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Advanced Lantern Festival tickets are required. Walkups not available on Sold Out nights. Purchase tickets online to guarantee your spot!
EXPERIENCES

ZOO ADVENTURES

PRICES PER RIDER
PUBLIC
$8.00
MEMBER
$7.00
ZOO ADVENTURES

Immotion | Wild Explorer

Be a part of the adventure! Wild Explorer, a virtual reality experience like no other.

Partnering with educational entertainment provider Immotion and the world-renowned primatologists from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the Gorilla Trek VR Theater allows you to join the herd and witness the behaviors of these incredible animals up close.

Through virtual reality, you will be transported to the mists of Rwanda. You’ll follow primatologist Dr. Tara Stoinski on a trip ten thousand feet up in the Volcanoes National Park, documenting the family dynamics of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Open: Daily

*Please note that this experience is weather dependent.

Location:

In our Africa section at the Chimpanzee habitat. 

General Guidelines:

Open to all ages. Recommended for children who can sit independently and wear a headset.

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ZOO ADVENTURES

Camel Rides

Camel Rides are one of our most popular things to do at the zoo! You’ll be greeted by one of the most amazing animals of the world, and even get your picture taken!

open daily:

*Please note this experience is weather dependent

Location: 

In our Africa section between Meerkats and Tigers!

General Guidelines:
  • Participants must be a minimum of 4 years old to ride without a guardian. 2-3 year olds can ride with a paying guardian 18 years of age or older.
  • Participants may be grouped with other riders at the operator’s discretion.
  • Maximum weight is 300 pounds. 
CAMEL RIDE PRICE
PUBLIC
$8.00
MEMBER
$7.00
Camel photo: $7.00
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ZOO ADVENTURES

Face Painting

Become one of your favorite animals for your visit to the Zoo. Choose from either a cheek design or a full face design. All of the paintings are done freehand by our talented face painting employees. Choose between 9 different cheek designs and 9 different full face designs. Please remember, artists’ styles may vary.  

Open: 

Weekends 11am-4pm
*Weather Dependent   

Location: 

Located in the central part of the Zoo next to the Aquarium.

ZOO ADVENTURES

John Ball Zoo Gem Company

Open Weekends 11am-6pm
*
Weather Dependent
Pan for your very own gems in our brand new Sluice! Choose from 3 different Gem Bags and then pour them into your screen to reveal your treasures.

Stop by to explore and see what treasures you can find.

Pay Dirt Bag

Comes with 6 ounces of Gemstone Mix.

Emerald Strike Bag

Comes with 6 ounces of Gemstones, and 3 ounces of emeralds

Motherlode Bag

Comes with a little bit of everything including: Gemstone mix, Fossil Mix, Shark Teeth, Arrowheads, and a large piece of Amethyst Druzy.

ZOO ADVENTURES

Funicular

closed

Guests taking the Funicular to the top of the Zoo should head to the lower depot right when they enter. When they disembark, they’ll find themselves at the highest point of the Zoo with a breathtaking view of Downtown Grand Rapids and will now be able to explore, walking entirely downhill. This is perfect for guests with strollers!

The other option is to take the funicular down to the main entrance. These guests should jump on the funicular at end of the Forest Realm Trail near the red panda’s and Bissell Tree House after they’ve explored the Zoo. By taking the Funicular back to the front entrance, visitors avoid retracing their steps.

Open Daily

*Weather Dependent 

Location: 

Zoo Entrance and the Forest Realm Trail next to the Bissell Treehouse.

General Guidelines:
  • Strollers are permitted.
  • No animals can be seen from the Funicular as it is on the outer edge of the zoo.
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PRICE PER PERSON
PUBLIC
$4.00
MEMBER
$3.00
MORE ZOO FUN

Enjoy Experiences & Adventures At John Ball Zoo

All of our experiences are generally available during the summer season. However, occasionally Mother Nature requires that we close them for safety.

Note: Availability is subject to weather. Please call 616.336.2017 for daily availability.

Sky Trail Ropes Course

Four stories tall, two climbing levels, and over 15 obstacles ranging in difficulty, this Ropes Course gives you a chance to test your courage and strength and it’s downright fun! Mastered all elements before? Get ready, because this course has new challenging obstacles for you to conquer.

All height, weight, clothing and harness restrictions must be met to ride this experience. Additional restrictions may apply, please see the Ropes Course restrictions listed below.

