Grand Rapids in 48 hours
If you want your day in Grand Rapids to start off right, start it at Pal’s Diner. A traditional 50s-style eatery with panoramic windows and a pink counter, Pal’s serves all your morning favorites in a flavorful, throwback atmosphere.
Afterwards, I like to walk off those blueberry flapjacks as I explore the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Or, I hit up the Japanese gardens where I’m surrounded by zen-inducing waterfalls and manicured landscapes.
The city has plenty of dining options, and a lot of them are actually right in the historic Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton. Enjoy a made-from-scratch lunch, a glass of wine and views of the nearby river from your table at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck. You won’t be disappointed.
From there head over to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. I never knew how much there was to learn about the life and times of the football hero turned politician, who—in a matter of months—ascended from congressman to the 38th president in the 1970s.
Lots of U.S. towns brag about their beer, but Grand Rapids can honestly lay claim to being Beer City USA. More than 40 breweries are located in and about the city, so grab a Beer City Ale Trail map and raise a pint.
If you want to just hit a few of the more notable spots, check out Founders Brewing Co., a former truck depot turned beer hall. Enjoy baked crab dip, live music and an ice-cold ale. Or two.
After sleeping off a few of those beers, try burning off some calories on the Amway Grand Plaza’s racquetball court followed by an invigorating swim in the indoor pool. Or, if you’re like me, just drown those suds in some breakfast by heading over to the Westsider Cafe and order up the enormous Cuban skillet. It’s guaranteed to give your day just the kick it needs.
If you’re looking to add some color to your trip, check out the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. It’s home to some of the finest in creative experiences across all media, like this fall’s exhibit, superusted, featuring the work of 17 handpicked Midwest artists. It’s super inspirational and super affordable (only $5).
I love the Grand Rapids Downtown Market because it’s open every day of the week, so no matter when I’m in town I can check out the freshest foods and creations from the locals. It’s the best way to really get to know the people of Grand Rapids and home in on the city’s culture. Also, I highly recommend the Fish Lads for local, freshwater catches from the Great Lakes.
Speaking of which, Lake Michigan is just a half hour or so west of the Amway Grand Plaza. And it’s home to one of the world’s best freshwater beaches, Oval Beach. Not a bad way to spend a summer’s day.
The nights in Grand Rapids have just as much to offer as the days.
You’re bound to find some place you like at B.O.B. (Big Old Building), which houses restaurants, nightclubs and even a comedy club in the four-story, red brick former warehouse. One of the coolest is Bobarino’s, where you can get great food and live entertainment. Cap the night at SpeakEZ Lounge, a prohibition era–style pub offering classic cocktails, craft beers and plenty of fun.