Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan has always been one of my favorite places to visit.  From the elaborate gardens indoors and out to the magnificent sculptures and landmarks, there is always something to see.  Permanent exhibits, touring exhibits, seasonal displays and attractions, and even a summer concert series flood the already expansive calendar of events for this must see destination.

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Along with the many visual spectacles you will see throughout your visit, there is no shortage of educational and hands-on opportunities for children of all ages to explore and learn.  As one of the largest and most interactive children’s gardens in the country, the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden is a hot spot for the little ones.

When you first step inside the Children’s Garden there is a visitor center on one side, with restrooms and a snacking area,  and a water feature for children to splash in on the other.  Right next door is a sensory garden that takes the young ones on a tour of their five senses through flowers, fruits and vegetables, and small sculptures that act as magnifying glasses, listening aids, smelling spots and more.  Every Friday there are special events, activities, and story time throughout the Children’s Garden to enhance the learning experience.  The day we attended was focused on garden helpers.  After a story book, the kids got to dress up like butterflies and collect ‘pollen’ in the garden.

On the other side of the sensory garden is an enormous water feature that displays a map of Michigan and the Great Lakes, filled with hands-on activities for children to explore.  There is a lookout point featuring a giant sundial overlooking the Great Lakes.

On the other side of the Children’s Garden is a giant tree house village, log cabin, butterfly labyrinth, and children’s nature walk through natural wetlands.  All are filled with sculptures and hands-on learning opportunities.

New this year to the Children’s Garden is a child specific tram that takes you and your little ones on a tour of the sculpture park, engaging the children with games, imagination exercises, and a unique view of the different stops along the tour.  There is also a regular tram service that covers a larger portion of the grounds but is not as interactive.  Both have a minimal cost so have some cash on hand if interested.

Another must see while visiting the sculpture portion of the park is The American Horse.  Based on a design by Leonardo DaVinci, this 24 foot monument is one of only two such sculptures in the world (the second being located in Milan, Italy).

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While you’re exploring the grounds, take in the sights and sounds of nature as you enjoy the majority of the nearly 300 sculptures on display in the 30-acre sculpture park.  In addition you will find a 1930s family farm, an 8-acre Japanese garden, expansive nature trails, and boardwalk through even more natural wetlands.

The Farmhouse features even more hands-on activities.  On Fridays children can help with the farm chores; including painting the barn, collecting eggs, making pies, visiting the farmer’s market, and more.  All of the activities were run by a wonderful set of volunteers.  For a complete list of possible activities available during your visit, please visit their website.

Inside you will find five themed gardens ranging from carnivorous plants to Victorian, a 15,000 square foot tropical conservatory, additional art exhibits, classrooms, cafe, and more.  Throughout the year there are a number of annual exhibits and events such as Butterflies are Blooming, Chrysanthemums and More!, and Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World (featuring more than 40 different cultures and customs from around the world).

The current temporary exhibit features art by Ai Weiwei and is spread throughout the grounds with sculptures and artwork appearing both inside and outside as well as in their exhibition room.  While some of his pieces have political statements that may not be understood by your children, they are nonetheless stunning and well worth checking out.  The Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State exhibit runs through August 20th, 2017.

“Creativity is part of human nature. It can only be untaught.”

~ Ai Weiwei

No matter when you visit the gardens you will always find something new and exciting to explore!


Here are a few tips for when you are planning your adventures:

  • Food/light snacking is only permitted in specific areas.  Plan accordingly.
  • Bring plenty of sunscreen as you could easily spend all day exploring outside.
  • Bring a change of clothes if you let your little one play in the water features.
  • Students of all ages enjoy daily discounts, so bring those school IDs. (This includes college)
  • Sensible walking shoes are a must.


Hours: Monday thru Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday 11:00am – 5:00pm

(Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day)

Address: 1000 East Beltline N.E., Grand Rapids, MI  49525


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***The Playful Parent is not paid to write articles; this article was written by Heather L. in order to help make planning educational and memorable trips for parents easier. Thank you Frederik Meijer Gardens for inviting The Playful Parent out to take photos and write a guide.***