Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI: 50+ Best Places to Go – With or Without Kids

Things to Do in Grand Rapids Michigan

Top Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI

If spending time in Grand Rapids, Michigan is on your list and you’re looking for things to do in Grand Rapids MI, this is the article for you.

There’s probably a lot more to discover in this mid-sized Midwestern city than you might realize!
*This post contains affiliate links; the revenue supports our local team. Thank you for your support!

Grand Rapids FAQs

Before we dive into the best things to do in Grand Rapids MI, let’s address two important details: the weather, and where GR is located. Activities in this midwest state are highly dependent on seasonal conditions.

Where is Grand Rapids, MI?

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is located on the west side of Michigan’s lower peninsula, about 2.5 hours west of Detroit.

When is the best time to visit Grand Rapids MI?

It’s always a good time to visit the outdoorsy city of Grand Rapids, Michigan but each season has its own draw.
The vibrant food and beer scene is present year-round, while a good number of outdoor attractions are available in the spring, summer, and fall months.

The days are long during the summertime, with the sun setting after 9 PM in July. This gives you ample time to get out and enjoy the area, from patio dining to river tubing to exploring parks & more.
Spring and Fall are seasons of change in West Michigan, making it hard to predict what the weather will bring.

They are great times to visit if you can be flexible with your activities, as you’ll beat the crowds and experience things at a more laid-back pace. Indoor destinations are open as well, ready to host you if your outdoor plans get too wet or blustery.

If you visit in the winter (winter weather here typically is in full force from December through February but can show up and linger for months on either side of the time period), come prepared for snow.

Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI

What are the best things to do in Grand Rapids?

That’s easy to answer in seven words:
Beer, Entertainment, Art & Culture, Recreation, Food, Brews & Coffee, and Shopping

This guide is your new travel buddy BFF. Use it to plan the best family travel experience or romantic weekend getaway in Grand Rapids yet, via this curated list of must-try spots and local faves.

1 – Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

1000 East Beltline Avenue NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Frederik Meijer Gardens is a breathtaking indoor/outdoor art and garden park located just outside of Downtown Grand Rapids. If you’ve been before you’ll want to go again, and if you’ve never been, you’re in for a treat!

Plan to stay the whole day if possible. Here’s a sample of what you can look forward to:

• Huge interactive children’s area (outdoors)
• Three-section Treehouse
• Great Lakes Water play area (summer only – bring a change of clothes)
• Japanese Gardens
• Leondardo da Vinci’s Horse
• Michigan Farm Garden
• Sculpture walk
• Amphitheater for concerts
• Art Gallery (inside)
• Tropical Conservatory (inside)

Additionally, you’ll be treated to seasonal displays throughout the year depending on the time of your visit. Expect:

WINTER: Holiday Traditions Around the World Tree Display
SPRING: Butterflies are Blooming
SUMMER: Summer Concert Series
AUTUMN: Fall mums and giant pumpkins

Meijer Gardens is located on its own campus, just outside of downtown and right off of 1-96. There are a few local places to eat nearby that kids love. If you prefer to dine inside the gardens, eat at the Taste of the Gardens Cafe.

Frederik-Meijer-Gardens
Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI

2 – Grand Rapids Public Museum

272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
A carousel ride with river view will top most kids’ (and parents) lists at the GR Public Museum.

It’s also home to the planetarium, a treasure trove of interactive local historical exhibits, an A to Z scavenger hunt, and world-class visiting exhibitions.

Bonus: The third floor rotates exhibits making this a place you will never tire of visiting.

GRPM-Grand-Rapids-Public-Museum-Family-walking-in-whale-fossil
Main Hall of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

3 – Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
303 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Not only is this museum a great stop for history buffs, but it’s also a place that can spark a love of history and government in kids and adults alike. 

This museum takes you through the life of president Gerald R. Ford, who was a Grand Rapids native, and highlights his unconventional rise to becoming President of the United States.

As you explore you will find exhibits such as the interactive Oval Office replica as well as an exhibit specifically for First Lady Betty Ford.

4 – Heritage Hill and Meyer May House

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
We’re not just Beer City — we’re Furniture City! Grand Rapids has a rich heritage of exceptionally skilled artisans who handcrafted furniture that would be coveted around the world. Baker, Sligh, Steelcase, Herman Miller, Stickley and more.

You can also get a small taste of Furniture City at the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s permanent exhibit, Streets of Old Grand Rapids.

And our forefathers could build houses, too! The iconic neighborhoods of Heritage Hill are lovely to walk through, with tours of various houses offered every spring. This is one of the delightful things to do in Grand Rapids when the weather is nice.

Frank Lloyd Wright fans can check out his Meyer May House for free on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
You can also DIY your own trip through time by following the Heritage Hill self-guided walking tour.

Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, MI
Heritage Hill

5 – John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo
1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Built on the ravines and bluffs to the west of John Ball Park, the zoo is quite hilly making it an explorable destination on top of being the spot to see animals.

This Grand Rapids mainstay is located on the west side of Grand Rapids, just a short drive from downtown.

Zoo animal highlights include Monkey Island, the chimpanzee exhibit, Tigers of the Realm, bears, an aquarium, a zipline, ropes course, funicular, and more.

