VAI’s City-Sized Solar System

A Grand Rapids Scale Model

From Out of this World Straight to Grand Rapids, MI!

Outer space is HUGE! To help people wrap their minds around the vastness of space, summer campers at Van Andel Institute, in conjunction with the Girls Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, created a scale model of the Solar System right here in our city. Find each planet around town, and be amazed by how small it is compared to the sun and the mind-boggling amount of space between planets!

The girls’ city-sized solar system is centered around the sun, which is located at Van Andel Institute for Education, where their camp took place. The sun is built from an exercise ball, and each of the planets is built to scale — in relation to both their size and their distance from the sun. As you take the tour, notice how tiny the planets are compared to the sun, as well as how far the planets are from the sun and from each other. Space is mostly…empty space! Click on any planet listed below to see where it is located around Grand Rapids, MI.

image of solar system event in downtown grand rapids, MI

Visit each of the planets on the Walking Tour!


Located at Manic Muse Salon.


Located at the UICA.


Located at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum.


Located at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.


Located at Hopscotch Children's Store.


Located at Ball Park Floral.


Located at John Ball Zoo.

Meet the Campers

The solar system experts who created this city-sized solar system also recorded a video about their stellar experience at the camp. Check it out!

Watch the video

Learn More About the Planets (and Pluto)

The campers divided into teams to become experts on one of the planets, and they created infographics so people could learn more. You can find the infographic for each planet on the sign near its display or click the link below to check them out.

All student infographics

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