john ball zoo grand rapids mi

John Ball Zoo

Location: 1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Season: Open from March 24 to November 19, 2023

Experience Family Fun at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan

John Ball Zoo, located in the beautiful city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the ultimate destination for a delightful and enjoyable family outing in West Michigan.

This cherished attraction in Kent County offers a wide range of wildlife encounters, outdoor activities, and numerous exciting opportunities that are guaranteed to bring smiles to everyone’s faces.

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A Family-Friendly Haven in West Michigan

The zoo offers an abundance of entertaining and educational activities for visitors of all ages. From face painting and zip-lining to navigating a ropes course and panning for gold, there is no shortage of things to do here. You can easily spend an entire day exploring the zoo and still find yourself wanting to come back for more.

Furthermore, John Ball Zoo is designed to be stroller-friendly, ensuring that families can move around with ease and convenience.

Ranked among the top zoos and aquariums in Michigan, the zoo also hosts a variety of fun and family-friendly seasonal events such as Illumi Zoo and Zoo Goes Boo. These popular events invite families to explore the zoo through illuminated trails, providing a unique and enchanting experience for kids of all ages.

Moreover, the zoo collaborates with other renowned zoos, including the San Diego Zoo, to bring special exhibits to its visitors. Keep an eye out for these exceptional displays.

Whether you’re seeking an entertaining day trip or an enriching educational experience, John Ball Zoo offers the perfect blend of knowledge and amusement.

Continue reading to discover the finest exhibits and attractions within this world-class zoo.

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About John Ball Zoo

Planning Your Visit: Situated near John Ball Park, one of the top parks in Grand Rapids, this zoo is conveniently sized for a hassle-free day trip. It is also within close proximity to Holland and Grand Haven, allowing you to explore the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan.

John Ball Zoo spans 40 acres of land donated by John Ball, one of the early settlers of Grand Rapids. It is located just across the Grand River from the Medical Mile.

What sets John Ball Zoo apart are the year-round events it hosts, along with its exceptional outdoor recreational offerings, such as biking trails, playgrounds, and ball fields.

The zoo is home to over 2,000 animals, representing 238 different species. As you meander through its streets, you’ll discover that each turn leads to a new and exciting adventure. Read on to uncover some of the highlights that await you at the zoo.

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Conservation and Wildlife at John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo places great emphasis on conservation efforts aimed at preserving endangered animals and plants, as well as conducting vital research in the field.

The zoo’s commitment to protecting wildlife is evident in its practices. Most of the wild animals housed here are either in need of care after suffering injuries that prevent them from surviving in their natural habitats, or they have been rescued from such situations.

The primary objective of the zoo is to provide support for animals in need, which is reflected in their habitats and the establishment of the Wildlife Conservation Fund.

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Habitats at John Ball Zoo

Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium

The Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium, a new and highly anticipated addition, is poised to become a major tourist attraction in Grand Rapids. With only a window separating visitors from aquatic creatures and plants, this exhibit offers an immersive experience. You’ll encounter a wide variety of marine life, ranging from Michigan stream trout to South American penguins.


While exploring the zoo, be sure to visit Mokomboso Valley, a remarkable chimpanzee exhibit boasting one of the largest habitats for chimpanzees in the nation.

After observing the playful antics of the chimpanzees, make your way to the neighboring African primate area, where you’ll find the Bissell’s Lions of Lake Manyara.

North America

In the North America habitat, you can observe animals that are native to the region. Marvel at river otters, mountain lions, Canada lynx, turtles, and grizzly bears as they lounge around within their respective areas.

Idema Forest Realm

Embark on a journey through a shaded forest trail and you’ll encounter the Idema Forest Realm. This section features a Nature Play Zone and an expansive tiger exhibit, providing an up-close experience with these majestic creatures.

