Families can find adventure over break with local, day trips

OSCEOLA/MECOSTA COUNTY — Warmer weather is on the way and signs of a season change are starting to grace the area. Local families may be counting the robins they see while students are counting the days until spring break.

After classes end for the break, students and their families may leave the area for various road trips while others may be sticking closer to home. Whether staying in town or taking a day trip or two, there are many opportunities for spring break fun throughout western Michigan.

Families can get an exercise while supporting others during the Ferris State University Relay for Life. The event begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 23 and ends at 6 a.m. Saturday, March 24, at the Ewigleben Sports Arena, located at 210 Sports Drive, Big Rapids. The FSU Relay is staffed and coordinated by Colleges Against Cancer, a registered student organization. For more information on the relay, visit relayforlife.org/fsumi.

Card Wildlife Education Center

In Big Rapids, the Card Wildlife Education Center, located at 820 Campus Drive, is a perennial favorite. Families can get up close to animals from around the globe, including an African lion or a polar bear, while visiting the many different exhibits in the center.

Located in room 11 on the first floor of the Arts and Sciences Commons on the Ferris State University campus, the center is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. The center will be closed from March 29 to April 2 for mid-semester recess. The free museum showcases more than 180 different specimens. Visit ferris.edu/card/ for more information.

For families looking to take a day trip, Grand Rapids offers multiple options, including the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum, John Ball Zoo and Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

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.

From imagination laboratories to story hours, there are a variety of events to help families make the most of their week away from school. On Thursday, March 29, museum attendees can enjoy family night and table top magic. Admission for family night is $1.75 after 5 p.m. Thursday’s activities kick off the spring events and performances planned at the museum, including singing, dancing, magic and puppet shows and more, through Sunday, April 8.

Tuesday, March 27, will feature a “Calming Coral Reef” sensory environment in the Bigonzo Room. A variety of daily programs also are offered throughout the week.

Admission is $8.50 per person up to age 64; for those 65 and older, it’s $7.50 per person. For more information on the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, visit grcm.org.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Across the Grand River, the Grand Rapids Public Museum also has much to offer families. Between three floors of regular exhibits and special exhibits, there are hours of exploration available to those with curious minds.

In newer exhibits, visitors can learn about the trip a single drop of precipitation may take through a watershed in “Water’s Extreme Journey,” or can explore the world of lore with “Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids.” Families also can learn about Finny, the museum’s iconic finback whale whose skeleton hangs above the first floor galleria, through a virtual reality experience.

If terra firma isn’t your thing, look to the stars in the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium on the second floor. The planetarium offers a variety of shows and presentation times each weekday. For the latest information, visit grpm.org/planetarium-shows/.

The museum is located at 272 Pearl St. NW, and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Tickets for the “Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids” exhibit, including general museum admission, is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors age 62 and older and $7 for students and children ages 3 to 17. General admission tickets, which include the “Water’s Extreme Journey” exhibit, are available $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $3 for students and children. A show in the planetarium is an additional $4 for adults, or $5 for a planetarium-only ticket. For more information on the Grand Rapids Public Museum, visit grpm.org.

John Ball Zoo

Families looking for a wild adventure can find a day full of fun at the John Ball Zoo, located at 1300 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids. The zoo is located in a 103-acre park and more than 200 species and 1,300 individual animals are cared for daily in the approximately 31-acre facility.

The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Sundays and visitors can watch penguin feedings at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., pelican feeding at 11:30 a.m. and spider monkey feeding at 4 p.m. Along with watching some animals receive their breakfast or dinner, zoo-goers can visit the petting corral or ride the Funicular, which can take families to the highest point in the zoo, making the rest of the day a downhill stroll.

Admission for the park is $8.50 for adults, ages 13 to 61, and $7.50 for seniors, ages 62 and older, children, age 2 to 12, and college students, with valid school ID. Children 1 year old or younger are free.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Just north of Grand Rapids, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is featuring its “Butterflies are Blooming” exhibit until April 30.

Children can see 50 different species of butterflies in the 85-degree tropical conservatory, check out the Butterfly Bungalow to find out if they can spot a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, and watch keepers release newly hatched butterflies into the conservatory. Garden attendees can fly like a butterfly, wrap up like a chrysalis, curl up like a caterpillar or crawl out of an egg using life cycle costumes and their imagination, or could perform butterfly-themed puppet shows, search for butterfly and moth life cycle stages in a special Treehouse Village hunt or become a butterfly in the Monarch’s Migration game.

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 Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays; from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. Admission is $14.50 for adults; $11 for seniors, age 65 and older, and students with a school 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

For families who prefer Mount Pleasant to Grand Rapids, the Mount Pleasant Discovery 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.

Children hoping to learn about space through games and crafts can participate in space camp. The camp runs from Monday, March 26 through Thursday, March 29. Another camp starting Monday teaches participants about nature with outdoor activities, games and crafts. Both camps cost $70 to participate and include a snack.

Families also can find music time, presentations and “Kids at Art with Renee!” throughout the week.

Admission to the museum is $7 per person for all ages. For more information, visit mpdiscoverymuseum.org.

Ziibiwing Center

While in Mount Pleasant, families can stop by the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways, located at 6650 E. Broadway, Mount Pleasant. Operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, the museum features a permanent interactive exhibit on the history of the tribe’s culture. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., admission to the museum is $6.50 for adults and $3.75 for children ages 5 to 17 and seniors age 60 and older. For more information, visit sagchip.org/ziibiwing/.