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Grand Rapids Michigan: 30 Unique Things to See and Do (MAP)

grand rapids michigan travel guide

Travel Guide to Grand Rapids Michigan : Fun Things to Do in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Michigan is a perfect mix of arts and culture; breweries and restaurants; shopping and outdoor activities; and just plain fun.

The truth is that there really IS something for everyone in this bustling west Michigan city, whether you’re an outdoors enthusiast or someone who prefers excitement indoors.

The best news? In just a short (around two hours) drive from Chicago, Detroit or Traverse City, you can find yourself exploring this bustling, hip city.

Want more good news? Grand Rapids is less than an hour from beautiful Lake Michigan, one of the top travel destinations in Michigan, and the hilly landscape of the are provides ample opportunity for hiking, biking and enjoying nature.

Read on for 30 Best and fun things to do in Grand Rapids MI. Scroll to the bottom of the page for an interactive map to help you plan your trip to Grand Rapids MI.

About Grand Rapids MI

Grand Rapids has experienced explosive growth over the past decade, as both visitors and transplants recognize. Once known primarily as the birthplace of former President Ford, Amway, and the furniture industry (logs from Michigan’s abundant forests were floated down the Grand River and into area sawmills), Grand Rapids has more recently garnered recognition for much more.

Here are a few of Grand Rapid’s most recent awards:

  • “Craft Beverage Capital of the U.S.” by USA Today
  • “#9 Best Place to Retire in the U.S.” by Conde Nast
  • One of the “15 best beer cities around the world” by CNN Travel
  • Trip Advisor’s one of the “16 Incredibly Romantic Getaways in the Midwest’
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Explore Grand Rapids

With all of these awards, travel to Grand Rapids has increased in the past few years. It’s clear that “Beer City USA” in Kent County, Michigan has made a name for itself as one of Michigan’s must-visit destinations! If you’re ready for a vacation full of cultural attractions, unique art, outdoor recreation, and a diverse beer scene, get ready to explore the Grand Rapids community.

Use our ultimate travel guide to plan your Grand Rapids getaway. We’ll share trip ideas so you’ll know exactly how to go about exploring Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids, MI is Known For…

  • It’s location atop Grand River, a major state waterway with a bed of limestone. The river offers a large variety of recreation, and the people of Grand Rapids can be found relaxing with a fishing rod or celebrating folk music at the Grand River Water Festival.
  • Having the seventh fastest growing economy in the United States and the first fastest in Michigan (according to data from 2018). This allows for a surplus of job opportunities in the city. To learn more about the Grand Rapids government and its city commission, click here.
  • The award-winning Gerald R. Ford International Airport. This airport offers over 100 flights every day with the motto “Getting there is better here.” Both Gerald and Betty Ford were raised in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Weather
The weather in Grand Rapids follows the Michigan pattern: up to the low 80s in the summer, slowly dropping through the fall to the 30s in the winter, and finally growing warmer around April. It typically rains 7-9 days each month.

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30 Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI

30. Tour the Meyer May House
450 Madison Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

This historic Frank Lloyd Wright-built home, near the Heritage Hill Historic District, was built in 1909. Known as “Michigan’s Prairie masterpiece,” from Wright’s Prairie School era, the home was originally built as a residence for Meyer S. May, owner of a prominent Grand Rapids clothing store. The Meyer May House features beautiful stained glass windows and perennial gardens.

29. Follow the Beer City Ale Trail

As probably one of the best beer cities in America, Grand Rapids excels at its breweries. The Beer City Ale Trail is a self-guided craft beer tour through Grand Rapids, including famous craft breweries like Founders Brewing and Alebird Taphouse and Brewery.

You can call it what you will: Beer City or Beer Town, but whatever you do, plan on stopping in at one of the many fantastic breweries in the city for some homemade craft beer.

The craft breweries around Grand Rapids have put the city on the map, so much so that the Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau created a popular YouTube channel for “Beer City Eats,” detailing the food and drink in breweries around town. We love the episodes on Brewery Vivant in East Grand Rapids and the one that started it all, Founders Brewing.

28. Hear the Grand Rapids Symphony

Visit this award-winning symphony at one of their almost 30 performances throughout the Grand Rapids area. You can hear them in the DeVos Performance Hall or at smaller venues throughout the area.

27. Explore the Wildlife at the John Ball Zoo
1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

The John Ball Zoo welcomes kids and families to watch exotic wildlife, take animal and STEM classes, and embark on behind-the-scenes tours. They offer summer camps, fall courses, and even a traveling zoo where children can interact safely with animals.