John Ball Zoo is also known for its grand events peppered throughout their open season. You’ll love events like Superhero DayPrincess DayThe Zoo goes Boo, and other large-scale seasonal events.

Zipline over the waterfall at John Ball Zoo
Tiger at John Ball Zoo

6 – Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

GR Children’s Museum
11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
The GR Children’s Museum is two floors of nonstop fun! Permanent and rotating exhibits fill the space. Because of this, families love visiting over and over as each return seems like a new place to discover.

The bubble station, the treehouse, and the art room are all perennial favorites, but everything else in the space is just begging to be explored as well.

The best part?!

In its entirety, this museum is packed full of play-based learning experiences making it both fun and educational.
All in all, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is for all ages because you should never outgrow the fun of learning.

Grand-Rapids-Children's-Museum-kids-playing-tree-house-downtown-Grand-Rapids-things-to-do
Playing with the motion table at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

7 – Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

Fulton Street Farmer’s Market
1145 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Fulton Street Market is both a staple in GR, running since 1922. It’s a local favorite and a must-stop for people passing through.

The market is open Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm May through October (Saturdays only during winter months.)

Find local produce, food trucks, artisan booths, and an overall great vibe.

Bonus: if you have time to walk around, take a stroll down Fulton Street to find many other hidden gems, coffee shops, and treats.

Fulton-Street-Farmers-Market-Hunt
Stock up on fresh produce at the Fulton Street Farmers Market

8 – La Grande Vitesse (aka The Calder)

The Calder
525 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
If you hang around Grand Rapids long enough, you may begin to see images of a swirling red object on city signs, flags, or even t-shirts. These images are in reference to one of Grand Rapids’ most iconic works of art – La Grande Vitesse.

Loosely translated, the title of the sculpture means The Grand Rapids. This artistic landmark was created by 20th century sculptor, Alexander Calder. The city of Grand Rapids commissioned the sculpture in 1967, and since its completion has been a community staple and a must-see for tourists and natives alike.

While you’re there snapping a picture or two, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of downtown Grand Rapids that surround Calder Plaza. The city is calling to you!

9 – Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Grand Rapids Downtown Market
435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
We love our fresh food around here. The Downtown Market is a magnet for people who love a local, fresh, or unusual taste adventure. Dare we say there isn’t anything like it in Michigan?

Here you’ll find farm-to-table type food. There’s BBQ, Mexican, seafood, juice bar, ice cream, and so much more. This isn’t just a place to eat, it’s an experience.

Throughout the year the market hosts many special events and cooking classes. They also participate in ArtPrize during the summer and World of Winter’s Valent-Ice during the winter.

Downtown-Grand-Rapids-Market
Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, MI

10 – Grand Rapids African American Museum

Grand Rapids African American Museum
87 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Spend some time at GRAAMA and immerse yourself in the rich culture of our African American community. Here you’ll find captivating exhibits, works of art by local artists, and even hear oral histories passed down for generations.

Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives Oprah mosaic
Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives ArtPrize 2021
GRAAMA at 2021 ArtPrize

11 – Millennium Park

1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
With offerings including a man-made beach, splashpad, multiple playgrounds, boathouse, and 18 miles of trails you can choose your own adventure and have a different experience every time you visit. 

Take advantage of this 1,400 acre park by renting a boat or kayak from the boathouse, having an afternoon picnic on the lawn, or fishing along the boardwalk. There’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy here.

Millennium Park header
Millennium-Park-trail-feature-image

12 – Founders Brewing Co.

Founders Brewing Co.
235 Cesar E. Chavez Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
No visit to Grand Rapids would be complete without a stop at a local brewery. After all, Grand Rapids is Beer City, USA, and Founders Brewing Co. makes the top of our list.

With its award-winning brews, exceptional food, and laid-back atmosphere that easily accommodates families, it’s no wonder Founders is a local favorite. 

Bring the kids, sit on the patio, take in some live music, and enjoy a brew or two!

13 – Grand Rapids Art Museum

Grand Rapids Art Museum
101 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
The GRAM is located at the center of Downtown Grand Rapids in Rosa Parks Circle proving that art is at the actual heart of the city.
 
With three levels of art to browse, the GRAM is a must-see. Stop by on Saturdays to spark your creativity in the hands-on family art room.
 
Make note that this is a very quiet space…but don’t let that scare your family away!
 
The GRAM welcomes families and even has special sections throughout the museum dedicated to hands-on family interaction.

GRAM-Kids-doing-an-art-puzzle-at-the-Grand-Rapids-Art-Museum
Hands-on art activities for all ages are available on Saturday afternoons at the GRAM
Art-exhibit-in-the-GRAM

14 – Blandford Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center
1715 Hillburn Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
With land covering over 260 acres and featuring eight miles of natural and accessible trails there’s plenty of room to roam at Blandford! Feed your kid’s curiosity and need for adventure while exploring the wetlands, meadows, and woods of Michigan’s wildlife system. 

The animal lover in your family will love the opportunity to see some wildlife up close, whether it’s the rehabilitated animals at the Visitor’s Center or wildlife out in their natural habitat. The Farm is a favorite spot for families to enjoy the playscape and the goats, sheep, and chickens.

Blandford hosts several kid-friendly events throughout the year, so be sure to check their calendar while planning your visit.

