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.

Grand Rapids is an ideal choice for a family vacation because it combines the pleasures and conveniences of big city life with the charm and affordability of a small town.

Animal Adventures

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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 your family can have educational experiences at the John Ball Zoo ­­– 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 Play

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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 Adventures

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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 places to cool off at and 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.

Indoor Fun

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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 AltitudeSky 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.

Even if the weather may not be delightful, your Grand Rapids getaway can be – just move the fun indoors!

Family-Friendly Festivals

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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.

Late July and Early August is the annual Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, a summer staple in West Michigan. Head to the beach town just a short drive away to enjoy the week-long celebration. 

Sporting Events

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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.

Shopping Sprees

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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.

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 & Drink

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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. In the summertime, Riverside Park transforms into a food truck meetup to host Food Truck Fridays

More Idea Starters

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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.