Humor Travel Life
Every March, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan comes together for LaughFest. This community-based comedy festival features local performers and events around town. Comedy events and shows include: films, stand-up, improvisation, and sketch. Local comedians have the opportunity to perform for the community and in addition, the festival also brings in big-name talent like Trevor Noah, Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney, Anjelah Johnson, Joel McHale, Howie Mandel, Kathy Griffin, Seth Meyers, and George Lopez – just to name a few.
2018 was the first time I was actually back in Michigan for LaughFest. I had the opportunity to see Grand Rapids comedy all-stars like AnnaFlora Somers, Sean Francis, and Joe Anderson perform. Grand Rapids has a thriving arts community worth checking out if you live there or find yourself visiting GR someday.
LaughFest also includes unique events that aren’t just about comedy performances, but the joy of laughter and humor. One of those, Laughter Yoga, was something that I had the opportunity to do with my good friend Allison. I knew of yoga and laughter, but not Laughter Yoga. I was intrigued and thought it would be something fun to try. The best part is that my friend Allison also happens to be the person I love to make laugh the most, so I knew it would be perfect for the both of us to experience together.
Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is the charitable non-profit organization that puts on LaughFest every year. It offers free emotional support for cancer patients, family members, and friends. The great thing about LaughFest is that it is not just a comedy festival; It also raises money for Gilda’s Club to continue to help those affected by cancer. It’s a truly amazing event, because it brings the community of Grand Rapids together for a good cause.
Our adventure with Laughter Yoga took place on the very last day of the LaughFest program. It was a Sunday afternoon, and this event was going to be held at the actual Gilda’s Club location. I had never been there before, so I was excited to see it. Our group included people of all ages and backgrounds. Allison and I prepared by wearing out workout attire to this event, assuming there would be actual yoga work involved. Although we did a bunch of laughter exercises, the best way to describe our experience was very similar to that of a basic improvisation class more so than a yoga class.
Because laughter reduces stress, as does yoga, it would make sense to combine the two. I definitely felt the positive effects of all the laughing that we did that day, but I do think the marketing is a little misleading. It’s a free event so harm no foul, and more importantly, it was fun to do something with my friend and the Grand Rapids community. The thing is though, we were expecting more of a yoga-type class that included laughter. For marketing purposes, yoga sounds more appealing, but I would keep in mind that Laughter Yoga is more similar to that of an improv or intro-level theater class, than a fitness format.
At the end of the day though, being in my hometown and spending the day with one of my best friends made it a really great experience.
New York City is full of diverse museums to check out. From Ellis Island and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to even a Museum of Sex (I kid you not), there really is something for everyone here.
I love museums but visiting them can take a toll financially after a while. That’s why when I discovered that some of the museums in New York offer free entry on Friday evenings, I was ecstatic. My first free-entry-Friday was at the Museum of Modern Art, aka MoMA, in Midtown Manhattan. This isn’t just your standard museum full of paintings. It also features interpretive, unique art pieces, which included videos and photographs on display.
After looking at the museum's brochure further, I learned that one of the most iconic paintings of all-time and my personal favorite, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, was on display there. I was floored. I had been in Paris last summer and had heard that Starry Night was at another art museum I didn’t have a chance to get to, so when I realized that my favorite painting was a mere two escalator rides up from where I was standing, it was a surreal moment.
When it comes to seeing the more-famous paintings at a museum, always follow the crowds. While at the Museum of Modern Art, I knew that when I saw a bigger crowd standing around a certain painting, I knew it was the one. Starry Night was just as beautiful as I had imagined. I know that sounds cheesy but it really was. I love the color pattern and the connection with nature that it reflects. I’m a big nature person, so perhaps that is why I respond to this one more than others. No offense Mona Lisa; You are cool too.
I will say though, when it comes to traveling with young kids, I probably wouldn’t take them to this particular art museum if some edgier material may make anyone uncomfortable. It’s not that the museum is out of control with controversial artwork, but just some of the artwork was a little more graphic.
