Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids, which is properly named for its location on the Grand River is the second-largest city in the state after Detroit. In addition, The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is also the second busiest in the state, (also behind Detriot) gaining a large amount of its tourism through it. If you have a weekend in Grand Rapids, it is known for craft beers, dining, nightlife, arts culture, and close proximity to nature trails and beaches.
Best Weekend Grand Rapids Activities
Grand Rapids Downtown Market
This downtown market has everything! There are several bakeries, dining, beverages, grocery, and fresh meat and seafood sections. I have yet to visit since I just learned about its existence but this makes me more excited for the next time I am in the area!
435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Grand Rapids Public Museum
3 floors of history, exhibits, a 3/4 scale replica of 1890’s Grand Rapids, 1928 carousel, planetarium, and more.
This is the museum in GR I keep hearing the best things about! It is also affordable! I tried to visit on my last trip to Grand Rapids, but unfortunately, the timing did not work out so I cannot give my own opinions about it.
Weekdays 9-5 Weekends 10-5
272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters
I recently came to Grand Rapids over Father’s Day weekend to celebrate with my family. Before dinner later in the evening, I wanted to find a unique place to work on my computer and try some local coffee. After some intense googling I found Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters. When we arrived I honestly was holding my breath a little because it looked like no one else was there, not to mention It’s located in the middle of a run-down neighborhood. However, the indigo door on the exterior of the building really made it stand out and added more curiosity as to what was inside.
Once we entered we had the most unexpected experience. It was a full-on coffee shop/roastery/warehouse all in one but there were no workers so I felt like I was somewhere where I shouldn’t be. Then the owner Craig popped out and greeted us and said he was still recovering from COVID and his staff wasn’t back yet so they weren’t serving coffee. I was disappointed, but he offered to give us a tour and show us what he was working on. He provided us with a lot of information, let us watch the roasting process, and was able to answer any of our questions. He really cares about the quality of the beans and he frequently travels internationally in search of the best places to source from. It was great seeing someone so passionate about what they do.
I visited in June of 2021, so they should now be open for coffee but I would call to make sure! They have a weekly “Saturday Experience” which is what we had experienced by chance! Just ask Craig or any of the staff and they will get started!
1111 Godfrey Ave SW Ste N-190, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Annual Art Prize in Downtown Grand Rapids
A city-wide event that displays local artist’s art for 18 days in public parks, museums, galleries, vacant storefronts, in bars, and on bridges. This is a unique experience because you get to simultaneously tour GR while also checking out some cool art! I went with my mom and we had a great day finding and discussing all of the different types of art.
Next date: September 16-October 3, 2021
Fredrick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
One of the most popular activities to do while in Grand Rapids is the Fredrick Meijer Gardens. Inside this garden, you will find a blend between art and nature. Come during late spring or summer to catch the plants at their peak! It is a little bit outside of downtown so you would need a car or an Uber. If you are spending longer than a weekend in Grand Rapids you may want to visit the gardens during the weekday to avoid bigger crowds.
Tickets: Adults (14 – 64) $14.50
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Horrocks Farmers Market
Horrocks is more than a market. When you walk through the entrance you immediately pass through the greenhouse! It’s so fun just to browse all of the plants. You can shop around the fresh veggies and produce but make sure to snag some locally made MooVille chocolate milk from the walk-in cooler! Grab a drink from the tavern or wine bar and drink while you shop, there’s also a beer and wine section which is filled with hundreds of local and international selections. I’ve been able to find a couple of my favorite international brands I fell in love with overseas.
4455 Breton Rd SE, Kentwood, MI 49508
There are 2 other locations! I used to live near the Lansing location, you can read my guide to Lansing here.
Finding's Tip: Find the coffee station, it's free! Plus, it's Horrock's own high quality brand beans!
Rosa Parks Circle
Located in the heart of downtown, Rosa Parks Circle is used for concerts and dances and turned into a skating rink in the winter. It is just $2 for one hour of skating including skate rental! Currently, it is closed for renovations through the fall but it plans to reopen by winter.
The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
Even if you are not staying at the Amway (which I would highly recommend) it is free to walk around inside the gorgeous victorian style hotel. Make sure to check out the lobby off the right wing from the check-in desk. It’s a nice place to pop into because of the high ceilings, velvet couches, and unique decor. If you want to spend more time inside the Amway you can browse the shops, dine, or enjoy a cocktail from any of the restaurants and bars on this list. It’s also a fun place for a photoshoot!
