MORE ZOO FUN

Enjoy Experiences and 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.

Funicular

John Ball Zoo Gem Company

Budgie Aviary

Face Painting

Sky Trail Ropes Course

Zip Line

Shopping Cart

Amenity

Guest Services

Description Accessibility
Guest Services Guest Services is your place for purchasing tickets and memberships, getting your questions answered, picking up Kulture City sensory bags, finding the items you've lost, and more!
KultureCity KultureCity sensory bags are designed to help sensory needs in both adults and children. Filled with items that can help lessen sensory overload and also engage, the bag items are also easily cleaned and sterilized for multiple uses.
Lost & Found If you've found that your missing an item and think you may have lost it at the zoo, please stop by the Guest Services building to report your missing item or pick your item up if it has been found.

Entrance

If you already have your tickets or are a John Ball Zoo member, head straight to the gate and enter the zoo.

Amenity

Restroom

Description Accessibility
Family Restroom 2 Family Restrooms with Baby Changers in Each
Restroom Men Restroom with Baby Changer
Restroom Women Restroom with Baby Changer
Quiet Zone 1 Quiet Zone with Baby Changer (quiet zone is on the left side of the Visitor Services Restroom next to the family restrooms.)

Amenity

Safari Supplies

Information

Safari Supplies not only has any of the basic you may have forgotten for your trip to the zoo, but also extra items for rent to make your trip more accessible.

Wheelchairs and Electric Carts are only available on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be reserved ahead of time. Deposit required at time of rental and will be returned upon return of equipment.

Description Price
Safari Strollers $12
Wagon with Canopy $12
Wheelchairs Free
Amigo Mobility Carts $30

Snacks & Drinks

Depot Snacks

Conveniently located near the front entrance, make this your first and last stop of the day! Mini Donuts and Cappuccino make great morning choices, while Dippin Dots, Pretzel Bites, and some fresh-made healthy choices are available any time!

Menu

*Open daily

Amenity

Event Tent

Event Tent
Information

John Ball Zoo’s covered event space provides guests with a private outdoor venue where guests can enjoy the zoo during the day or have an intimate nighttime experience. 

Experience

Funicular

Information

Enjoy a ride through the trees and above the zoo as you head to the top of the Forest Realm. The Funicular is perfect for folks looking for a ride to the top and leisurely stroll back down through the zoo.

Perfect for guests with strollers! The Funicular is an accessibility train where wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers are all allowed.

PRICES PUBLIC MEMBER
Per Ride $4.00 $3.20

Pygmy Hippo Pavilion

Pygmy Hippo 3

Pygmy Hippo

Miss Kay (1)

White Stork

Bald Eagles

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Facts
Diet: Carnivore

Fish (rainbow trout, eel, and salmon) adult water birds and their eggs. In the winter they may hunt for squirrels, voles, or rats.

Habitat

Temperate forests, mountains, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and estuaries.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Found throughout North America including Canada and Mexico.

Fun Facts

Flight displays are part of the mating ritual. Including a dramatic dive while linked by their feet. They release before impact with the ground.

Males and females construct their nests together, about 1 to 3 months prior to egg laying.

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Our Animals
Pygmy Hippo 3
Bea

Female

Pygmy Hippo 3
Ruth

Female

Food

Monkey Island Cafe

As the main eatery in the heart of the zoo, we offer a large variety of lunch and snack items. From Hot Dogs and Fries to Chicken Tenders and Burgers, there is something here for everyone! This is also the place to get a Soft Serve Ice Cream Cone after a hot day at the zoo. Gluten-Free Buns are available for those with dietary restrictions.

Menu
Speciality Item

Hippo Salad – a beautiful salad served in a carved out watermelon

*Open daily

Aquarium

penguin, bird, animal-6905568.jpg

Magellanic Penguin

Lake Sturgeon

Lake Sturgeon

PeacockWold Eel (1)

Peacock Wolf Eel

Kelp Gull (1)

Coastal Birds

Spiny Lobster (1)

Spiny Lobsters

Bat Sea Star

Tide Pool

Gift Shop

Gifts of the Wild

Gift shop display
Gifts Galore

The gift shop is open daily during normal Zoo hours. If you are a member, please have your membership card ready at all times. Show us your valid card to save 20% at any of our gift stands! Gift Cards are sold in the Gift Shop. Sold in any amount, they are good to use at any stand in the zoo. Call 616-336-4327 if you have any questions. 

