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Grand Rapids is an exciting city in Michigan that might not get as much attention as other Midwest destinations, but this is a lovely place to travel with your family and for festivities throughout the year. There are some great museums here to explore, as well as lovely parks and outdoor recreation. So, if you’re looking for a new place to check out for a weekend trip, here are the top things to do in Grand Rapids.
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One must-see attraction in Grand Rapids is Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, which is an indoor/outdoor natural space with flowers and trees. This park has been open to the public since 1995 and has five indoor themed gardens, nature trails, outdoor gardens, sculpture galleries, and a large tropical conservatory. Highlights of the gardens are the Barn, Scarlatti, and heirloom vegetable patch. Onsite you’ll also find a library, café, gift shop, and education center.
The city of Grand Rapids is situated right along the river and has a nice downtown area to explore. There are walking paths along the water where you can get scenic views of the city and take a break from your busy day of sightseeing. You can also take a harbor boat ride on the river to get a different view of town and see the sights. It’s fun to go stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking on the Grand River as well to get some exercise and epic views.
Grand Rapids is wonderfully family-friendly, which is why a trip to the local children’s museum is a must. Some of the many favorite exhibits here include the bubble room, musical instrument area, Legos, and storytelling activities. Amazing Dinosaurs, Kidstruction Zone, Little GR, and Aunt Daisy’s Farm are other museum exhibitions here. There are daily kids’ programs that change every day, as well as toddler time, open paint sessions, family nights, and other fun programs.
Grand Rapids is also locally known for its art scene, so make a point to check out the art museum here while you’re in town. There are thousands of works here, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs. Chroma Passage, pictured here, is an impressive art installation at the museum. You can find a listing of current and upcoming exhibitions on the museum’s website.
It’s also fun to walk around the Downtown Market while you’re in town to grab a meal or do some shopping. This is a must-visit destination for foodies because there are so many different types of cuisine and ingredients sold here. This market has over 20 indoor market vendors, a couple of full-service restaurants, hands-on cooking classes, rooftop greenhouses, and outdoor events.
Grand Rapids was the childhood home of the 38th U.S. President, Gerald R. Ford, and there’s a presidential museum here that’s worth visiting to learn about the former leader. At the museum, you can learn about Ford’s early life and also his political career.
Families can get up-close and personal with lots of different animals when they visit the John Ball Park Zoo. Some of the many animals to see here are lions, tigers, bears, bald eagles, chimpanzees, penguins, and pelicans. Exhibits include Red’s Hobby Farm, Wild Way Trail, and Natural Treasures. Kids also love coming here because there’s a four-story zip line, sky trail ropes course, and camel rides. For refreshments, there’s the Monkey Island Café, Shaded Grounds, Whistle Stop, Dippin’ Dots, the Bird’s Nest, and Tiger Paws Pizza.
After the last days of summer have passed, Grand Rapids is also a top fall destination because of the beautiful changing leaves here. This is a top fall foliage destination in the Midwest by car, hiking trail, or bike ride. Fall fun in the area also extends to apple orchards and pumpkin patches. Some scenic stops as you come to this region to see the fall foliage are the Fallasburg Covered Bridge, Ada Township Park, and the Blandford Nature Center.
The 4th of July holiday is a fun time to be in Grand Rapids because there is always lots of festive celebrating going on. Several of the suburban towns, such as Ada and Cascade, have parades during the daytime. Then the Grand Rapids evening celebration kicks off in Ah-Nab-Awen Park with food trucks, vendors, games, and family fun. The fireworks show takes place here too after the sun goes down. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park typically hosts a 4th of July celebration that’s fun for families too.