Things to See and Do in Grand Rapids and Michigan

For additional information on visiting Grand Rapids, visit the Experience Grand Rapids! convention and visitors website.

Downtown Market

A market space with indoor and outdoor vendors showcasing artisan cheese, freshly baked bread, and local produce. Also offering cooking classes, incubator kitchen, and rooftop greenhouses. Shop the pop-up marketplace for artisan gifts, local treats and Michigan-made and grown goodies. The Grand Rapids Dash Bus service can take you from the convention center to the market at no cost. Open daily until 7:00pm.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Some of the most famous sculptures in the world can be seen in Grand Rapids at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The 150 acre consists of a three-story conservatory with a waterfall, rock garden, and a variety of tropical and rare plants. It also has five, themed indoor gardens, four-season outdoor gardens, forest trails, and a wetlands boardwalk. The sculpture gallery has a collection of 300 works by world-renown sculptors including Rodin, Degas, and Calder.

Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve

The preserve is an outdoor research and teaching venue for Calvin College students and faculty. They actively work on preserving plants and animals indigenous to the area as well as their habitats. Visitors can enjoy the green spaces while seeing the ways in which human activity affects the natural world around them. The Bunker Interpretive Center has seasonal displays and there are many programs for kids and families to learn about the native plants and animals.

Meyer May House

The Meyer May House is considered one of the most faithfully restored of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie-style houses in the country. The house was built for clothing manufacturer Meyer May in 1909 and the style of architecture was considered revolutionary and shocking for the Grand Rapids neighborhood in which it was built. The house still contains all of Wright’s original windows and furniture.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

This is the official museum of U.S. President Gerald R. Ford which allows visitors to experience highlights from the president and Mrs. Ford’s lives. The exhibit teaches citizenship and allows for quiet reflection. Newly renovated and updated it has a strong emphasis on education. In addition to the permanent exhibits, temporary exhibits draw artifacts from museums all over the country. The museum also offers a wide variety of family-friendly events and lectures on a regular basis. The museum is part of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

The museum has three floors of permanent exhibits that focus on science, history, and culture. Categories include automobiles, zoology, furniture, fossils, and much more. More than 250,000 artifacts are in display rotation. The museum also includes the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, Cook Carousel Pavilion, and Meijer Theater, as well as a café and gift shop.

John Ball Zoo

If you’re wondering what to do in Grand Rapids with kids, this is a great place to visit. Located in a large park just two miles from downtown Grand Rapids, it offers comfortable and realistic habitats for over 1,100 animals from around the world. The zoo also has many fun activities such as zip lining over the entire zoo, going on camel rides, paddleboats, and a tram ride.

Grand Rapids Art Museum

The museum building is a piece of modern art itself featuring 20,000 square feet of exhibition and gallery space. Collections range from Renaissance to Modern Art, with special collections focusing on 19th and 20th-century American and European art. Explore 5,000 pieces, including more than 3,500 prints, photographs, and drawings. The museum also organizes weekly music concerts.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

Designed for children between the ages of two and twelve this is a hands-on, interactive museum that offers a range of experiences promoting learning through play and exploration. The building includes 18 permanent exhibits, a farm, a puppet stage, a tree house, and more.

Fish Ladder Park

This functional piece of artwork, designed by the artist, Joseph Kinnebrew, provides a practical application as well as an aesthetic pleasure. Designed to allow migrating fish a means of circumventing the powerful water flow at the man-made rapids in the Grand River, this popular site allows visitors to watch fish jump up the "ladder" in a seasonal migration in the spring and late summer.

Blandford Nature Center

The Blandford Nature Center in an independent non-profit organization that leases 140 acres from the City of Grand Rapids. They use the land and wildlife to provide high quality community programs and environmental education. Visitors can hike the trails and explore the nature through different seasons, tour the Heritage Buildings to travel back in time, visit the Wildlife Education Center, or walk the Wildlife Trail. The center has hundreds of interactive programs that invite children and grownups to get dirty and rediscover their connection with nature.

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

This institute showcases the most innovative art forms and latest creative ideas in film, visual arts, dance, performance arts, literature, and music. The galleries feature art from local, national, and international artists, as well as hosting a range of concerts, receptions, talks, theater shows and films.

Regional Vacation Options

Sleeping Bear Dunes Park and National Lakeshore, Glen Arbor, Michigan

Sunny beaches and sky-high dunes. Cool forests and inland lakes. Picturesque farmsteads and a historic maritime village. Sleeping Bear Dunes offers countless opportunities for discovery. With hotels, bed and breakfasts and condo rentals, a great place to spend time and see all the beauty Michigan has to offer.

Cherry Republic, Glen Arbor, Michigan

The world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. Everything from sweet to savory and sold by the ounce or the case. They also offer store events, family games and outings, tours, recipes, and dinners. Having a strong emphasis on charitable giving, Cherry Republic has donated over half a million dollars to food and farming programs, affordable housing, and wildlife preservation in Northern Michigan.

Mackinac Island and Bridge Overlook, Mackinac, Michigan

Pronounced “Mack-in-aw,” the island and area is a beautiful vacation and resort spot in northern Michigan. Comprised primarily of Mackinac Island State Park the quaint island also offers hotels, shopping, scenic tours and is well-known for its fudge. No cars allowed! Take the ferry and immerse yourself in old-world charm of horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, roller skating and walking.

Travel tips

by Elizabeth Kinsey

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