Save money by purchasing a combo ticket to ride the Zip Line and climb the Ropes Course!

Come prepared! View our full list of requirements for more information and have your waiver signed and submitted all online!

Open daily

*Weather Dependent

Location

Wild Way Trail

General Guidelines:
  • A waiver must be completed by each participant/guardian.
  • Participant must be 48 inches (122 cm) tall to participate.
  • Maximum weight is 300 pounds (136kg).
  • Closed back shoes are required.
  • Guests should have on pants or shorts, no skirts or dresses.
  • Participant must safely fit in the harness.
  • Participant must be able to understand and demonstrate knowledge of all safety rules.
  • Last ticket sold 30 minutes prior to zoo closing.
  • Participating while under the under the influence of drugs or alcohol is prohibited.
  • Cell phones are not allowed on attraction.
  • Pockets must be empty. No loose objects such as cell phones. Eyeglasses should be secure.
  • No gum, food or drinks allowed on the attraction.
  • Anyone with joint or back injuries my re-injure themselves or worsen a preexisting injury.
  • Individuals with heart problems, recent stitches, or who are pregnant should refrain from participating.
PRICE PER PERSON
PUBLIC
$10.00
MEMBER
$8.00

Zip Line

This four story, 600-foot, Zipline is the real thing! Riders are securely harnessed before they step off the platform and fly over the waterfall to another ridge! Children must be 70 pounds and 48inches tall to fit securely into the harness to participate. Closed back shoes are required.

All height, weight, clothing and harness restrictions must be met to ride this experience. Additional restrictions may apply, please see the Zipline restrictions listed below.

Save money by purchasing a combo ticket to ride the Zip Line and climb the Ropes Course!

Come prepared! View our full list of requirements for more information and have your waiver signed and submitted all online!

Open weekends

*Weather Dependent 

Location

Forest Realm Trail near the Red Pandas

General Guidelines:
  • A waiver must be completed by each participant/guardian.
  • Closed back shoes are required.
  • Guests should have on pants or shorts, no skirts or dresses.
  • Minimum weight of 70 pounds (34.02 kg).
  • Maximum weight is 250 pounds (113.4 kg). Participant must safely fit in the harness.
  • Must be 48 inches (122cm) tall to participate.
  • Participant must be able to understand and demonstrate knowledge of all safety rules.
  • Last ticket sold 30 minutes prior to zoo closing.
  • Participating while under the under the influence of drugs or alcohol is prohibited.
  • Cell phones are not allowed on attraction.
  • Pockets must be empty. No loose objects such as cell phones. Eyeglasses should be secure.
  • No gum, food or drinks allowed on the attraction.
  • Anyone with joint or back injuries my re-injure themselves or worsen a preexisting injury.
  • Individuals with heart problems, recent stitches, or who are pregnant should refrain from participating.
PRICE PER PERSON
PUBLIC
$10.00
MEMBER
$8.00
SAVE WITH A COMBO TICKET!
ROPES COURSE & ZIP LINE COMBO
PUBLIC
$16.00
MEMBER
$12.80
ZOO ADVENTURES

Budgie Aviary

Get cheek to beak in this interactive exhibit! Located near the waterfall and Hobby Farm, our Budgie Aviary allows you to walk through an exhibit with over 150 colorful Budgies, 4 cockatiels, and 18 white-winged parakeets. You can even purchase a feed stick and have birds feeding right out of your hand! This is one exhibit you won’t want to miss!

Opening soon
Location: 

At the bottom of the Waterfall near Red’s Hobby Farm

General Guidelines:
  • Strollers are not permitted inside the aviary.
  • The aviary is handicap accessible.
BUDGIE STICK PRICE
PUBLIC
$3.00
MEMBER
$2.00
Shopping Cart

Great Lakes Rare Turtles

Great Lakes Conservation
About

Turtles are in trouble around the world and locally. The Great Lakes Rare Turtle Program addresses on threats that are existential and widespread for Blanding’s, Spotted, Wood, and Box Turtles. The John Ball Zoo is working wth partners to study head starting as a conservation tool, protecting nesting habitat for Wood Turtles from raccoons, and researching the distribution and status of Spotted Turtles in Southwest Michigan. The zoo partners with local community scientists to indentify road crossings that pose a threat to Blanding’s and other species of turtles.

