How Grand Rapids Parking Works and How to Get Around Downtown
There are so many interesting things to do in downtown Grand Rapids, but it’s not always easy to figure out Grand Rapids parking, like where to park or how to get around.
When going to an event downtown, I like to know where my parking options are, and if I have children in tow, are there public transportation options? I don’t want to hear “Mom, I’m tired” every two minutes while walking multiple blocks to our next destination.
There are so many options for parking and moving around the city that a trip downtown will be easy. We live in the perfect sized city, so don’t let parking keep you away!
Get the MOTU App for Grand Rapids Parking
I love going downtown, so therefore I don’t mind parking downtown. I know sometimes it can be intimidating, but if you are well prepared and confident, it can be a simple task before enjoying your time downtown.
The City of Grand Rapids is expanding options on ways to get downtown, so before leaving your house, check the city’s Downtown Visitor Mobility and Parking Guide.
How to Use the MOTU App
Parking meters aren’t what they used to be. So even if you don’t carry change and don’t feel like digging between the seats to find some, meters are still an option.
While they do accept coins, most downtown meters are also compatible with the Motu app on your phone. If you haven’t already, download the app, set up an account with your license plate number and credit card information.
Once you have found a parking spot, open the app, and enter the zone and space number posted on the meter. It will ask you, length of stay and payment info. (Tip – you can either save your credit card information to the app or load a prepaid wallet option for a quicker transaction next time!).
One of my favorite features about the Motu app is that it will send you parking session alerts, and you can extend your session remotely. You can only extend your session twice, by 10 minutes each time, but sometimes you just need that extra 20 minutes!
If you take a picture or make note of your space number, you can also simply start an additional parking session as well.
Most parking meters are not enforced on weekends or after 6:00 PM during the week. If you visit downtown on a major holiday, you’re in luck!
Street parking is always free on these holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
This interactive map will tell you exactly when meters are enforced and the parking rates for those spots.
Parking Ramps and Lots in Downtown Grand Rapids
For off-street parking, choose between one of many ramps and surface lots. While the ramps accept credit and debit cards, most parking lots only accept cash and coins, so come prepared!
This interactive map of the public parking lots and ramps displays the rates nearby DASH routes as well so you can easily see where best fits your location and budget.
Pro-tip: If you are a Kent County resident and visiting the Grand Rapids Public Museum, you can actually park for free at the GRPM ramp on Front Ave (close to the Blue Bridge).
There are also many Ellis parking lots and ramps through out the city that can be utilized, especially during events. One of their best options is at Studio Park, where you can be validated for up to four hours of parking when you buy an admission to the Celebration Cinema there.
Also, if you will be dining downtown, check with the restaurant beforehand as several will validate parking when requested.
Grand Rapids Public Transportation Options
Try Out a Spin Scooter
Rentable scooters are the latest in Grand Rapids mobility. Widely embraced by both downtown visitors and the locals, Spin, a Ford Motor company subsidiary, has brought hundreds of rentable scooters to downtown Grand Rapids and its nearby neighborhoods.
You must use a driver’s license to unlock a scooter (for $1) and then it’s about $.15/minute. You can pick up a scooter just about anywhere around town. My husband hopped on a scooter near Ottawa Hills library and rode it all the way to the Downtown Market with friends. They loved it and have zoomed around town several times since.
Once you’re done, you can return it to any sidewalk area in Grand Rapids. Just make sure it’s propped up and take a pic to show the app where you left it.
This is a fun option for anyone with a license who is 18 & up. You are not supposed to have two people ride the scooter, so it’s really only available for those with a license, which makes sense – you know the rules of the road and how to practice safe scooter operating.
Ride the Rapid – Grand Rapids’ Bus System
If, despite all the options, you’d rather just avoid parking downtown altogether, you can choose to take public transportation and Ride The Rapid! There is a small fee to ride the bus downtown to the Bus Station, which is a short walk to many destinations downtown.
If already downtown, the Silver Line has a No Fare Zone. From Wealthy Street (near Mary Free Bed), looping north to Michigan Street, then coming back down south along Monroe, if you enter and exit the bus, there will be no fee.
DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle)
Moving around downtown for free has never been easier! The DASH buses pass by many “points of interest” every 8 minutes. The DASH has two routes, North and West. DASH North runs from East Leonard all the way down to the Downtown Market at Ionia & Logan, while the DASH West figure-eights around downtown and the museum district on the west side of the Grand River. The normal DASH schedule is:
Monday – Wednesday; 6:30 AM – 10:30 PM
Thursday – Friday; 6:30 AM – 1:00 AM
Saturday; 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM
Sunday; 10:00 – 8:00 PM
To learn more about the schedule, real-time bus updates, and detours click here.
The DASH is especially great during events like Artprize when there is lots to see and do!
May Mobility (AVGR)
The Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative program (AVGR) with its self-driving cars is a fun option for adults. Following the same route as the DASH West, you can easily hop into one at any of the stops where you see a sign posted.
Since these are car sized, if you have a younger child who would still need to use a car seat or booster you must also use it in their vehicle, but if your kids are big enough to ride with just a seat belt, you are good to go.
Pedestrian Walkways Are Great Shortcuts
One of the least utilized means for making easy navigation around downtown are the pedestrian only walkways, tunnels, and skywalks. These “shortcuts” can keep you out of inclement weather and provide some peace of mind if your littles aren’t into holding hands.
When utilizing the parking ramp below Calder Plaza, you can travel underground to get to either Monroe Street or even directly into GR Symphony Building at 300 Ottawa.
When the weather isn’t terrible you can enjoy pedestrian only trails along both banks of the river, two bridges spanning the Grand River– the Blue Bridge linking just south of GRPM and the Marriott hotels and the Gillett bridge linking the Gerald R. Ford Museum/Ah-Nab-Awan Park with the DeVos Center, as well as the Campau Promenade, Midtown Arcade, and Keeler Walkway.
Grand Rapids is a vibrant city with so much to do. Don’t let confusion about parking and public transportation keep you away!