Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the state’s second-biggest metropolis. The city lies on the Grand River 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. The city’s prominence stems, in no small part, from cultural landmarks like the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. This city is home to three different colleges: Grand Valley State University, Calvin College, and Aquinas College. Many city dwellers enjoy outdoor sports like fishing, kayaking, and hiking. Bars, restaurants, and concert halls make up Grand Rapids’ vibrant nightlife. Two of the best and most unique breweries in the country may be found in the city’s bustling downtown: Founders and The Mitten.
In addition to its thriving craft beer scene, Grand Rapids is also home to a thriving furniture manufacturing and design industry. There has been a proliferation of galleries and studios showcasing local artists. Youngsters will enjoy visiting the John Ball Zoo and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Plus, don’t miss out on the Gerald R. Ford Museum, dedicated to the 38th President of the United States.
15. The Circle Theatre
The Circle Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a professional theatre company that produces a variety of plays, musicals, and other performances. The theatre is located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids and is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
The theatre offers a wide range of performances, from classic plays to modern musicals. The theatre also hosts special events like cabaret nights and improv shows. The Circle Theatre is a great place to enjoy a night out with friends or family, and the performances are sure to entertain.
14. African American Museum & Archives
The Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives (GRAAMA) is a museum and archive dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and culture of African Americans in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 2002, GRAAMA is the only museum of its kind in the state of Michigan. The museum houses a collection of artifacts, documents, photographs, and other materials related to the African American experience in Grand Rapids.
The museum also offers educational programs, lectures, and workshops to the public. GRAAMA is committed to preserving the history and culture of African Americans in Grand Rapids and providing educational opportunities to the community.
13. A Day Trip to Lake Michigan
If you’re looking for an easy day trip from Grand Rapids, a trip to Lake Michigan (the second-largest of the Great Lakes) is only about a 45-minute drive away. We suggest the coastal city of Muskegon. Muskegon is a charming city located just 40 miles from Grand Rapids, making it the perfect destination for a day trip. Visitors to Muskegon can explore its beautiful beaches, parks, and cultural attractions.
The city has a cute, vibrant downtown area that is bustling with social activity and unique shopping and dining opportunities. Visitors can also enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and hiking at Muskegon State Park. Overall, a day trip to Muskegon from Grand Rapids offers a chance to experience Michigan’s west coast’s beauty, culture, and recreation.
12. Van Andel Arena
Van Andel Arena is an indoor arena located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is the home of the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA G League. The arena opened in 1996 and has a seating capacity of 10,834 for hockey games and 12,000 for basketball games.
It is named after Jay and Betty Van Andel, who donated $6 million to the construction of the arena. The arena has hosted a variety of events, including concerts, family shows, ice shows, and sporting events. There will most likely be some kind of event going on while you’re visiting.
11. Grand Rapids Brewing Co.
Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is a craft brewery located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 2012, the brewery has become a popular destination for craft beer lovers. The brewery offers a variety of tours, including a guided tour of the brewery, a beer tasting, and a beer and food pairing.
The brewery also offers a variety of events, such as beer dinners, beer festivals, and beer-related classes. Tour Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is a great place to learn about craft beer and sample some of the best brews in the area. If you aren’t a beer person, they also have mixed drinks and can craft you a cocktail. If there’s a place to order beer cheese soup, it’s here, so don’t skip it. And a recent visitor commented on Tripadvisor that they were thrilled to find out the back room had pool and hoops for their teenagers.
10. Fish Ladder Park & The Grand River
Fish Ladder Park is a public park located along the Grand River on its western bank. The historic fish ladder that gives the park its name was built in the 1930s to help migrating fish pass over the Fourth Street Dam. The park also features a playground, picnic areas, and is connected to trails that make their way alongside both banks of the river.
Crossing the 6th Street Bridge will take visitors to the Riveredge Trail connecting Sixth Street Park and Canal park on the eastern bank of the Grand River. These parks abut Monroe Ave, which allows you to take a break and enjoy the many restaurants or bars that line the street. These include Linear, City Built Brewing Company, Brick Yard Tavern, and Field & Fire Cafe.
9. Meyer May House
The Meyer May House, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is an iconic example of the Prairie School of Architecture designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was built in 1908 for the Meyer May family, and it is considered one of the most complete and authentic examples of Wright’s work.
