What to do in Grand Rapids

By Brandi M. Seals

Grand Rapids, Mich. is the second largest city in the state and a great place to visit. Located within an hour of the shores of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids is home to several malls, an international airport, one-of-a-kind restaurants and great museums. The Grand Rapids area offers visitors a lot to see and do.

If shopping is your thing head down to the southeast side on 28th Street and check out the Centerline Mall or head a couple miles further east to visit the Woodland Shopping Center. Located in the city of Wyoming, these malls will give visitors an opportunity to peruse the aisles and find just what they are looking for. Across town in Grandville is the Rivertown Crossings Mall. This two-story mall has all your favorite shops and a carousel by the food court. Kids can take a spin for $1.

Museums and More
While in town be sure to head over to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Located at 1000 East Beltline N.E. in Grand Rapids, the park opened April 20, 1995. It is the second most-popular tourist destination in Michigan The 125-acre Gardens feature Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; indoor gardens, outdoor gardens, sculpture galleries, outdoor sculpture park; and more.

Visit Frederik Meijer Gardens near Christmas and see their annual display of “Christmas and Holiday Traditions around the World.” The display features Christmas trees decorated for different countries. Or, stop in during Spring and see beautiful butterflies throughout the gardens. It is the largest tropical butterfly exhibit in the nation.

Downtown Grand Rapids is home to the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum. From being the only person ever to become president without being elected to an attempted assassination plot by a Charles Manson follower, everyone will learn something new about the 38th president of the United States.

If you have children, be sure to stop by the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, also located in downtown Grand Rapids. While several of their exhibits are constantly changing, kids will guaranteed a good time at the Beehive Exhibit. A real live beehive is viewable within Plexiglas. Kids can see the bees make bees wax and honey, as well as see the bees in different stages of their lives.

Or why not stop by the John Ball Zoo? This small zoo has a friendly staff and over a hundred animals to see. There are more then the typical lions, tigers, and bears. Be sure to visit the nocturnal animal exhibit and see the unusual animals here. Watch the kinkajous play, see the pygmy marmosets navigate their way through the trees, and take in the long claws found on the Hoffman sloth, the most relaxed animal in the zoo that rarely moves.

The Grand Rapids area has all the traditional favorites – Carrabas, Lonestar, Red Lobster, etc. But, there are also a few one-of-a-kind restaurants that feature excellent food for those will to try something a little bit different.

San Chez a Tapas Bistro serves up traditional Spanish appetizers, called tapas. Each table picks out a few tapas to order and shares the food. All the names are in Spanish, but do not worry, servers can explain what anything on the menu is and will even help you with the pronunciation.

Don’t know what kind of food you want? Stop by the B.O.B. The B.O.B. (which stands for Big Old Building) is a former warehouse that has been renovated and now houses several restaurants and a microbrewery. Dine at Judson’s Steakhouse, The Blue Crab Lounge, Auburn, Bobarino’s or Kabobs. Stay late and dance the night away at Crush, or see a comedian at Dr. Grin’s, both are also located at the B.O.B.

If the thought of an Italian bistro titillates your taste buds, drop by Bistro Bella Vita. Enjoy some calamari marinated in pesto sauce and served over pomodoro sauce with lemon and aioli or why not get the steamed mussels that have been steamed in white wine butter sauce with roasted tomatoes, garlic, capers, onions, basil and toast points.

Low Cost Tourist Attractions
If you are looking to save a little money on your vacation, there are plenty of free and exciting things to see in the Grand Rapids Area. Downtown is spotted with sculptures, free for all to see. Be sure to see La Grande Vitesse by Alexander Calder (by the way the name of the piece translates to “the grand rapids”).

You can also pick up a free map for a walking tour of Heritage Hill, an area of East Grand Rapids known for its Victorian homes, including a few designed by the renowned Frank Lloyd Wright. Visit the Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association (http://www.heritagehillweb.com/) for your map.

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