We were able to spend a long weekend discovering all the best things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both Meg and I have been chasing summer for the better part of two years. So when Experience Grand Rapids invited us for a long weekend in the fall we were ecstatic. We’ve had a mutual obsession with hot beverages so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on all the cider, coffee and tea.
Let’s be honest, many of us have no clue what to do in Grand Rapids. It is time for that to change. There are so many cool Grand Rapids activities and attractions. I always like to set up a list of the best things to do before we touch down in a city. Of course, making time to add in as many suggestions as we can get along the way. I can’t tell you how many great travel tips we’ve received from various Uber drivers. I took the original list, mixed in what we found along the way to give you 15 Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids Fun Facts: Aside from being the beautiful city that it is, Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in all of Michigan, it has a population of almost 200,000 (1+ million in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area). It may surprise you to learn that the “River City” is a haven for the arts and culture community. Plus, as its name and the nickname would suggest, next to the city you will find the Grand River.
Everything about Robinette’s AppleHaus and Winery is storybook fall. The pumpkin patch, corn mazes, and hayrides were everything we’d hoped for when we took an Uber ride just a bit outside the city. While we loved the fall vibes it’s a cool place to visit year-round especially because of the winery. If you have the opportunity to try the donuts, do it! The day was cool, the donuts were warm. Meg and I sat on a hay bail away from the crowds laughing and enjoying more than our fair share.
Fulton Street Farmers Market
Make sure you are in Grand Rapids on a Saturday because that means you can head down to the Fulton Street Farmers Market. This market has been running for close to 100 years and features over 200 vendors every week. Most are local farmers and artisans. We’re suckers for a good market, any country selling anything well probably want to check it out. As a bonus, this market is tented so you will be covered, no matter the weather.
Grand Rapids Public Museum
You need to visit the Grand Rapids Public Museum. This museum is over 150 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down since the day it opened. With over 25,000 pieces in the museum, you can wander for hours. Expect to be amazed at just how much amazing Michigan history there is. Everything from antique cars, to fossils and more. Plus, the collections and exhibits change regularly so you can always find something new if you’ve already visited
If you are planning your Grand Rapids trip, you might consider heading over in the months of September or October. Lucky for us that was exactly when our trip took place and Project 1 by ArtPrize was in full swing. ArtPrize is a biannual art contest that transforms the city into an open-air art gallery for 19 days every year two years but the same folks who put on the contest have blessed Grand Rapids with art you can experience year-round.
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Another must-visit art activity in Grand Rapids is the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This park is well known for featuring some of the best and most unique cultural pieces throughout the entire Midwest. With over 150 acres you will find such beautiful natural art as a rock garden, indigenous plants, and a waterfall, plus over 300 sculptures from local and world-famous artists alike. Regretfully the day we planned to go it poured so the pictures didn’t turn out.
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Pencil drawings, paintings, print work, sculptures and more fill the approximately 20 thousand square feet of The Grand Rapids Art Museum that is dedicated to exhibits. With all of this space and countless types of art, there is something for everyone. They even have pieces that date all the way back to the Renaissance period!
Located between the children’s museum and the public library you’ll find a strip of road painted rainbow. We’ve been traveling in search of rainbows for a few years now and this is one of the best. If you’re looking for Instagram spots in Grand Rapids make time to stop here. The address we used to find it is 11 Sheldon Ave. Check out the photo I got and hear a bit of my coming out story here.
Gerald R. Ford Museum
Grand Rapids, Michigan was the birthplace of U.S. President Gerald Ford. The Gerald R. Ford Museum is a place to celebrate the life and achievements of the President and Mrs. Ford. The main exhibit is an interactive video and holographic presentation of President Ford’s life and experiences and allows those watching to feel as though they are traveling around the world with the president.
Grand Rapids Downtown Market
It’s a well-documented fact that I love to eat like really love to eat. So there was no chance I was skipping the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Downtown Market is located south of Heartside Park and features over 20 vendors, two full-scale restaurants and more. It was super hard to narrow down what we were going to eat with each stall offering fun options. My favorite part was the three-part coffee tasting we did with MadCap Coffee. Obviously it was fun to drink but I also really enjoyed learning about the beans. We sat at the bar, enjoyed a couple of cookies and quizzed each other on random facts from our lives. Ten out of ten would recommend as a go-to Grand Rapids date spot.
John Ball Zoo
The John Ball Zoo is arguably one of the best zoos in the country. It is home to over 1,000 animals and has received awards for its habitats which are created to mimic the animals’ natural habitats. There are other activities within the zoo as well such as camel riding, zip-lining and more.
The Pump House
If you love the nostalgia of an old fashioned soda shop, you need to head to the Pump House during your visit. Porch swings, wooden benches, sorbet, artisanal yogurt, gelato and over a hundred toppings to choose from? Yes, please! The Pump House makes this a visit worth making.
Rumors is an LGBTQ nightclub that’s a huge part of the Grand Rapids gay scene. We had a bunch of people reach out encouraging us to visit while we were in town. It’s the perfect spot to dance, support the drag queens or just meet local queers. The community found in smaller city gay bars is always special.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is an absolute must-visit for families that are visiting. The museum is designed for children ages 2 through 12, and many of the exhibits and displays are interactive. Some of the favorite exhibits include a replica farm, a children’s theater, and an awesome treehouse.
Additionally, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is housed inside one of Grand Rapids’ most beautiful buildings. The entire front of the building is made completely of glass so passers-by can watch all of the interactive exhibits from outside.
There is a reason that one of Grand Rapids’ nicknames is “Beer City.” There are so many great breweries and options for you to enjoy and Brewery Vivant is one of the best. Brewery Vivant is popular because of its extensive beer list and its unique history. We heard the building was home to daycare and then a funeral home before it became a brewery. The food is also absolutely delicious with a Belgian and French-inspired menu.
Meyer May House
If you are an architecture enthusiast, or if you simply love Frank Llyod Wright, you need to head on over to the Meyer May House. This house was designed for local businessman Meyer May in the early 1900s by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This house is built in a Prairies style and has been restored through the years back to its original glory. It is open to the public and features original furniture and other collections of antiques that are original to the home.
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
Another Grand Rapids must-visit location for art lovers is the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids. Truthfully we stumbled in here as a way to dip out of the rain and fell in love. The exhibits were interesting and thought-provoking plus the space is absolutely beautiful. The entryway with all the signs was stunning.
This post is sponsored by Experience Grand Rapids. As always all opinions are our own.
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