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How to Get to the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival?

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

The Grand Rapids Lantern Festival is a magical event that attracts thousands of visitors annually. This spectacular festival features an array of beautifully illuminated lanterns, creating a mesmerizing display that lights up the night sky. For those planning to attend, this guide provides detailed information on how to get to the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival, including transportation options, travel tips, and nearby attractions to enhance your experience. The Grand Rapids Lantern Festival is held annually at the John Ball Zoo in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This event celebrates cultural diversity and artistic expression through intricate lantern displays, live performances, and interactive activities for all ages. The festival typically runs from late spring to early summer, offering a unique blend of art, culture, and entertainment.

Transportation Options to the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

By Car

John Ball Zoo is at 1300 S Rosewood Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

From I-96 eastbound, take Exit 59 to US-131 N. Take Exit 55 to Wealthy St. Turn left (west) onto Wealthy St. and continue for about 2 miles. The zoo will be on your left.

From I-96 westbound, take Exit 55 to Wealthy St. Turn right (east) onto Wealthy St. and continue for about 2 miles. The zoo will be on your right.


There are several parking options available at the zoo. The main parking lot is on the zoo’s west side, off Rosewood Avenue. There is also a smaller parking lot on the east side of the zoo, off College Avenue.

On festival nights, parking fills up quickly, so it is recommended that you arrive early. Here are some alternative parking options:

  • Street parking: Limited street parking is available around the zoo. Please be sure to pay attention to all parking signs and regulations.
  • Ridesharing: Ridesharing applications like Uber and Lyft are excellent choices for zoo transit.

By Public Transportation

The Rapid bus system operates several routes that stop near the John Ball Zoo. The nearest bus stop is Wealthy Street, just south of Burton Street. From the bus stop, it is a short walk to the zoo entrance.

Here are some additional details that may be helpful:

  • The cost of parking at the zoo is $5 per car.
  • The zoo is open during the Lantern Festival at 7:30 PM.
  • Timed tickets are required for entry to the Lantern Festival. You can buy tickets at the zoo gate or online.

By Bike

Biking to the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival is an excellent option for eco-conscious visitors. Grand Rapids has many bike lanes and paths, and the John Ball Zoo provides bike racks for visitors to lock their bikes securely during the event.

Travel Tips for a Seamless Experience

Plan Your Visit

  • Check the Schedule: Check the official website for the most up-to-date event schedule, ticket information, and special announcements before heading to the festival.
  • Purchase Tickets in Advance: Buy your tickets online to guarantee entrance and skip the enormous lineups. It also allows you to take advantage of early bird discounts or special offers.
  • Arrive Early: The festival can get crowded, especially on weekends and during special events. If you arrive early, you’ll have plenty of time to take in the numerous activities and lantern displays.

What to Bring?

  • Comfortable Footwear: The festival involves a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes to enjoy the event entirely.
  • Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Since the festival is held outdoors, dress appropriately for the weather.
  • Camera: The lantern displays are stunning and provide excellent photo opportunities.
  • Cash and Cards: While most vendors accept cards, carrying some cash for smaller purchases or in case of technical issues with card machines is a good idea.

Nearby Attractions to Enhance Your Visit

John Ball Zoo

Before or after visiting the Lantern Festival, take some time to explore the John Ball Zoo. The zoo features diverse animals, interactive exhibits, and fun activities for all ages. Highlights include the petting zoo, zip line, and camel rides.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Grand Rapids Public Museum, which offers an insightful view into the history and culture of the town, is only a short drive from John Ball Zoo. The museum features a planetarium, a 1928 Spillman Carousel, and a range of interactive displays.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a must-visit attraction for nature and art lovers. This expansive park features stunning botanical gardens, world-class sculptures, and seasonal exhibits. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature before heading to the festival.

Downtown Grand Rapids

In Grand Rapids’ vibrant downtown, there are many food, retail, and entertainment options. Take a stroll beside the Grand River, browse the neighborhood shops, or eat at one of the several cafes and restaurants.

Accommodation Options in Grand Rapids


Several hotels are located near John Ball Zoo and downtown Grand Rapids, catering to various budgets and preferences. Popular choices include:

  • Amway Grand Plaza: A historic hotel offering luxurious accommodations and top-notch amenities.
  • JW Marriott Grand Rapids: A modern hotel with stunning views of the Grand River and excellent dining options.
  • Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Downtown: A cost-effective choice with cozy rooms and easy access to popular attractions.

Vacation Rentals

For a more personalized experience, consider booking a vacation rental through platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo. These options provide home comfort and offer additional amenities such as kitchens and private outdoor spaces.

Dining Options Near the Festival

Local Eateries

Grand Rapids has many restaurants and is well-known for its vibrant restaurant industry. Some local favorites near John Ball Zoo include:

  • The Sovengard: A farm-to-table restaurant offering seasonal dishes and craft cocktails.
  • Butcher’s Union: A meat lover’s paradise with a menu featuring steaks, burgers, and an extensive whiskey selection.
  • San Chez Bistro: A popular spot for tapas and Spanish-inspired cuisine.

Food Trucks

Several food trucks are usually stationed near the entrance during the festival, offering a range of quick and delicious options. From gourmet burgers to ethnic street food, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Cafes and Bakeries

For a lighter meal or a sweet treat, visit one of the many cafes and bakeries in the area. Madcap Coffee, Rowster Coffee, and Nantucket Baking Company are excellent choices for coffee and pastries.


To conclude, reaching the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival can be an enjoyable and straightforward experience with some planning. Whether you choose to drive, use public transportation, or opt for ridesharing services, there are multiple options to suit your preferences and convenience. Check the festival’s website for specific directions, parking information, and any potential road closures. It would help if you also considered coming early to get a good spot and see everything happening. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival.

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