The John Ball Zoo has over 1100 animals representing the wilds of Africa, Asia, South America, Australia and the United States.
New Summer of 2013
The bear exhibit has been totally renovated and now you can get nose-to-nose with our two 600-pound bears!
A compliment to the Nature Play Zones on the Idema Forest Realm, this new play area will capture children’s imaginations.
Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium
Immerse yourself in the world of aquatic animals as you visit a Michigan stream, the coast of Patagonia and the northwest coast of the US. Enjoy the Magellanic penguins as they fly underwater and surround yourself with eels, anemones, and exotic fish in the 40,000 gallon Kelp Forest tank or the tide pool. You may even get the chance to touch a sea urchin or sea star!
Just outside is Stingray Lagoon, where you can touch cownose stingrays and even white spotted bamboo sharks.
The first exhibit you come across as you travel into the Zoo. It features a variety of duck breeds from around the world, white pelicans, and a flock of North American wild turkeys, and a pair of bald eagles.
Treasure of the Tropics Building
This tropical building demonstrates the vast diversity of reptiles and amphibians, but you’ll also find many small primates along the way as well. The building houses the only Komodo dragon in Michigan, the elusive Black-footed cat, Dart frogs, Caimans, a variety of small primates, sloth, and insects.
Far Side of the World Trail
This wooded trail begins at wallabies and ends at Red’s Hobby Farm. Along the way kids can pretend to sail on a pirate’s raft or ride on barrel horses! Ring tailed lemurs, lizards, owls, and other birds can also be found on the trail. The Far Side of the Trail is now closed for the remainder of the season.
Red's Hobby Farm
The interactive children’s zoo focuses on birds and domestic animals found in today’s farms both urban and rural. Brush a cow, sheep or pig! Look close by and find some wild animals that like to reside at farms too!
Red's Hobby Farm is not open for touch experiences daily in the fall.
The African section of the zoo features a variety of African primates, mammals, and birds. Head over to Mokomboso Valley to view our troop of 7 chimpanzees in their 3.5 acre exhibit - one of the largest in the country! In inclement weather, look for our chimps in the comfort of their indoor day room. Right next door you can visit Bissell’s Lions of Lake Manyara, newly constructed in 2008 and another exhibit that ranks among the largest in the nation! The exhibit depicts one of the only places in the world where lions have been known to climb trees, Lake Manyara. You can also visit our goat corral, where young and old alike can get one-on-one experiences with the goats in a safe, monitored area. Other animals featured in the African section include the Bongo antelope, ground hornbill, warthog, Guinea baboon, Colobus monkey, and rock hyrax. Feeling adventurous? Try riding a camel at our Camel ride area.
Our own country and continent is home to numbers of amazing animals from grizzly bears to mountain lion. Be sure to catch the underwater antics of the river otter along with mountain lion, bobcat, turtles, and the newly renovated grizzly bear exhibit where you’ll get nose-to-nose with the bears!
See what kind of cool creatures live on the other side of the equator! This area features the capybaras, tapir, saki monkeys, maned wolves and the Chilean flamingos. Stop by periodically in the summer to watch as our own monarch butterflies grow up and prepare for their journey south!
Featuring about 80 different frogs and toads representing 15 different species, this exhibit is intentionally designed to capture the attention of the young children. It is brightly colored with interactive graphics that parents and children can explore together. One offers kids a chance to actually hear the ‘call’ of many different frogs!
Idema Forest Realm
This area of the Zoo has never before been developed and is the future location a new tiger exhibit in 2014. The Realm is accessible by foot or by the Idema Funicular.
The Forest Realm Trail is a rare wooded nature walk which takes the visitor along the back portion of the Zoo overlooking the maned wolves and the new grizzly exhibit. Be sure to walk the entire length of the Forest Realm because there’s something to see and do wherever you are. At the east end of the trail, you’ll find a public observation deck offering a sweeping view of the downtown cityscape.
The TreeTops Outpost and Children’s Nature Play Zones both utilize natural materials to engage children in play and creativity and encourages outdoor recreation. The Bissell Tree House, which is available for private rentals such as weddings and corporate events.
Adventures and Experiences
John Ball Zoo has many seasonal interactive experiences with animals and thrills. Check our Adventures and Experiences page for all the details and availability for these one of a kind experiences.
Stingray Lagoon is a 5,000 gallon outdoor touch pool that provides visitors the opportunity to touch stingrays and sharks as they fly thru the water.
Budgie Aviary – Get cheek to beak in this aviary that features over 300 colorful Australian parakeets. Have birds feed right out of your hand!
Pygmy Goat Corral – This toddler specific experience is a great way to introduce your young ones to a safe and gentle animal experience. Small goats love attention and we encourage children to touch.
Red’s Hobby Farm – The petting corral is our most popular venue featuring cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and more.
Funicular – This tram takes visitors up to the top of the Zoo in style! Three nostalgic cars traverse 900 feet of track to one of the highest ridges in Grand Rapids. The funicular is designed as transportation into or out of the Zoo.
Sky Trail Ropes Course – Four stories tall with two climbing levels, this ropes obstacle course challenges your courage and strength, but it is downright fun!
Zip Line – Four story, 300-foot zipline carries you from one ridge to another overlooking Red’s Hobby Farm. Children must be 43” tall and a minimum of 65 pounds .
Camels Rides – Ride the hump!
Walk-thru wallabies - Get up close and personal with the wallabies on the Far Side of the World Trail
Also, be sure to stop by our Gifts of the Wild Gift Shop to take home a souvenir from your memorable trip to the zoo as well as one of our Food Service areas, such as Monkey Island Café, to enjoy a delicious treat during your visit!