Partners

Poweshiek Skipperling

Oarisma powesheik

Facts
Habitat

Grassland, Wetlands (inland)

Threat Range

Critically Endangered

Region

Extant (resident) - Canada (Manitoba); United States (Wisconsin, Michigan), Possibly Extinct - United States (South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa), Extinct - United States (Indiana, Illinois)

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Mitchell's Satyr

Great Lakes Conservation
About

The prairie fens of southern Michigan are a stronghold for the Endangered Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly. We are working with Michigan State University, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and the Kalamazoo Nature Center to develp to propagate this rare butterfly. Offspring reared in the program may be used to supplement wild Mitchell’s Satyr populations.

Partners

Freshwater Mussels

Great Lakes Conservation
About

Freshwater Mussels are one of the most fastenating groups of animals. Unfortunately they are also one of the most imperiled groups on animals with more than 70% of North American species listed as Threatened or Endangered. Our own Grand River is home to an impressive 32 different species, 19 of which are listed. The John Ball Zoo is working with scientists at Grand Valley State University to evaluate Grand River Mussel populations. During the 2023 field season, the team documented over 1,000 individuals from 27 different species. This includes the Endangered Snuffbox Mussel.

Partners

Habitat Hero

Community Science
About

The Habitat Hero program is focused on creating better urban pollinator habitat by giving away native plants to west Michigan community members. By giving away native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, we are inviting community members to provide crucial nectar sources for pollinators as well as become more involved in pollinator conservation in their own yards and gardens.

Partners

Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring

Community Science
About

American Kestrels are one of North America’s most abundant raptors, but their populations have been steadily declining since the mid 1960’s. This year we have begun participating in the American Kestrel Partnership, run by the Peregrine Fund, to monitor local kestrel nest boxes and help better understand Kestrel population trends and biology.

Partners

Grand River Sucker Monitoring

Community Science
About

Suckers are a very important, and often overlooked, group of migratory fish that inhabit the Grand River. Every spring they migrate upriver from Lake Michigan to spawn in tributaries of the Grand River. We are joining a project started by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to determine how changes in temperature and flow of the streams impact the spawning behavior of the suckers.

Partners

Turtle Road Mortality Surveys

Community Science
About

One of the major threats to turtle populations is mortality associated with roads and vehicles. We have a team of trained volunteers who survey predetermined road crossing sites and report the number of turtles they find at these locations. We plan to use the data to assist in conservation decision-making regarding roads and turtles in west Michigan.

Partners

Michigan Butterfly Network

Community Science
About

As part of our pollinator conservation work, we want to understand how native butterfly populations are changing over time. By training community members to use the Michigan Butterfly Network monitoring protocol, we are offering passionate people the opportunity to help contribute to our understanding of butterfly populations in west Michigan.

Partners

Bat Surveys

Community Science
About

West Michigan is home to several species of rare and threatened species of bats. This summer we will have a group of volunteers collecting bat occurrence data by driving predetermined routes and using special recorders and software to identify bat species. The data will be submitted to the North American Bat Monitoring Project as part of their ongoing analysis of bat abundance and occupancy across North America.

Partners

Massasauga Rattlesnake

Great Lakes Conservation
About

The Massasauga is Michigan’s only venomous snake and plays an important role in the ecosystem. Unfortunately, these snakes are declining in numbers and are listed as Threatened. The John Ball Zoo helps to educate the public on the plight of the Massasauga and helps conservation biologists study them in the field. Currently, we are assisting Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Grand Valley State University, and Sarett Nature Center develop new technologies to monitor this secretive snake species.

Partners

City Nature Challenge

Community Science
About

The City Nature Challenge is one of the world’s largest annual community science events. Started by iNaturalist in 2016 as a friendly competition between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, this bioblitz has grown into a global phenomenon with over 500 cities participating. Taking place over the last weekend in April each year, the City Nature Challenge is all about getting outside and documenting the biodiversity in and around our communities while building and strengthening relationships with other people who are passionate about conserving local species. The West Michigan City Nature Challenge is Michigan’s only City Nature Challenge event, and encompasses Allegan, Barry, Kent and Ottawa Counties. We are excited to partner with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and many other local organizations to engage our communities in four days of exploring our biodiverse outdoor spaces.

Partners

Michigan Area

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Freshwater Mussels

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Habitat Hero

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Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring

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Grand River Sucker Monitoring

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Turtle Road Mortality Surveys

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Michigan Butterfly Network

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Bat Surveys

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Massasauga Rattlesnake

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City Nature Challenge

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Get Involved!