Known as Michigan’s second-largest city, Grand Rapids is a flourishing metropolis home to almost 200,000 people. With its expansive urban landscape and plethora of things to do, it’s no wonder this city has become a popular tourist destination.
From museums and art galleries to breweries and restaurants, there is something for everyone in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So take a road trip East of Lake Michigan to uncover all that this city has to offer.
Here are 15+ things to do in Grand Rapids that you just can’t miss.
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a 158-acre botanical garden and sculpture park that features over 500 sculptures by famous artists like Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, and Claes Oldenburg. The gardens and sculpture park are open year-round.
Stroll through the gardens, admire the stunning horticultural displays, or explore the sculpture park and see some of the world’s most famous sculptures. There is also a children’s garden, a conservatory, and a café on-site, so you might want to spend a half a day here when you visit Grand Rapids.
A beautiful pond with bridges and a waterfall give the The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden in the sculpture park a tranquil feel. The park delights all senses with not only sculptures and gardens, but also with the sounds of chirping birds and trickling water.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse
Why not go even further back in history and see a replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s horse? This three-story-tall bronze sculpture is based on the design of da Vinci’s horse, which was never actually built.
The details on the horse are incredible, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. It can be difficult to imagine its actual size until you see it in person. Artist Nina Akamu created the sculpture, located on the grounds of Meijer Gardens. It’s a great photo op, and it’s a fun way to learn about da Vinci’s work.
Nina Akamu’s sculpture is just one of the many exciting art pieces you’ll find at Meijer Gardens. As mentioned above, the gardens also feature sculptures by other artists.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is a museum dedicated to the life and legacy of former President Gerald Ford.
Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States, and the only President to have never been elected to either the Presidency or the Vice Presidency. That’s right, he was sworn in as President after Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, and served until 1977.
The museum is located in downtown Grand Rapids, and it features a permanent exhibit on Ford’s time as president, his childhood in Michigan, and his post-presidential years. Mrs. Ford is also an integral part of the museum.
Depending on your visiting date, you might catch one of many temporary exhibits at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Grand Rapids Public Museum
Keeping with the museum theme, the Grand Rapids Public Museum is another excellent place to spend an afternoon.
This museum is located in the downtown area, and it features several permanent exhibits, including a planetarium, a carousel, and a presentation on the history of Grand Rapids.
American Indians of West Michigan
A big part of Grand Rapids’ history is the city’s relationship with the Native American tribes that once lived in the area. The GRPM celebrates this relationship with the American Indians of West Michigan, a permanent exhibit that tells the story of the area’s Indigenous people.
Specifically, you’ll be able to learn more about the Anishinabek people, who have inhabited this region for centuries. Thought to be direct descendants of Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi tribes, the Anishinabek have a deep connection to the land.
The exhibit includes many artifacts and oral histories from tribal members.
Meyer May House
History buffs will love the Meyer May House. Frank Lloyd Wright designed this historic house in 1908, and it is one of only two Wright-designed houses in Michigan.
The house is open for tours year-round, a few days each week, and it features beautiful decor, furniture, and art from the early 20th century. If you’re a fan of architecture or design, this is one of the best things to do in Grand Rapids.
Considered to be a pristine example of Wright’s Prairie style of architecture, the Meyer May House is a beautiful example of his work.
Meyer May is located in the Heritage Hill neighborhood, which is also home to several other historic houses and sites. Allow some time to explore this area when you’re in town, as there is a lot to see and do.
John Ball Zoo
If you have kids (or if you’re a kid at heart), be sure to visit the John Ball Zoo. This zoo is home to many animals from all over the world, including lions, tigers, and bears.
The premises are split into many different areas, each with its own continental ecosystem. You’ll also find an amphitheater, a petting zoo, and an aquarium during your adventure. The zoo staff offer guided tours, and educational programs are available. In the summer months, the zoo stays open late so you can watch the animals at night.
The John Ball Zoo is well known for its conservation efforts, so you’re also helping to protect endangered animals by supporting the zoo. Please note, the zoo is closed during the winter.
The heart of the Grand Rapids food scene is the Downtown Market. This indoor market is home to several different food vendors, a cooking school, and a bar.
Butchers, fishmongers, and bakers are just a few vendors you’ll find at the Downtown Market. Many events are held at the Downtown Market throughout the year, including a farmers market, art fairs, and live music.
Vintage is big in Grand Rapids, and you’ll find some antique stores in the downtown area. In May, you can assist in an event with over 50 handmade vendors.
Exploring is done by foot, and in Michigan winters, the indoor market is a welcomed commodity.
Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery
If you’re looking for something a little more fruity, head to Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery. This orchard and winery are located in the countryside outside of Grand Rapids, and it’s a great place to spend a day.
The orchard has thousands of apple trees, where you can pick your apples in the fall. The winery offers tastings of over a dozen different wines, and you can also buy bottles to take home.
