Family-friendly activities to look forward to in Grand Rapids this spring

Spring is here, and with it comes the opportunity for families to enjoy a wide range of activities. Whether you're looking for fun, educational or cultural experiences, this vibrant city has something for everyone. As you plan your Grand Rapids outings, don't forget to take advantage of the free Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) system, which makes it easy to get around and explore all that downtown has to offer.

From art and authors to the outdoors, here are some of the family-friendly activities to look forward to in Grand Rapids this spring.

John Ball Zoo Opening Day — The John Ball Zoo is holding its opening day Friday, March 24. The Zoo has recently welcomed a variety of new animals, including a female snow leopard, bald eagles, a coati and a sloth. Red's Hobby Farm has also seen new goats and sheep join its ranks following the retirement of eight goats and a sheep the previous month. The Zoo is dedicated to celebrating, conserving and educating visitors about animals, and its opening day will be a great opportunity to discover the new additions and learn more about the animals that call the Zoo home.
John Ball Zoo
Break It Down | Make It Better: Find Your Place — The 10th year of Break It Down | Make It Better will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday, March 24. The event, which is hosted by Avenue for the Arts, ArtPrize and Cultivate, is a great opportunity for local artists to improve their skills, form connections with other creatives and get inspired. The 10th annual conference features a keynote presentation by George Bayard III, the founder and director of the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, as well as a day of breakout sessions, food, a dance performance and a happy hour. There will be presentations, roundtables, panel discussions and workshops on professional skills building and the conference's theme, creative placemaking. Registration is required at

Turtle Fest — Turtle Fest, a free event celebrating spring and turtles, will take place 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 25, at the Bunker Interpretive Center at Calvin University. The event includes games, crafts, scavenger hunts and opportunities to interact with critters. Refreshments, merchandise and other items will be available for sale to raise funds for interpretive animals' habitats.

DAAC Poetry Open Mic Night — The Division Avenue Arts Collective, or DAAC, is hosting a Poetry Open Mic Night from 7 to 10 p.m., March 25, at 1553 Plainfield Ave NE Unit #4. Attendees must wear masks, follow the DAAC's COVID-19 policy and provide details for contact tracing. The event is all-ages, accessible and donations are appreciated. Attendees can park their bikes or take The Rapid bus route #11. There is no parking in Quinn & Tuite's lot. Refunds are allowed up to 24 hours before the event.

Artist Connect Open Studio — Presented by Cultivate, this free event provides a platform for artists to showcase their work and connect with other artists and art enthusiasts. The event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m., April 1, at the DAAC, 1553 Plainfield Ave NE #4. Visitors can expect to see a variety of artwork and meet artists in person. 

Artist Critique Night — Another free event presented by Cultivate provides an opportunity for artists to receive feedback on their work from other artists and industry professionals. The event will take place 7 to 9 p.m., April 1, at the DAAC. Attendees will be able to take in local works or arts and engage in constructive discussions with artists.

Art Workshop with ArtPrize Artist Pamela Alderman — Art Workshop with ArtPrize Artist Pamela Alderman is an event for the whole family that will take place in person 10:30 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 8, at Kent County Veterans Services. The workshop is one of many that Kent County Veterans Services is hosting with Alderman throughout the year. Attendees will get to participate in a fun art activity regardless of their age or experience level.

It's My Park Day Trash Cleanup Presented by Pacifico Preserves — Keep The Mitten Clean Crew is hosting a park cleanup 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 15 at Ken-O-Sha Park, 1353 Van Auken St. SE. There is a nearby lunch and happy hour gathering, and customized Keep The Mitten Clean bandanas, koozies and stickers, as well as Pacifico beer giveaways. Attendees can tag #KeepTheMittenClean on Facebook and Instagram. A suggested donation of $5 to attend will go to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Community Cleanup — During this event volunteers will gather to clean up their neighborhood. The event takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. April 22, at The Space, 1119 Burton St. SE Suite 100. The Community Cleanup coincides with Earth Day and attendees will work together to clean up the neighborhood.
Relax at Rosa
Relax at Rosa — This lunchtime event is held at Rosa Parks Circle from May 4 to June 1. Presented by Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., the free event offers visitors a chance to relax in the sun and enjoy live music and entertainment during their lunch breaks between noon and 1:30 p.m.

Teen Anime Club — The Grand Rapids Public Library is holding a Teen Anime Club for kids and teens aged 13 to 19 from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesdays, running until April 11. The club will take place at the Madison Square Branch Library, 1201 Madison Ave SE, and registration is required. Those who cannot attend the in-person event can join the program virtually through the library’s private Discord server. During the club meetings, participants will discuss their favorite anime and manga fandom, talk about what they’re currently reading, watch movies and TV episodes together and snack while entering a raffle to win a prize each week.
Grand Rapids Public Library
A Prom For Me: A Red Carpet Event — Aim To Inspire is hosting “A Prom For Me: A Red Carpet Event,” a prom specially designed for people with special needs, 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, May 13, at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Rapids Airport, 3333 28th St SE. The event will feature live music by DJ Dre, a 360 booth, photo booth, photography, food, dancing and a raffle. Hot dogs will be available for those with gluten allergies, and photos will be available for purchase at the event.

The West MI / Grand Rapids Spring Senior Expo will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, 1000 E. Beltline Ave. NE. This event is aimed at seniors living in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas and is free to attend. Visitors can connect with dozens of local organizations and experts in a variety of areas ranging from Medicare coverage and mobility solutions to aging in place home improvements to audiology and much more. In addition, there will be free refreshments, free health screenings and hourly prize drawings.

Saplings - a program for preschool families! — Saplings is a weekly program for preschool-aged kids (2-5 years old) and their caregivers. The program is 10 to 11:30 a.m. each Tuesday at the Bunker Interpretive Center at Calvin University, 1750 E. Beltline Ave. SE. Saplings programs aim to explore nature in fun, engaging ways and develop community, make crafts, have fun with puppets and get to know the resident turtle, Curtis.

Caturday Night Live - Family Friendly Game Night with Fabulous Felines! — Stay Sober West Michigan is hosting a family-friendly game night, Caturday Night Live, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., March 25 at Second Chance Cats of West Michigan, 1120 Knapp St. NE Suite B. Attendees can enjoy playing games, cuddling with cats and having great conversations. The event is free, but donations are accepted at the door, and attendees are encouraged to bring a small bag of cat food to donate. Space is limited, so RSVP is required. Second Chance Cats of West Michigan is a nonprofit rescue organization that is always looking for adopters, and interested individuals can apply to get pre-approved for adoption at

Fathers & Families Flag Football Event (F4) — Strong Fathers/Padres Fuertes Project, Strong Beginnings — Healthy Start is organizing the Fathers & Families Flag Football event from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., June 11 at Martin Luther King Park, 1200 M.L.K. Jr. St. SE. This community-driven event encourages interaction between fathers, father figures and community participants through a single-elimination flag football tournament. Positive involvement of fathers in their children's lives is critical and community engagement can help develop loving and solid homes that are safe and fun-loving. The event aims to address father engagement, community education, stress reduction and community focus, and it will benefit the community at large.

If you are looking for a ride, the DASH is in operation from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with routes every eight minutes. Visit The Rapid website for up-to-date route details and availability to attend many of these events.
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