The Meyer May House boasts several unique features, including leaded-glass doors and windows, an open floor plan, and a cantilevered roof. The house also has extensive woodwork, which includes Wright’s signature use of oak wood. The Meyer May House was meticulously restored by Steelcase Inc. in the 1980s and is now open to the public, offering visitors a glimpse into the early 20th-century architecture and design. There is no charge to take the 1.5-hour tour, but you do need to book tickets in advance.
8. John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo is a zoo located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is one of the oldest and largest zoos in the state and is home to over 1,500 animals from around the world. The zoo is named after John Ball, a prominent local philanthropist and conservationist! The zoo features a variety of exhibits, including a large African savanna, a tropical rainforest, and a children’s zoo. The zoo also offers educational programs, special events, and a variety of animal encounters.
A recent visitor on TripAdvisor says, “We visited the zoo during their annual nighttime Illumi-zoo Halloween events….incredible lights, and displays, as well as treat stands! Grandparents, parents, and toddler were all very impressed and had a great time…highly recommend this! A definite must-see for kids and adults alike! It is a bit hilly so wear your walking shoes.”
7. Grand Rapids Art Museum
The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) is a world-class art museum located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1910, GRAM is one of the oldest art museums in Michigan. The museum houses a permanent collection of over 5,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, drawings, and decorative arts.
The museum also hosts a variety of special exhibitions, educational programs, and events throughout the year. GRAM is a popular destination for art lovers, families, and tourists alike.
A recent local visitor commented, “This is an impressive small museum in downtown Grand Rapids. The collection is pretty good, highlighted by the Keeler collection of contemporary art which is quite good. Admission is free on Thursday nights.”
6. Grand Rapids Public Museum
The Grand Rapids Public Museum is located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, right along the river. It was founded in 1854 and is one of the oldest history museums in the entire country. The museum is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history and culture of the Grand Rapids area.
It features a variety of exhibits, including a planetarium, a hands-on science center, and a collection of artifacts from the area’s past. The museum also hosts a variety of educational programs and events throughout the year!
5. Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is a hands-on museum located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is dedicated to providing interactive learning experiences for children of all ages. The museum features a variety of exhibits and activities that focus on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Visitors can explore a life-size treehouse, a giant bubble maker, a water play area, and a construction zone. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs and special events throughout the year.
4. Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre is a non-profit theatre located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1925, it is one of the largest community theatres in the United States. The theatre produces a variety of plays, musicals, and special events throughout the year! It is also home to the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre School, which offers classes and workshops for all ages. The theatre is dedicated to providing quality entertainment and educational opportunities for the whole community at large.
3. Tour ArtPrize
ArtPrize is an international art competition held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan, usually beginning in late September. It is the world’s largest art competition, with over 500,000 visitors and more than 1,500 artists from around the world competing for two $00,000 grand prizes (one juried; one a public vote). The competition is held over 19 days, with the public voting for their favorite pieces. During the competition, visitors can tour the city and view the art installations in various venues, including museums, galleries, parks, and public spaces.
The competition also features a variety of events, such as artist talks, workshops, and performances. ArtPrize is a great way to experience the vibrant art scene of Grand Rapids and discover new and exciting art!
2. Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is dedicated to the life and legacy of the 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford. The museum houses various artifacts, documents, photographs, and other materials related to Ford’s life and presidency. It also features interactive exhibits, educational programs, and special events. The museum is operated by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of President Ford! However, if you’re looking for Ford’s presidential library (an offshoot of the National Archives), you’ll have to drive 2 hours away to Ann Arbor. Do note that the museum is closed on Mondays.
A recent visitor commented that “GRF served his country well. The museum chronicles his life of public service. A great example of what he accomplished. Free parking. Final resting place of the President and Mrs. Ford nearby.”
1. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a 158-acre botanical garden and outdoor sculpture park located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It features over 5,000 varieties of plants, a tropical conservatory, a children’s garden, a carnivorous plant house, and a variety of outdoor sculptures.
The park also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, art classes, and educational programs. The park is named after Frederik Meijer, a local businessman and philanthropist who donated the land for the park. No matter what time of year, the natural beauty of the gardens will blow you away. It truly is one of the crown jewels of Grand Rapids!
As you can see, Grand Rapids has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Grand Rapids, Michigan.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.