If you’re looking for a great day (or weekend) with the kids, head to Grand Rapids. The metropolitan center of western Michigan is the perfect place for families. From stunning outdoor spaces and sandy beaches to indoor amusement to cool you down, there’s so much to do you – it’ll be easy to see why we love spending time there.

Grand Rapids Summer Road Trip Giveaway

LittleGuide Detroit has partnered with Experience Grand Rapids for an amazing family escape this summer. Enter to win the following:

  • Overnight stay at Embassy Suites Downtown Grand Rapids
  • Family 4 pack of tickets to Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park AND John Ball Zoo
  • $100 Visa gift card

GIVEAWAY: Grand Rapids Getaway 2024

Enter to win a summer trip to Grand Rapids. Winner receives: Overnight stay at Embassy Suites Downtown Grand Rapids, Family 4 pack of tickets to Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Family 4 pack of tickets to Grand Rapids Public Museum, Family 4 pack of tickets to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Family 4 pack of tickets to John Ball Zoo and a $100 Visa gift card


Things To Do

Here are highlights of our favorite activities in Grand Rapids.

Frederik Meijer Garden & Sculpture Park

The Frederik Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park is beautiful and expansive – wear walking shoes because there’s plenty to see. Start your visit inside at the Convservatory and Children’s Garden Discovery Experience, then head out to the Children’s Garden. Wear water shoes/sandals because your kids wont’ be able to resist the massive Great Lakes water table. Let them make a splash then stroll along the boardwalk to through the wetlands to the treehouse fortress. Kids love running across the bridges and from different treehouses. Afterwards let them get ‘lost’ in the garden maize. Throughout the gardens you’ll spot beautiful animal sculptures that will capture their attention – including a couple of dragons.

Pull out the map of the grounds and decide where to go next – the Sculpture Park, Japanese Gardens, Michigan’s Farm Garden or Frey Boardwalk.

Grand Rapids Children Museum:

The Grand Rapids Children Museum is a miniature world for kids of all ages (construction site, medical center, shopping center) with hands-on activities and rotating immersive experiences that make every visit feel new.

This summer you can experience the Emotions at Play with Pixar’s Inside Out exhibit. The interactive experiences help visitors learn about the important role emotions, memory, and imagination play in our everyday lives. Hands-on and digital experiences focus on the five emotions featured in the film: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. Visitors learn to recognize emotions and explore ways that we express and manage our own emotions.

John Ball Zoo

If you feel like you’ve been to zoos before and don’t need another one, John Ball Zoo is not your average zoo. When you arrive you’ll think you’ve entered a nice big park because there are multiple playgrounds by the parking lot. Once you enter, it’ll feel like you’ve arrived at a hidden oasis. Take the Funicular  ($4 per person) up the hilly terrain to the top of the zoo and begin your adventure. The Zoo is organized by continenent and animal habitats can be viewed by guests from multiple angles and entry points. You’ll enjoy seeing the animals surrounded by greenspace with engaging elements like bridges and climbers to keep them busy. The zoo has over 1,300 animals including lions, tigers, chimpanzees, red pandas, and newly homed koalas.

Animals aren’t the only ones with fun things to climb on. There is a nature based Clubhouse for kids and climbers throughout the zoo to get them moving like the animals.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Don’t be fooled by the name, the Grand Rapids Public Museum is made for kids and families and features 3 floors of hands-on fun. Walk the streets of old Grand Rapids, come face to face wtih dinosaurs, and stroll through the A to Z exhibit to learn new things. Don’t miss out on the carousel that recently re-opened and sits on enclosed space overlooking the Grand River.

Current rotating exhibits include Building Buddies (pictured) and The Robot Zoo (opening June 22nd)

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

The Ford Presidential Museum allows visitors to experience highlights from President and Mrs. Ford’s lives and features exhibits that teach about democratic citizenship. In addition to the permanent exhibits, changing temporary exhibits draw artifacts from Museums all over the country.

Grand Rapids Art Museum

The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) includes more than 5,000 works of art and embraces the city’s legacy as a leading center of design and manufacturing. We love that the GRAM has crafting areas in each exhibit for kids (or adults).

Meijer Free Tuesdays and Meijer Free Thursday Nights are made possible by The Meijer Foundation. This gift supports free general admission for the public from 12 – 5 pm each Tuesday and free general admission Thursday Nights from 5 – 8 pm.

A few more fun ideas

Millennium Park: Take kids to the beach just five minutes from downtown Grand Rapids. Millennium Park spans 1,400 acres and includes a six-acre beach, a large splashpad and Ninja Warrior playground, boat rentals, and 18 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Go To A Minor League Game:The Grand Rapids Gold, G-L:eague team of the Denver Nuggets, the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings’ minor league team, and the West Michigan Whitecaps, minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, all play in Grand Rapids.

Visit Lake Michigan: You don’t want to miss an opportunity to see one of the Great Lakes. Kirk Park is a great place to take in the water. Stretching along Lake Michigan’s shoreline for over 1/3 mile, this park boasts 68 acres of sandy beach, high bluffs and wooded dunes. A paved path leads to a deck overlooking the beach for the summer and in the winter the park is great for cross country skiing.

Where to eat: There are a lot of restaurants in Grand Rapids but here are our favorite options for the family.

  • Terra // 1429 Lake Dr. SE: Check out Terra for lunch or dinner. The food is delicious and it’s a kid friendly environment – cute plastic plates, forks, and sippy cups AND a little nook with books/toys.
  • Stella’s Lounge // 53 Commerce Ave: Get dinner at Stella’s before you head back home. Dad’s will love their GQ famous stuffed burger and kids will love playing old-school arcade games.
  • Downtown Market // 435 Ionia Ave. SW: The indoor market is packed with food stalls that will allow you to find delicious food for even your pickiest eater.
  • New Holland Brewing // 417 Bridge St. NW: Our go-to family dining destination in GR. Large venue (lots of space for comfortable dining), delicious food and great drinks.

Photo credit: Millenium Park