The John Ball Zoo is contained within John Ball Park. Situated on the ravines and bluffs along the west edge of the park, the zoo houses a variety of animals from around the world and is a significant regional attraction.
The original land for the park was donated to the city by noted pioneer and explorer John Ball upon his death in 1884. The city later purchased additional acreage and began adding amenities, including ponds, a theater, a band shell, playgrounds, ballfields, trails and the zoo. Parts of the unimproved areas of the park were used for routing I-196 when it was constructed in the early 1960s.
The John Ball Park and Zoo were operated by the City of Grand Rapids until 1989, when the park, known as a regional asset because of the zoo, was sold to Kent County. Kent County continues to operate and maintain the park and zoo.