Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, located just 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. It’s continuing to make its way up the charts for top places to visit, and for good reason – there are so many things to do in Grand Rapids. Being locals in Grand Rapids gives us the opportunity to continue to explore everything the city has to offer. Grand Rapids has continued to become a popular destination for people of all ages as it has something to offer for everyone. Grand Rapids is known for its unique art scattered throughout the city, its vast number of breweries, child-friendly attractions, the home to Gerald R. Ford, and the beautiful Grand River that runs through the heart of the city. I told you there were a lot of things to do in Grand Rapids!
If you want to spend the majority of your time outside while visiting Grand Rapids, I would suggest avoiding the winter months of November-March. It can become unbearably cold with unpredictable snow, which can make travel difficult. Still, there are a lot of great things to do in Grand Rapids in winter (they’re just mostly indoors). During the spring months of April-early June you can expect occasional rain, milder temperatures in the 50s-60s, with cooler temperatures in the evening. The summer months of mid-June-early September will be warmer with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s-mid 80s with some humidity and the temperatures often dropping a little cooler in the evening. Fall is personally our favorite time of the year here from mid-September-late October as the temperatures drop to the mid-50s-high 60s along with the humidity dropping making it the perfect weather to be outside in pants and a sweatshirt without getting too hot or cold.
The city has something to do and is beautiful anytime of the year, so it is up to you what your preference of activities is during your visit. Either way, we’ll cover the best things to do in Grand Rapids with suggestions on where to stay and how to plan the best itinerary.
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Top Hotels Grand Rapids MI
Downtown Grand Rapids offers several nice hotels right in the heart of the city leaving you in walking distance to most of the city’s main attractions. The hotels you can find range from a lower end price of about $120-$150 a night all the way to some of the higher end hotels that you can expect to pay around $250-$300 a night and you can find some suggestions below.
City Flats Hotel
Holiday Inn Downtown Grand Rapids
The Holiday Inn is located directly across from both The Grand Rapids Public Museum as well as The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum making it an ideal location for those interested in visiting the museums while in town. The hotel also features free on-site parking and is steps away from beautiful views of the Grand River.
The JW Marriot Grand Rapids
The Amway Grand Plaza -- you HAVE to see this pool!
The Amway is another one of the high-end luxury hotels in the city. The Amway offers historic charm and an elegant feel from the moment you step into the building and is worth a walk through even if you are not staying at the hotel. If you do choose to stay at the hotel you can expect wonderful views of the city and the river while being located right in downtown Grand Rapids.
Top Things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan
There are so many things to do in Grand Rapids for people of all ages and there are many family friendly activities to choose from. You will have no problem filling up your Grand Rapids weekend itinerary and might even find you need to plan a second trip back to see everything you want! Below are some suggestions for things you will want to add to your schedule while in Grand Rapids.
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a great place to visit any time of the year. Meijer Gardens has been ranked in the top 100 most-visited art museums worldwide by Art Newspaper as well as one of the world’s top 30 must see museums that serves over 700,000 visitors annually. The 158-acre indoor/outdoor park includes one of the largest children’s gardens in the country as well as Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory, that features a beautiful and educational butterfly exhibit each spring.
Check out a Museum
One of the best things to do in Grand Rapids is check out a museum – and there sure isn’ts a shortage of them! Downtown holds six museums all within walking distance of each other. Be sure to look into the Culture Pass GR as a good way to save money if you plan to visit several of the museums during your trip. The Culture Pass GR is a 3-day pass costing only $24 that allows admission into the museums as well as the John Ball Park Zoo and discounts to other events around the area.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: experience America’s most entertaining presidential museum where you can attend a White House State Dinner, step inside the Oval Office, see the original Watergate burglar tools and Smithsonian-caliber changing exhibitions.
Grand Rapids Art Museum: changing exhibits feature local, national and international artists. The museum collection features Renaissance to Modern Art.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum: The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is great for the family and emphasizes the joy of learning by providing hands-on exhibits that inspire and encourage self-directed exploration.
Grand Rapids Public Museum: This museum offers incredible exhibits on history, nature, cultural heritage and more. The public museum has something for everyone and is appropriate for all ages and one of their features that you must do if attending is ride the 1928 carousel!
Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts: The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) features gallery exhibitions of work from regional, national and international artists throughout the year.
Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives: This museum shares the stories of local African Americans through recorded oral histories, memorabilia, exhibits, pop-up displays and special events.
Head to the Zoo
John Ball Park Zoo is located on the west side of the city and is a great zoo to visit with the family. The zoo is open from April-early December and the Culture Pass GR will grant you access to the zoo along with the museums. The zoo has several interactive experiences and visiting the top of “The Forest Realm” by foot or the funicular tram is a must as the city views from the top of the trail are beautiful!
Grab a Beer and Relax
There is a reason Grand Rapids was voted Beer City USA, with over 80 breweries in and around the area, 40+ breweries in the downtown area alone, and home to some of top breweries in the world. Many of the breweries offer special guided tours of facility at an additional cost or you create your own list or breweries to visit by following the Ale Trail, I highly suggest Founders Brewing Company!
While visiting any of the breweries be sure to ask for a Beer City Brewsader Passport or download the Beer City Brewsader App on your phone and check in to at least eight of the breweries to receive an exclusive Brewsader t-shirt.
Where to eat in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Wolfgang’s Restaurant: Wolfgang’s is an excellent local breakfast joint that was one of the first breakfast restaurants in the area. Wolfgang’s offers an extensive breakfast menu all for a reasonable price. It is not unusual to have a wait for this restaurant so plan accordingly if you are on a schedule!
The Littlebird: A cute location right in the center of downtown that offers both breakfast, lunch and dinner but their breakfast is especially good. They also have a sister location, That Early Bird, located about five minutes up the road that you can also choose to visit!
