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2023 Guide to the John Ball Zoo: Amazing West Michigan Zoo

chimpanzees at the john ball zoo

John Ball Zoo
1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Open Seasonally March 24 – November 19, 2023

Visit John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids MI

John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michgan is the place to go if you’re looking for some family friendly fun in west Michigan.

This beloved Michigan attraction in Kent County is filled with wildlife, outdoor activities, and many other great opportunities sure to bring smiles to all.

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Family-Friendly Fun at this West Michigan Zoo

There is simply so much to do here, all focused on having fun while learning about wildlife. From activities like face painting and zip-lining, to a ropes course and panning for gold, it’s easy to spend an entire day here and still want to come back for more.

It’s also stroller friendly, which makes it easy for families to navigate.

One of the top zoos and aquariums in Michigan, you’ll also find fun, family-friendly seasonal events like Illumi Zoo and Zoo Goes Boo. These popular events welcome families to explore the zoo along lighted trails. It’s a special experience, and fun for kids of all ages!

The zoo partners with other top zoos, like the San Diego Zoo, at times, so you can watch for special exhibits.

Whether you are looking for a fun day trip or an interesting learning experience, the John Ball Zoo is a perfect blend of education and entertainment.

Read on to discover all of the best exhibits at this world-class zoo.

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About John Ball Zoo

IF YOU GO: Located near John Ball Park, one of the top parks in Grand Rapids, this park zoo is the perfect size for an easy day trip. It is close enough to both Holland and Grand Haven, in case you want to check out the beautiful Lake Michigan beaches, too.

The John Ball Zoo is just across the Grand River from the Medical Mile, on 40 acrs of land donated by John Ball, an early Grand Rapids settler.

What makes John Ball Zoo stand out are the events that occur through the year and their outdoor recreation which includes biking trails, playgrounds, ball fields, and many more.

The zoo has over 2000 animals which consist of 238 different species. As you are wandering along the Zoo’s streets, you will soon find out that every turn leads to a new adventure. Read on for some of the things to discover at the zoo.

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Conservation and Wildlife at the John Ball Zoo

Zoos like John Ball emphasize the importance of supporting conservation, which are meant to help preserve animals and plants in danger, as well as to gather research.

John Ball Zoo manages to limit the number of animals they take from the wild. In fact, most of the wild animals they house are there to be taken care of after they have encountered an injury that affects their abilities to live on their own in their original environments.

The zoo’s objective is to help support animals in need, which can be seen within their habitats and through their Wildlife Conservation Fund.

penguins at the john ball zoo

John Ball Zoo Habitats

Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium

This new attraction is expected to be a major tourist destination in Grand Rapids. With only a window separating the animals from the people, visitors are able to be face-to-face with aquatic creatures and plants. You’ll find everything from Michigan stream trout to South American Penguins.


As you continue your journey around the zoo, don’t forget to check out the Mokomboso Valley. This is a valley chimpanzee exhibit that contains one of the biggest habitats in the nation for chimpanzees.

After you watch the chimps monkeying around, be sure to look for the Bissell’s Lions of Lake Manyara, which neighbors the African primates.

North America

Observe the animals that hail not too far from our own backyards in the North America habitat. Here, river otters, mountain lions, Canada lynx, turtles, and grizzly bears can be seen lounging around with their respective species.

Idema Forest Realm

Follow a shady forest trail and you’ll find a Nature Play Zone and sprawling tiger exhibit.

lion at john ball zoo

More to DO at the John Ball Zoo

Close Encounters

One of the most exciting opportunities at the zoo is their Close Encounters initiative where visitors are allowed to interact with the animals. Individuals who are willing to pay a fee get the rare chance to feed and hold certain animals. In addition to that, individuals are allowed to view behind the scenes animal training sessions.

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Adventures and Activities

The animal park not only caters to those that like to observe, but it also has physical experiences for those wishing to explore their adventurous side. Here is a list of things to do for our fellow adventurers:

  • Hobby Farm – guests spend time with the more domestic animals at this popular venue.
  • Camel Rides – guests get a ride of a lifetime on the backs of camels.
  • Budgie Aviary – guests can take a stroll among the Budgies and buy feed sticks to feed them.
  • Zip lining – guests start from a platform that is up to 600-feet in the air and are able to zipline over a waterfall.
  • Sky Trail Ropes Course – guests complete over 15 obstacles at this outdoor activity.
  • John Ball Zoo Gem Company – guests may search for their own gems in the new sluice.
  • Face Painting – Your kid can turn their faces into one of their favorite zoo animals.
  • Funicular – Take a ride to the highest part of the zoo near the Wild Way Trail and you’ll see an amazing view of downtown Grand Rapids
  • Sluice – Kids love looking for treasure, and the Pan for gold of other gems at the sluice; guests can purchase various sizes of gem bag and try their luck.
john ball zoo - grizzly bears

Where to Eat the John Ball Zoo

Dedicating an entire day to walking around is enough to build up anyone’s appetite. Luckily, John Ball Zoo provides multiple food and beverage options around the animal park. Enjoying the amazing restaurant scene is a must when at the zoo. There are convenient eating options around the animal park.

The main place to dine is the Monkey Island Café which will be found near the entrance. Guests can expect to see hot dogs, wraps, fries, ice cream and more on the menu.

Snack Stops

As you find yourself roaming around in the middle of the animal park, convenient snack stops are strategically placed in the area to help you settle your cravings.

John Ball Zoo Map

john ball zoo map
John Ball Zoo Map- courtesy of the John Ball Zoo

Want a Hands-on Experience at a Zoo?

The John Ball Zoological Society offers teen volunteer opportunities for 9th to 12th grade students. Teens can even volunteer during their spring break.

Adults ages 18 and up may also help with animal care. Not only does the zoo society offer opportunities for volunteer work, but they also have internships for individuals that are currently in college.

This means students that go to 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, may sign up for their internships.

The John Ball Zoo is a great outdoor experience for all times of the year. Whenever you are lost or are looking for more information, the staff is always willing to be informative. These charming grounds are also ideal for photography lovers to snap photos of their loved ones in front of the bright and lively scenery.

Remember to stop, take in your time spent at the animal park, and read the signs that are provided to teach the public about the animals you are seeing.

Where to Stay in Grand Rapids Michigan

If you decide to stay in the area overnight, there are plenty of friendly hotels in the area.

Things to Do While You’re in the Grand Rapids Area

After your day trip to the John Ball Zoo, discover the many other destinations that West Michigan has to offer such as the Grand Rapids Public Museum, a historical site like the Meyer May House, wine tours, Cedar Springs, Frederik Meijer Gardens Nature Centers, Ford Presidential Museum, Heritage Hill, Fulton Farmers Markets, The Grand Rapids Children Museum, the Van Andel Arena, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

John Ball Zoo Memberships
John Ball Zoo memberships are available beginning at $60 for individuals and $130 for families for the 2023 season.

Does John Ball Zoo have distance learning?

Yes, you can go to Zoo School here! The John Ball Zoo offers distance learning for students for a small fee. The zoo is a popular field trip with the Grand Rapids Public Schools, too

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Want More John Ball Zoo News?

You can keep up with upcoming and current events at the John Ball Zoo and Park, subscribe to the Zoo News.

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About the Author

Arrianna Bichara is a content writer for Originally from California, she later moved to Michigan where she now attends Madonna University. She is currently majoring in Journalism and Public Relations with a minor in Criminal Justice. Travelling and storytelling has always been a hobby for Arrianna, and she is excited to bring the two together. In her free time, Arrianna likes to binge watch television shows, take photographs, and plan her next trips.

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