*Curbside Pickup available – Call to pay by phone and have your item(s) brought out to your car. (Select times and days)

We can ship anything! Call 616-336-4327 to have any of our unique Zoo themed gifts shipped anywhere in the USA. Just pay shipping charges.

Historic Point

John Ball Statue

John Ball Statue
The Story Of John Ball

John Ball was one of the founding fathers of Grand Rapids. His biography “Born to Wander” is a fascinating account of his life and travels which took him from his home in New Hampshire to Oregon, to Tahiti, to South America and eventually Grand Rapids.

John Ball was born in New Hampshire in 1794. He had several different professions growing up including teaching, being a justice of the peace, and even helping run a manufacturing company. He always loved to travel and when he turned 39 he decided to join the third expedition to Oregon. On horseback he made his way across the country and on to the Oregon Trail. The group ended up at Fort Vancouver. There he was the first non-native American farmer and the first non-native American schoolteacher. He is honored as an early pioneer of the West in a statue in Portland, Oregon.

He came to Grand Rapids in 1836 and began buying and selling land for friends in the East. He settled here, opening a law office, serving as one of the state’s legislators, serving on the first school board, assisting in establishing the public museum, and more. He married Mary Webster, a young school teacher, and they went on to have ten children. His last child was born when John was 77. The child was born in Europe where he had taken his entire family to live for a few years. He wanted his children to experience and appreciate other cultures and other lands.

He was a great observer of human nature, a supporter of education, a naturalist, and writer. His gift in 1884 of 40 acres of land certainly helped make John Ball Zoo possible.

The John Ball Statue was installed and dedicated in 1925.

Amenity

Information Wall

Event Tent
Information

The information wall at the entrance of the zoo is the perfect place to find upcoming events, zoo details, and a map to start your adventure.

Black Swans

Cygnus atratus

Facts
Diet

Aquatic plants such as weeds, grasses, and algae

Habitat

Wetlands (inland), Marine Coastal/Supratidal

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Indonesia

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Our Animals
Pearl

Female

Onyx

Male

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

1 of 12 2 of 12 3 of 12

Freshwater Mussels

4 of 12

Habitat Hero

5 of 12

Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring

6 of 12

Grand River Sucker Monitoring

7 of 12

Turtle Road Mortality Surveys

8 of 12

Michigan Butterfly Network

9 of 12

Bat Surveys

10 of 12

Massasauga Rattlesnake

11 of 12

City Nature Challenge

12 of 12

Pygmy Hippo

Choeropsis liberiensis

Facts
Diet: Herbivore

Leaves, roots, ferns, and fruits near rivers and streams.

Habitat

Low-lying, forested areas, near a source of water. Rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, swamps, and caves.

Threat Range

Endangered

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Mainly Liberia, parts of West Africa, small numbers in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast.

Fun Facts

Skin oozes brownish-pink fluid (called blood sweat) gives them a shiny, wet appearance. Helps protect skin from sunburn.

Spend about 6 hours a day feeding.

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Our Animals
IMG_8973
Jahari

Male

IMG_1499
Penelope

Female

White Stork

Ciconia ciconia

Facts
Diet: Carnivore

Small birds, mammals (mice, voles), large insects (beetles, locusts), amphibians, fish, crustations, reptiles (izards, snakes), and eggs.

Habitat

Dry, open areas such as agricultural fields or pastures and grasslands.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

Yes

Region

Europe, Northwest and sub-Saharan Africa, Southwest Asia.

Fun Facts

Threatened by habitat loss (wetlands converted to fields for agriculture), sport hunting, ingestion of toxic pesticides/insecticides.

Communicates through bill clattering that can sound like distant machine gun fire.