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26. Check out the Downtown Market
 435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

If you’re yearning for a culinary shopping spree, the Downtown Market will be a sort of heaven for you. Here’s some of our favorite spots to see when you visit the market:

  • Grab something delicious at the Field and Fire Bakery
  • Enjoy some fizzy bubbles at the High Tide Soda Shop
  • Order a scoop at Love’s Ice Cream and Chocolate
  • Savor a platter of cheese samples at Aperitivo

25. Explore East Hills

One of the unique delights about Grand Rapids are the different neighborhoods within the city; each with their own distinct feel and flavor. Nearby the central downtown area is a neighborhood called East Hills. This is the perfect place to visit a unique coffee shop, take a walk through a small, quaint park, and indulge your taste with a French macaron store or a local dinner restaurant.

24. Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

These gardens are where art and nature intersect in a beautiful facility named after the Michigan native who started the Meijer Grocery chain with his father. These horticultural display gardens are a place for all seasons. With an enormous array of options for visitors, the gardens celebrate art, science, and the natural beauty of Grand Rapids.

In April, our favorite destination in the Frederik Meijer Gardens is the butterfly garden. Tropical butterflies fill a conservatory for visitors to enjoy. The beautiful creatures often perch fearlessly on tourists’ hands, where their intricate wings and vibrant colors can be admired up close. Among each wonder-inducing room and exhibit, there is always something to discover about nature.

23. See Amazing Art Displays at ArtPrize

ArtPrize is a unique art competition and festival, where anyone over the age of 18 can display their art, and any space within the three-square-mile ArtPrize district can be a venue. You can read more about it in our Ultimate Guide to ArtPrize. You can find even more great art at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

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More Best and Fun Things to Do in Grand Rapids Michigan

22. Check Out Some Cool Used Bookstores

Read to dig for some real treasures, book-wise? Head over to East Town, where you’ll find two great spots where you can browse for hours. Redux Books, 1349 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, is an antiqurian books store focusing on rare books, and Argo Comics and Used Books, 1405 Robinson Rd SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, is Grand Rapids oldest and largest used book store.

21. Try Cider & Donuts at Robinettes
3142 4 Mile Rd NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Come fall season, a visit to Robinettes is a must. But be prepared, once you’ve visited this amazing Michigan Cider Mill and Apple Orchard, you’re going to an to come back for seconds. Take a wagon ride to pick your own apples and then hed over to the cider mill with a giant kids playground, corn maze and much more. Robinette’s has a lunch menu and dining area featuring sandwiches, salads and quiche, as well as a tasting room for their ciders and wines. The bakery and gift shops offers other treats such as pies, pastries, breads and more.

20. Butchers Union
438 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

This modern gastopub is the hottest restaurant in town, and with good reason. Butchers Union is a great restaurant for all meat lovers and whiskey connoisseurs. With indoor and patio seating available, the setting of the restaurant is a modern, stylish take with dark interior coloring. Reservations are available and recommended for this Grand Rapids dining experience. A top-quality drink and meal are awaiting you at Butchers Union located only in Grand Rapids.

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19. See a Concert at Van Andel Arena
130 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

This 12,000-seat multi arena is the firstwest Michigan stop for some of the top names in entertainment industry, including everyone from Elton John and Justin Timberlake to Metallica and Paul McCartney. It’s also home to Grand Rapids Griffins, a professional hockey team affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings. You’ll see other top sporting events here, too.

18. Brewery Vivant
925 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Set in a former funeral chapel, Brewery Vivant is the world’s first LEED certified microbrewery. Brewery Vivant has kept the authentic charm of the original building: you can immediately feel the history when you open the heavy doors revealing the high cathedral ceilings and stained-glass windows. For a building that once dealt in death, Brewery Vivant has given it new life and then some. This is a don’t-miss Michigan craft brewery.

Ultimate Guide to Michigan Minor league Baseball

17. Catch a West Michigan Whitecaps Game
4500 W River Dr NE, Comstock Park, MI 49321

You haven’t seen a baseball game until you’ve caught a game featuring this Detroit Tiger minor-league affiliate. It’s non-stop fun for all ages: in addition to some really good baseball, you’ll find all kinds of family-friendly entertainment on the sidelines, too.

16. Grand Rapids Public Museum
272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

This must-see, fun museum offers three floors of history in an ex-flour mill plus exhibits, a 1928 carousel and planetarium. You’ll also find one of Michigan’s largest collections of historical and cultural artifacts and scientific specimens that tell the stories of West Michigan.

15. Fish Ladder Park
606 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

The first time I saw fish traveling up a fish ladder was in Leland’s Fishtown in northern Michigan, and it was mesmerizing. You can watch them here, too, at this series of water falls that allow salmon migrating up the Grand River. Watch then as they jump from one pool to a higher one, working their way up the water falls. Like I said, mesmerizing.