The fact that people in New York City can see Starry Night for free - at least for the near future - completely blows my mind. It’s a great deal!
If you are interested in visiting the Museum of Modern Art, free entry is every Friday from 4pm-8pm.
In the film Eat Pray Love, Julia Roberts plays writer Elizabeth Gilbert. There is a scene where she and her Swedish friend Sofi travel to Naples, Italy for the day. They are sitting down at a restaurant when Julia suddenly declares that she is having a love affair with her pizza. It was that good.
Now, Italy may have invented the dish, but I would argue that New York perfected it. It makes sense though, considering New York City’s strong Italian population and influence over the years. I can honestly say that New York pizza is, hands down, the best pizza I’ve had in my life. And yes, I too have been to Italy.
One of the perks of New York City is accessibility to everything. For many people, having your pizza delivered to you is standard, but here you can just walk down the street to pick up one. New York is also an extremely busy city. People are always on the move, which means sometimes grabbing a meal has to be quick, convenient, and considering the cost of rent here, cheap. Case in point, 99 cent pizza spots. Yes, you read that right: 99 cents per slice. It’s a financial oasis in a city that charges over $3 just to wash your clothes at the laundromat. There’s a great 99 cent pizza place on West 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen near the block of 53rd St. Be sure to have cash on hand though! Because these places know their customers are on the go, they have a stand on the side of the room where you can place your plate and eat there before heading out. If you’re traveling to New York and trying to save money, this is a great option for budget travelers. Now, something to also take into consideration is that cheap doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best. If you want an exceptional slice of New York pizza it’ll be more in the $2-$3 range.
My very first meal upon arriving in New York was actually a slice of pizza. It was the perfect first meal, and easily the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. That venue is called Koronet Pizza on Broadway in the Morningside neighborhood of Manhattan. You only need one slice though! They are huge, so one is more than enough.
New York is full of incredible food, but if you have to try one meal, it’s got to be local, New York-style pizza. Thankfully though, you can also get a lot of walking in while you are here as well. Enjoy!
In my previous blog post, I had mentioned that they stopped selling tickets on the Saturday when I made my attempt to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I was forced to just buy a ticket for the next day, which was Easter Sunday. I was bitter, but probably not as bitter as if that had been my last day in New York. The next morning, I got myself up extra early to make the trek back down to Battery Park. I figured I was safe; It was early morning on Easter Sunday.
As luck would have it, there was still a line (go figure) but not nearly as bad as the day before, and since I already had my ticket, I only had to wait in one line. I was back amongst the pushy tourists, but I was getting on that cruise dagnabbit. I finally figured out why their system takes so long; They have airport style security. Everyone is lost in translation, and it just holds things up even more. I regret to say I lost a hat in the security line. It wasn’t stolen, I just forgot to grab it. Oops.
Now that I was finally on the boat that would take us to Liberty Island and then to Ellis Island, I made my way to the very top… and so did everyone else. We were all cramming for a sweet spot on the edge to get photos. Some folks were nicer than others about sharing the space. Hey 20-something Instagram girl, how many glamour photos do you need? This isn’t a Vogue photoshoot. Oy.
The Statue of Liberty was incredible. I got my photos in, but I really made sure to take in the moment of being there. It’s crazy how we have to actively tell ourselves to disengage from our cell phones. It’s extra hard as a travel writer though, because so much of the industry is about capturing the perfect shot. Well, I’m a writer first and foremost, and I’d rather remember actually being there.
Next, we re-boarded the boat and made our way to Ellis Island. If you’re not familiar with Ellis Island, it was a large immigration center for people moving to America. It was in operation from the late 1800s to the 1950s. My Dad’s family is from The Netherlands and although they didn’t come through Ellis Island, I could sincerely appreciate the immigration experience and the history of it.
There are several buildings on the island, but the main building is the one that is open to the public and is now a restored building and museum. There is so much history there, and it’s quite interesting to learn about it. It was also fascinating to be among people from all over the world going through this museum, and I found myself curious as to what they might think about it. The reality is that the history of U.S. immigration hasn’t always been a positive one.