Finding's Tip: Enter The Amway from NW Monrow Ave. where the Starbucks and Ruth Chris's Steak House is.
Riverwalk Promenade & Bridges
Right next to the Amway is an easy access point to the Riverwalk Promenade off Pearl Street. Although, there are several places to start from just by looking at a map. If staring from the Amway, you can either walk north towards the 6th St Bridge or south toward the Blue Bridge, both of which have pedestrian paths that go across the river.
The Best Restaurants Downtown
Sundance Grill & Bar
I like Sundance for a big southwest-style breakfast or brunch (I have never tried lunch or dinner) and their fresh squeezed OJ. There’s usually a wait so make sure to check in online beforehand!
151 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The B.O.B. (Big Old Building) is a multi-level eatery that includes several bars, restaurants, a comedy club, and a top-floor nightclub. Each level has a completely different atmosphere and style to it. I only visited once in the winter but when we arrived around 9 the lines were already starting to get bad so make sure to get there earlier, especially during the warmer months when the city is more lively.
20 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Founders Brewing Co.
Founders were named as the #2 brewery in the country! They have such a diverse menu of their own in-house brews and classier versions of popular bar grub. This leads me to discuss their beer cheese dip. If you like cheese at all, you can’t leave without ordering this! It’s a generous portion served with different types of bread and chips. I think I’ve tried a different sandwich every time and I’ve enjoyed them all!
I am not a beer lover by nature, yet I still found a favorite! If you like lighter ale’s like me, I recommend the Blushing Monk. I hate IPA’s but the All Day IPA is well-loved and sold across the country. They also have a gift shop inside the restaurant where they sell merch, cases, and individuals of their most popular and seasonal brews.
235 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Reserve Wine & Food
Reserve is an up-class farm-to-fork restaurant. They use quality ingredients from local suppliers and they also have 900+ wine variations in-house. You can find your new favorite by trying one of their wine flights (several types on the menu) or by asking your server.
201 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
I won’t into too many details here about Hopcat because I wrote more information in my guide to Lansing, Michigan which you can read here! Let’s just say it’s a craft beer lover’s dream with unique twists on traditional bar food. Pick from my recommendations!
25 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The Chop House
A premium steakhouse with a private cigar lounge in the basement. Even if you don’t want to dine here their happy hour menu has some really great deals on cocktails and premium apps including the lamb chops! Plus, you also get their complementary tapioca bread which I couldn’t stop eating. The Chop House would be my top choice if I was going to splurge on a steak dinner.
190 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
My Finding's Tip: If you come on the day of your birthday you get half off the bill! (must be party of 2 or discount will divided among group size).
Quality tasting coffee using their own beans. MadCap really does stand apart from the crowd and I can see why it’s so popular. I hadn’t had MadCap in the last couple of years until a recent trip to Detriot (their other location) and I forgot just how good it is! Their lattes are incredible and I am definitely missing them here in Florida.
98 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Lantern Coffee & Lounge
The chai latte here is to die for, it could possibly be the best I’ve ever had. It’s perfectly sweet and the spices are prominent. Daryl ordered a small but liked it so much he ordered another, haha!
100 Commerce Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Where to Stay in Downtown Grand Rapids
Middle & High-End Hotels
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
As mentioned above for shopping, dining, and drinks, the Amway is right on the river so walking by the river and around downtown is easy. The hotel has a large pool, spa, gym, and several room service features. This hotel is my personal favorite place to stay for a weekend in Grand Rapids, I love the historic feel of the interior lobby and overall experience.
187 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
JW Marriot GR
A modern 4-star hotel with sleek architecture right across the street from The Amway Plaza. I’ve also stayed at this JW Marriot a couple of times and it is also a fabulous choice, just a little pricier. The most notable differences it has over Amway are the sleek architecture, riverfront dining, and the eucalyptus steam room which is so rejuvenating!
235 Louis St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Homewood Suites by Hilton Grand Rapids
19th century 3-star hotel with a rooftop bar
161 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hyatt Place Grand Rapids
Contemporary 3-star hotel with a restaurant/bar and indoor pool
140 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Whether you’re looking for a local weekend getaway or coming from out of state to visit Grand Rapids, you now have plenty of indoor and outdoor activities plus several dining experiences to be had while you explore this city!
Until next time, Rachel