Can regulate body temperature by defecating on legs and allowing evaporation to cool them.

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Our Animals
White Stork
Miss Kay

Female

Ned (1)
Ned

Male

Magellanic Penguin

Spheniscus magellanicus

Facts
Diet: Piscivore

Wild: Anchovies, Squid, Sprats, & Hagfish
Zoo: Trout, Smelt, Herring, & Capelin

Habitat

Coastline, except during breeding season where they may be found nesting in grassland, amongst bushes, and in cliff faces.

Threat Range

Nearly Threatened

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

Yes

Region

Temperate regions of South America. Found in Argentina, Brazil, Malvinas, Peru, and Uruguay. May venture to a tropical setting for breeding.

Fun Facts

Unmated males have a distinct call similar to a donkey’s braying.

Thick heavy bones allowing them to dive more than 250 feet.

Torpedo shape allows for rapid swimming, reaching speeds up to 15.5 miles per hour.

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Our Animals
penguin, bird, animal-6905568.jpg
26 Males And Females

Lake Sturgeon

Acipenser fulvescens

Facts
Diet

Insect larvae, worms, crayfish, snails, and other small fishes.

Habitat

Temperate waters. Found only in the Northern Hemisphere in North America.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

NA

Region

Freshwaters of North America from the Hudson Bay through the Mississippi River drainages to Alabama. It is found along the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River drainage, and in large lakes in New York and Vermont, including Cayuga Lake and Lake Champlain.

Fun Facts

Males can live up to 100 years, and females can live up to 150 years.

The females lay a vast number of eggs, anywhere from 2-3 million in one season, depending on their size and age.

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Our Animals
Lake Sturgeon (1)
8 Total

Try to find them all!

Peacock Wolf Eel

Anarrhichthys ocellatus

Facts
Diet: Carnivore

Hard-shelled animals like crabs, sand dollars, clams, snails, and sea urchins.

Habitat

Rock and stone crevices, dens, and caves in shallow water as deep as 740 feet.

Threat Range

Not Evaluated

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Northern Baja California north to the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and east and south to the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan.

Fun Facts

Length: 8.2 feet

Oviparous – Lays up to 10,000 eggs at a time, then coils around them and uses her body to shape the eggs into a neat sphere roughly the size of a grapefruit. When she's settled, the male coils around her as an added layer of protection. The female continues massaging the eggs periodically as they develop, helping to circulate water around the eggs to keep them supplied with oxygen.

Our Animals
Bob

Coastal Birds

Black-Crowned Night Heron (1)

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Kelp Gull (1)

Kelp Gull

Red crested cardinal (1)

Red-Crested Cardinal

Rock Lobster or California Spiny Lobster

Panulirus interruptus

Facts
Diet: Omnivore/Scavenger

Dead animals, algae, and various invertebrates such as urchin and mussel

Habitat

Rocky reef habitats where they can den in crevices or seek cover in kelp or surf grass. Occasionally found in tide pools, but more often found in deeper waters up to 65 m.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Western coast of southern California and Mexico.

Fun Fact

They have been known to be regulators of several key invertebrates, such as purple urchins.

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Sharks

Rainbow Trout (1)

Leopard Shark

Bluegill (1)

Swell Shark

Tide Pool

Located in the Living Shores Aquarium next to the Octopus Habitat. The Tide Pool draws in water and releases back into the habitat, creating a tide. The cycle takes an average 2 minutes to complete.

What is a Tide Pool?

A Tide Pool is an isolated pocket of seawater found in the ocean’s intertidal zone. They are home to a variety of life, such as snails, barnacles, mussels, anemones, urchins, sea stars, crustaceans, seaweed, and small fish that can sustain the drastic changes that occur
between low and high tides. During low tide there is increased sun exposure and lower levels of oxygen, and during high tide the crashing waves and foraging fish that comes at high tide.

Black Turban Snails

Black Turban Snails

Bluegill (1)

Rough Keyhole Limpets

Strawberry False Coral

Strawberry False Coral

Northern Triton

Northern Triton

Shiner Surfperch

Shiner Surfperch

Bat Sea Star

Bat Sea Star

Ochre Sea Star

Ochre Sea Star

Get Involved!

