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Grand Rapids, Michigan

Local Details

Learn more about Grand Rapids, Michigan using the City Guide below. Plan a trip, find local shopping centers, or just discover what makes Grand Rapids, Michigan so great!

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City Guide

Grand Rapids is in Western Michigan, in the United States of America.

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan with a population of just under 200,000 in the city limits, and nearly 600,000 in the surrounding county. The federal West Michigan metropolitan area, which includes Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland (and some intervening farmland), has 1,125,000 people.

Get in

Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) is the airport for Grand Rapids and Kent County and has daily flights (sometimes several) from most of the country's major hubs. (Although it has customs facilities for direct international flights, in practice it has very few.)

Major highways to Grand Rapids include I-196 (from the Chicago area), I-96 (from Muskegon, or from Lansing/Detroit), and US-131 (from Kalamazoo, or from northern Michigan).

Amtrak offers daily evening service from Chicago's Union Station on its Pere Marquette run. Greyhound also offers bus service to Grand Rapids from various Michigan cities.

Get Around

Like most mid-sized U.S. cities, an automobile is the most convenient means of getting around, with convenient free parking available most places outside of downtown. Parking downtown can be inconvenient and somewhat costly on weekdays and during major events (e.g. arena concerts). Walking within the immediate downtown area is pleasant enough in good weather, and generally safe.

Several taxi companies operate in the city, and cabs can be picked up at designated locations such as the airport, or by calling their dispatcher; cabs are not hailed on the street.

"The Rapid" bus service has a terminal downtown, and routes throughout the city and its suburbs, running early mornings through late evenings on weekdays. Several routes run with less frequent service on Saturdays and Sundays. The buses are clean, safe, and generally on-time.

Street addresses identify the quadrant of the city by adding NW, NE, SW, or SE after the full street name. This is the same system used by Washington (D.C.), but Grand Rapids doesn't have the capital's confusing system of alphabetic and numerical street names. There are a few numbered streets just northwest of downtown, but most of the numbered streets are from 28th Street and out on the south side; the far north side instead has Three Mile Road, Four Mile Road, etc. Generally speaking, east-west roads are called "Street" and north-south roads are called "Avenue", but there are plenty of exceptions. The only roads where addresses are given as "1234 East Something Street" are the two that divide the city (and therefore aren't in the quadrants): Division Avenue and Fulton Street. ("East Paris", for example, is a north-south avenue on the east side of the city. Note: There is also a Paris Avenue in Grand Rapids that runs parallel to East Paris.) There is an East Beltline – a divided highway but not a limited-access freeway – traveling north-south just out of the city limits. The South Beltline (M-6) is a new east-west freeway south of 60th Street.

See

  • Frederik Meijer Gardens - Plan at least four hours and up to eight hours to enjoy all that there is to offer. Walk the outdoor nature trails and boardwalk, study world-class sculpture within the outdoor sculpture park (including "Leonardo's Horse", a finished interpretation of the giant sculpture da Vinci intended to be his masterpiece), climb on the great scoop Paletta Grande by Francesco Nicola Sansovino and enjoy endless hours of fun with the kids in the children's garden. Visit the indoor areas including a special sculpture exhibitions in the lovely indoor galleries, see the largest tropical conservatory in the state of Michigan and gaze at exquisite arid and carnivorous plants. The gardens host special concerts in their outdoor amphitheater.
  • Van Andel Museum Center - offers the sights and sounds of centuries gone by, coming alive once again. Downtown on the west bank of the Grand.
  • Gerald R. Ford Museum - chronicles the United States' "accidental" presidency, the only Chief Executive never elected to serve, who restored a measure of trust to the office following its greatest crisis. Jerry's final resting place is just north of the museum. Downtown on the west bank of the Grand.
  • Grands Rapids Art Museum - In addition to its permanent collection, features special exhibitions. On Pearl St. between Ionia and Division Ave. Moving to a new, larger facility next to Rosa Park Circle in 2007.
  • Public Art - as the the website www.sculpturesitesgr.org suggests, "The Greater Grand Rapids area has quietly built an impressive collection of modern and contemporary sculpture over the course of the last thirty years." Highlights around downtown include La Grande Vitesse, a particularly good example of an Alexander Calder stabile resplendent in trademark bright red-orange, Fish Ladder, a sculpture-cum-overlook platform with views of the riverfront and migrating fish, and Project X, an earthwork by minimalist artist Robert Morris built into a hillside in Belknap Park. The website has extensive information on the pieces, the artists, and their locations, and a section dedicated to the works at Fredrik Meijer Gardens mentioned above.

Do

  • Grand Rapids Symphony
  • Grand Rapids Ballet
  • Van Andel Arena
  • West Michigan Whitecaps, Minor League Baseball
  • Grand Rapids Rampage, Arena Football
  • Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL Hockey

Events

  • Festival of the Arts - Commonly known as simply Festival, this summer weekend event is the nation's largest all-volunteer arts festival. Chosen by the Library of Congress as a Local Legacy.

Buy

  • Schuler Books and Music- With two locations in the G.R. area (28th Street and Alpine) this large independent bookstore is a great place to relax, read and even get some coffee.
  • Little Bohemia- Cross a bead store with some funky clothing, gifts, and books and what do you get? This botique store is right downtown on Monroe Center.

There are several enclosed shopping malls and retail centers in the city and its suburbs - most notably Woodland Mall in the southeast and Rivertown Crossing in the southwest - but they feature much the same stores as similar malls in other cities, so they are mostly of interest to local shoppers and those from less urban areas without such resources. One exception is the Apple store recently opened in Woodland Mall, the state's third.