Ellis Island was the last stop on the trip, and then it was back to Manhattan. I had a great time seeing these two sites and am also really glad I got them out of the way before summer. I can’t even imagine what that line will be like!
I just moved to New York.
I’m officially a New York writer and loving every second of my nerd-level Carrie Bradshaw vibes. I completely get it. New York City is the greatest city in the world. I love it. It is absolutely magical. Coming from LA, where the magic is all about Hollywood, New York has a different kind of energy. While yes, there are many artists here following their dreams, the history and symbolism of New York City is unlike no other. I couldn’t think of a better spot to visit first than the Statue of Liberty. However, it was easier said than done.
Los Angeles is full of tourists, but normally, they are confined to Hollywood Blvd, a few beach spots, and a theme park or two. Here in New York, they are everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love tourists and meeting people from other countries, but I'm not a fan of a big crowds. It's even worse when those crowds get pushy, and then I turn into George Costanza. I know what you might be thinking: Why did you move to one of the busiest cities in the world then? First of all, I'm complicated. Second of all, people walking about in the city is one thing, but being shoved by 6ft tall German women is not my idea of a weekend well-spent. As it turns out, the Statue of Liberty is one of the busiest tourist attractions in the world. It’s the Mount Everest of tourism. If you can make it through that crowd, you can do anything!
On the Saturday of this year’s combined Passover and Easter weekend, I made my way on the 1 train down to Battery Park where you can catch the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I made the mistake of not listening to my own advice and did not purchase a ticket ahead of time. I was naïve. It was a holiday weekend and a beautiful, sunny day. Crap.
I finally get there. The line just to purchase a ticket is around the building and then some. Mind you there is also a separate, super-long line once you have your ticket to get onto the ferry. I was almost to the ticket counter when I heard it; A man announced, impressively in 5 different languages, that they were no longer selling tickets for that day. I was not amused. Thankfully, I could still buy a ticket for the next day, but that would mean I would have to come back to Battery Park, and at $2.75 a train ride, it’s not exactly cheap. I bought my Statue of Liberty ticket for the following day, which would be Easter Sunday. Not wanting to waste a subway trip though, I decided to walk over to where the Staten Island Ferry is and take that over the harbor to see a bit of Staten Island. Fun fact, the State Island Ferry is free. Wahoo! Unfortunately, it seemed that everyone else who didn’t get a ticket to the Statue of Liberty had the same idea.
I was waiting near the entrance to get onto the ferry in a sea of people, pun intended. I thought I might lose my mind. First of all, it felt as though everyone near me had at least 6 inches of height over me (I’m very short). Then all of sudden the doors opened, and we started to move. But not a calm move. We were like a live reenactment of what was happening on the Titanic, only instead of looking for lifeboats, we were trying to get back on the ship. I remember saying out loud “People, calm down. It’s Staten Island, not Disneyland.” Though I don’t think anyone understood me, I figured now would be the perfect time to start becoming a tough New Yorker. Yeah, I still have a lot of work to do.
The great thing about New York is that when you take these ferries, especially on a nicer day, you get beautiful views of Manhattan and the harbor. It can get quite chilly on the top of the ferry though, so be mindful to dress extra warm.
After getting off the ferry at Staten Island, I wandered around a bit into a very low-key borough that didn’t seem to have much going on at all. In fact, it felt kind of creepy. That ferry was packed, and then all of sudden it was like "where did all the people go?". Stephen King, if you ever somehow read this blog, it might make a good book. I can totally see it: The Staten Island Disappearance. Seriously though, where did all those people go!?
Since my phone battery was low, I didn’t venture too far onto the island. Last thing I needed was to get lost in New York, battle a couple of quirky thieves, have my mom finally find me at Rockefeller Center and... Oh wait, wrong plot. OK, so all in all, the fact that the ride was free and that I can cross Staten Island off my New York bucket list made it a satisfactory day of exploration.
On the next blog post, hear about the following day when I finally made it to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island!
