Grand Rapids has become one of the most exciting tourist destinations not just in the Midwest, but in the country. From some of the U.S.A.’s top breweries and bars to historical and cultural museums and galleries, there’s something for everyone in Michigan’s second-largest city.
East of downtown, the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park combines beautiful nature and art to create one of the top cultural destinations in the Midwest. The vast 132-acre site is made up of indoor and outdoor gardens and sculpture galleries, as well as Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory. Among the many themed gardens are a Japanese garden, children’s garden and farm garden. There are also works by Rodin and Degas among the more than 200 sculptures.
America’s 38th president was raised in Grand Rapids, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum offers the chance to learn more about his life. There are replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room during his time in office, and exhibitions containing thousands of artifacts, including head of state gifts, campaign materials and merchandise commemorating the bicentennial. You can also visit the grave of Ford and his wife Betty, who are buried in the museum’s grounds.
Learn about the history of Grand Rapids across three floors at Michigan’s oldest and second-largest museum. The Grand Rapids Public Museum is located on the riverfront, and highlights among its permanent collection include a 1928 carousel, a planetarium and a detailed recreation of Grand Rapids in the 1890s.
A trip to Beer City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a brewery, and Founders is the big one. Since starting in 1997, it has become one of the most recognized breweries in the country. Its Grand Rapids location has a brewery you can tour, and a large taproom modeled after a German beer hall. As well as a deli menu, it serves rare and special beers not available anywhere else.
As cool and innovative as markets come, the Downtown Market Grand Rapids is the first LEED-certified market in the country, with a green roof and live walls among its many sustainable features. It’s also a hub for local food producers, education and entrepreneurship in the city, containing a produce market, restaurants, a school and a performance hall.
Also displaying the green credentials of Grand Rapids is the GRAM, which became the world’s first LEED Gold-certified art museum when its new building was constructed in 2007. The striking building is an attraction in its own right, but inside is an impressive collection of American and European 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture.
This house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for a prominent Grand Rapids clothier in 1909. In 1987 it was meticulously restored and opened to the public, and you can tour it for free during its brief opening hours on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. An excellent example of Wright’s prairie-style house, it features a restored mural, repaired art glass windows and original furnishings from 1909.
Located in the park of the same name west of downtown, the John Ball Zoo is a popular destination for families thanks to its many fun and hand-on exhibits for kids. It’s also home to over 200 species and over 1,300 individual animals, as well as seasonal attractions like the Sky Trail Ropes Adventure Course, a zipline over the zoo and camel rides. There’s also educational programming on wildlife conservation and preservation.