14. Belknap Park Music Festival
30 Coldbrook St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

The Belknap is West Michigan’s seasonal pop-up outdoor concert venue located at Belknap Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Belknap Park is home to annual events Breakaway Music Festival and Upheaval Festival. With 360 degree views of downtown Grand Rapids from the top of the venue and located only 1 mile from the city center.

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Even More Best and Fun Things to Do in Grand Rapids Michigan

13. Take in the Skyline from Lookout Park
801 Fairview Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Speaking of views, this small park just down the road from Belknap makes for some amazing photos. It;s a great places to capture panoramic vistas of Grand Rapids.

12. Play at Millennium Park
1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534

You’ll find 1,400 acres of rolling hills, streams, rivers and even a lake with a beach at this beautiful natural area not far from downtown GR. Facilities within Millennium Park include a six-acre beach and splashpad, boat rental facilities, nearly 18 miles of trails, and other diverse opportunities for recreation and relaxation, so you can rent a paddleboard or simply splash to your hearts content.

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11. Disc Golf at Johnson Park
2600 Wilson Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534

This pretty park that runs along the shores of the Grand River for nearly 1.5 miles offers ample opportunities for fishing, picnicking, biking and ball games. It also has a great disc golf course.

10. Hike Ken-O-Sha Park
1353 Van Auken St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508

You’ll find both hiking and biking trails at this sprawling natural area with a playground, picnic area, basketball court and baseball field.

9. Founders Brewery
235 Cesar E. Chavez Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

As the 15th-largest brewery in the country, Founders Brewing is one of Michigan’s finest and most well-known breweries. A favorite of beer enthusiasts everywhere, it’s also one of our favorites and a must-visit destination for craft-brew lovers.

8. Fulton Street Farmers Market
1145 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Still remember my first visit to this sprawling farmers market, when I purchased a full bushel of the largest and juciest San Marzano tomatoes to make sauce for less than $10. Fulton Street Market has been in operation since 1922 and is one of the top Michigan farmer’s markets. West Michigan is home to amazing farms, so you’ll find super-fresh fruits, vegetables and more here.

7. Grand Rapids African American Museum
 87 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Open year-round with programs and events for adults, children, and families, this unique spot features homespun exhibits honoring the history of the local black community. You’ll find a fun gift shop here, too.

6. Heritage Hill Historic Center

You’ll want to explore this resident neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places. Bounded by Crescent Street, Union Avenue, Pleasant Street, and Lafayette Avenues, it is one of the largest urban historic districts in the United States. You’ll find more than 60 different architectural styles and 1,300 houses dating from 1884 -1920’s.

5. Explore East Grand Rapids and Gaslight Village

This charming, upscale community just east of the city is home to a collection of eclectic and upscale boutiques, shops and eateries. You’ll also find playgrounds, hiking and biking trails, and relaxing greenspaces.

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Unique Things to Do in Grand Rapids Michigan

4. Kayak Reeds Lake
744 Lakeside Dr SE, East Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Rent a kayak and get out onto Reeds Lake in the middle of East Grand Rapids. This pretty freshwater lake is perfect for swimming and splashing in the summer!

3. Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens
1750 E Beltline Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

The preserve’s 100+ acres of native plants and natural habitats offer boundless opportunities to explore and connect with nature. You’ll find trails to wander and take in the amazing natural setting.

2. Great Lakes Pub Cruiser
 514 Bond st NW Next to Icon on Bond Apartments, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

One of the best ways to explore the city is on a peddle pub, a personal bar on wheels. Choose from 2, 2.5 or 3 hour tours where you can visit your favorite restaurants and pubs along the way. Enjoy the outdoors while experiencing a fun and safe event with your friends or colleagues.

1 Planetarium at the Grand Rapid Public Museum
272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

The Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium is a beautiful place to relax and take in the stars. Experience the incredible forces of our universe as you visit the galaxy, constellations, far away planets and much more at this amaing planetarium in Grand Rapids.

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Near Grand Rapids

With a central location in west Michigan, there’s so many places worth exploring that are just a short trip from the city, including South Haven, Holland and Grand Haven. If you visit Grand Haven during the summer, don’t miss the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. It’s spectacular.

One unique spot we like to visit is Cedar Springs, just a short drive north of Grand Rapids. Indian Trails bus lines provide service to and from Cedar Springs daily.

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About the Author
Kyrsten Newlon is a content writing and editing intern for Growing up in Kalamazoo, she wrote and read everything she could. Now, she is a student at Grace College with Journalism and Communications majors and an English minor. She has been published by Grace College, the Winona Lake Newsletter, Input Fort Wayne, and various online blogs. Kyrsten loves raising puppies to be service dogs, spending time in coffee shops, and adventuring through Michigan.