This blog is all about travel, and I want to make sure that I aim to include topics that readers of different backgrounds can relate to. Since I am not a parent, the subject of traveling with a baby is one that I am not familiar with, so I enlisted the help of an experienced traveler who also happens to be a new mom to an adorable baby boy. I interviewed my cousin Betsy, a Southern California-based teacher, all about her experience flying with a baby.
1. PB (pre-baby), what was your travel background?
For work, I used to travel internationally about 6-7 times a year. In the last few years since being married, we have travelled about 1-2 times internationally for pleasure and usually a road trip (camping, skiing, beach etc) every other month. We love to explore new places - from busy urban cities to remote landscapes and national parks!
2. Where have you traveled to with Emerson?
Temecula Wine Country (When he was a month old), Michigan (when he was 2 months old), California Coast/Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles (when he was 2.5 months old), Bay Area (when he was 3 months old), Michigan again (when he was 3.5 months old).
3. Have you taken any solo trips with him?
My first trip with him back to Michigan I traveled alone and flew with Emerson on my lap when he was just under 2 months old. It definitely was really intimidating at first, but it’s very doable. The younger they are, the easier. I was fortunate to fly Southwest and have very helpful neighbors who would hold in my son’s pacifier while I changed him on my lap.
4. What are some things you brought with you while traveling with a baby that have helped you?
Travel light, make sure everything you take is multi-use and very versatile. For example, instead of bringing heavy blankets for my son to lay out on if there was an empty seat for him next to me, I put down my sweatshirt or jacket. Instead of taking burp cloths, take napkins that you can throw away or a small blanket that can double up as a burp cloth. Bring a couple of the disposable pads (like the one the’s they put under you at the hospital or under the baby when they weigh him) and use those for diaper changes or mopping up any spills. Taking 2-3 pairs of clothes, plenty of diapers and wipes are a must but only enough to last you for a day of travel (buy some when you arrive to your destination). I checked the stroller until our final destination so I brought a baby carrier which allowed me to use the restroom on layovers and I always had a place for baby to sleep on the plane/while walking about.
5. What are some things you realized you didn’t need to bring with you when traveling with a baby?
A lot of clothes/shoes for our little one, bring a couple sets to last you a day, but then just do laundry…you have enough other stuff to bring with a little!
6. How much extra time do you allow yourself at airports now?
Maybe about 30 mins extra for pumping and a diaper change.
7. Now being a mom, have you noticed any ways airports help accommodate new parents?
YESSSSSS! Thank you to those thoughtful airports that have nursing rooms (inside security)! These are places where moms can go to nurse/pump and to change their little one’s diaper. Many have a nice seating area, tv, changing table, restroom, and sink! Some of the smaller airports have nursing rooms outside of security which is kinda annoying but better than none! Also, if you’re flying with small children you can as the airline for a gate pass so a family member/friend can help escort you to the gate even though they themselves are not flying. This was a huge help when I was traveling alone so I could have some down time before boarding!
8. Have you dealt with any rude passengers?
Not yet, flying Southwest is the best because people choose their own seats. Family boarding occurs towards the beginning and then the remaining passengers to board can choose to sit by a baby/child or not! So, people that like kids choose to sit next to you!
9. What are some suggestions you think airports and airlines can do to help parents traveling with a baby?
More family restrooms/nursing rooms for moms. A separate security line would be nice!
Based on true events
I can remember the time vividly. It was the 2000’s. We were a nation in mourning over the break-up of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Tanning, extreme highlights, and lip gloss were fashion staples. To this day, I’ll never understand the appeal of the Jersey Shore look. But from the dark corners of the airline CEO offices, a new threat was emerging; One whose repercussions would go on to shape the future of airplane boarding decorum as we know it. That threat, my friends, is when airlines started charging for checked bags.
Yes, there was a time when major U.S. airlines did not charge for a checked bag. In fact, there was even a time when you could get a meal included on your flight to Cancun without having to be in First Class. That era was the 90s, and if only we could see that reboot actually happen...
