Grand Rapids Travel Guide 2021

2021 Grand Rapids Visitors Guide

Grand Rapids sits on the banks of the Grand River and is the county seat for Kent County, MI. It is located in the southwest Michigan midway between Detroit and Chicago. It is also the second-largest city in the state and maintains a highly diversified ethnic population with large communities of Dutch Americans, Polish Americans, African Americans, and a growing Hispanic community.

The census of 2000 indicated that there were 197,800 people residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 67.30% White American, 20.41% African American, 0.74% Native American, 1.62% Asian American, 0.12% Pacific Islander American, 6.63% from other races, and 3.19% from two or more races. 13.05% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,224, and the median income for a family was $44,224. The per capita income for the city was $17,661.

Grand Rapids has often been referred to as the “Furniture City”. It was so named because of its role as a major lumbering center and the premier furniture manufacturing city in the late 19th century. Today, it is still considered to be a world leader in the production of office furniture.

Grand Rapids Attractions

There is always lots to do and see in Grand Rapids. The John Ball Zoo is a 110-acre park with over 1,000 animals. The zoo has an aquarium, children’s zoo, African area, and chimpanzee exhibit. The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a 125-acre attraction featuring the most comprehensive outdoor sculpture collection in the Midwest, indoor and outdoor gardens, the largest tropical conservatory in the state, nature trails, a guided tram, and a 5-acre Children’s Garden.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum features changing exhibitions of local, national and international artists. The Gerald R. Ford Museum is an entertaining presidential museum where visitors can attend a White House State Dinner, step inside the Oval Office and see the original Watergate burglar tools, or view Smithsonian-caliber changing exhibitions. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum celebrates childhood and the joy of learning by providing hands-on exhibits that inspire learning and encourage self-directed exploration. Ride a 1928 carousel or eat in the cafe overlooking the river at the Van Andel Museum Center of the Public Museum of Grand Rapids. The museum offers world-class exhibitions on history, nature, cultural heritage, Native Americans, 19th-century Grand Rapids cityscape and more.

Built for a prominent merchant in 1908, the Meyer May House is a prairie-style house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is located in the elegant Heritage Hill district, where over 60 architectural styles are also represented. Walking tours throughout the neighborhood are also possible.

Grand Rapids Recreation

There are several great parks located throughout Grand Rapids. One great park to explore is The Rosa Parks Circle. The park was created by an internationally known artist, Maya Lin. Concerts are held on summer evenings and ice skate rentals are provided in the winter at this unique monument comprised of water in its frozen, liquid and vapor states. The 143-acre Blandford Nature Center offers woods, ponds, and streams preserved within a thriving city environment. Animal exhibits and trails open every day.

Just a half-hour’s drive from the city is Michigan’s West Coast region. Visitors can experience wooded parks, dune-filled parks, sandy beaches, and even the Michigan Adventure Amusement park. Lake Michigan’s charming seaside villages are also just a short drive away.

Grand Rapids is home to several professional sports teams. The West Michigan Whitecaps (minor league baseball), the Grand Rapids Rampage (arena football), the Grand Rapids Griffins (hockey), and the Grand Rapids Flight (international basketball) are just a few teams that call the city home.

Grand Rapids Arts

Grand Rapids has a progressive and vibrant arts community. Michigan’s only professional ballet company, the Grand Rapids Ballet, offers contemporary and classical ballet performances. The Grand Rapids Symphony presents Classical, Casual Classics, Pops, Family Series, and Lollipop concerts. In July and August, the orchestra also presents outdoor picnic concerts at Cannonsburg Ski Area. Opera Grand Rapids, West Michigan’s only professional opera company, features rising national and international artists in three productions each season.

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is Michigan’s largest multi-disciplinary contemporary art center offering cutting-edge programming in visual arts, performance art, literature, film, music, and dance.

Grand Rapids Dining

From Michigan’s only 5-star/5-diamond restaurant to a multitude of hometown favorites, there’s something to make everyone’s taste buds sing in Grand Rapids. Here is just a small, but delectable sampler.

The 1913 Room, voted “Restaurant of the Year” nine times is also Michigan’s only 5-diamond restaurant. A West Michigan tradition since 1924, the Landing offers customers hearty steaks, fresh seafood, and delectable entrees. Bistro Bella Vita’s specialty is fresh Italian and French cuisine, prepared from scratch, and served in a big-city, casual atmosphere. They also boast West Michigan’s largest martini bar. Leo’s offers fresh-off-the-boat ocean cuisine served in a casually elegant atmosphere. Choose from more than a dozen fresh catch selections, classic New England treasures, specialty pasta or fine beef. Built in 1893, the Grand Rapids Brewing Company, not only allows you to try their beer made on-site, but also enjoy good food and a great atmosphere. Enjoy a relaxing view of the Grand River while dining on delicious bistro-style cuisine at the Bentham’s Riverfront Restaurant. Choose from innovative salads, sandwiches, pasta and sumptuous desserts. The casual ambiance and attentive service make it a wonderful choice for a hearty, savory meal.

Grand Rapids Communities

Grand Rapids has 86 distinct neighborhoods. Here are just a few:

Grand Rapids Grand RiverHeartside District is in the center of Grand Rapids. It is the business district and sports center of the city. Heartside is also home to the nightlife district of the Ionia corridor, including numerous bars.

Eastown is the happening downtown artsy area. It sports coffee shops, boutiques, bars, small restaurants, and expensive housing. Baxter is a neighborhood often described as being restored. Once a community without much pride, this neighborhood is turning itself around and boasting an increased sense of community pride.

Heritage Hill is considered one of the largest urban historic districts in the U.S. It was the first “neighborhood” of Grand Rapids and is adjacent to downtown. Its 1,300 homes date from 1848 and represent over 60 architectural styles.

Fulton Heights is located in the northeast area of the city, northwest of East Grand Rapids. The area is centrally located among great local businesses, a revitalizing downtown, and the accessible East Beltline. Residents consider it to be a quiet, small neighborhood with great homes and friendly people.

Prospect Hill, East Hills, Cherry Hills, Shawmut Hills, Alger Heights, Auburn Hills, Highland Park, Black Hills, Fuller, Creston, Garfield Park, John Ball Park, Madison, Millbrook, Oakdale, Ottawa Hills, Ridgedale, Roosevelt Park, and South Hill are also neighborhoods within Grand Rapids.