Museums, zoo and more provide summer break fun for families

ALL THE BUZZ: Visitors can learn the life of the honey bee by exploring the Beemazium exhibit at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum. (Courtesy photo)

ALL THE BUZZ: Visitors can learn the life of the honey bee by exploring the Beemazium exhibit at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum. (Courtesy photo)

MECOSTA COUNTY — School is out for the summer and area students are probably ready to sleep in when possible.

However, once the kids have rested up they no doubt will be ready to go on some mini-adventures to make the most of their time off.

Loading up the car and hitting the road for a trip doesn’t have to take up all your family’s time. Below are a handful of day trips in the surrounding area that will provide lasting memories and quality time together.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, located at 11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays; and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

“Amazing Dinosaurs” is a special exhibit at the museum through June 25. It allows children to dig up fossils, examine dino habitats, come face-to-face with their favorite prehistoric beasts and more.

Those looking for a little noise in their lives can visit the Just Playing Around exhibit. Kiddos can bang out a tune the piano, try out the “Whale Drum” or play with the instruments made out of unusual items.

The museum offers daily programs from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays through Fridays, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and during Thursday Night Family Nights from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted on the museum’s website calendar. There’s no additional cost to participate in daily programs.

ON THE MOVE: Little climbers can practice their skills on the climbing wall at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum. (Courtesy photo)

ON THE MOVE: Little climbers can practice their skills on the climbing wall at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. (Courtesy photo)

Regular admission is $8.50 per person up to age 64; for those 65 and older, it’s $7.50 per person. Family Night admission is $1.75 per person. Admission is $6.50 for military family members and school faculty members.

The weekends of Friday, June 30 to Sunday, July 2, and Friday, Sept. 8 to Sunday, Sept. 10, the museum will offer free admission for military families with the presentation of a military ID.

For more information on the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, visit grcm.org.

John Ball Zoo

A day at the zoo provides children with a host of experiences, from witnessing animal feedings to getting an up close view of animals they have never seen. Located at 1300 W. Fulton St., in Grand Rapids, the John Ball Zoo is open each day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The zoo has multiple exhibits, including Crawford Tigers of the Realm, the Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium, Pelican Pier and Red’s Hobby Farm, which focuses on birds and domestic animals found on today’s farms both urban and rural.

Visitors also can check out Treasure of the Tropics, which features reptiles and amphibians, as well as many small primates. The building houses the Black-footed cat, Dart frogs, Caimans, a variety of small primates, sloth and insects.

Without having to leave the state, those visiting the zoo can experience exhibits dedicated to animals from three continents  — Africa, North America and South America.

Africa features a variety of African primates, mammals and birds, as well as a troop of seven chimpanzees in their 3.5 acre exhibit — one of the largest in the country. Nearby is Bissell’s Lions of Lake Manyara. Other animals featured in the African section include the Bongo antelope, ground hornbill and warthogs.

In the North America exhibit there are a number of amazing animals from grizzly bears to mountain lions. This section also features a river otter along with a mountain lion, bobcat, turtles and the grizzly bear exhibit where you’ll get nose-to-nose with the bears.

South America features the capybaras, tapir, saki monkeys, maned wolves and the Chilean flamingos.

For more information, visit jbzoo.org or call (616) 336-4300.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Just north of Grand Rapids, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is featuring Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State through Aug. 20.

An artist and activist, his picture and his work have been on the covers of many major art publications over the past few years. With the Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State exhibit, families can get an up-close look at the work of Ai Weiwei at his first show in the upper Midwest.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is located at 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday; from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Admission is $14.50 for adults, $11 for seniors age 65 and older, $11 for students with a student ID, $7 for children ages 5 to 13 and $4 for children ages 3 and 4. For more information visit meijergardens.org.

Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum

Those who’d rather venture over to Mount Pleasant can visit the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, though it does close for select holidays. The museum is located at 5093 E. Remus Road, Mount Pleasant.

Regular exhibits feature a water table, air tunnel, hands-on science activities, culture, music and an imagination play area.

A THRONE: Children can build various structures using large foam pieces at the Imagination Playground exhibit at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum. (Courtesy photo)

A THRONE: Children can build various structures using large foam pieces at the Imagination Playground exhibit at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum. (Courtesy photo)

Tuesdays are for dancing and music, with Music Dan playing the guitar from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m. Children can pick up an instrument, dance around the room or sit back and enjoy.

On Monday, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., children can enjoy Animal Antics, which focuses on a different animal each week with a story and craft.

For budding artists whose parents don’t like to deal with the mess at home, the museum offers “Kids at Art!” from 10 to 11 a.m. on Thursdays. At 1 p.m. Sunday, children can watch a live science demonstration.

Admission to the museum is $7 per person ages 1 to 100. Groups of six or more receive $6.50 per person admission rate. For more information, visit mpdiscoverymuseum.org.

Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel

Cool off and relax indoors at the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel, 5665 E. Pickard Road in Mount Pleasant. Those wanting to stay overnight can rent a room, but it’s not necessary to enjoy a day of splashing fun.

Slides, splash pads, a water rockclimbing wall and floating along await those who visit the waterpark.

Day passes are available seven days a week, with reservations recommended, for a cost of $23.99 per person (ages 4 and over.) Children 3 and under are free. Guest arriving after 4 p.m. can purchase a pass at a reduced rate of $18.99.

Call the waterpark pass front desk at (989) 817-4801 to check availability and for park times.

Baseball games

Take the family out to the ballpark for an evening of hot dogs, ice cream and baseball. Watching the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Great Lakes Loons or the Traverse City Beach Bums is a fun, family night out.

The Whitecaps play at Fifth Third Ballpark, 4500 West River Road Northeast, in Comstock Park. Tickets range from $8 to $16, with children 2 and younger getting in free. There are special group rates and promotions.

The Loons play at Dow Diamond, 825 E Main St., in Midland. Tickets are $6.50 for lawn seats and $9.50 in a reserved box seat. There are special group rates and promotions available.

The Beach Bums play at Wuerful Park, 333 Stadium Dr., in Traverse City. Lawn seats are $6, reserved chair back seats are $10 and general admission into Short’s Biergarten is $15. There are special group rates and promotions.

For more information on schedules and to purchase tickets, visit each team’s website.

BAITING HOOKS: Boys get ready to fish from one of the many docks at Brower Park. (Pioneer file photo)

BAITING HOOKS: Boys get ready to fish from one of the many docks at Brower Park. (Pioneer file photo)

Mecosta County Parks

Those looking for some fun close to home can visit the various parks in Mecosta County. Brower Park, School Section Lake, Paris Park and Haymarsh Park are just a few of the local parks. Get out on the water, enjoy a picnic, take a walk and much more. Many of the parks offer overnight camping, or families can simply visit for the day.

Day passes are $6 or seasonal passes can be purchased for $25. For more information, visit mecostacountyparks.com.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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