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Discover Grand Rapids, Michigan

Guest Post ~ featuring Donna Martorano

Discover Grand Rapids Travels with Bibi

Just like me, today’s guest writer wears many hats! Donna Martorano is a wife, mother, grandmother, firearms instructor, project manager, volunteer, and even a hiker! A woman who has accomplished so much in this life and yet she still has so many trails to explore.

Donna believes that everyone should grow and continue to learn throughout life and push themselves outside of their comfort zone. Oh, I can relate to that!

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I have to admit that I’m a bit envious that Donna learned how to shoot firearms five years ago and went on to become a firearm instructor four years ago. Knowledge is power, right?

Donna clearly knows the meaning of dedication. She put in the time to learn a personal safety enhancing skill and now gives back to her community through teaching that skill. Way to go Donna!

I think Travels with Bibi readers will love Donna’s guest post as she shares her latest hometown adventure in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Enjoy!

Donna’s Bio: Donna Martorano is a lifestyle and travel writer for Donna Unbound.  She is unraveling travel while breaking out and entering the “kid free” phase of life and re-learning what it’s like to be a couple again with her high school sweetheart of 31 years. Donna is a master researcher and enjoys digging into the areas they travel to find the “hidden gems,” hints and tips to make the experience more exciting and pleasurable.

Discover Grand Rapids Travels with Bibi

Things to Do in Grand Rapids, Michigan

As a native of New York State, you would think that it would be pretty hard to impress me when considering rating a city for its activities. I’ve been a Grand Rapids, Michigan transplant for 12 years now and can tell you it was a great move to make!

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in the state of Michigan, located on the west side of the state just a 30-minute drive from the wonders of Lake Michigan. That fact alone can create a list of activities that put Grand Rapids on the map of great places to visit.

When traveling in and around the city there a few places that you’ll want to make sure you add to your travel plans next time West Michigan is your destination stop.

Fish Ladder Park

Discover Grand Rapids Travels with Bibi

The fish ladder is actually a functional piece of artwork created by Joseph Kennebrew.  The man-made rapids (a series of dams) created in the Grand River, which runs directly through the downtown area, can be difficult for the migrating fish to maneuver. Fish ladder was designed as a means of circumventing the rapids, and in spring and late summer visitors can watch fish jump up the ladder on their way upstream.

560 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids

Fredrick Meijer Gardens

Discover Grand Rapids Travels with Bibi

Fredrick Meijer Gardens is a well-known staple in the Grand Rapids area and has been written about many times. The 158-acre botanical garden is a mixture of nature, calm and whimsy. The indoor and outdoor gardens contain works of masterpiece art and sculptures throughout the property.  The Japanese Garden is the newest exhibit, opened in 2015 with eight-acres consisting of waterfalls, Japanese structures, a functioning teahouse, as well as extensive boulder placement to bring the feeling of tranquility and peace.

Each year the Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition brings thousands of visitors to watch and experience the wonders of growth and transformation as the many different species of butterflies’ morph from cocoon to the beautiful array of colors flying throughout the enclosed habitat. Children are bused in from schools from all over for the experience. Plan your visit during March – April time to see this event.

The activities continue with the Amphitheater which holds its annual concert series each summer.

Check the website for a schedule of acts and to purchase tickets. Be sure to bring sand chairs, as regular height bag or travel chairs are not allowed.

1000 East Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids

Take in a Concert

Grand Rapids is well known for its concert venues such as:

  • Van Andel Arena, home to the professional hockey team the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL affiliate to the Detroit Red Wings).
  • 20 Monroe, one of the newest venues opened in 2017 hosting live music and events.
  • The Intersection, also located in downtown Grand Rapids is a live music venue. Many of the acts playing at nearby larger venues have been found before or after concerts playing here, usually impromptu.
  • Pyramid Scheme is a great intimate location to possibly catch some big acts, before or after they play some larger venues in Chicago or Detroit. Located on the Southwest side of Grand Rapids check them out as a great place for a live music experience.

We’ve seen some large acts at places like Van Andel Arena; Kenny Chesney, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, and Jeff Dunham. Others such as Carry Underwood, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Eric Church are just a few that have played in the area.

Museums

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If Museums are more to your liking there are plenty of them as well, many of these are within walking distance of downtown hotels and each other.

  • Grand Rapids Public Museum & Roger B Chaffee Planetarium
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
  • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
  • Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives
  • Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Discover Grand Rapids Travels with Bibi

Check out the Experience GR website site for museum information.

Save Money

A great way to save and see things around the see is to get the Culture Pass GR.  It’s a 3-day pass (currently $24) that allows admission into many of the cultural attractions in the city, including most of those listed above as well as the John Ball Park Zoo. The pass is instantly delivered to your phone via text or email and immediately ready to use. Save to your phones home screen for each access.  Along with cultural site admissions you receive discounts to many other attractions such as the Circle Theatre, DeVose Performance Hall, TreeRunner Grand Rapids Adventure Park, River City Inprov, and more.

Breweries

Discover Grand Rapids Travels with Bibi

For the nights when a beer with friends is just what you need, you are in for a real treat. Grand Rapids has been voted Beer City USA in national polls. We boast over 80 breweries in and around the city and with this much variety, everyone can find a favorite.

Add a special twist to the night out by taking any number of brewery tours in the area. From walking, biking, or trolley each is a great way to have fun and stay safe as you sample some micro-brews around the city.

You may even want to download the Beer City Brewsader App from your phone’s app store. Visit 8 of 35+ participating breweries, collect your passport stamp along the way and receive an exclusive Brewsader T-shirt. The app also provides transportation information. (Must be 21 to participate.)

The Great Outdoors

Discover Grand Rapids Travels with Bibi

Of course, outdoor activities are boundless, the Great Lakes surround the state and Lake Michigan is the summer place to be.  Hiking and biking trails are found in and around the city region, both paved and unpaved and stretch for miles. Sports activities include fishing, hunting, hockey, cross-country skiing, skating; if you can think of it, I’m sure it’s here.

The time of year you visit may dictate some of your activities, but don’t let some snow slow you down. Head up north for some great snowmobile trails and skiing. Michiganders are hardy and winter activities are just as exciting and fun.

Michigan offers the activities of bigger cities, with the Midwest feel and friendliness. Add it to your travel list and you won’t be disappointed.

Final Thoughts

Thank you, Donna! I never knew Michigan had so much to offer and I loved finding out about all the cool things there are to do in Grand Rapids.

Have you visited Grand Rapids? Let us know in a comment below and share your experience or tell us what you want to see if you visit in the future.

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21 Comments

  1. Great review of all the the great city of Grand Rapids MI has to offer, I’m sure many will find this helpful if traveling to the city for a day or longer!

    1. Thanks Tracey! Donna did a wonderful job relaying the essence of Grand Rapids. I know I’ve added it to my destination list!

  2. As another midwesterner, I’m always looking for fun places to see that aren’t too far from home! Looks like I may need to consider Grand Rapids for an upcoming trip! 🙂

    1. Donna did a great job didn’t she? I have no doubt she included the best of the best activities for family friendly fun.

  3. As usual Bibi, you article was over-the-top in great information! Love the inside tips and tricks you always include. I’m bookmarking this article to take along on my next trip to Grand Rapids.

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