Their hard ciders are very popular, and they offer a variety of flavors. Made with apples from the orchard, these ciders are a must-try when you’re in Grand Rapids.
Kids will flip out over the petting zoo, cornfield maze, and hayrides. Operating for over a century now, Robinette’s also has a bakery and a gift shop, so it’s a good place to stock up on souvenirs.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
If you’re looking for a place to take the kids, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is a great option. This museum is geared towards kids aged 0-12, and it features a number of interactive exhibits.
The GRCM has a water play area, a musical space, and a Lego room, among other things. They also have several rotating exhibits, so there’s always something new to see. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is a perfect occasion to develop your little ones’ curiosity with a focus on hands-on learning.
Fish Ladder Park
If you want to get out and enjoy nature, Fish Ladder Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Grand Rapids. This park is located on the banks of the Grand River, and it’s home to many different species of fish.
The highlight of Fish Ladder Park is the fish ladder. This structure allows fish to swim between the river and the pond, and it’s a great place to watch them in action. There’s also a nature trail that winds its way through the park.
Designed by Joseph Kinnebrew, the Fish Ladder is both functional and beautiful. It’s meant to help take a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown Grand Rapids, and it does just that.
Grand Rapids Art Museum
As you’ve guessed by now, Grand Rapids is heavily culture-oriented. The Grand Rapids Art Museum is one of the best examples of this. This museum features various exhibits, a cafe, and a library.
The GRAM is the first newly-built gold LEED-certified art museum in the world. Their permanent exhibits include mediums from painting to sculpture. Visit their website to learn more about special events held at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
Located in the center of downtown, the Grand Rapids Art Museum offers the best views of Ecliptic, designed by Maya Lin and named Rosa Parks Circle.
Blandford Nature Center
If you’re looking for a nature escape, Blandford Nature Center is the place for you. This center comprises over 1,500 acres of land, and it’s home to various animals.
You’ll find hawks, falcons, vultures, owls at the nature center, and a few reptiles and amphibians. There’s also a petting zoo where you can get up close and personal with some farm animals.
Blandford Nature Center is open all year round, and they offer a variety of programs for both kids and adults.
They are categorized as an educational nature center, and they offer a variety of different programs for people of all ages. Blandford Nature Center has something for everyone, from nature walks to bird watching.
Volunteering is also a big part of Blandford Nature Center. They have diverse volunteer opportunities, from working in the gift shop to caring for the grounds and fauna.
Heritage Hill is a historic district located just east of downtown Grand Rapids. This area is home to multiple historic landmarks, including the first public library in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The homes in Heritage Hill were built between 1843 and 1905, and they reflect a variety of different architectural styles. It is thought that Heritage Hill was the first neighborhood in Grand Rapids to be designated as a historic district.
A self-guided walking tour is the best way to see all that Heritage Hill offers. The HHA, or Heritage Hill Association, oversees the district and offers many different tours. You’re likely to encounter Frank Lloyd Wright’s first home in Michigan during your stroll. This home is now a museum, and it’s open to the public for tours.
Van Andel Arena
The Van Andel Arena is located in downtown Grand Rapids MI and is an entertainment complex that hosts concerts, shows, sporting events, and more year-round.
Home to the AHL hockey team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, this arena is the place to be for hockey lovers. With family-friendly shows, comedy shows, music concerts, and more, Van Andel Arena is a popular spot.
Fulton Street Market
The Fulton Street Farmers Market is a great place to get locally grown produce, and they work hard to increase food access and reduce food waste.
The Market operates in two 6-month seasons. Main Season (May-October) hosts Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday markets from 8 AM – 2 PM. Second Season (November-April) hosts a weekly market on Saturdays from 10 AM – 1 PM.
Each market provides a diverse array of products including fruits and veggies, dairy and meat, snacks and desserts, hot and prepared food, & handmade arts and crafts.
The Market hosts a Market Gleaning Program, in which produce donations are collected at the end of Saturday markets and brought to the Heartside neighborhood to be distributed to the community free of charge. Anything leftover is then delivered to local food pantries.
This is a great market, and a great way to support the community.
Grand Rapids FAQ
Is Grand Rapids worth visiting?
Grand Rapids, Michigan, is well worth a visit! This culturally-rich town is home to some amazing museums and sites, including the Frederick Meijer Gardens, the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, and the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
Is Grand Rapids good for a weekend trip?
Grand Rapids is great for a weekend trip! You’ll find plenty of museums, art, breweries, and fun in Grand Rapids, making it a perfect weekend destination.
What are some things Grand Rapids is known for?
Grand Rapids is known for being a world leader in the production of office furniture, thus earing it the nickname, Furniture City. Another random fact: Grand Rapids became the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water in 1945.
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Where To Stay In Grand Rapids
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