I recently spent a couple of days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a unique destination that’s a wonderful combination of urban sophistication and small-town charm.
With great art, shops, restaurants, exciting nightlife and cultural attractions, Grand Rapids is the perfect holiday destination. It’s no wonder that people come from miles around to experience this vibrant and energetic city, as there’s a lot to lure visitors here. Lonely Planet agrees – it named Grand Rapids and Michigan’s Gold Coast the “Number One Place to Visit in 2014.”
Downtown Market for All Things Local
The first thing I did upon arrival was head to the Downtown Market. Open year-round, this indoor-outdoor market feateures fresh foods, specialty artisan products, flowers and food stands, as well as local entertainment. After I snacked on an apple and cranberry croissant and admired the super-fresh salmon and fabulously fat filet mignons, I took a tour of the Children’s Kitchen and the greenhouse. Cooking classes are also offered regularly.
Fabulous Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Definitely a must-do while in town is to visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, a 53-hectare outdoor oasis just 15 minutes from downtown. Here, I got to experience masterpieces of art and nature that delighted a multitude of senses. From the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, which has a sensory exhibit just for the little ones, to the Tropical Conservatory, which hosts the largest temporary butterfly exhibition in the USA, the garden and sculpture park will appeal to everyone.
In addition to seeing Roxy Paine’s mind-blowing "Neuron sculpture" and Auguste Rodin’s "The Kiss," I stood underneath the hoof of the breath-taking seven-meter sculpture "The American Horse" by Nina Akamu. I also was lucky enough to see works of art by world-renowned English sculptor David Nash. Deborah Butterfield, who is quickly becoming my favorite artist, had several of her horse sculptures on display.
For music lovers, the amphitheater here makes a beautiful venue for outdoor concerts, with grassy tiered seating that is perfect for spreading out a blanket and listening to well-known artists performing during the summer months.
Shopping and Beer Culture Downtown
My last stop of the day before heading out to enjoy some local nightlife was the delightful MoDiv area of the city at Monroe and Division to do a bit of shopping at Gina’s Boutique. This area with tree-lined sidewalks was the perfect place to pick up an outfit for my night out on the town.
This is truly a place that will please beer connoisseurs, travelers and revelers alike. Grand Rapids was even voted “Beer City USA” in a national poll, and you can find the craft beer favorites in many downtown breweries, restaurants and bars.
I headed over to lively Ionia Avenue and the Grand Rapids Brewing Company, which is certified organic. They also mill the grain and brew their beer in-house. Other great places to try in the city are HopCat and Founders Brewing Company.
There you have it. Grand Rapids, Michigan, is not just cool, it’s awesome! Be sure to include it on your next U.S.-bound holiday