Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Big Rapids, MI

  • Published 2022/02/04

Big Rapids in Michigan is a thriving city due to its growing economy, quality education, and numerous industries.

From a visitor’s point of view, this city is an excellent place for a unique travel adventure that centers on nature, arts, and a bit of history.

The Ferris State University, which has over 13,000 students, brings diversity, employment opportunities, and excitement to Big Rapids and Mecosta County.

In addition, its historic downtown offers you a wonderful experience to get acquainted with the city’s history and culture while hopping from one shop to another or dining from the restaurants lining up the streets.

Visiting this small city is ideal for short excursions with the family or a quick weekend getaway.

When it comes to outdoor recreation, Big Rapids is home to numerous lakes, rivers, parks, trails, wineries, and breweries that will surely keep you busy during your entire visit.

If you’re looking for a lovely laid-back city to travel to one of these days, you should consider visiting Big Rapids.

To learn about what is in store for you in this vibrant city, here are the 15 best things to do in Big Rapids, MI.

Discover the Historic Downtown Big Rapids

The brick building in downtown big rapids with a traffic light out front.

Roberto Galan /

The Historic Downtown Big Rapids offers everyone a dash of history and quality leisure time.

The downtown district is just two turns off the US-131 Highway, and it features seven restaurants serving diverse cuisines, along with 15 shops and services to check out.

A far view of the brick building in downtown big rapids with cars parked.

Roberto Galan /

The Historic Downtown Big Rapids is run by the Big Rapids Downtown Business Association, aiming to develop and maintain the city’s thriving business sector and promote local tourism.

Before you head back home, you should stroll through the downtown district, where you can shop and dine or meet locals along the way.

It’s one of the most excellent ways to wrap up your travel experience in the city.

Cars parked in front of big building in downtown big rapids.

Roberto Galan /

Hike at the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park

The Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park covers more than 92 miles of beautiful trails starting from Cadillac and ending in Comstock Park.

The entire trail has a combination of gravel and asphalt since it is a former rail bed utilized back in the day in Michigan.

It became a popular outdoor destination in Big Rapids, and surrounding towns and cities after the area ceased operation in the mid-1980s.

Today, this state park is frequently visited by locals and visitors in Mecosta County.

People either hike or jog along the trail, with a panoramic backdrop of the surrounding greeneries along the way.

In addition, the White Pine Trail State Park has become a trendy place for people who love to ride snowmobiles during the winter months.

Visiting this state park is an excellent start to your Big Rapids travel adventure, especially with your family.

Pay a Visit to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia nestled within the Ferris State University reminds everyone about the importance of promoting social justice.

The museum’s curators aim to bring awareness about the sad truth on racism and discrimination in the United States against African-Americans through the racist depictions and portrayals in the past.

The entire museum features six exhibit areas that tackle different periods of African-American oppression from the era of slavery, reconstruction, civil rights, and the story behind Jim Crow.

Crow became famous in the racial caste system for imposing anti-black laws.

Most notably, Crow’s policies relegated African-Americans as second-class citizens.

This unique museum in Big Rapids is an excellent place to learn the harsh truth of some of the United States’ history.

Stroll through Hemlock Park

Hemlock Park is a popular outdoor recreation venue in Big Rapids.

Located along Warren Avenue and Hemlock Street, this park offers different outdoor activities.

It features a charming picnic area and sports facilities such as basketball courts, tennis courts, and a baseball diamond.

It also has hiking trails, a playground, and a fishing area for locals and visitors to enjoy.

This park in Big Rapids is an excellent place to flex your muscles and a place to pass the time and relax.

Fish at the Towline Lake

The Towline Lake is located just outside Big Rapid’s city limits.

It covers around 73-acres of surface area with a depth of 50-feet maximum.

Fishing is the most popular outdoor activity you can enjoy at this lake.

So, make sure to bring your fishing gear during your visit to Big Rapids because you’re guaranteed to have a bountiful catch at this lake teeming with various types of freshwater fish.

Towline Lake is abundant in Channel Catfish, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, and Bluegill.

In addition, you can spend the night at Towline Lake’s campground and marina and bring your family to enjoy different outdoor recreational activities.

Aside from fishing, visitors can also go jet-skiing, water-skiing, and boating on the lake.

Wander through the Ferris State University

Ferris State University welcoming sign written in silver.

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s uniqueness in visiting university campuses.

That is why you shouldn’t miss wandering through the vast campus grounds of Ferris State University.

According to News and World Report Rankings, Ferris State University was recognized in 2020 as among the best universities in the country.

The tall central campus of ferris state university.

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This university is widely known for its top-notch degree programs in engineering and social mobility.

Aside from being a well-known state University in Michigan, the campus is packed with different attractions from museums, libraries, sports facilities, theaters, art galleries, and a lot more.

Founded in 1884, the university has grown big and caters to more than 14,000 students from different parts of Michigan.

So, don’t forget to list Ferris State University on your Big Rapids itinerary.

The Interdisciplinary Resource Center on ferris state university with green grass landscape.

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy the Festive Mecosta County Free Fair

The Mecosta County Free fair is a local agricultural affair that features an amusement park, entertainment, exhibits, and different family-oriented activities in Big Rapids.

Every July, the fair runs through an entire week wherein thousands of people from Big Rapids and neighboring towns around Mecosta County congregate to have fun and purchase fresh produce and livestock from local farmers.

One of the fair’s highlights is the Skerbeck Family Carnival, which features more than a dozen rides, along with a wide array of food vendors and fun game concessions that you usually find in theme parks.

