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School's out, Grand Rapids: Here are some ideas to keep the whole family entertained

Discover family-friendly summer activities in Grand Rapids, from free festivals and outdoor storytime to affordable attractions like the Frederik Meijer Gardens and John Ball Zoo.
Garfield Park

Garfield Park /Koy Flores

Meet Koy

Koy Flores is a reporting intern with The Rapidian during the 2024 summer semester and is a student at Grand Rapids Community College.This partnership between GRCC and The Rapidian is made possible through the Transfer Bridges to the Humanities, U of M program, providing GRCC students with accessible opportunities to engage with the college community on both a professional and extracurricular level as they explore future degree and career paths in the humanities.

As the weather warms up in West Michigan, Grand Rapids offers many activities and events for families to enjoy together. 

“We might have the moniker ‘beer city’, but we are definitely becoming an art city as well,” said Evette Pittman, the Special Events Manager of Grand Rapids. “We want to honor that name and show it to the young kiddos.” 

Pittman said the Office of Special Events, which coordinates and manages various public events within the city, already exceeded last year’s record-breaking number of permit requests to host events in the city. 

“We want a community that isn’t only welcoming, but for our people to feel like they belong, that they are a part of what makes Grand Rapids wonderful,” Pittman said. 

Now that summer is near and the kids are out of school, here is a fun list of fun things to do with the whole family this summer.

Festival of the Arts (Free)

The annual Festival of the Arts is returning to Calder Plaza this weekend and will feature performances from local bands, dancers and artists, as well as offer hands-on art activities for the family and plenty of food trucks to try. The festival is a three-day event and will run from:

  • Friday, June 7, 5–10 p.m.

  • Saturday, June 8, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. 

  • Sunday, June 9, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

For a full lineup of events, visit the Festival of the Arts website.

Art in the Park/ Artist’s Way Project (Free)

Art in the Park, presented by Cultivate, an artist-run nonprofit organization that hosts a variety of workshops, classes and social gatherings, is coming to Canal Street Park on June 10 and will run from 6–8 p.m. This event is part of a twelve-week program with art workshops and events every Monday night at the park.  Heads up, this event is geared toward older kids and adults, but it is a great chance to workshop art and meet local artists.

Outdoor Storytime (Free)

The Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) will be hosting Outdoor Storytime readings at a couple of parks and library lawns in Grand Rapids over the summer, geared toward kids ages 0-5. Librarians will read stories and sing songs while enjoying the West Michigan weather. For a full list of storytimes, dates and locations, visit the GRPL website.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park  

The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is world-renowned for connecting art with nature. The sculpture park has gardens for kids and adults to play and enjoy. Frederik Meijer Gardens also offers multi-day summer camps for kids throughout the summer, but many are filling up or have already sold out — so don’t hesitate if you’re interested. For general admission, adults ages 65 and older and college students with an I.D. can get in for $15, and there is no charge for children under two years old. 

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is an interactive and educational experience for kids, with rotating exhibits year-round. Their newest one, the ‘Emotions at Play with Pixar's Inside Out!’ exhibit, aims to help children understand and recognize emotions like joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. This exhibit, which features Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, opened June 1 and will be up until September 8.  Children younger than a year old and museum members get in for free, active military, healthcare workers, first responder family members and the family of school faculty get in for $10, and EBT or WIC cardholders get in for $1.75. 

John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo isn’t only an opportunity for the ever-curious child to explore wildlife, but the zoo is now giving Grand Rapids families a glimpse into another culture with the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival, now through June 16. The festival features handcrafted Asian lanterns and displays lighting up the Zoo and telling the story of wildlife and Asian culture.

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