Zoo Reviews John Ball Zoo Grand Rapids Mi

People are visiting the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in record numbers… and with good reason! In 2008, nearly 427,500 guests visited the John Ball Zoo, breaking a record set in 2007 of almost 420,000 visitors. The Zoo is on track to break both records in 2009. Zoo Director Bert Vescolani attributes this heavy visitation in large part to the economy. For just over $25, a family of four (2 adults and 2 children ages 3-13) could visit the Zoo and experience all of the attractions. Children 2 years and under are admitted free of charge, and seniors over age 62 pay $6.50 – one dollar less than the general adult admission fee. Winter rates, which are in effect from mid-September to mid-May, offer greatly reduced admission fees (all adults – $3.50; children 3-3 for $3 each).

While the John Ball Zoo represents a bargain for families, there are hundreds of other reasons to visit. So what will a day and just over $25 get your family at John Ball Zoo?

* For starters, the zoo has over 1100 animals from the wilds of the United States, Africa, Asia, and South Australia.

* The Peter C. and Pat Cook Mokomboso Valley Chimpanzee Exhibit covers one third of an acre and is one of the largest in the country. View these endangered primates in a natural environment, weather permitting, and indoors during inclement weather at the “indoor day room.” And exhibit with educational brochures rounds out this area.

* The North American Trek is home to exhibits of United States wildlife, from wolverines to grizzly bears to river otters.

* The South American Boardwalk teaches guests about ancient cultures of the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas. Exhibits include the capybaras – the world’s largest rodents – guanacos, screamers, and maned wolves.

* The Treasures of the Tropics Building houses a number of small primates, as well as a diverse group of reptiles and amphibians. It also serves as home to the only Komodo dragon in Michigan, Dart frogs, a Black-footed cat, Caimans, insects and Fruit bats.

* Want to touch a Sting ray? Sting Ray Lagoon offers guests the chance to see, feel and experience Sting Rays as they travel through the water in a 5,000-gallon outdoor touch pool. The “touch experience” costs an additional $1.

* At the Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium, visitors can see simulations of a Michigan stream, the northwest coast of the United States, and the coast of Patagonia. The Aquarium offers guests a chance to see many aquatic animals, including penguins, fish and invertebrates, as well as sea stars and sea urchins.

* The “Far Side of the World Trail” offers a chance to walk wallabies during summer months and discover new species of animals from the open seas.

* If birds, frogs, and turtles are your thing, there are exhibits just for you! The Budgie Aviary invites guests to walk through an exhibit of Budgies – colorful birds native to Australia. A feed stick can be purchased to feed the Budgies directly from your hand during summer months. The frog exhibit showcases 80 different animals that represent 15 different species of frogs and toads. This exhibit is designed to entice and entertain children of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents. Nearly 30 turtles are featured in the turtle exhibit, offering a personal, close-up look at these creatures.

* Bissell’s Lions of Lake Manyara is a new lion exhibit opened in June 2008, which is one of the largest in the United States and unique in several ways. The United Nations has named Lake Manyara in Tanzania a biosphere because it contains a rich diversity of animals and people. At Lake Manyara, lions are known to climb trees, something rarely done. The new exhibit at the John Ball Zoo includes a climbing tree that is heated and cooled according to the seasons. This exhibit contains two BOMAS, which are replicas of Tanzanian buildings. These BOMAS provide viewing points within this area. One BOMA is two-story and also offers a view of the Grand Rapids skyline.

* LV Eberhard Adventure World is the children’s zoo area. The focus is on birds and domestic animals, and children can connect with the wildlife in summer months within the “contact corral.”

* The Zipline is a four-story, 300-foot zipline that flies over the Zoo’s petting corral to another ridge. The cost is $5.00 per ride and is offered during summer months.

* If the Zipline is too much excitement for you, perhaps you would like to try a camel ride. This seasonal attraction costs extra, but it is available to all ages, and souvenir photos are available. The Swan Paddle Boats are another ride available to all ages in a park pond located just outside the Zoo. Six giant swan paddle boats are offered, at the rate of $5 per 15 minute ride. One boat will hold two adults or one adult and two children.

* The Sky Trail Ropes Course is an adventure course that spans four stories with two climbing levels. This seasonal experience also has extra fees and is available for corporate parties or team building events.

If all of these exhibits and activities are not enough, the Gifts of the Wild Gift Shop offers souvenirs, books, puzzles, collectibles, and more. There are many concession stands located throughout John Ball Zoo, as well as Monkey Island Cafe, which provides various food and beverage items. The menu changes with the seasons, offering such beverages as Hot Chocolate in cooler months. Proceeds from all food purchases in John Ball Zoo go to benefit the Zoo.

The John Ball Zoo has special activities each season. Events in October include Zoo Goes Boo, with a “Kooky Not Spooky Trick or Treat Trail” and Halloween Family Overnight, a family overnight program that features fun, hands-on activities and games and guided tours of the Zoo, including some behind-the-scenes looks at life in the Zoo.

Zoofari Classes help children from ages 19 months and up to learn about the zoo and various animal families. The Sustainable Seafood Workshop for the Culinary Professional teaches students how to make more sustainable seafood choices and inspire other culinary professionals to follow suit.

There IS something for everyone at the John Ball Zoo. The secondary title on their website masthead (www.johnballzoosociety.org) states “Celebrating the Wonders of our Natural World.” Truly the John Ball Zoo does just this through its exhibits and events. No wonder this is one of West Michigan’s favorite attractions!

The John Ball Zoo is located at 1300 W. Fulton Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, phone 616-336-4301, or visit the website at www.johnballzoosociety.org

Resource: http://www.johnballzoosociety.org