When I’m not photographing clients’ adorable children, I’m generally hanging out with my own. We like to stay busy, and we’ve spent a lot of time exploring the cities where we’ve lived. Since I know many of you have growing families, I thought I’d share some of our favorite family activities near Grand Rapids. Not only are these places fun for kids, but many are beautiful and offer fantastic opportunities to document these special outings. So go explore your city and make sure you take your camera along too!
Frederik Meijer Gardens
This is one of our TOP favorites. It’s appropriate for all ages with year round family friendly activities. Read this post for my family’s highlights and tips for planning your visit: Grand Rapids family activities- Frederik Meijer Gardens
Website: Frederik Meijer Gardens
Millennium Park Beach
I know we have many beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan, but Millennium Park is my favorite option for toddlers and young kids. With lots of parking, shallow water, tons of sand, splash pad, playground, concessions, bathrooms and showers, it’s a low stress way to enjoy the summer sun.
Website: Millennium Park Beach
John Ball Zoo
Our local zoo has been putting so much work into expanding their facilities. They’ve added exhibits, brought in new animals, and just added a new nature-themed inclusive playground. You can ride the funicular, zip line, camels, or attempt the ropes course. My kids also really enjoy their summer camp offerings.
Website: John Ball Zoo
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park
This is another zoo that has expanded greatly over the last few years. Boulder Ridge is my favorite place for toddlers to see animals. It’s smaller and more manageable for young kids. There are a lot of opportunities to pet and feed various animals. One of our favorite attractions is the safari bus ride that takes you through acres of larger animal exhibits.
Website: Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park
Located at Swiss Lane Farms, this non-profit organization is the perfect way to learn about all things dairy. We’ve been on several group tours and even my non-farm loving kids always enjoy themselves. Our tours have included tractor rides around the property to learn about their farming operations, bottle feeding baby calves, eating dairy snacks, visiting the high-tech milking barn, and even watching the birth of a few calves. They also offer kid camps in the summer.
Website: Dairy Discovery
GRR Airport Observation
Watching planes take off and land at GRR airport is probably our favorite free outing. On a nice day, it’s the perfect place to pack some bubbles and a picnic lunch to enjoy between airplanes. Depending on the schedule, you may see helicopters, small private planes, mid size commercial airlines, or the big FedEx cargo planes. They recently upgraded the observation area to include a shaded picnic pavilion, bathrooms, drinking fountains, and more parking.
Website: GRR Airport Observation
Grand Rapids Public Museum
Although I didn’t think the Public Museum would entertain my young kids for very long on our first visit, I was wrong. They wanted to explore every inch of the museum, and we have since spent several hours there at each return visit. I’d say their favorite permanent exhibit is the taxidermy area where they can see lots of animals and fish…and push a lot of buttons to hear different nature sounds. Sometimes the temporary exhibits aren’t that exciting for their ages, but we have really enjoyed the visiting Whales, Germs, Dinosaurs and Toys exhibits. The restored carousel is a must-ride if, unlike me, you don’t get motion sickness. The Planetarium also always has a kid friendly program, so be sure to check those showtimes as well. The Public Museum is another great option for summer camps, and my oldest has participated in the LEGO camp multiple years.
Website: Grand Rapids Public Museum
If you’re looking for strawberries, Krupp Farms is the place to go. We head there every summer to pick berries to make jam for the next year. They are organized, very welcoming of children, and have delicious strawberries. There’s also a little petting barn onsite, and their snack shack serves yummy strawberry shortcake, among other treats.
Website: Krupp Farms
We love Blok Orchard for their variety of fruit picking options. They have the widest assortment of u-pick that keeps us returning every season. We have picked blueberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, and zestar apples (our favorite). There are not a lot of bells and whistles in terms of extra kid activities, but the orchard is wide spread, not busy, and very relaxing.
Website: Blok Orchard
West Michigan Whitecaps
For the sports lovers, check out the West Michigan Whitecaps at Fifth Third Ballpark. We like that it’s a smaller, cheaper venue as a minor league stadium…especially since young kids often don’t make it through the whole game. They frequently offer promotions on food and reserved seats. There are specific themed kids nights. And if your child is a wiggler, you can opt for the lawn seats for more stretching space or visit the playground to burn off energy.
Website: West Michigan Whitecaps
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
This is a popular indoor option among Grand Rapids families when the weather is gloomy. There are two stories of hands on activities for kids. Some exhibits are permanent, like the amazing grocery and dining area where your child can push a shopping cart gathering food before heading to the checkout scanner. But they also rotate temporary exhibits, like Amazing Dinosaurs, Kidstruction Zone and Happy Animal Clinic. Although kids of all ages can visit, I think the activities are best suited for kids age 5 and under. The museum offers a lot of different programs as well, including camps, toddler time, sensory supports, and discounted family nights.
Website: Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
Goldfish Swim School
We have been doing swim lesson here for over 6 years. All three of my kids are successfully learning to swim and having fun while doing it. Goldfish offers lessons for children 4 months through 12 years. A few of the reasons we love it here are their amazing staff, small class sizes, clean facilities, warm water, and commitment to safety. The lessons focus on everything from critical safety skills to advanced swim strokes. They are also the only swim facility we’ve used that offers makeup lessons if you have to cancel. Even if you don’t enroll your kids in swim lessons here, they offer open family swim times 5 days a week. Their humid, tropical environment and 90 degree pool is the perfect family outing anytime, but especially when it’s cold and snowy outside.
Website: Goldfish Swim School
Catch Air has you covered for all your running, jumping and sliding needs. It is known in our house as “The Slide Place.” Their giant facility currently has 3 big inflatable climbers, racing slides, a 2 story maze of climbing tunnels, and more. A designated toddler area is perfect for crawlers and early walkers. Don’t miss the bubble dance parties that usually happen every hour on the light up dance floor. Also, if your child is sensitive to noise, Catch Air offers sensory friendly Wednesdays where loud toys are turned off, the music is quieter and the lights are dimmed. The equipment is designed for kids under age 10, and adults are free with child admission. Some important notes: everyone entering the facility must wear socks, and you can’t take your own food in. But there is a concession area with snacks, drinks and pizza.
Website: Catch Air
Craig’s Cruisers where the fun never ends! Can anyone read that without singing their jingle? For young and old alike, they offer so many different activities. When the weather is nice, head outside for go carts, mini golf, bumper boats, or the zip line. Their indoor activities include go carts, bumper cars, laser tag, a roller coaster and ninja course. They also just added a trampoline park that offers specific toddler time hours. The buffet offers some delicious pizza, pastas, salads, and desserts as well.
Website: Craig’s Cruisers
This is Michigan’s largest themed amusement and water park. Their big marketing point is that it’s two parks for the price of one. Luckily for all of us, they are both family friendly! Most people rave about the water park, but I actually prefer the amusement park. I’ll give you highlights and tips for both in this blog post: Grand Rapids family activities- Michigan’s Adventure
Website: Michigan’s Adventure
Frog Hollow Park (Byron Center)
Whistlestop Park (Byron Center)
Brewer Park (Byron Center)
Caledonia Lakeside Park (Caledonia)
Pinewood Park (Kentwood)
Grand Rapids Township Park (Grand Rapids)
Cascade Township Park (Grand Rapids)
Ada Township Park (Ada)
Fallasburg Park (Lowell)
Other Favorite Orchards and Pumpkins
Heidi’s Farm Stand (Lowell)
Red Barn Market (Lowell)
Robinette’s (Grand Rapids)
Post Family Farms (Hudsonville)
Cotant’s Farm Market (Hastings)