Day Trip: John Ball Zoo Grand Rapids


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john ball zoo

Last year, the GF and I packed up and headed out to Grand Rapids Michigan for the day. We liked it so much that we’ve been planning a return trip ever since. This time we decided to return to the Meijer Gardens and also check out the John Ball Zoo while we were there. With our newly acquired Detroit Zoo membership we got half off admission (which was already cheap at $8.50) so it was the most logical choice. The weather forecast was a bit sketchy for the day but we took the chance anyways as we had our minds set on it.

 

Wolfgangs grand rapids

We got up at the crack of dawn and hit the road at about 6:30 am. I had read about a great breakfast place called Wolfgang’s Restaurant that I wanted to check out. They do one thing at Wolfgang’s and they do it well! I knew to expect a bit of a wait to get a table so it was no surprise that we had to hang out for about a half hour before getting seated. I ordered the “Jaye Van Lenton” which was a banana bread French toast with strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream! …don’t judge it’s made with “eggs and milk” and that means “breakfast”. The GF had an omelette that was also made to perfection!

 

john ball zoo

We decided to go to the John Ball Zoo first. For starters, we had never been, but also it had more potential to get crowded as the day went on. We had no troubles using our Detroit Zoo card at the gate so at a mere $4.25 per person this was definitely a bargain! At first glance the place seemed tiny… how could a zoo possibly fit in this space? The answer is quite simple actually. The zoo is built on the side of a large hill and you zig-zag up the side which was a very nice use of space.

 

john ball zoo

As we snaked up the hill we saw lots of “hands-on” exhibits. They had a small Kangaroo encounter much like the Detroit Zoo where you actually enter the enclosure to view them. There was also a farm with 2 petting zoos, a large bird cage thing you could go in, pet-a-stingray pond, and even camel rides.

 

john ball zoo

There were also monkeys… lots and lots of monkeys!!

 

john ball zoo

Monkey Island

 

john ball zoo

And even some “big butt” chimps!

 

john ball zoo

The thing I liked most was how close you could get to the animals! The way the cages were set up most animals were only a few feet away… or even a few inches where there was glass.

 

john ball zoo

They have quite a few breeds of large cats

john ball zoo

Since it was somewhat cool out, the animals were very active. It’s always more exciting to see them moving around as opposed to just sleeping.

 

john ball zoo

The aquarium was impressive as well. The penguin area was “open air” to the point where if one was determined enough he could probably pop out …but watch that first step ouch!

 

john ball zoo

I have to say this area was by far my favorite! I like fish and probably could have spent a few hours in here looking around.

 

john ball zoo

They also have a zip line and ropes course! For just $6 each or $11 for the combo this was something we couldn’t pass up… er …well …something I couldn’t pass up because the GF got cold feet and refused to go on the zipline.

 

john ball zoo

Look out below!!

 

john ball zoo

It was a quick little “zip” across a small opening that was over before it even sunk in that you are hanging by a rope… still awesome by any means and well worth the money.

 

john ball zoo

Cameras aren’t allowed on the ropes course so we snagged a few shots of other people

 

john ball zoo

The GF did, however, join me on the ropes course. I think its a little funny because in my opinion this was SO MUCH scarier! I am terribly afraid of heights but I never let it get to me. I step out with reckless abandon on any crazy high attraction that I come by… the fear adds to the experience. It’s hard to make out from the photographs but there were 2 levels and 6 “islands” with various ropes and steps and planks between them. The GF was only able to bring herself to cross 4 different paths near the start while I ventured across nearly everything. I must say that a couple of them had me peeing my pants as I crossed when there was nothing to hold on to except your lifeline rope.

 

john ball zoo

Enjoying the view from the highest point in the zoo.

 

john ball zoo

We survived the ropes and finished out the zoo just as it started to rain. We hit the gift shop in order to feed my souvenir addiction and left just in time for lunch.

 

hopcat

Where did we go? Well HopCat naturally! I’ve been dreaming of “crack fries” for months and it was finally going to pay off.

 

hopcat grand royale

I ordered the “Grand Royale”, a sloppy joe with crack fries, jalapenos, and smothered in cheese. I had it the last time and just had to have it again since it is something found nowhere else. The GF had some chicken tacos and crack fries. The food was good and our waitress was really friendly and chatty …except for all her chatty-ness she wasn’t paying attention to our drinks and before long we were melting ice cubes to extract a few drops from our glasses. At that point she was off being chatty with someone else and didn’t come back to check on us. I won’t call it bad service because she was very nice and friendly …I’ll chock it up to absent-mindedness and brush it off. We didn’t die, we weren’t choking on our food …I know people who would pitch a fit and completely flip out …we are not those people.

We finally got our drinks refilled, got the bill, paid and left …and it started pouring out…. so much for touring the Meijer Gardens I guess… so instead of our full day in Grand Rapids we only got half. Back on the road and home before 5pm (after a pit stop to Ikea… what can I say? I’m an addict lol) All this means is that we will have to go again soon……..
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