The second largest city in Michigan is closely speeding up to its big brother, Detroit, in terms of a vibrant arts culture, diverse restaurant scene and gorgeous historic and futuristic architecture. However, if Grand Rapids is known for anything, it’s known best for these three things: art, beer, and sustainability. It’s a city filled with art, splashed on concrete exteriors and alleyways, filling up walls in hip bistros, and lining modern art galleries and established museums. The beer is recognized internationally, and Grand Rapids is always listed among America’s best beer cities by some of the most trusted publications in the nation. The skyline is dotted with more LEED certified buildings per capita than any other city of its size in the United States and is home to the first LEED gold-certified art museum, YMCA, transit station, school, residence and church in the world.
Located within driving convenience to Detroit and Chicago, and within a 20-minute drive from Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Grand Rapids is the destination to hit for lovers of fine crafted beer and streets paved with color.
The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park are not your run-of-the-mill botanical garden; nor is the sculpture park just any outdoor installation. Featuring works of over 30 internationally renowned sculptors including Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Roy Lichtenstein and others littered through exotic and manicured botanical gardens, these 30+ acres make for a pretty mesmerizing meander. The horticultural collection includes a carnivorous plant house, an English Perennial Garden, a Tropical Conservatory, a Victorian Garden and more. The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park celebrates the marriage of art and nature, and does so in a kaleidoscope of constantly changing colors in an accessible way. Hop on a narrated tram tour for an extra $3 and see the garden through an expert’s eye. The staff of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park recommend reserving anywhere from four to six hours to tour the gardens, depending on level of interest.
Grand Rapids wasn't really considered a major metropolitan area until its artists came to the forefront and that was accomplished with no small help from GRAM – the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The world’s first LEED Gold Certified art museum houses over 5000 works of art from 19th and 20th century American and European painting and sculptures to local Michigan artists. The building itself is a work of art, open, modern and sunny but what it holds – works by Lautrec, Dali, Steinlen, up to an exploration of Michigan’s role in modern furniture design –- is priceless and worth hours of any visitor’s time.
Their fries have a unique blend of seasonings with optional warm dipping cheese on the side, which pretty much guarantees that their diners won’t be able to just have one. Especially because nothing goes better with fries than beer, which is the thing these guys are really known for. Rated the third best beer bar in the world by Beer Advocate, and best Brewpub in the United States by RateBeer.com, HopCat is sitting atop the throne of one of the best brew kingdoms in the continent. On any given night, HopCat offers around 50 different local and international craft brews on tap and bottled, including their own, and their helpful staff are ready to advise the best one for their guests.
For cheap eats, decades of proven quality and the accolades that accompany them, and an atmosphere that oozes Grand Rapids comfort, there’s truly only one place to go. Scratched tables, old wooden booths, a tin ceiling and walls totally covered with vintage advertisements and posters, Yesterdog might not ooze sophistication, but even the most upscale Grand Rapids diner will advise you towards their storefront. Open until 2:30 a.m. most nights, they see the shuffle of late night students in the late hours, nostalgic adults during the day and all of them plus more over lunch. Yesterdog is an eternal mainstay in the increasingly trendy neighborhood of Easton, because it’s simply the town favorite. Each of their six different dogs are under $3, with all variations of chili, cheese, onion, pickle, kraut, ketchup and mustard (all of those ingredients are on their Killerdog).
Merging the grand opulence from their century-long history as one of the finest hotels in America and the modern necessities of contemporary luxury travel, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel offers rooms in the original wing, large and genteel with restored moldings and fixtures, period artwork and classic wooden furnishings, or rooms in the new 29-story Glass Tower, modern and sleep with panoramic views of the Grand River and downtown area. The large and ever-expanding complex houses a spa and salon, business center, five upscale and casual restaurants, a fitness center, shops, and a large and lavishly appointed lobby.