Eat

  • San Chez Bistro, (on Fulton St. downtown). Upscale food, big city atmosphere, casual attire. Cuisine of Spain with a Latin and Cuban flair. Specializing in Tapas, Sangria, Sherries, Ports and a wonderful wine list.
  • Yesterdog, (in the wedge between Lake Drive and Wealthy Street). Genuine early-20th-century memorabilia, genuine all-beef hotdogs, seemingly chaotic order-taking/filling procedure (trust them: it works). A quirky local institution in the Eastown neighborhood. (If you want to pass for a regular, skip the "dog" when ordering: e.g. "two Yester[dog]s, one Cheddar[dog]".)
  • Sami's Gyros / The Pita House, (Locations in Eastown, southeast 28th Street, near Celebration Cinemas North and South). Made to order eastern-mediterranean food, a local-immigrant success story.
  • MorningStar76, (next to Yesterdog). Coffeehouse and den of sin.
  • Gaia, (on Diamond Ave. just south of Cherry Street). Ample servings of delicious vegetarian food in the closest Grand Rapids gets to a bohemian atmosphere.
  • Marie Catrib, (on Lake Ave. on the corner of Diamond and Lake). Fabulous sandwiches, soups, and some Middle Eastern dishes. Amazing desserts (try the Sticky Toffee).
  • The Beltline Bar, (at 28th Street and Division Avenue). Mexican specialties, including their famous sauce-smothered "wet burrito". (No, it's nowhere near the East Beltline or the South Beltline; way back when they opened, 28th was "the south beltline".)
  • Charlie's Crab, 63 Market St. SW. Some of the best seafood Grand Rapids has to offer in a refined setting overlooking the Grand River.
  • Silver Derby, (near the corner of Eastern and Burton). This "dive bar" has a great atmosphere and amazing chili dogs.
  • The 1913 Room, (at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, near the corner of Pearl and Monroe). The first and only AAA 5 Diamond Restaurant in Michigan. Very upscale, jacket required.

Drink

  • Mulligans has the cheapest and strongest drinks in town. Perfect for twenty- to thirty- somethings into counterculture and indie rock. Sunday "make- your- own bloody mary bar". Not for the faint of heart. Right across from Yesterdog at the corner of Wealthy and Lake.
  • The B.O.B. ("the Big Old Building") is a popular downtown nightspot featuring a diverse assortment of restaurants and bars under one roof, across the street from the Van Andel Arena.
  • The Intersection is a long-standing venue for live rock and other kinds of music, recently relocated to a larger space downtown.
  • Billy's Lounge on Wealthy in Eastown features live music - especially blues - most nights.
  • Diversions is the most popular gay/lesbian-friendly club in town, downtown on Fountain St. just west of Division Ave.
  • Founders is a great microbrew and taproom on Monroe Ave. just North of I-196. Count on a great variety of beer and occasional live music.
  • Bar Divani , 15 Ionia Ave SW, is the best winebar in the city. Excellent selections of wine, beer and spirits, and fantastic cusine. Wonderful atmosphere as well.

Sleep

  • America's Best Suites, 35 28th Street SW, +1 616 452-5141, Fax: +1 616 452-0046.
  • AmeriSuites Grand Rapids/Airport, 5401 28th Street Court, +1 616 940-8100, Located just miles from Gerald R. Ford International Airport and from downtown Grand Rapids.
  • Best Western Midway Hotel, 4101 28th Street SE, +1 616 942-2550, Fax: +1 616 942-2446.
  • Comfort Inn Airport, 4155 28th St SE, +1 616 957-2080, fax: +1 616 957-9712, Seven minutes from downtown Grand Rapids and three minutes from the Gerald Ford Airport. Business center with high speed internet available.
  • Comfort Suites, 7644 Caterpillar Court, +1 616 301-2255, fax: +1 616 301-2256.
  • Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown, 11 Monroe Avenue NW, +1 616 242-6000, Fax: +1 616 242-6605.
  • Crowne Plaza Grand Rapids Hotel, 5700 28th Street S.E., +1 616 957-1770,Located just off I-96, minutes from the airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Only three miles from Gerald R. Ford International Airport, with free shuttle. Five minutes from the largest shopping mall in West Michigan
  • Fairfield Inn Grand Rapids, 3930 Stahl Drive SE, +1 616 940-2700, Fax: +1 616 940-2700, Just minutes from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and the DeVos Convention Center.
  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 6569 Clay Ave., +1 616 871-9700.
  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 358 River Ridge Dr. Nw, +1 616 647-4100.
  • Motel 6 Grand Rapids East - Airport, 3524 28th St SE, +1 616 957-3511, Fax: +1 616 957-4369.
  • Quality Inn Terrace Club, 4495 28th St SE, +1 616 956-8080, fax: +1 616 956-0619, A Bed and Breakfast atmosphere conveniently located ten minutes from the airport.
  • Residence Inn Grand Rapids, 2701 East Beltline Avenue SE, +1 616 957-8111, Toll-free: +1 800 331-3131, Fax: +1 616 957-3699.
  • Sleep Inn, 4284 29th St SE, +1 616 975-9000, +1 616 954-6767.
  • SpringHill Suites Grand Rapids Airport Southeast, 5250 28th St. SE, +1 616 464-1130, Fax: +1 616 464-1139.
  • SpringHill Suites Grand Rapids North, 450 Center Drive, +1 616 785-1600, Fax: +1 616 785-1601.
  • Travelodge Grand Rapids, 65 28th St SW, +1 616 452-1461, fax: +1 616 452-5115, free breakfast and high speed internet in all rooms.

Get out

The lakeside communities of Holland and Grand Haven lie half an hour to the west.

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