Grand Rapids, population 1 million, is the second-largest city in Michigan. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by its mix of urban and quaint. I visited Grand Rapids with a friend of mine and her two kids (ages 6 and 8), along with my son (age 3). We knew we wanted to visit some breweries and figured we ought to find something for the kids to do too. Enter- the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. We were both thoroughly impressed with not only the number of exhibits but the in-depth and thoughtful nature of the activities.
Where is Grand Rapids, Michigan?
Grand Rapids is 3 hours northeast of Chicago and 2 hours and 15 minutes northwest Detroit. It’s on the western side of the state, about 30 miles in from Lake Michigan.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum’s Hours & Admission
How Much are Tickets?
Children under 1-year-old are free; people aged 1-64 are $9. Seniors (over 65) are $8. Thursday nights from 5pm-8pm it’s $1.75 per person, and if you are receiving public benefits its $1.75 per person all the time.
The Museum is part of the ACM Reciprocal Network of children’s museum which means that if you are a member of a children’s museum in the ACM network (depending on your membership level), you’ll get 50% off (for up to 6 household members) at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Over 200 museums participate in the network; check here to see if your children’s museum is part of the ACM network.
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum offers five family membership levels ranging from $75-$500 per year (they even have a grandparent membership). All memberships include one year of unlimited admission, a free guest, discounts on rentals, classes, and the gift shop, and member-only playtimes. You must have a Family Plus or Friend membership to avail of the ACM 50% off reciprocity benefit at other children’s museums. Click here to check out membership opportunities.
The museum is closed on Mondays. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturdays they are open from 9:30am-5pm; Thursdays from 9:30am-8pm, and on Sundays from 12pm-5pm.
The majority of parking is street parking and it was hard to come by. There are a number of parking lots around and also metered street parking. We were lucky enough to get street parking and it was free because it was Sunday. Street parking is also handy because you can pay the meters through an app on your phone.
Facilities for Nursing Moms
The Museum offers nursing mothers a nursing nook located on the first floor near the bathrooms. The nursing area has a comfy chair with a curtain that you can draw for privacy.
Exhibits at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
For the Littles (Babies and Toddlers):
First up, for small children, is The Wee Discovery exhibit located on the first floor behind the Kidstruction Zone. This exhibit is designed for children five years old and younger and is a dream space for babies and toddlers. Wee Discovery has a tummy time area for babies and also little wall puzzles. This area also seemed to be a safe place for nursing moms to nurse their babies.
For toddlers, they have a pint-sized kitchen, colorful balls, ramps, soft foam blocks, a climbing area, and sensory activities. It’s a great little area for small children, and it’s enclosed, so it’s a safe place to play out of the way of bigger kids.
Bubble Table & Bubble Tower
First thing you’ll see on the second floor are the bubble tables and the bubble tower, and they are Uh-mazing!! The tower works with a pulley system, and you literally pull a ring up around you which encases you in a ginormous bubble. The bubble tables are pretty neat too, and they allow even the smallest of kids to make some pretty big bubbles.
Just Playing Around
Just playing around is all about music. They’ve got a xylophone, piano, drums, and other creative instruments. This exhibit is suitable for all ages.
The Diagnosis: Fun! exhibit is all about doctors, hospitals, and hospital equipment. This exhibit is more than simply a ‘dress-up doctor’ area; it has an MRI tube, an x-ray machine, exam tables, hospital doors (that swing open and closed), anatomy charts, and a hospital bed (to name a few). It’s interactive and engaging, and I felt like even the adults got something from this exhibit.
The Kidstruction zone is all about construction, building, and creative learning. Kids can build a pipe maze, build a foam wall, or move ‘gravel’ around with diggers and wheelbarrows. It’s a great space for kids to don their hard hats, use their imaginations, and reenact their favorite digger book or show.
Little Grand Rapids
Little Grand Rapids is a miniature town. This kid-sized city has a bank, pizza shop, Meijer grocery store, library, post office, and a gas station. The town is elaborate, and I was extremely impressed by their attention to detail. For instance, at the gas station, they have a real gas pump, and at the grocery store, they have a real conveyor belt for checkout.
Tons of smaller play areas:
Besides the larger exhibits, there are a bunch of smaller exhibits. Some of the smaller exhibits include a block table, magnet table, LEGO table, climbing wall, lightbox, sand table, domino table, train table, a beehive with live bees and honeycomb, and mirrors. My son was really digging this race track.
Programs at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
The GRCM has tons of programming for all age groups. They have daily, weekly, and rotating programs. Check out their website for current offerings. Through their website, they also offer ‘play kits’ providing fun ideas for things to do and make at home! Check out the ‘resources’ section at the bottom of this webpage for free printables.
Programs for The Littles (Toddlers)
Most of the programs are suitable for toddlers; however, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum offers toddler time with special programming designed for kids under three. Toddler time includes music, sensory, and art activities every Tuesday from 10am-12pm.
The Museum offers a variety of programs, mid-day, every day, and in the evenings on Thursdays. They have a bi-weekly paint program and a bi-weekly low-sensory program. Additionally, they offer hands-on STEAM projects to explore “the inner workings of everyday objects.” Lastly, they offer the imagination laboratory on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9:30am-4pm, where kids can explore mud, slime, cloud dough, and play with water.
Would I recommend the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum? YES! Would I make a trip to Grand Rapids just to take my son to the GRCM? YES! (That and to get some New Holland beer). Next time you are in Western Michigan, check this place out! And if you are spending a weekend in Grand Rapids check out this post for more things to do in Grand Rapids with kids!