15 – Ice Skating at Rosa Parks Circle

135 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
One of the most loved activities at Rosa Parks Circle is ice skating in the wintertime.

We admit it’s not always easy to get outdoors when the Michigan winter weather sets in, but somehow this iconic winter activity makes getting all bundled up more fun.

Admission includes a free skate rental ensuring that beginners of all ages will have a chance to make a memory that lasts through the years.

Because Rosa Parks Circle is in the heart of downtown GR you can always find something happening here any time of the year. For example, in warmer weather you’ll find evening concerts, salsa dancing, yoga in the park, festivals, food trucks and more.

16 – World of Winter Festival

World of Winter
Downtown Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Celebrate winter with a gallery of ice in Downtown Grand Rapids.

Valent-ICE, one of many attractions during the annual World of Winter Festival, showcases over 80 ice sculptures throughout the city.

Walking tours, fun competitions, interactive art installations, and many fun events help brighten up Grand Rapids’ coldest months.

Rosa-parks-circle-painting-on-the-ice
Painting the ice at World of Winter
Glowing-Seesaws-at-World-of-Winter-in-Downtown-Grand-Rapids
Glowing seesaws at World of Winter in 2021

17 – Festival of the Arts

Festival of the Arts
Downtown Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Festival of the Arts is always the first full weekend in June and is widely known as the unofficial kickoff of summer in Grand Rapids.

This festival is a FREE three-day community event that features several performance stages, a juried Regional Arts Exhibition, and a wide variety of food booths. It also includes creative activities for children and adults as well as the option to purchase art from West Michigan artists.

For all the latest information about Festival of the Arts, including performance schedules, activities, and food booths, visit festivalgr.org or check out the organization’s Facebook page.

downtown grand rapids mi festival of the art paint in
Festival of the Arts “Paint In”

18 – ArtPrize

ArtPrize
Downtown Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
September and October mark ArtPrize, a biennial art competition that takes over the city.

Artists from around the world publicly display their works of art in the streets, business windows, hotel lobbies — you name it! By prominently displaying these works of art, ArtPrize brings art out of the museums and straight to the people.

Visitors, armed with smartphones, vote for art and large cash prizes are awarded to the winners.

Thousands of displays dot the downtown landscape both inside and outdoors. Even more fun – artists often stand near their exhibits and are excited to talk with kids about their work.

In 2022 ArtPrize announced they would be turning over operations to Grand Rapids community partners. We are excited about this change and look forward to seeing what “ArtPrize 2.0” will bring.

19 – Griffins Game

Grand Rapids Griffins
130 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Grand Rapids Griffins games are always a good time!

Regular theme nights and entertaining antics between plays make these games big crowd-pleasers.

The Griffins are affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings and play at the Van Andel Arena. Hockey season runs October – April.

Star Wars Night at the Grand Rapids Griffins

20 – Whitecaps Game

West Michigan Whitecaps
LMCU Ballpark – 4500 W River Dr NE, Comstock Park, MI 49321

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Head to a West Michigan Whitecaps game if you’re in the mood for good food and a great time outdoors at the ballpark. The Whitecaps play at LMCU Ballpark, a lovely venue with lots of green space and amenities.
 
Theme nights, on-field games, and fun promotions are hallmarks of the Whitecaps experience.
 
LMCU is located in Comstock Park, just north of downtown Grand Rapids. The Whitecaps are Class A affiliates of the Detroit Tigers. Baseball season runs April – September.

21 – Hunt for Murals

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Grand Rapids may be known for beer, but riding close on its coattails is the ever-blooming art scene.

Part of this includes the street art, making the Grand Rapids area a mural wonderland.

No matter where you visit in Grand Rapids you’ll likely stumble upon some sort of mural.

If you’re looking to take in these bursts of color as an itinerary, this mural hunt guide is for you:
Mural Map + Scavenger Hunt

Murals-madcap-kids-laughing-art-grand-rapids-things-to-do
Mural at Madcap Coffee on Fulton St

22 – Walk the Grand River Edges Trail

Downton Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
This is a favorite family or date night pastime because walking is truly the best way to get to know a city. You’ll take in all the beauty at your own pace.

The Grand River Edges Trail system will take you through downtown Grand Rapids following the banks of the Grand River.
As the Grand River threads its way through town, the bulk of downtown attractions lie to the east of the river. The Edges Trail allows you to walk on the both the east and west banks of the river.

23 – Take a Selfie on the Blue Bridge

Blue Footbridge, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
The Blue Bridge may just be Grand Rapids’ most recognizable structure. 

What began as a railroad bridge back in 1892 is now the iconic footbridge known as The Blue Bridge. 

Once on the bridge, stop a moment to look across the Grand River and, of course, to snap that ever elusive “perfect ‘gram”.

24 – Swing on the Di Suvero Swing (Motu Viget)

NW corner of Calder Plaza, Downtown Grand Rapids, 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
This interactive sculpture may be just as much fun for adults as it is for kids!

In 1977 artist Mark di Suvero created this giant tire swing, naming it after Grand Rapids’ city motto: “Motu Viget”, a Latin phrase meaning “strength in activity”. It has been a playful downtown GR staple since its installment. 

Pro tip: this is just around the corner from La Grande Vitesse in Calder Plaza, so you can easily make this a two-for-one stop.