You see, by charging passengers for every bag they want to check, it made more and more travelers opt out of checking bags altogether. The people fought back in the only way they could: by literally putting everything into a carry-on. Hell hath no fury like a budget traveler.
With more and more people accessing the overhead bin area for their carry-ons, we began to realize that there just aren’t enough spots for everyone, and thus began the never-ending battle for overhead bin space. Nowadays, if there’s not enough room, they will just check your bag for you to your final destination. But then, what if you don’t want that bag checked? You’ve got a 5-hour long layover in Houston, and you need access to your carry-on!
You are waiting in the terminal. You are Boarding Group 4. Oh, this could go either way. You look over at those stuck in Group 5 with pity, secretly grateful you aren’t there with them. They have no choice. But you? Well, you have to wait it out. You roll your eyes at the big wigs in First Class and Premiere Access. Oh, look at them all special getting to board the plane right away with plenty of overhead bin space and even a welcome cup of white wine after arriving on-board. You now see Group 2 and Group 3 start to board. Your nerves get the best of you as you see that literally everyone has a carry-on with wheels. Oy.
You begin to strike up a conversation with the middle-aged woman in front of you holding her Pomeranian. You express, extra loud so others will hear, your hope that more people will be kind enough to put their smaller bags and purses below the seat in front of them. But seriously though? Who are those jerks that put their small stuff in the overhead bin area? That’s important space that can be used! Where’s the consideration for your fellow passengers? You channel your inner George Costanza and declare this is Thunderdome.
It’s time! They just called Boarding Group 4. Being the neurotic traveler that you are, you are already toward the front of the line to make sure you have a better chance of getting your bag on that plane. You panic. The gate agent just started counting people to see how many spots they have left before people have to check their carry-ons. It looks like she kept counting past you. Good! You eagerly walk up to the gate agent, boarding pass ready. You’re through! Ok, to the plane now.
You are boarding behind people. They are tall. You can’t quite see ahead if there’s space. And then, as if in a slow-motion dream sequence, they begin to sit and you see it, an open spot! You hustle to it and throw your bag up there with strength you never knew you had since you mainly do cardio. But you made it! Your bag is up! You sit in 27A, relaxed, and ready to check out the same Hemispheres magazine you saw on your last flight. All is right with the world. Just then, you hear the sound of two 18-year-olds approach you, “Um, excuse me, would you mind changing seats so my boyfriend and I can sit together?”
Oh, come on!
Whether you’re traveling throughout the United States or taking an adventure around the world, there are many films that incorporate both the magic of travel and the beauty of the areas they highlight. Here are some that have inspired me over the years. If you have suggestions of films that excite your travel bug, definitely add your suggestions in the comments section.
Eat Pray Love
A film that is all about travel and self-discovery, Eat Pray Love has something for everyone and features gorgeous locations including Rome, India, and Bali. If you’re a foodie, there are numerous scenes where Julia Roberts is unabashedly enjoying delicious Italian pastas and pizza. Yum! Spiritual yoga and meditation are also core themes, but the main draw of this film is the very relatable story of finding happiness again. So, if your trip speaks to your desire for inspiration, definitely catch Eat Pray Love.
This romantic comedy stars Amy Adams as an American woman who hires a ridiculously attractive Irish innkeeper to help get her Dublin so she can propose to her boyfriend. However, as luck (pun intended) would have it, she falls for the Irishman instead. The film was shot in Ireland and features much of the beautiful, green countryside there.
National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation
Obviously, there are plenty of films centered around a trip in Las Vegas, many of which involve high consumption of alcohol, but you can’t go wrong with a classic Griswold family outing. It’s a really fun comedy that gave us the infamous alias ‘Nick Papagiorgio’ and features classic Vegas staples, including Wayne Newton and the Hoover Dam.
La La Land
This love letter to Hollywood echoes the classic musicals of the entertainment capital’s golden age but also captures the modern-day vibe of the city and fun inside jokes for LA locals. If you are fan of classic Hollywood in particular, this movie is the one to see before visiting Los Angeles. It features beautiful locales around town, including the famous Griffith Observatory, my personal favorite spot in LA.