Sundance Grill and Bar: Sundance has been called the best breakfast in Grand Rapids several times and with their extensive food menu you’re sure to find something that everyone will like!
Lunch and Dinner
Schnitz Deli: If you are in the mood for a large deli style sandwich Schnitz is the place to visit. Their sandwiches are reasonable priced and taste great. They have a large sandwich menu and have the option of build your own sandwich.
Yesterdog: Yesterdog is a must if you are ever in Grand Rapids, they are a local hotdog joint that has made their name known by receiving several awards across the country. Enjoy looking at the hundreds of pictures on their walls of people sporting their Yesterdog t-shirts across the world and enjoy a hotdog while taking in the local atmosphere. Be aware that they are cash only!
Founders Brewing Company: If you are a beer drinker, I highly suggest Founders as their beer has received several awards and has made its way onto shelves and into bars around the world for good reasons. Founders has a great deli sandwich menu and is extremely family friendly for a brewery, their beer cheese dip is a must order!
Hopcat: Hopcat is located in the heart of downtown and has been named one of the top 50 bars in the US. Hopcat offers an extensive tap beer menu and has wonderful food to go with it, my go to menu item here is their grilled cheese!
The B.O.B: The B.O.B is another bar/restaurant located right in the heart of the city and features three restaurants inside of the building, we personally prefer Bobarino’s as it is more casual and offers a larger menu.
Brick and Porter: Brick and Porter is one of the newer restaurants in Grand Rapids that features several beers on tap and a pub style menu. They are another restaurant located right in the heart of the city and offer a casual atmosphere for dinner.
Nightlife and Evening Things to do in Grand Rapids
Nights in Grand Rapids are far from slow and whether you are needing family friendly nightlife or more into the bar scene you are sure to find something that everyone can enjoy.
If you are a music lover, you might want to try and catch a concert at one of the venues in the area.
Van Andel Arena: this is the largest venue in the area and tends to bring in the big-name artists, depending on the artist Van Andel may sell out so make sure to plan your trip early.
20 Monroe Live: this is one of the newer venues in the area that offers general admission standing section or assigned seats. 20 Monroe Live brings in quite the crowd and some good acts as well, be prepared to wait in line to get in if you purchase general admission tickets.
The Pyramid Scheme: is a great small standing room venue that focuses on bringing in fantastic independent artists and can be a perfect place to catch a smaller concert at a lower ticket price.
The Intersection: The Intersection offers majority standing tickets with minimal reserved seating and is another great venue to catch a concert for a lower ticket price and has been known to bring in some bigger name artists as well.
Catch a Grand Rapids Sporting Event
Grand Rapids is home to three minor league sports teams making it a great place to catch a game no matter what season it is.
The Grand Rapids Griffins: The Griffins are an AHL affiliate hockey team to the Detroit Red Wings that play out of The Van Andel Arena. Check their schedule HERE to buy tickets and be sure to also check out some of their fun themes and promotions they offer throughout the season.
The West Michigan Whitecaps: The West Michigan Whitecaps are a Class A Minor League Baseball team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. The Whitecaps play at Fifth Third Ballpark located in Comstock Park, about 10 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids.
The Grand Rapids Drive: The Drive basketball team is a part of the NBA G league and are an affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. The Drive plays out of the Deltaplex Arena, tickets are very reasonable and can be found here.
The Best Bars in Grand Rapids
Downtown Grand Rapids also has a large bar scene if that is the night life you are interested in. Bars in Grand Rapids are located all across the city but Ionia street, in the center of the city, has some great bar life, including Hopcat, Grand Rapids Brewing Co, J Gardellas Tavern, and Tavern on the Square.
The B.O.B: At night The B.O.B opens their fourth floor into a nightclub, called Eve, that can be a lot of fun if you enjoy dancing. They also have a basement floor that often features live music and bar games such as cornhole, Ping-Pong and giant Jenga. Dr. Grins comedy club is also located at The B.O.B and brings in some pretty big name comedians if that interests you!
Mojos Dueling Piano Bar: Mojos is an awesome place to visit on the weekends and a bar I would definitely suggest if you are ever in the city. Mojos is a two-story bar that features dueling pianos downstairs with a small dance floor and a larger dance floor with music upstairs. The pianists offer the opportunity to request songs and do a wonderful job at getting guests engaged in the performance.
Off the beaten Path Things to do in Grand Rapids
You definitely won’t run out of things to do in downtown Grand Rapids but if you are feeling like exploring more of what’s outside the city, I would suggest checking out downtown Rockford. Rockford is a cute little town located about twenty minutes north of Grand Rapids. The downtown of Rockford will give you that feeling of up north charm and make you feel as if you are on a whole different vacation.
The city of Rockford is located on the Rogue River and has beautiful walkways along the river and around the Rockford Dam. Rockford features cute local shops throughout the small city and has a handful of dining options. If you are planning to eat in Rockford I would suggest The Corner Bar as it is one of the first restaurants in Rockford and has some history within the building, Rockford Brewing Company is also another great option!
This post was written by Zoe Mamo from Mamo Mentality
We’re the Mamos, we’re Michigan born and raised and currently living outside of Grand Rapids. We are far from homebodies and love all things outdoors, traveling, being active/healthy, discovering new hobbies and places to explore, eating/drinking and making the best of this wonderful life we were given the opportunity to share together. Check out our blog at Mamo Mentality where we share our lifestyle through giving you travel ideas, activities and ideas to fit every budget, as well as sharing our favorite things and the memories we continue to create together. We hope to help positively inspire and influence those around us to live their best life possible. Follow along our family’s journey on Instagram!