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

Facts
Diet: Omnivore

Mainly fish, but also, leeches, earthworms, insects, crayfish, mussels, squid, amphibians, lizards, snakes, rodents, birds, eggs, carrion, and plant materials.

Habitat

Terrestrial and Aquatic. Wetlands.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

North America from Washington through Quebec, south through coastal Mexico, as well as locally in Central America and the Caribbean.

Fun Facts

Some winter as far north as Oregon and the New England states.

Kelp Gull

Larus dominicanus

Facts
Diet: Omnivore

Mollusks, echinoderms, sponges, arthropods, fish, worms, snakes, frogs, mammals, birds, and berries.

Habitat

Beaches, estuaries, lakes, and rivers.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Widespread in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fun Facts

Picks up shellfish and repeatedly flies them up several yards and drops them onto the rocks below in order to break them open.

Red-Crested Cardinal

Paroaria coronata

Facts
Diet: Frugivore

Mainly fruit

Habitat

Forests, rivers, shrubland, and grasslands

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

Yes

Region

Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Fun Facts

Tend to form flocks. Flocks can include members of other bird species.

Leopard Shark

Triakis semifasciata

Facts
Diet: Carnivore

Herring, topsmelt, croakers, surfperches, fish eggs, mollusks, aquatic worms, and the young of other sharks.

Habitat

The temperate shallow bays and estuaries of coastal California.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Near-coastal regions in the Pacific Ocean from Oregon down the California coast to Mazatlan, México.

Fun Fact

Leopard sharks have rows of teeth, but the first row is the only row that stands upright.

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Our Animals
1 male, 1 female

Swell Shark

Cephaloscyllium ventriosum

Facts
Diet: Carnivore

Bony fishes, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Habitat

Temperate, tropical, and saltwater.

Threat Range

Least Concern

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Eastern Pacific Ocean, ranging from Central California, in the Monterey Bay, to southern Mexico and central Chile.

Fun Fact

Can take in water and swell as it hides in rocky crevices. This jams the shark in place making predation difficult.

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Our Animals
2 Females

Black Turban Snails

Tegula funebralis

Facts

A marine sea snail found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Adults reach up to about an inch in diameter and have a life expectancy of 7 to 30 years. They inhabit rocky intertidal zones between low and high tide lines. Their diet is composed of mainly algae.

Rough Keyhole Limpets

Diodora aspera

Facts

A marine snail found in coastal regions from Alaska, to Baja California. Their strong foot allows them to thrive in some intertidal areas where turbulent wave action is prevalent. Oxygen rich water is drawn up under the shell, it then passes through the gills and is then expelled out of an opening on the top of their shell. They are most active during high tide.

Strawberry False Coral

Corynactis californica

Facts
Diet

Small crustaceans less than an inch in diameter.

Habitat

Rocky areas near reefs.

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Eastern Pacific and North Atlantic oceans in temperate waters.

Fun Fact

Referred to as the carpet of the sea. Not a true sea anemone.

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Northern Triton

Fusitriton oregonesis

Facts
Diet

Mollusks and sea squirts.

Habitat

Both rocky and soft shorelines.

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

The coastline from Alaska to California and Northern Japan.

Shiner Surfperch

Cymatogaster aggregata

Facts
Diet

Zooplankton, mollusks, fish eggs, and worms.

Habitat

Bays and estuaries.

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Alaska, to Baja California, Mexico.

Bat Sea Star

Patiria miniata

Facts
Diet

Tube-feet line there arms and are used for both locomotion and to pry open clams and oysters.

Habitat

Tropical habitats to the cold seafloor.

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Can be found worldwide.

Ochre Sea Star

Pisaster ochraceus

Facts
Diet

Tube-feet line there arms and are used for both locomotion and to pry open clams and oysters.

Habitat

Tropical habitats to the cold seafloor.

SSP (Species Survival Plan)

No

Region

Can be found worldwide.