25 – Catch a Show

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Grand Rapids is home to several performance halls that bring all types of live entertainment to the public. 

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre 30 Division Ave N, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The GRCT is one of the country’s oldest community theatres for a reason: top-notch local talent that delivers, again and again, no matter the genre.

Broadway Grand Rapids – 303 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Broadway Grand Rapids brings six or more traveling productions to the stage in Grand Rapids each year and they do not disappoint.
Season ticket holders get first dibs on seats at shows – get tickets well in advance for the best selection.

DeVos Performance Hall – 303 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
In addition to housing Broadway Grand Rapids and other touring events, several professional organizations call DeVos Performance Hall home throughout the year, including, Opera Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Symphony, and Grand Rapids Ballet.

Van Andel Arena -130 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
With seating for over 12,000, Van Andel Arena is the venue for big-name concerts and events in West Michigan, as well as home to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the area hockey team.

Wherever you go, you can be sure you’ll be swept away in the spectacle!

HAMILTON-Broadway-Grand-Rapids-MI
Hamilton returns to Broadway Grand Rapids
The Little Mermaid, performed at the GR Civic Theatre in 2018

26 – Go Shopping on Monroe Center NW

Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI:
Monroe Center St SW is a one-way street lined with restaurants and shops that runs through the heart of Downtown Grand Rapids. 

If you’re wanting to meet a friend for lunch, do some shopping, or simply take in the sights of downtown there is no better place to do it than on Monroe Center. This charming and historical street has been a preferred “day on the town” spot to locals and tourists for decades.

Crhistmastime shoppers on Monroe Center St.

Big City Fun, Small Town Feel


This list is just a taste of the many gems Grand Rapids has to offer. 

With its diverse selections that offer something for everyone and any budget, the door is wide open for you to explore even more and truly experience GR.

Rosa Parks Circle

Rosa Parks Circle
135 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Rosa Parks Circle is the heart and hub of downtown. If you’re looking for fun there’s almost always something wonderful happening here.

In the summer and warmer months, you’ll find evening concerts, salsa dancing, yoga in the park, festivals, food trucks and the fun list goes on.

In the winter, you’ll find ice skating and World of Winter comprised of interactive art structures and Valent-Ice where 80+ ice sculptures are spread all over the city and walkable.

If you happen to visit Rosa Parks Circle on a day when no event is happening, you’ll still enjoy taking in the hum and bustle of the city. We recommend grabbing a coffee at MadCap and making your way past the Grand Rapids Art Museum building for a lovely leisurely walk through the circle.

You’ll most likely hear someone playing music, find art pieces placed here and there, and take in the mural art on the buildings.

The magic in is the circle itself and the community of people that daily occupy it.

Relax at Rosa (Rosa Parks Circle)

Visit All of the Breweries – and Find Spirits, Too

Take Note: GR is Beer City, USA

The local craft beer scene has a life of its own – putting Grand Rapids on the map as Beer City USA.

While it’s doubtful you’ll build your family’s visit around brewery tours, it’s good to know that you can grab a great local brew at most restaurants around town.

But – a good recommendation is always your best bet, right?! (If you are visiting with kids, here’s a list of the best family-friendly breweries in town.)

Grab a flight at popular Railtown Brewing in Caledonia
Railtown Brewing
3595 68th St SE, Caledonia, MI 49316
– Stop here for the venue’s two-story ambiance, yummy beer, and top-notch menu.
Mitten Brewing
527 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
-This is the stop where you’ll find excellent pizza. Everyone we asked agreed. It’s amazing!
New Holland Brewing
417 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
– Go here for gluten-free adult beverage options — in addition to their traditional delicious brews.
Founders Brewing Co.
235 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
– Stop at Founders for its vibe, famous deck, atmosphere, events, and renowned beer options.
The Jolly Pumpkin
428 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
– Sidle up to the bar and order one — or several — sour beers and all the great food. Delish!
Jolly Pumpkin Brewery on Bridge Street is a local favorite
Brewery Vivant
925 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
– We love their unique setting (a former funeral home), outdoor airy intimate seating, brew choices and walkable neighborhood.
Perrin Brewing Co.
5910 Comstock Park Dr NW, Comstock Park, MI 49321
– Head here for multiple craft beer options. All taste buds will be pleased and you’ll love the great vibe.
Arvon Brewing Co.
1006 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
– Craving New England IPA’s? Want your grub to go? Arvon’s got the IPA’s and delivery/curbside pickup options.
Greyline Brewing Co.
1727 Alpine Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
– Did someone say patio? Head here for their outdoor seating and scrumptious beers.
Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery
452 Ada Dr SE, Ada, MI 49301
– Located outside of town in the cute village of Ada, Gravel Bottom has a nice seasonal menu and a wonderful location that you won’t want to leave.
Bonus: Farmhaus Cider
5025 Stanton St, Hudsonville, MI 49426
– Ok, it’s not beer but their blackberry cider is amazing – and we want to note – there are plenty more cider spots around town as well!

With over three dozen breweries around town, if you stay here long enough, you will end up visiting a brewery whether you intend to or not!

Dive Into the Art Scene

You’ll notice by almost the time you arrive in Grand Rapids that art is incorporated into everything we do.

