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
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.
If you’re from GR and have some additional suggestions for places to see or things to do please comment below. Cheers!
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, 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