Not many realize it, but Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in Michigan behind Detroit. It is the county seat of Kent County and has a long history. It is often referred to as Furniture City for it is the home of five of the leading producers of office furniture in the world. It was also the home of former U.S. president Gerald Ford. Located on the west side of the state, Grand Rapids offers a lot for its residents and visitors alike. Here are 10 things everyone should do while in this great city.
Visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
He was the pride of Grand Rapids. Gerald Ford went to the University of Michigan and was starter on the football team that won the 1932 and 1933 national championships. He went on to rise to the highest office in the U.S., that of president. Visitors can learn about Ford, his life, and his time as president on a tour through the Presidential Museum. Ford’s Presidential Library, however, is located in Ann Arbor over a hundred miles away. When you leave the museum, be sure to take a turn on the swing outside.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Walk through this outdoor sculpture park. There are miles of trails, a tropical conservatory, and even a butterfly exhibit. The highlights, of course, are the unique sculptures that include Leonardo’s Horse, an amazing 24-foot sculpture in the center of the park. Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to sculpt a horse that he was never able to complete. Hundreds of years later, art lovers in the U.S. were able to complete two, one of which is located in this Grand Rapids’ park.
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Check Out The John Ball Zoo
There are over 1,100 animals from five different continents around the world. The zoo is just a mile or two outside of downtown Grand Rapids and has a number of interesting displays and exhibits including the South American Boardwalk, the Living Shores Aquarium, and the Mokomboso Valley Chimpanzee Exhibit. There are rides and activities for kids and even a zipline, should you dare. The zipline will take you on a 300-foot fly over of the zoo.
Take The Tour Of The Meyer May House
The famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was hired to design a home for a wealthy resident of Grand Rapids. The result was this Prairie style wonder, which has been completely restored with all of the original furnishings as well as several reproductions. The house is exquisite and the architecture is breathtaking. Take the one hour tour which is free to the public. It is worth every minute.
See A Baseball Game At Fifth Third Ballpark
During the summertime, you can check out some future Detroit Tigers and head to the Fifth Third Ballpark to take in a minor league baseball game. The stadium is the home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, a Tigers affiliate that plays in the Midwest League. There are all sorts of game promotions including several giveaways throughout the season. Don’t eat before the game. Visit the concession stand and try the 5,000-calorie Fifth Third burger. It easily feeds four
Take In The Festival Of The Arts
Grand Rapids has a long tradition of catering to the arts and the annual Festival of the Arts pays tribute to that legacy. Each year, residents of the city and visitors can the downtown area and take in all sorts of entertainment. There are several stages which feature singers, bands, dancers, and more. Artists display their creations for public viewing and there is an amazing array of food vendors from which to choose. The event usually takes place in early June.
When looking for places to eat in the city, there are a few that are must-stops. The Cottage should definitely be on your list. In operation since 1927, the Cottage is the oldest restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids. Their hamburger has been voted the best in Michigan numerous times. They have a full menu and the atmosphere is awesome. It feels like you are inside an old wooden ship. Have a burger and try their award winning chili while you are in Grand Rapids. You won’t regret it.
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You have to make a trip to Yesterdog, home of the best hot dog in Michigan. Since 1991, Yesterdog has won Grand Rapids Magazine’s Best Hotdog. Choose from the six different hotdogs on the menu and dine in the 1930s era dining room. There are vintage posters, old style booths, and even an old cash register operated by a hand crank. Customers can toss their tips in the old gramophone horn when they leave. Yesterdog was the inspiration for Dog Years, a fictional hotdog shop that appeared in the popular teen movie American Pie. You will enjoy the experience at Yesterdog, but you will enjoy the hotdogs even more.
Founders Brewing Company
Grand Rapids has also gained a reputation as “Beer City” and the Founders Brewing Company is a big reason why. The brewery started in 1997 producing a few craft brews and now produces over 130,000 barrels per year. In 2013 Founders was rated the No. 3 best brewery in the entire world according to Ratebeer.com. You can sample some of their best brews and, most likely, you will be taking some home with you. Enjoy lunch or dinner while there. The food is almost as good as the beer.
No matter where you head in Grand Rapids you are sure to have a great time so explore the city and then come on back here to let me know what you loved the most, see you soon!