Sex and the City: The Movie
Ok, yes, technically you could watch the series Sex and the City to get excited for New York, but if you need something a bit more condensed, the movie is perfect prior to a trip to the Big Apple. The film, like the series, was shot around New York City. Just make sure to have a signature Cosmopolitan while you watch this one. Please completely disregard Sex and the City 2 however.
Midnight in Paris
The opening credits alone will have you excited to see this iconic city. Midnight in Paris stars Owen Wilson as a frustrated writer who magically goes back in time each night at Midnight and converses with famous artists who had resided in Paris during the 1920s. It’s combines both the romanticism and artistic history of 1920s Paris with epic shots of the city today.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones is famous for his escapades around the world, but with the addition of Sean Connery as Indy’s dad, this is easily the most fun entry in the film’s franchise. This is a great film to get inspired by if your trip will be focused on adventures and excursions. And I mean, Harrison Ford, come on! He’s the best.
This 1953 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory was shot on location around Rome. With classic Hollywood film stars, a sweet love story, and exciting sites around the city like the Spanish steps, this is a great film to enjoy before visiting Rome. Audrey’s timeless style may also inspire some great clothing options for your trip.
Shakespeare in Love
This film pays homage to one of the city’s greatest contributions, the theater. It’s a story centered around a young William Shakespeare who falls in love with and is inspired by a woman named Viola, played by a pre-Goop spokesperson Gwyneth Paltrow. It also heavily features the Globe Theater, which if you do visit London, is a working theater and reconstruction of the original one associated with Shakespeare and his works.
Let's face it, sleeping on airplanes can be one of the hardest aspects of travel. We are tired as is, and for most of us, we don't have the budget for the fancy 1st class beds. So what's a person to do? Well, for me, a glass of white wine is a big help to feel relaxed enough to eventually dose off to sleep Heaven. Another tactic I learned in preparation for a 13-hour long flight to Australia was to stay up the night before, so that once I was on the plane the next day I was exhausted enough that I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Though these tips work for me, I don't have all the answers, so I reached out to fellow travelers to share their best tips for sleeping on an airplane.
"If it's an overnight flight, take the middle section of the seats and sit in the 2nd seat from the aisle. If you sit on the end people will wake you up to use the bathroom but if you take the 2nd seat, the person on your left will ask the other side to get up to use the bathroom. Don't sit too close to the bathroom because there is a constant coming and going of people who will talk, plus the flushing of the toilet." - Francesco, Italy
"I get jet lag flying to Europe west to east. For a night flight I go to bed a half hour earlier each night for a few days so I will fall asleep after dinner on the flight. I stay away from caffeine for a couple of days before leaving. I use a sleep mask to make it dark." - Jaclyn, California
"Put on your earmuffs, sleeping mask, and hoodie. Pull your arms in from your sleeves and tuck your knees up into your hoodie in a fetal position. Let your body roll and rest wherever it may fall, even on the stranger next to you. You’ll feel like you’re right back in the womb. Only works for short people, so if you’re tall, you’re not sleeping" - Steven, California
"To get a good night's rest on the plane, I would actually take a blanket and a pillow or two blankets. I would also take a set of ear plugs and/or earbuds. Then I would say that the day that you're getting ready to fly, you want to look at the time zone that you're flying to and then adjust the day of the flight so that you start preparing yourself for the new time zone. This might mean you need to get up earlier in the morning so that you allow yourself to quickly get onto a new time zone. Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water." - Geri, California
You thought I was going to write about Detroit? For Michigan? Come on, that’s too obvious. The city I’m highlighting is none other than my home city of Grand Rapids. It’s the second biggest city in Michigan behind Detroit and is rapidly (pun-intended) growing into an exciting place to be. Back in the day, downtown Grand Rapids didn’t exactly have much going on. Now, everything has changed. From arts festivals to local breweries to music venues, it’s hard to keep up with everything going on in GR but alas, I shall try.