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More Exciting Activities at John Ball Zoo

Close Encounters

One of the most thrilling opportunities at the zoo is the Close Encounters program, allowing visitors to interact with the animals. By paying a fee, individuals can enjoy the rare chance to feed and hold certain animals. Additionally, participants are given access to behind-the-scenes animal training sessions.

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Adventures and Activities

John Ball Zoo caters not only to observers but also to those seeking adventurous experiences. The following list highlights some of the exciting activities available to thrill-seekers:

  • Hobby Farm: Spend quality time with domestic animals at this popular venue.
  • Camel Rides: Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience by riding camels.
  • Budgie Aviary: Take a leisurely stroll among the Budgies and purchase feed sticks to interact with them.
  • Zip-lining: Begin your exhilarating adventure from a 600-foot-high platform and zip-line over a stunning waterfall.
  • Sky Trail Ropes Course: Challenge yourself with over 15 obstacles on this outdoor course.
  • John Ball Zoo Gem Company: Engage in gem hunting at the new sluice.
  • Face Painting: Allow your child to transform into their favorite zoo animal with professional face painting.
  • Funicular: Take a ride to the highest point of the zoo near the Wild Way Trail and enjoy a breathtaking view of downtown Grand Rapids.
  • Sluice: Kids will love the treasure hunt experience while panning for gold or other gems at the sluice. Guests can purchase different-sized gem bags and try their luck.

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Where to Dine at John Ball Zoo

After a day filled with exploration, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Fortunately, John Ball Zoo offers multiple dining options throughout the park. Indulging in the delectable restaurant scene is a must during your visit. Convenient dining establishments are available throughout the zoo.

Monkey Island Café, located near the entrance, is the main dining venue. Here, you can expect to find a menu offering hot dogs, wraps, fries, ice cream, and more.

Snack Stops

As you navigate the zoo, you’ll find strategically placed snack stops that cater to your cravings and provide convenient refreshments.

john ball zoo map

John Ball Zoo Map

Looking for an Immersive Zoo Experience?

The John Ball Zoological Society offers volunteer opportunities for students in 9th to 12th grade. Even during spring break, teens can actively participate in volunteering at the zoo.

For adults aged 18 and above, there are opportunities to assist with animal care. In addition to volunteer work, the zoo society also offers internships for college students. Students attending Grace Christian University, Kuyper College, Grand Valley State University, Kendall College of Art, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University, Calvin College, or any other college in the area can apply for these internships.

John Ball Zoo offers a remarkable outdoor experience throughout the year. If you ever feel lost or need more information, the knowledgeable staff is always available to provide assistance. The picturesque surroundings also make it an ideal location for photography enthusiasts to capture memorable moments against vibrant and lively backdrops.

Don’t forget to pause, savor your time at the zoo, and read the informative signs that offer insights into the animals you encounter.

Accommodation Options in Grand Rapids, Michigan

If you decide to extend your visit and stay overnight, there are plenty of friendly hotels in the area to choose from.

Things to Do in the Grand Rapids Area

After your trip to John Ball Zoo, take the opportunity to explore other attractions in West Michigan. Consider visiting the Grand Rapids Public Museum, historical sites like the Meyer May House, embarking on wine tours, exploring Cedar Springs, experiencing the Frederik Meijer Gardens Nature Centers, visiting the Ford Presidential Museum, exploring Heritage Hill, checking out Fulton Farmers Markets, visiting the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, attending events at the Van Andel Arena, or immersing yourself in art at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

John Ball Zoo Memberships

Become a member of John Ball Zoo starting at $60 for individuals and $130 for families for the 2023 season.

Does John Ball Zoo offer distance learning?

Yes, you can enroll in Zoo School! John Ball Zoo provides distance learning opportunities for students for a small fee. The zoo is a popular choice for field trips with the Grand Rapids Public Schools as well.

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Stay Updated with John Ball Zoo News

To stay informed about upcoming and ongoing events at John Ball Zoo and Park, subscribe to Zoo News.