge.
Hop on the Tire Swing
Motu Viget – Tire Swing
Calder Plaza (NW Corner) – behind the Federal Building
110 Michigan St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The giant tire swing is actually a piece of interactive art named Motu Viget. It was created by Mark di Suvero in1977.
This cool downtown sculpture is all hands on for kids… (and hey, even adults, too!)
To find the tire swing, walk past the Calder and go behind the Federal Building. You’ll be overlooking Monroe Ave.
Explore the Gerald R. Ford Museum
Gerald R. Ford Museum
303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
This history museum captivates kids from the moment they see the cool fountain and astronaut sculpture outside.
Its fascinating exhibits bring the history of our 38th Presiden, Gerald R. Ford, to life.
Swim, Hike, and Play at Millennium Park
1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534
Millennium Park includes over 1,400 acres of outdoor activity for families, including paved hiking/biking trails, playgrounds (including a ninja warrior course), boating, splash pad and beach.
While the beach and splash pad have a cost, most of the park is free.
Fly a kite, pack a picnic, or bring some bikes. Millennium Park is your own gigantic backyard, right here in the city of Grand Rapids.
Cheer on the Grand Rapids Griffins
Grand Rapids Griffins
1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534
Adults and kids of all ages will have a blast cheering on our home hockey team- so bring the whole family!
And pick up a Friends & Family 4-Pack to make the night even more affordable!
Get Creative at the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Grand Rapids Art Museum
101 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Art galleries, tours, programs… Grand Rapids Art Museum has so much to offer.
You can enjoy it for FREE from 12 – 6 pm each Tuesday and on Thursday nights from 5-9 PM. Watch for Hands-on Art Saturdays to return as covid precautions ease.
Downtown Grand Rapids
Did you know ArtPrize is the world’s largest art competition and takes place in the city of Grand Rapids?
Nearly 200 Grand Rapids venues display art from artists around the world- and we get free front row seats!
The event happens biennially (every other year) with the next one happening in fall of 2021, but we’ll have fun art exhibitions in the off years, too.
See What’s Fresh at the Fulton Street Farmers Market
Fulton Street Farmer’s Market
1145 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
This iconic farmers market is always worth a stop.
You never know what you’ll find there–but you can count on it to be fresh and local.
It’s fun to let your kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try later. Still need convincing?
Check out our 5 favorite things about the Fulton Street Farmers Market.
Take in the View at Lookout Park
Lookout Park in Belknap Neighborhood
801 Fairview Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Find a spot on a swing, this is one of the best sunset spots in Grand Rapids.
You can see the whole town from Lookout Park.
For extra adventure, arrive by climbing the stairs connecting to the park from Division Ave.