It’s obvious in events like Festival of the Arts, ArtPrize, and World of Winter. It’s in the mural and street art, the architectural designs, and in the incorporated art pieces throughout the city.

But art in Grand Rapids is so much deeper than big events. Enjoying art is one of the favorite things to do in Grand Rapids.

There are local events and art culture happening all over the city that live and breathe art year-round. Landscaping, home design, food, you name it, it’s seeping out of the people here from the south to the east to the west and to the North.

We just love art, and if you do too, we know you’ll love any part of the city you visit.

You can immerse yourself in GR’s art scene with a visit to one of the art museums or an experience – choose from this list!

Muse GR

MUSE GR
727 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504


Muse is an interactive art gallery and event space located in Grand Rapids, MI. Interactive, collaborative, and diverse art flows here! Host an event or stop by to take it in this “creatively unboxed” space.

It is a collaborative space for creatives to execute projects, host events, facilitate workshops, and more. Check their website for current events.

Food in Grand Rapids

Eat Fresh at the Markets

Our seasonal farmer’s markets are where you can shake the hands of the farmer who grew that peach or squash for you. And locals who want to get even closer to the action join a CSA.

All this veggie talk got you wishing for a steak? Grand Rapids is home to several high-quality organic butchers as well!

Below are two Grand Rapids market favorites:

Best Restaurants & Drink Spots

There is literally no way we could list every single delicious spot around town, or this list would be a mile long.

But… we can point you in the right direction of mouth-watering locations both locals and visitors love to frequent.

Plus, each one of these choices is set in an area surrounded by other phenomenal choices. So, take your pick, walk around, and enjoy one of the wonders of Grand Rapids – the food!

Real Food Cafe
2419 Eastern Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
▸Go for: Brunch
Lucy’s Cafe
1747 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
▸ Go for: Brunch
Wolfgang’s
1530 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
▸Go for: Brunch
The Mitten Brewing Company
527 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
▸Go for: Pizza
The Søvengård
443 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
▸ Go for: The Patio
Electric Cheetah
1015 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
▸Go for: Family Dining
Amore Trattoria Italiana
5080 Alpine Ave NW, Comstock Park, MI 49321
▸Go for: Great take out, Gluten-free options, Romantic Dinner, Great Desserts
Luna GR
64 Ionia Ave SW, Ste 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Great tacos, great take out
Forty Acres Soul Kitchen
1059 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
▸Go for: Amazing Soul Food
The Commons
547 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Stepping into the 70s, Scrumptious Food
San Chez Bistro
38 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Romantic Dinner, Great Desserts
Reserve Wine and Food
201 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Great Wine Selection, Date Night
GRNoir
35 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Great Wine Selection, Date Night
Ando Sushi
415 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
▸Go for: Really Legit Japanese Food
Donkey Taqueria
665 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Best Cocktails, Date Night
Butcher’s Union
438 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
▸Go for: Great patio, cocktails, date night or lunch
Eastern Kille Distillery
700 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Signature Cocktails, Date Night

Must-Try Food Trucks

Pizza Parliament
▸Pizza Parliament Food Truck serves hand-tossed personal pizzas on a fresh homemade crust.
Menu item names follow a political theme – for example, you could order Obama’s Birth Certificate or a Straight Ticket pizza.
Underground Cookie Club
▸Epic, colorful ice cream sandwiches that wow ice cream lovers of all ages.
Perusing their menu of wild combinations is a treat in itself.
Patty Matters
▸Patty Matters Food Truck serves up the best burger in Grand Rapids according to many. That’s because their gourmet mobile food kitchen offers a variety of burger types with customized toppings.
Daddy Pete’s BBQ
▸Daddy Pete’s BBQ focuses on providing delicious, slow-smoked meats. 
Voodoo Foodoo Truck
▸Voodoo Foodoo is home to the Voorito and Breakfast Voorito. You choose the meat, cheese and other goodies. Don’t forget the outer “cheese curtain” that holds your burrito in its warm cheesy goodness!

Coffee & Treats

Ice cream, donuts, and coffee make the world go round, right?!

Here’s where you’ll find our best:

Jersey Junction
652 Croswell Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
▸Go for: Ice Cream & Candy Treats
Sandy’s Donuts
2040 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
▸Go for: Large variety of fresh-made donuts. Cinnamon rolls & coffee are great, too.
Rise Authentic Baking Co.
1220 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
▸Go for: Gluten-free, vegan, and soy-free pastries, donuts, and treats
Outside Coffee Co
734 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go for: Cozy outdoor backyard location. Unique seating. They’ll make you feel welcome and their drinks/food are great.
Brody’s Be Cafe
7267 Thornapple River Dr SE, Ada, MI 49301
▸Go for: Coffee, tea, espresso and smoothies in an accepting atmosphere. Non-profit cafe, employing those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
MudPenny
570 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go For: Delicious. Great food & coffee, coloring pages for kids, allergy-friendly, keto-friendly.
The Sparrows Coffee & Tea & Newsstand
1035 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
▸Go For: Bulk Tea, great coffee
Eastown Cereal Cafe
1507 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
▸Go For: Bowls of Cereal, Waffle Creations & Milkshake Creations. Gluten-Free Options Available.