It makes sense that Grand Rapids would receive a title such as Beer City USA. Beer seems to be a staple beverage of the Midwest, and GR has numerous local breweries for a growing city. Many bars around town make it a point to serve local beer, so when you visit Grand Rapids make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to try excellent, local brews. My personal favorite is the Rubaeus from Founder’s Brewing Co. It’s a raspberry ale, so it has a sweeter flavor if you’re into that. My favorite place to grab a beer in Grand Rapids is The Winchester over in East Grand Rapids, but another great spot is the Founder’s Brewing Co. venue where they also have live music.
East Grand Rapids!
Speaking of East Grand Rapids, back in the day this part of Grand Rapids was known for two things: Yesterdog and fancy houses. Now there’s a whole lot more going on, but of course Yesterdog and the fancy houses are still there. If you live in LA, you go to Pink’s for a hot dog, but if you live in Grand Rapids, you go to Yesterdog. Don’t get discouraged by the tiny waiting area and the chaos of trying to order from here, the hot dogs are well worth it. Also, in East Grand Rapids is the Wealthy Street Theater, which is home to concerts and other local events. If you need some breakfast, hit up The Wealthy Street Bakery or Wolfgang’s Restaurant. And no, it’s not Wolfgang Puck.
Most people think of Madcap for a cool place to grab coffee downtown, but personally if I wanted to receive unenthusiastic service from beautiful hipsters in a space with very limited seating, I’d go to Silverlake. When in Grand Rapids, I prefer to hit up Bigby Coffee instead. My favorite Bigby location is the one on Monroe Center in the heart of Downtown. Another great local coffee spot I recently discovered is Lyon Street Café.
One of my favorite qualities of Grand Rapids is the arts scene. If you’re into bigger musical productions you can see touring shows come through with Broadway Grand Rapids at the DeVos Place, but personally, I prefer to support the local theaters, especially as I know how incredible the GR theater community is. For local musical productions, you can catch performances at the Civic Theatre and Circle Theater, as well as shows from the universities like Grand Valley State and Aquinas. Other theater venues include Dog Story Theater, Jewish Theatre, Actors’ Theatre, and Heritage Theatre. Every year Grand Rapids is also home to two major arts festivals: The Festival of the Arts and ArtPrize. Festival of the Arts is held in June, while Art Prize happens during the early Fall. Additionally, the Grand Rapids Art Museum provides a year round spot to see great art while in Grand Rapids. GR also has it’s own ballet company, opera, and symphony. One of my favorite activities is to see a Grand Rapids Ballet performance of The Nutcracker, which they put on each year during the Christmas season.
Other places/activities to check out
- Frederik Meijer Gardens (themed gardens and outdoor music venue) *year round but best in the Summer season
- Grand Rapids Public Museum and Planetarium *year round
- Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum *year round
- Van Andel Arena (national music tours and hockey games for Grand Rapids Griffins) *year round for music, Winter season for hockey
- Fifth Third Baseball Park (home to the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball team) *Spring and Summer seasons
- 20 Monroe Live (music venue) *year round
- John Ball Zoo *Summer season
- Grand Haven (beach and coastal city on Lake Michigan) *Summer season
- Rosa Parks Circle (ice skating) *Winter season
- Robinette’s (apple orchard) *Fall season
So if this blog has talked you into visiting Grand Rapids, you’re probably wondering when the best time to go is. Well, another great aspect of Michigan is that it actually has all four seasons. Yeah, Los Angeles, 75 degrees in January is not winter. I would say the best time to visit depends on what you want to do and how well you can tolerate the cold. If you’re visiting from outside of the United States and want an authentic American experience, definitely come visit this amazing Midwest city. And if you are in the United States and looking for a fun vacation, come to Grand Rapids. We can even claim the title of hometown to a United States President, and don’t worry, it isn’t Donald Trump. See you in the Mitten!
If you’re from GR and have some additional suggestions for places to see or things to do please comment below. Cheers!
Jill Zwarensteyn is an actress, comedian, and writer who has been featured on Amazon, TruTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com