Grand Rapids Travel Guide

Visitor’s Guide to Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is a city at the crossroads of west Michigan’s great outdoors. Surrounding it are the white sand beaches of Lake Michigan, countless charming apple orchards, and an abundance of inland lakes and streams. But the city itself offers its own set of opportunities for education, exploration, and relaxation. Grand Rapids’ official webpage offers a comprehensive list of things to see and do but here are some must see activities as well as a few “off the beaten path” suggestions.

Vacationing is a lot of fun, which is why everyone wants to go at least once a year.  Twice a year would be great, but if you are only able to get away from it all one week this year, head to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The city is beautiful and very enjoyable.  There is something to do for everyone: shopping, zoos, beautiful scenery and plenty of great restaurants.

Must See Attractions in Grand Rapids

The Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a must see. This world class botanical masterpiece showcases leafy treasures from west Michigan and around the world. Among many other exhibits, there is a humongous tropical conservatory and a carnivorous plant house as well as a Michigan farm garden and live music in the summer.

For architecture fans, Grand Rapids is home to the Meyer May House, a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style home that is free and open to the public. It is located in Grand Rapids’ historic Heritage Hill neighborhood which also has numerous fantastic examples of late 19th and early 20th century homes, many built by the lumber and furniture barons of the city’s past.

And for those who really want a taste of west Michigan’s great outdoors, Robinette’s Apple Haus offers fresh apple cider, freshly baked donuts, and a variety of fruit wines that can be sampled at Robinette’s upscale country store. This old-fashioned, family run orchard also offers hayrides and hiking through the apple and cherry trees.

Often, people like to travel in the off season.  Grand Rapids is perfect for this.  You may not be one of those families, or couples, that like to travel during the summer when everyone else is.  If you are a traveler that likes to vacation in the fall, then this is your place. Heritage Hill Tour of Homes is what many people look forward to every year.  This tour consists of about ten to twenty homes.  The homes are gorgeous older homes and buildings that are stunning to look at in the fall.  The leaves are all turning golden brown and other colors.

The Victorian homes, prairie style bungalows and Gerald Ford’s childhood home are all a part of this tour.  Walk from house to house and follow the map.  Your day will be filled with a sight that you have never seen before.  You can even catch a shuttle to the farthest places along your route.  The neighborhoods are also happy to see the visitors.  They are set up with hot apple cider stands and coffee.  They even have homemade cookies for sale.

If you haven’t seen enough beauty, be sure to take everyone over to Grand Rapids Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.  There are many themed gardens.  You can see everything from English perennials to shade, farm and volunteer gardens.  The area also has indoor gardens including the Lena Meijer conservatory, which is tropical, Victorian garden, seasonal garden, carnivorous plant and arid gardens also.

If you like butterflies, and have a day or two to visit in the spring, then you should visit during the months of March and April.  You will see the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in America.  During the winter months though, you will see one of the most celebrated areas you have ever seen.  Christmas time is a perfect time to visit the Sculpture Park.  They have an extensive holiday and tree display throughout the park, many different cultures are celebrated.  There is also a Polar Express exhibit in December to honor the native author, Chris Van Allsburg.

This will be a trip that you will never forget.  Just spending time in this themed park can give you a greater appreciation of nature.  Have fun in the park and don’t forget to eat lunch or dinner at the café.

Unique Dining in Grand Rapids

For a laid back, local experience the best place to go is Founder’s Brewery. Located in an old truck depot, this spacious taproom serves up Founder’s own stouts, ales, and lagers with a deli menu and plenty of live music thrown in. During the day, this spacious, smoke-free locale is definitely kid friendly but moms and dads will especially appreciate the eclectic beer selection.

or an authentic west Michigan experience, the Cottage Bar and Restaurant is a great choice. Since 1927, this institution has been making the city’s best burgers with selections like their Cherry Burger (89% lean ground beef and 11% Michigan cherries according to their menu) and the green olive smothered Cottage Burger. Other great local spots are Yesterdog and Wolfgang’s, both located in the colorful Eastown neighborhood.

Places to Stay in Grand Rapids

The Amway Grand Hotel, located alongside the Grand River, is one of the most familiar landmarks in this city. It features a gorgeous, historic lobby and a five diamond rating for its celebrated restaurant, the 1913 Room. Across from this is the J.W. Marriott hotel, Grand Rapids’ modern take on luxury and class. With a sleek interior and cutting edge sensibilities, the J.W. Marriott provides a welcome counterpoint to the venerable Amway Grand.

Just minutes from downtown are three bed and breakfast options for travelers: the B&B of Grand Rapids, Lasting Impressions B&B, and Peaches B&B. Nestled among green lawns and shade trees in the Heritage Hill neighborhood, these elegant inns are a unique option for an urban getaway.

Grand Rapids is a Premiere Destination

For years, people have been coming to west Michigan for its beautiful lakes and beaches. But choosing to stay in Grand Rapids instead of a smaller lakeside town will provide welcome options for sightseeing and dining to anyone visiting west Michigan. With a variety of unique options for attractions and accommodations, Grand Rapids is a great place to stay.

Fun and Adventure in Grand Rapids

Vacationers aren’t always looking for places where they can picnic and watch animals in the zoo.  Some vacationers think that a perfect vacation is when you are doing something adventurous and sometimes even dangerous.  If you are looking for an exciting place to travel to this year, then Grand Rapids is your place.  If you like to rock climb, this is another reason to head there for your annual trek.

Higher Ground Rock Climbing Center is a perfect place for everyone to go to.  This rock climbing area is actually inside a gym.  It is devoted to rock climbing.  There aren’t many places that are this dedicated to the sport.  The gym has artificial rock that climbers can scale and they are as high as 23 feet.  There is 7,000 square feet of rock climbing space.  There are also two huge bouldering rooms.
Don’t let the weather stop you from your fun.  Being able to do your favorite sport indoors is perfect.
There are several different types of climbing surfaces at Higher Ground.  Some of these include roof to slab, overhang to vertical, as well as chimneys, dihedrals, and aretes.  The routes inside the gym change often, so you can go every year and do something different.  There are different degrees of rock climbing.  If you are an experienced rock climber or brand new to the sport, there is something for you.  Don’t worry about having to pack your equipment and lug it on a plane or in the car, Higher Ground has all the equipment that you need.

After a day of rock climbing, you may want to play some sports that are a little less dangerous.  There are quite a few golf courses and bowling alleys in the city.  Wengers Bowling Center is a great family owned bowling alley that all the competitive people in your traveling group can go to for a little more toe to toe fun.  Then get your clubs out and get ready for a few games of golf.

Thousand Oaks Golf Course is one that you may have read about in Golf Digest.  It was rated as one of the best 25 golf courses to play in Michigan.  The Rees Jones signature course was given four and a half stars.  Located only a few minutes outside of Grand Rapids, the course is designed for all levels of golfers.  If you are just learning the game, or you have played for years, there are courses for you.  They even have a golf shop that has all the latest equipment.  Make sure you stop by.  Grand Rapids has so much to offer everyone. Be sure that you plan your vacation there.  You will have the time of your life.