Sacred Springs Kombucha
1059 Wealthy St SE Suite B, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
▸Go For: Kombucha Flights, Treats
Madcap Coffee Company
1041 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
98 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
▸Go For: Specialty Coffee
Nantucket Baking Co.
1308 Fuller AVE N // 615 Lyon St NE Grand Rapids MI
▸Go for: European Artisan Breads, New Age Breakfast Pastries, Cupcakes, Cakes and Tortes, Cheesecakes, Croissants Bars, and many more delicious treats

Best Places to Shop

Grand Rapids has a lot of unique neighborhoods and shopping districts. East Hills, Downtown, Eastown, Wealthy, and East Fulton all brag small, local shops and/or incredible eateries.

And other nearby towns like East Grand Rapids, Ada and Rockford are also beloved for their walkability.

Best Shopping in Downtown Grand Rapids

Vault of Midnight

Comic Books

95 Monroe Center St NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Love the aesthetic. Graphic novels, comic books, notebooks, toys, coloring books.

Fido & Stitch

Dog Supplies

820 Monroe Ave NW, Ste 140 Grand Rapids, MI 49503

They provide customers with everything needed to give a dog a long, healthy and fun life. Essential and fun products for canines, as well as grooming and self-serve dog wash services, all in one spot.

Lost & Found

Antiques & Vintage

445 Century Ave SW Grand Rapids, MI 49503

One of three antique shops in the historic Sligh Furniture building. At 50,000 square feet, there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore.

Moosejaw Mountaineering

Outdoor Gear

410 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

High-end sports & outdoor gear outfitter with good selection of clothing, footwear & accessories.

Oh Hello Co. Paper & Gifts

Stationary & Unique Gifts

40 Monroe Center Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Your one stop shop for stationery, greeting cards, Grand Rapids-themed items & unique gifts for anyone. 

Bold Socks

Clothing

17 Division Ave S Grand Rapids, MI 49503

A store on a mission to wipe out boring socks.

Oh Hello Paper Co Community Workspace
Oh Hello has a Lovely Community Workspace

Best Shopping in Uptown: Eastown, East Hills, East Fulton & Wealthy Districts

Located just a mile east of downtown Grand Rapids, there’s a collection of four unique, walkable business districts in a local called Uptown.

Uptown features specialty, locally-owned businesses you can’t find anywhere else.

Commune GR

Boutique

1409 Robinson Road SE Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Pretty things for the home. Vintage rugs and pillows. Candles, bags, mugs. People love their jewelry. Be sure to get a photo with their amazing mural.

Rebel

Boutique & Gift Shop

1555 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids MI 49506

Homegrown, modern gift shop on the West Coast of Michigan. People enjoy their irreverent look at life.

Woosah Outfitters

Printshop & Retail Store

738 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids MI 49503

Visiting here is like walking into a cabin. Original art, prints, tees, at this naturally inspired printshop & retail store. Stick around for a beverage at the adjacent Outside Coffee Co.

Commune GR is in Eastown on Robinson Road

Blue Bridge Games

Game Store

954 Fulton St E Grand Rapids, MI 49503

A great selection of analog entertainment – board games, role-playing games, sealed Magic items, jigsaw puzzles & more!

Hopscotch Children’s Store

Children’s Boutique

909 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Shop for unique, modern, and classic gifts/toys/books for babies and kids. Line up includes locally made products, eco-friendly, & educational items.

Wax Poetic Candle Bar

Candle Shop

1423 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids MI 49506:

Make your own candle, buy a candle-making kit, or buy a custom blend candle.

Books and Mortar

Game Store

955 Cherry Street SE Grand Rapids, MI 49506

This indie bookstore curates a thoughtful, diverse book selection for adults and kids. They love to give recommendations, too.

Sticky Fingers

Candy Shop

1503 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Whimsy is in full force at this candy shop. Find unique treats, old standby’s and everthing in between.

Local Epicurian

Food Shop

1440 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids MI 49506:

Boutique Italian market/grocer, meets fresh pasta makers, meets happy hour spot, meets prepared deli and desserts destination, meets caterer, meets culinary cooking class hub.

Where to Stay in Grand Rapids

Best Hotels with Pools in Grand Rapids

Downtown

JW Marriott Grand Rapids
235 Louis Campau Prom, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Upscale downtown lodging. The pool has a nice view. It’s 3.5 feet deep. There is a separate area for the whirlpool.
The Pool area at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids
Embassy Suites – Grand Rapids Downtown
710 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
This new, all-suite hotel is located in the Monroe North District. Rooms feature sofa beds, mini-refrigerators and microwaves.
Your stay includes a free made-to-order breakfast, and complimentary Evening Reception.
The indoor pool is Michigan-shaped and the whirlpool spa is indoor/outdoor.
Embassy Suites – Grand Rapids Downtown has a Michigan-shaped Indoor Pool
Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown
11 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
This Marriott hotel has a large pool. Even better than the pool? The location. It’s easy to walk to almost everything downtown from the Courtyard.
Indoor Pool at the Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown

Suburbs

Drury Inn
5175 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512
They have an indoor/ outdoor pool (Swim under a rubber divider and be in a heated outdoor pool even in the winter.)
They also include a nice breakfast buffet and dinner buffet, 3 alcoholic beverages per adult during dinner, and soft drinks/popcorn from 4-9.
Heated Indoor/Outdoor Pool at Drury Inn in Grand Rapids, MI
Hilton Garden Inn Grand Rapids East
2321 E Beltline Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
This hotel is near Calvin University and the Woodland Mall.
It has a heated indoor pool shaped like the state of Michigan, indoor/outdoor hot tub, and on-site Garden Grille & Bar restaurant.
Free parking.
The Indoor/Outdoor Heated Hot Tub at Hilton Garden Inn Grand Rapids East
Holiday Inn Express South
6569 Clay Ave SW, MI 49548
The hotel pool features a wet and wild splash pad, zero-depth toddler play area with mini slides, and tipping buckets. There is also a hot tub and single-lane swim area with a swirling vortex pool.
The Pool Area at the Holiday Inn Express South
Radisson Hotel Grand Rapids Riverfront
270 Ann St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
This riverfront hotel is north of downtown Grand Rapids but still within the city limits.
The Radisson has the deepest hotel swimming pool in the Grand Rapids area.
They have a nice riverside patio for you to enjoy.
Hotel Pool at Radisson Riverfront just north of Grand Rapids

Best Airbnbs & Vacation Rentals

Sometimes a vacation rental is a better fit for a family or your ideal getawy.

Here are several Grand Rapids vacation rentals that caught our eye:

Luxurious 2 Doubles & King Bed Apt at The Brix ~ Hot Tub/Gym/Pool!

Sleeps: 6
Bedrooms: 2
Bath: 2
Pets: No

Good For: Couples or small family getaway
Perk: Fully stocked kitchen, heated outdoor pool (hot tub in the winter), free parking.
The heated outdoor pool is lovely. The decor is fresh and clean.

Grand Rapids – Close to Van Andel Arena

Luxury 2BR Penthouse in Downtown GR

Sleeps: 6
Bedrooms: 2
Bath: 2
Pets: Only with prior authorization

Good For:  Family getaway
Perk: Great location for restaurants, breweries, the Van Andel Arena, museums, and nearby parks. The view is amazing.

Grand Rapids – Close to Van Andel Arena

Heritage Hill Home Just Outside of Downtown GR

Sleeps: 9
Bedrooms: 4
Bath: 2
Pets: No

Good For:  Family getaway
Perk: Great location for restaurants, shopping, Reed’s Lake, and more. Fantastic neighborhood of preserved historic homes. Close to

Grand Rapids – Heritage Hill Area

Downtown Chic Apartment w/ Private Balcony
Grand Rapids Airbnb vacation rental
Sleeps: 6
Bedrooms: 2
Bath: 1
Pets: Yes, with permission/fee
Good For: Family getaway, romantic getaway, business trip
Perk: Private Balcony with gas fire pit
DETAILS

Grand Rapids Westside

Adventures Beyond the City

East Grand Rapids

REED’S LAKE / EAST GRAND RAPIDS

East Grand Rapids is a cute community with a lakeside park just minutes outside of downtown Grand Rapids.

Find local shops and restaurants here as well, including the ever-popular Jersey Junction ice cream parlor.

Shopping, Ice Cream, and a Walk Around the Lake

Speaking of parks, you could create a whole itinerary purely on parks alone! Grand Rapids is engulfed in stunning parks all over the area. If you’re looking for grand or a mini secluded oasis, the GR parks guide is for you.

We know you’ll have so much fun discovering the natural beauty GR has to offer.

Visit Lake Michigan

Lovingly referred to as our unsalted Ocean, Michigan natives are infatuated with this giant lake. After your first visit, you’ll understand.

The Sandy beaches, crystal clear water, gorgeous dunes are hard to beat.

Lake Michigan Sunset at Tunnel Park in Holland, MI

Locals swoon over Lake Michigan and visitors never want to leave the soft sand and breathtaking sunsets.

You’ll find many public beaches and cute towns just a short drive from downtown Grand Rapids along with boutique shopping and farm-to-table or beach town restaurants.

Lake Michigan Beach - Hoffmaster State Park
Lake Michigan Beach – PJ Hoffmaster State Park

Helpful Apps, Deals & Websites for People in Grand Rapids

Useful resources for locals and visitors alike:

  • GRKIDS.COM: Families can find out about festivals, concerts and events geared toward kids by visiting GRKIDS.COM. The website has a packed event calendar, a busy Facebook page, and multiple articles highlighting where to go and what to do with kids in Grand Rapids.
  • Beer O’Clock: Happy hours and daily specials at local bars.
  • GRWalks: Guided walking tours of Grand Rapids. Free App.
  • GR Tag Tour: Two fun, informative and interactive tours of downtown Grand Rapids that you can access on your smartphone with a QR code reader.
  • GR Running Tours: Guided walking and running tours through Grand Rapids. Fee & free offerings.
  • Grand Rapids Breweries: GR Brewery & Beer Tour Information
  • Grand Rapids Culture Pass: 3-Day Culture Pass to top Grand Rapids attractions, including the Grand Rapids Public Museum, John Ball Zoo, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum. $20 as of 4/20/21.

But really, the real Grand Rapids can be found in its people. We are quite the friendly bunch and if you happen to forget this article when you’re exploring our wonderful city, just ask the closest person to you for tips on getting the most out of this place. I’m betting they’ll be happy to give you all the ideas they have and probably offer to go along with you, too!

