2015 13/07

#TravelMI :: The John Ball Zoo

I worked with John Ball Zoo and GRKids.com to bring you this post about our experience. All opinions are my own. 

One of the first questions I get from people as we kick off the summer is “Do you have any big trips planned?” I would guess it’s a pretty typical question that most families get. But I often wonder if those people think I’m some Summertime-Scrooge when I respond with a big ol’ “Nope!”

The truth is, I’m totally not a Summertime-Scrooge! I love Summer break. And I love traveling. But I really love West Michigan! Especially in the Summer!

We are so fortunate to live in an area that offers a ton of amazing experiences in the Summer. Actually, all year long.

And we love taking advantage of those experiences on our Summer break. Why travel when we have a world full of experiences right in our “backyard”? 

So this month I’m going to share with you some of our favorite #TravelMI Summertime Experiences! All are family friendly and, by following along on our adventures, I’m hoping you might discover something new :: either a new place to visit or a new feature at a place you love!

First up….the zoo!

John Ball Zoo

Nestled in the heart of Grand Rapids, John Ball Zoo has always been one of our favorite places to visit! The kids, of course, love the animals but what we love even more is that they are always looking for ways to make your experience at the zoo that much better. Whether it’s creating new adventures for the kids or expanding an animal’s habitat, you’ll always find something new and different at John Ball Zoo!



One of their newest features is their Tigers of the Realm! Sit back and admire these beautiful large cats as they lounge by the waterfall or walk the trail with you! Kids will also love playing in the Tree Top Outpost!


Umm, yeah, that’s Talon’s “Kidz Only” face.


The kids always have their favorite animal they like to see when we go to the zoo. This year it was a tie between the sting rays at Sting Ray Lagoon and the wallabies! I think it’s all about being hands-on for the kids {and the grown-ups}. This trip we were so excited to finally pet the wallabies! While you always get to walk through their habitat, the wallabies always seem to stick close to the upper fence (away from the walking path) when we are there. This time though we had a wallaby right by the path  and a fabulous zoo-keeper was there to talk to us about the wallaby and help us pet her! Amazing!



Zoo Keepers at John Ball Zoo

So, the wallabies reminded me of one of the reasons we love John Ball Zoo so much — the Zoo Keepers! They are amazing! Always willing to share their knowledge of the animals and very kid-friendly! You know you’ve got some good Zoo Keepers on hand when they’ll stand there and answer the 450 questions (no matter how ridiculous) your kids have!

Now, if you’re not fortunate enough to chat with one of the zoo keepers while at the zoo, I have a little secret for you! GRKids.com has, with the help of the John Ball Zoo staff, put together a super fun podcast for you! It’s like having a zoo keeper at your fingertips! The podcast can be listened to while you’re at the zoo (or before or after) and can even be downloaded (so you don’t have to use your data at the zoo). It takes you around the zoo with six different stops and gives you all sorts of fun behind-the-scenes information about each exhibit. Check it out at GRKids.com!

Experiences not to miss at John Ball Zoo

As if the animals weren’t enough, John Ball Zoo offers a variety of experiences for pretty much every age group around the zoo! In addition to the different play areas for the kids, you can visit:

The Funicular ($, no age limit)

This is a fun way to see a different part of the zoo and the kids will just love saying the name! And a hint — take the Funicular right as you enter the zoo and start your adventure near the Tigers of the Realm, winding your way back down through the zoo OR work your way up through the zoo and finish with the Tigers, riding the Funicular back down to the entrance/exit!



Zipline & High Ropes Course ($, age/size restrictions)

There is nothing like zipping or climbing through the trees above the zoo! Pick just one or buy the package deal and do both. It’s a must do!



Camel Rides ($)

I mean, how often do you get to ride a camel!

Red’s Hobby Farm and Pygmy Goat Corral (free)

Both are super fun for kids! They’ll love getting hands on with the goats and sheep!



Sting Ray Lagoon ($)

Petting sting rays…you guys!! Not just sting rays but a baby sting! Not just a baby sting ray but sharks!! Sure, my kids walked away sopping wet (they always do) but it’s such an amazing thing to do!



Budgy Aviary ($)

Admittedly, this is not my favorite experience. As much as I love birds, I don’t really enjoy them flying around my head. Or landing on my head. But the kids adore this! And thankfully I married a guy who’s willing to jump in there with them! And it is quite something to see the smiles on the kids’ faces as a bright yellow budgy lands on their feeding stick. Or as five of them take up residence on her head!







To say we had a blast at John Ball Zoo again this year would be an understatement. The kids would go back every week if I’d let them! And I have no doubt we’d discover fun new favorites if we did!


If you’re in the West Michigan area, take some time to visit John Ball Zoo! You can find out more about the zoo, their latest projects and upcoming events at JohnBallZooSociety.org!



One Comment

  • Shannon Giles

    We LOVE the John Ball Zoo too! We have a membership and I would go there weekly, if we could!

Leave a Reply

copyright 2005-2015 Stacey says… | plain jane media, llc

Using AcosminSIMPLE designed by Acosmin Premium {site map}