The Awesome Mitten - John Ball Zoo

Day 361: John Ball Zoo

The Awesome Mitten - John Ball Zoo
Photo courtesy of John Ball Zoo

West Michigan’s John Ball Zoo, located in Grand Rapids, MI, is celebrating a major feat of updates, plus the introduction of a new exhibit – the Idema Forest Realm & Funicular.  The addition will be unveiled to the public on Thursday, May 31st. This magical expansion will be the largest in the Zoo’s history and offers the public a choice of experiencing the zoo in an incredibe new way via the Funicular (tram). With views of downtown Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas from one of the highest ridges in town, the ride and exhibits are bound to be an unforgettable experience and a magnificent extension to the Zoo. The Idema Forest Realm will open soon, on Friday, June 1st and the Funicular will be ready to ride by mid-June!

The Forest Realm can be explored on the Funicular, which will guide you through the forest and introduce you to many new features – the Forest Trail, a nature walk that winds through the entirety of the Realm, and children’s Nature Play Zones, just to name a few. These zones will allow children and adults to become a bit more adventurous. There will be stumps, logs, and more, on which to practice your balance, and all the branches and sticks you’ll need to build a classic Michigan fort.

“This is an exceptional moment in the Zoo’s history,” said Brenda Stringer, Executive Director of John Ball Zoo Society.  The community has also been blessed with two completely new animal exhibits to round out the Realm – the Meijer Grizzly Bear Exhibit set for completion in 2013 and the Crawford Tiger Exhibit and Breeding Facility in 2014.

The Awesome Mitten - John Ball Zoo
Photo courtesy of John Ball Zoo

The Bissell Tree House opens on June 1st. It will be an event venue available for rent starting August 1st. With exceptional views of downtown Grand Rapids through floor to ceiling windows and mullions that mimic tree branches, a wrap around veranda, and fireplace, the tree house is the ideal spot to see nature and the city entwined. For the kids and young at heart, the dreamy Jandernoa Childrens’ Tree House, will be available for climbing and playing on, and is set to open in 2014, which will complete the Idema Forest Realm and Funicular.

Until then, don’t forget to meet or revisit old friends while you patiently await the completion. Our adopted friends – the chimps, stingrays, lions, and turtles, would love a summer visit! Looking for an adrenaline rush to indulge your adventurous side? Check out the Ropes Course or Zip Line. Not your thing? Relax with a paddle or a float in the Swan Boats.

The amazing Forest Realm development was a gift to the John Ball Zoo by the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation as well as many other donors. Because of these superb contributors, the Realm will increase the footprint of the Zoo by almost 50%, allow for future growth, and provide fun for children and adults of all ages. Along with all of the newly added features, John Ball Zoo has just finished updating the entrance to the zoo along with the new Gifts of the Wild Gift Shop. Check it out!

~Christina Larson, Feature Writer

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