What Makes Grand Rapids So Great?

The Grand Rapids Backstory

Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second-largest city, after Detroit. Most mitten-dwellers shorten the city name to GR and know that it’s a great destination if you’re looking for bigger city amenities without the traffic and other challenges that come with visiting a place the size of Chicago.

As far as city size goes, right now Grand Rapids has a population of just under 200,000 people. The greater metro area’s population is just over 1,000,000.

The city of Grand Rapids has roots in the furniture industry (and the lumber boom that allowed said furniture to be built.) It was a bustling population center back in the day.

1933: “A View Down Monroe Avenue (Monroe Center) Looking Northwest #3,” 
City of Grand Rapids Archives and Records Center

Since then, it’s seen ups and downs like most Midwestern cities.

Right now, Grand Rapids is on the upswing, with many publications calling it out as an up-and-coming city. Current numbers back this up, with GR charting record population growth and home prices/demand backing that up.

The downtown area saw many old buildings torn down in the 1950s and 60s in the name of modernization. The 70s were a time of decreased commercial traffic and general decline. That’s when city planners closed Monroe Center in an attempt to lure shoppers to the pedestrian mall but that experiment failed.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that a revitalization of the city’s core started, catalyzed by the building of VanAndel Arena. Since then, there’s been a steady increase in construction and reclamation of buildings that once sat empty.

Rosa Parks Circle, a multiuse park in the city center, serves as a concert venue and gathering place in the summertime and an ice rink in the winter. Rosa Parks Circle opened in 1995 as well, when the adjoining Monroe Mall was reopened to automobile traffic. Today, Monroe Center is a one-way street through the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. It’s lined with shops and restaurants and is a delightful place to spend an afternoon.

The Grand River is another part of the Grand Rapids equation.

The lumber companies used the river to float logs to mills. Flour mills and early factory machinery were powered by energy generated by the Grand River. GR even used water power to generate electricity for lighting in 1880. All of this power was possible because there were large (grand) rapids in the river.

The rapids in the river eventually were flattened by a series of dams constructed following the Civil War.

“Fulton Street Concrete Arch Bridge Looking NE,” City of Grand Rapids Archives and Records Center

Grand Rapids Today

There is a movement afoot today to Restore the Rapids (powered by Grand Rapids WhiteWater) to the river, returning an 18-foot drop to the river as it flows through the heart of the city.

This project is a perfect example of a city powered by its people. Significant change has come to this West Michigan town over the last few decades because citizens and government continually find ways to work together and move creative ideas forward.

While the city has its challenges, it’s turning into a vibrant place to live and visit one person, one block, one business at a time.

We invite you to visit our fair town and enjoy what Grand Rapidians have known and loved for years – one grand little city.

downtown grand rapids mi center city map

When you visit, you’ll likely discover the fast-growing and nationally recognized Medical Mile, the popular Wealthy street area, and Downtown Rosa Parks Circle.

Rosa Parks Circle During Project One, an Offshoot of the ArtPrize Festival

If you time your visit right, you’ll be here for the internationally recognized ArtPrize competition that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to our town for three weeks every other year.

Looking toward Monroe Ave in Downtown Grand Rapids on a Sunny Spring Day, 2021

Have you visited Grand Rapids?

What did you do while you were here? Share any tips in the comments below. Or, if this will be your first trip- ask away- we’d love to help with your questions!

About The Author

7 thoughts on “Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI: 50+ Best Places to Go – With or Without Kids”

  1. I’ve never really known what was in Grand Rapids, but it seems like a lovely place. I really love history and Presidential Museums and Libraries, so that will definitely be on my list! I would never have thought of visiting Grand Rapids but after reading this post, I would love to visit! Great info and tips on things to do there. 🙂

  2. “Thanks Melody for sharing this. I visited grand rapid once and really it is nice place to have fun, but would like to visit it again.
    Regarding snacks and popcorns, they are ok but I love popcorns by Thatchers gourmet popcorns the most. “

  3. Thanks Melody for sharing this. I visited grand rapid once and really it is nice place to have fun, but would like to visit it again.
    Regarding snacks and popcorns, they are ok but I love popcorns by Thatchers gourmet popcorns the most.

  4. I love your website Melody!! Thanks!! This summer my husband has a work conference at DeVoss and my 6 year old, 4 year old and myself are hoping to join him at his hotel and explore the city for the week. How can we best get around to the places you have mentioned: Frederick Meijer Gardens, John Ball Zoo, Millennium Park…. is there a bus or something that we could ride? Would it be safe/ easy for my kids to ride bikes while I walked/jogged beside them? Thanks again for your awesome website!!

    1. Avatar photo

      Hi Carissa, You will have a great week visiting GR! The places I mentioned are spread out over quite a distance and you will want a car or UBER. If you are staying downtown, you’ll be able to walk to the Children’s Museum or any of the other downtown museums, but John Ball Zoo, Millennium Park and Meijer Gardens are all some distance away and you’ll want a ride. We do have a bus system that could get you to the zoo, but I’m not sure if it runs to the other venues. If you want to ride bikes/walk with your kids, Millennium Park is a great place to do that. Best of luck and let me know if you have any other questions.

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