The Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids, Michigan

From family-friendly activities to adult tipples, Grand Rapids has something for everyone
From family-friendly activities to adult tipples, Grand Rapids has something for everyone | © Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Tim Marklew
13 August 2020

Grand Rapids has become one of the most exciting tourist destinations not just in the Midwest, but in the country. From some of the USA’s top breweries and bars to historical and cultural museums and galleries, there’s something for everyone in Michigan’s second-largest city.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Art Gallery, Botanical Garden
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Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture Park Walking
© Experience Grand Rapids / Bob Newman

East of downtown, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park combines beautiful nature and art to create one of the top cultural destinations in the Midwest. The vast 158-acre (64ha) site comprises indoor and outdoor gardens, sculpture galleries and 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 nearly 300 sculptures.

Gerald R Ford Museum

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Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum 2
© Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

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 artefacts, including head-of-state gifts, campaign materials and merchandise commemorating the bicentennial. You can also visit the burial site of Ford and his wife, Betty, on the museum’s grounds.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

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Carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum
© Mod Bettie / Grand Rapids Public Museum

Learn about the history of Grand Rapids across three floors at Michigan’s oldest and second-largest museum. The Grand Rapids Public Museum lies on the riverfront, and highlights among its permanent collection include a 1928 carousel, a planetarium and a detailed recreation of the city in the 1890s.

Founders Brewing Company

Craft Ale Bar, American
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Founders Brewing Company-2
© Founders Brewing Company / Robert Newman

A trip to Beer City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a brewery, and Founders is the big one. Established 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.

Downtown Market Grand Rapids

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Sushi rolls from Sushi Maki at the Downtown Market, Grand Rapids, Michigan
© James Schaedig / Alamy Stock Photo

As cool and innovative as markets come, the Downtown Market Grand Rapids is among the first LEED-certified markets 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, with a produce market, restaurants, a school and performance hall.

GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum)

Art Gallery
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Grand Rapids - Downtown - Cityscape2
© Experience Grand Rapids / Bradley Scott

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 artwork that spans thousands of years and comes from across the world.

Meyer May House

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The Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Prairie-style home, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was completed in 1909.
© BDP / Alamy Stock Photo

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this house 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 the brief opening hours on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s an excellent example of Wright’s prairie-style house and features a restored mural, repaired art glass windows and original furnishings from 1909.

John Ball Zoo

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Sky Trail Ropes Adventure Course at John Ball Zoo
© William Hebert / John Ball Zoo

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 hands-on exhibits for kids. It’s also home to more than 210 species and more than 2,220 individual animals, as well as seasonal attractions such as the Sky Trail Ropes Course, a zipline over the zoo, and camel rides. There’s also educational programming on wildlife conservation and preservation.

These recommendations were updated on August 13, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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