We took an early morning tour to see some of the new changes at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, MI.
The zoo has expanded it’s size by 50% and is currently in the midst of a 3-year plan to add new funicular, forest realm trail, bear, and tiger exhibits.
New for 2012 is the Idema Forest Realm. These new additions offers a whole new environment at the zoo. They have created the feel of going deep into the woods… in the midst of the city. You begin the trail near where the camel rides are located.
In 2013, the Zoo will be opening a new and improved bear exhibit.
The exhibit will be much larger than the current one and will be able to be viewed from multiple angles including the new Idema Forest Realm trail.
In 2014, the Zoo is excited to open a new tiger exhibit with large enclosures connected by trails and an environment that is similar to the tiger’s natural habitat.
The trail to the Idema Forest Realm has a very beautiful winding walkway that was constructed by only removing 4 trees.
In addition to the walkway, they have created play areas for kids with a rustic feel.
There is a new camping themed play area too.
They have camping gear set up for endless imaginary play.
They are lots of opportunities for kids to get rid of some extra energy.
The new trail sits on top of the 2nd highest ridge in the city with a beautiful view.
You can see the track for the new funicular from the top of the ridge.
The new funicular is a three-car tram that rides on an elevated track. It will be open for passengers in the next few weeks and carries 8-10 passengers per car with a quick 4 minute ride each way. You can purchase a one way or round trip ride for $3 each way.
If you ride to the top you will be dropped off steps away from the new Bissell Treehouse.
The Bissell Treehouse is a rental facility that can host up to 200 people. It has a beautiful deck and view. You can reach the facility by riding the funicular or taking the longer scenic trail.
While on the tour, we also learned some other facts that make the John Ball Zoo unique.
They have the only aquarium and funicular in Michigan and the only weasel exhibit in the world.
Check out the John Ball Zoo website to learn more about planning your next trip.
Disclosure: I received admission for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.