Grand Rapids is where kids and families come to Play Their Way, in every season and all year ‘round. It’s jam-packed with things to do for every kind of kid and every kind of family, so you can plan a trip that’s as individual and special as your own household.
Whether your kids are active, athletic, inquisitive, creative, adventurous, cautious, calm, boisterous, focused or fidgety – or all of the above, depending on the time of day – you’ll find endless options for a memorable family-friendly getaway in Grand Rapids. You’ll find some of our favorite recommendations for families with toddlers and tweens below. You can also check out our tips for families with teens.
Animal AdventuresBack to Top of List
Do your kids love animals? Make sure to visit John Ball Zoo, home to more than 2,000 furry, feathered and finny creatures. Paved pathways are wide and stroller-friendly, behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters are available – see how one dad turned a zoo visit into a field trip – and kids can ride a funicular, pan for gems, and tackle a zip line or sky trails rope course. Deer Tracks Junction Adventure Park lets kids interact with farm animals and Site 57 Safari, located at the same site, invites families to drive through wild animal enclosures. Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park presents 1,500 animals, many rare and endangered, in naturalistic environments easily accessible by foot and by stroller. All of these attractions offers snack shops, picnic areas and playgrounds.
Learning Through PlayBack to Top of List
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For kids and families living with sensory challenges, outings can be hard. New places, unexpected crowds, loud noises, or bright lights can all trigger anxiety and unwanted reactions. Many families…
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is built on the premise that play is essential for healthy development, and it offers a range of fun, interactive activities and experiences for kids 2-10. The Lena Meijer Children’s Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park invites kids to use all five senses while exploring a treehouse village and log cabin, digging for buried fossils, navigating a butterfly maze, and launching a boat in a Great Lakes Garden. Bring a change of clothes, splashing may occur!
The Grand Rapids Public Museum offers three floors of fascinating exhibits, many offering interactive features for kids, plus a working carousel and a wow-worthy planetarium. The Grand Rapids Art Museum hosts kids and families for creative workshops every Saturday. Blandford Nature Center presents wildlife events and outdoor experiences, including a historical village and miles of trails to explore.
Outdoor AdventuresBack to Top of List
Pack the right clothes for you and your kids to enjoy the Grand Outdoors in every season. Hike, bike, blade, snowshoe and cross-country ski on 60+ trails in and around the city. Rent a kayak, paddle boat, canoe or row boat at Millennium Park, which also features a sandy beach, splash pad, fishing area and large playground, all just five minutes from downtown GR.
Millennium Park is one of 12 great stops on our local’s guide to area playgrounds. It’s also one of 20+ beaches in the area – the rest are located along Lake Michigan, a 30-40 minute drive from the city. And it’s one of 120+ city and county parks with amenities ranging from ballfields and picnic areas to swimming lakes and campsites.
Visit Grand Rapids in spring for the opening of kid-focused attractions like AJ’s Family Fun Park and the outdoor go-karts and bumper boats at Craig’s Cruisers; summer for a multitude of free outdoor concerts, often in parks where kids can play to the music; fall for hayrides, pumpkin picking and more at family farms such as Ed Dunneback & Girls and Robinette’s Apple Haus; and winter for outdoor ice skating, tubing and other winter sports.
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The Makowski family loves flights. Not of the airplane variety, however. I’m talking about “flights” typically associated with beer, pizza, ice cream, dips, donuts, or really anything you can turn into a sampling of variations of things you love. For our family, that now…
Indoor FunBack to Top of List
Not all kids are outdoorsy – and few are outdoorsy all the time – so Grand Rapids also offers plenty of activities to keep families occupied inside. Check out 13 area bowling (and fowling) alleys. Get in on the duckpin bowling craze. Play laser tag or archery tag in an indoor arena. Tee up for a round of miniature golf under the glow of black light. Roller skate at Tarry Hall or GR Skate.
Bounce around at Altitude, Sky Zone, Launch and Rebounderz trampoline parks. Strap on a headset for a solo or team game at Amped Virtual Reality (appropriate for ages 4+). Work together to make your way out of an escape room. Watch a family-friendly movie at Celebration Cinema, attend a kid-friendly production at Broadway Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Ballet or Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, and browse the Van Andel Arena schedule for Disney tours, monster truck shows, concerts and more.
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If the weather isn’t to your liking or you just want to play inside, Grand Rapids offers a wide range of fun indoor activities for all ages, in all seasons. Exploration Delve into history, culture and…
Family-Friendly FestivalsBack to Top of List
Help your kids explore their and others’ heritage at 15+ cultural festivals throughout the year, celebrating the lives and contributions of local Native Americans, African Americans, Polish Americans, Hispanics and more. Almost all of them feature special kid-friendly programming plus lots of delicious food.
Visit Grand Rapids in January and February to experience World of Winter, an outdoor festival featuring giant art installations, entertainment and kids’ games; March and April to see Butterflies are Blooming!, the nation’s largest temporary butterfly exhibit; and November and December to experience Christmas & Holiday Traditions at Meijer Gardens, featuring 40+ cultural displays, 350,000+ lights, reindeer visits and more.
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You don’t have to travel the world to experience an abundance of cultures. West Michigan hosts a variety of fun, educational and entertaining festivals that give visitors a glimpse into the diverse…
Sporting EventsBack to Top of List
Watch the West Michigan Whitecaps (a Detroit Tigers affiliate) play baseball in LMCU Ballpark. Cheer the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) hockey team and Grand Rapids Gold (Denver Nuggets) basketball team at Van Andel Arena. All of them pepper their schedules with fantastic family promotions, including discount tickets, giveaways, contests, fireworks and more.
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A live event at Van Andel Arena is a guaranteed good time for ticket holders of any age. After attending several great events at Van Andel with kids, I’ve rounded up some fun ideas for families to enjoy before or after heading to the arena. I’ve found the following attractions that are…
Shopping SpreesBack to Top of List
Tanger Outlets, an outdoor mall, offers discount prices on designer wear from Adidas, American Eagle, Carter’s Babies & Kids, Gap Factor and more. Woodland Mall and Rivertown Crossings are traditional indoor malls that boast 100 stores each, including Journeys Kidz, Kids Foot Locker, The Children’s Place, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Game Stop and FYE. Shop Village Kids Consignment Boutique for great deals on gently used wearables for babies to tweens and Aunt Candy’s Toy Company for unique puzzles, books, games and crafts.
StorytimeBack to Top of List
The Grand Rapids Public Library and Kent District Library systems offer a range of events for kids, including family storytimes, at locations throughout the area. The Storytelling Garden in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park hosts puppet and theatre shows. Storytime Grand Rapids presents a Storytime in the Park series in select city parks every summer.
Food & DrinkBack to Top of List
Kid-friendly food destinations abound in Grand Rapids, from pizza parlors to taco joints, ice cream parlors to frozen yogurt bars, and sweets shops to the food courts at Rivertown Crossings, Tanger Outlet and Woodland malls. Sticky Fingers is a magical candy store, filled with new and nostalgic treats to satisfy you and your kids. And believe it or not, many local breweries are family-friendly, with foods kids like and outdoor spaces to run around in.
More Idea StartersBack to Top of List
Read how two moms and five boys under 5 years old spent their two days in Grand Rapids. Check out fun itineraries for a summer weekend, fall weekend and holiday season visit. Discover which attractions are equipped to deliver sensory-friendly experiences. Finally, search our events listing for things to do by date and category – you can filter by children’s activities, art, music, sporting events and much more.