In 2022, over 440,000 people visited Kent County, Michigan, which meant record highs in tourism for the area. It might sound strange that a destination in Michigan has generated so much interest, but you’d be surprised at what a hidden gem Kent County is!
For well-seasoned travelers, you’re probably tired of going where all other tourists go. And if you’re a mom planning fun vacations, then you will want to go off the beaten path. And a visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan can be just what you need.
In this article, I’ll discuss 11 fun things to do in Grand Rapids so you’ll see what a fantastic destination it is!
If you’re visiting while the weather’s nice in Grand Rapids, then you have to go to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. It spans 158 acres and is one of the best attractions in the area!
This park incorporates nature with art, utilizing both indoor and outdoor spaces. It’s great for people who love plants, as you’ll find several gardens with hundreds of flower species, as well as exotic plants in the Lena Meijer Conservatory.
For art lovers, you’ll see sculptures indoors from artists such as Rodin and Degas. There are contemporary sculptures outside; with over 200, you definitely won’t get bored.
Whether you’re in Grand Rapids with your kids or by yourself, the John Ball Zoo is exciting for people of all ages. It provides an educational experience while allowing you to get up close and personal with animals from all over the world.
The zoo has several sections showcasing creatures from under the water to the African savannahs and lush forests. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for our world’s biodiversity after you’ve seen all the exhibits.
There are even hands-on experiences at the John Ball Zoo! You can brush a goat’s coat, or if you’re feeling brave, ride a camel.
Do you like tasting the local fare? Then there’s no better way to do it than by going to the Fulton Street Farmers Market. It’s the city’s biggest and oldest farmers market; it just had its 100th birthday in 2022!
You can stroll through the market on Fulton Street, where over 200 vendors set up shop to sell not only fresh vegetables and fruits, but also baked goods, art, and other homemade items. You might just find something special to buy and bring home for either yourself or a loved one.
This market is open in the main season from May to October on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. During the second season, it’s open from November to April on Saturdays only from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
For something unique and a nice cold glass of beer, go to Brewery Vivant. This brewery used to be a historic funeral parlor, plus it’s in East Hill, where you’ll find plenty of trendy shops around.
When the funeral parlor was renovated into a brewery, it was built with French and Belgian chapels in mind. That means that when you step in, you’ll see beautiful stained glass and high vaulted ceilings.
any modern-day breweries create limited edition beers (some even use methods for brewing smoothie beers and other unusual types of beers), and Brewery Vivant does the same.
Brewery Vivant brews European-style beers in small batches, so you’re drinking limited brews here. If you’re interested in their process, you can always take a free tour of the two-barrel brewery too!
What’s great is you can get delicious locally-sourced food at the brewery to pair with your beer. You can then enjoy your meal either inside the chapel or Walloon room up top. Otherwise, head to the Bier Garden if there’s good weather!
Even if you’re not religious, you need to consider the Basilica of St. Adalbert when trip planning. It’s an architectural beauty, and tells a lot of the area’s history. Plus, it’s one of the only minor basilicas in the US; it earned this honored title in 1980.
The church came to be because Polish immigrants requested it in 1881. For almost 30 years, it was a simple and small wooden church, but in 1907, the edifice was built.
Today, visitors are welcome to go inside and marvel at the interior architecture. Just make sure you’re not interrupting any religious ceremonies.
Escape from the city during your trip to Grand Rapids by visiting the Blandford Nature Center. There are 143 acres on this property where there are not only green fields, but also clear streams and ponds.
The nature center is dedicated to rescuing wildlife. While their main goal is to nurse injured animals back to health, some remain at the center if they can’t survive on their own in the wild. Here, they serve as wildlife ambassadors in the center’s educational programs.
During your time here, make sure to visit the Blandford Farm too. At its community gardens, you can learn gardening and farming skills. And if you’re bringing the kiddos, they can have tons of fun in the petting area!
Craig’s Cruisers isn’t technically in Grand Rapids, but it’s only seven miles south, so it’s doable! It’s excellent for a date or a family day out.
This amusement park mostly has indoor attractions across its 120,000 square feet of space. You can spend hours playing arcade games or shooting one another at laser tag. For thrill-seekers, you can get on the zip line, which sends you flying across the park.
If you prefer to be outside, then there are four choices: mini golf, bumper boats, go-karts, and a trampoline hall.
La Grande Vitesse is a famous landmark in Grand Rapids. It’s a large red steel sculpture made by the renowned Alexander Calder in 1969.
To find La Grande Vitesse, go to Calder Plaza. Snapping a selfie with it will create an unforgettable memory!
Make sure you stop by the 1/23rd scale bronze model though. This is another piece of work in itself since it’s covered in Braille, which explains La Grande Vitesse.
Also, if you’re in town at the right time, you’ll find bustling festivals in this plaza. Food trucks also gather here often, so if you’re hungry, there’s a good chance you can fuel up here too.
Grand Rapids is home to over 14 golf courses, so you’ll be spoiled for choice if you’re an avid golfer. You’re in for a treat, as the scenery is incredible! For example, the pristine wetlands feature prominently on several greens, which will take your breath away.
If you’re not sure which courses to visit, try the popular Indian Trails Golf Course. There’s a 25-acre driving range, and you can play 9 or 18 holes.
You can also go to Thornapple Pointe, where you’ll get exquisite views of the Thornapple River. Do note that you can only play 18 holes here.
When the weather’s bad, or you just don’t feel like spending time outdoors, try an escape room instead. While every city has these, there are over 15 in Grand Rapids, and some have themes you won’t find anywhere else, so you can have the best escape room experience here!
With so many options, it’ll be easy to fill a few empty hours in an afternoon. Working your brain to get out of a sticky situation with your friends or family can be what you need to get pumped up for the rest of your itinerary.
For something more refined when you visit Grand Rapids, you can’t go wrong with the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Not enough people appreciate classical music nowadays; if you’ve never been to a concert before, then there’s no better time to cross this off your list than now. The symphony plays with such passion that you’ll wonder why you didn’t get into classical concerts earlier.
If you’re afraid of missing a performance, then you should know that the symphony has over 400 of them in the year, spread between two concert halls: St. Cecilia’s Music Center and the DeVos Performance Hall.
You might’ve previously thought that Michigan wasn’t a state to put on your “to-go” list. But after reading about these things to do in Grand Rapids, you probably have a new view.
So if you’ve got some time off soon, it’s a good idea to book a vacation to Grand Rapids. The city has so many diverse activities that there’s something for everyone!
If you want to learn more about vacation planning, then take a look at our blog posts now.