So, it would be great to book your travel to Big Rapids in July to witness and experience the festive atmosphere of the Mecosta County Free Fair.

Explore the Card/Riley Conservation and Wildlife Education Center

This 5,000-square-foot facility within the Ferris State University is a beautiful place to bring kids and nature lovers.

The Card/Riley Conservation and Wildlife Education Center is more than just your typical museum.

It features a massive collection of taxidermied animals from 52 countries worldwide.

You will come across well-preserved bears, tigers, lions, antelopes, elks, and other animals that will surely amaze you.

There are more than 200 taxidermied animals displayed in the wildlife center.

It is a beautiful place for everyone, specifically students and children, to learn about the different animals displayed there.

Usually, the wildlife center offers education tours regularly for visitors through their trained students in Ferris State University’s biology department.

Primarily, the wildlife center is an education hub for kids in the K-12 level and Ferris State University students.

However, it doesn’t mean that casual visitors can’t enter there.

Everyone is welcome to visit this fantastic place that will virtually take you on a safari tour; it’s just that the animals aren’t moving anymore.

Unwind at the Schuberg’s Bar & Grill

The Schuberg’s Bar and Grill has been operating in Big Rapids since the late 1800s, serving customers their signature hospitality and delicious burgers.

Many locals, including college students from Ferris State University, hang out at this place to enjoy its relaxing atmosphere, good food, and refreshing drinks.

The bar opened back when Mecosta County thrived in the lumber industry.

Most of its patrons back in the day were lumberjacks who were looking for a place to hang out.

The bar has seen many events unfold in Big Rapids over the years.

It has surpassed the trying times of the Great Depression and the alcohol prohibition back in the day.

Today, Schuberg’s Bar and Grill maintains its warm and welcoming vibes, along with its scrumptious signature burgers and drinks.

Cruise along the Muskegon River

View of the Muskegon river with fall colored trees surrounding it.

Marc Steensma, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Muskegon River passes through Big Rapids all the way to Lake Michigan.

Aside from being Michigan’s second-longest river, the Muskegon River is popular among locals and visitors as an outdoor destination.

The river is known for boating and fishing activities.

In addition, there are educational tours for everyone, courtesy of the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly.

Green trees around the flowing water of muskegon river.

Eula Marie Ferrier /

Visiting the Muskegon River offers you many outdoor activities either by yourself or your family.

You can drift on a boat and enjoy its natural and charming sceneries or perhaps bring your fishing gear and catch different freshwater fish such as rainbow trout, steelhead, and king salmon.

The river is easily accessed across the city, so visiting there won’t be a hassle.

Pass the Time at the Northend Park

Another public park to visit in Big Rapids is Northend Park, teeming with outdoor activities.

Located along Fourth Avenue, the park offers visitors different sports facilities and amenities.

It is popular among locals and visitors as a sports recreation area because of the two standard-sized disc golf courses.

The Northend Park also has a sand volleyball court, a playground, pavilion, picnic area, hiking area, nature trails, and a cross country skiing trail during the winter months.

For a nice spot in Big Rapids to pass the time or perhaps play sports with your family, you can check out Northend Park.

Have a Quality Leisure Time at Gypsy Nickel Lounge

One of the most visited restaurants/bars in Big Rapids is the Gypsy Nickel Lounge.

It has a cozy and welcoming atmosphere for guests while treating everyone with 15 taps of excellent craft beer and an extensive cocktail menu.

In addition, the Gypsy Nickel Lounge is known for its short order menu featuring classic American comfort food like tacos, fish and chips, Mac and Cheese, and many more.

The restaurant/bar also has different activities each night, including their famous Wednesday karaoke nights.

One of the focal points of the Gypsy Nickel Lounge is its beautiful deck which offers guests a picturesque view of the Muskegon River.

It’s a beautiful spot to unwind while listening to the calming sound of the river stream.

Watch Live Performances and Concerts at Williams Auditorium

If you’re seeking quality entertainment in Big Rapids, you can watch live performances and concerts at the Williams Auditorium at Ferris State University.

The theater has 1,644 seats equipped with modern lights and sound equipment to treat the audience with a top-notch theatrical experience.

The theater is used chiefly for university-related events.

But it’s also packed with a schedule of musical and theatrical performances for the public to watch.

The West Central Concert Band and the FSU Band/Orchestra regularly perform at the theater along with the art department of Ferris State University.

To find out who will perform at the Williams Auditorium, you can check its calendar of events on its website.

Stroll through the Big Rapids Riverwalk

The entire stretch of the Big Rapids Riverwalk covers around 3.5 miles beside the picturesque Muskegon River, connecting the city’s downtown area and numerous parks.

This outdoor attraction in the city is accessible to everyone, which means you can head there with your loved ones for a morning or afternoon stroll with ease.

The trail is filled with picnic areas, fishing platforms, bike racks, and benches on both sides, as well as a 250-feet wooden bridge that you can cross.

It’s a perfect place for hiking, swimming, or biking during the summer months.

On the northern end of the Big Rapids Riverwalk, a pathway gives you access to the White Pine Trail State Park, offering another area to hike and discover.

Indulge in Delicious Food at the Raven Brewing & BBQ

Located in Big Rapids’ historic downtown area, the Raven Brewing and BBQ is known for its wide selection of house-brewed craft beer.

This restaurant/bar is also a popular place to hang out, eat delicious food, and enjoy good-quality craft beer.

Don’t miss out on trying their house signature craft beer called “Farmers Choice,” a type of blonde ale that uses different ingredients made by the owners of this restaurant/bar.

In addition, the Raven Brewing and BBQ serves delicious Texas-style barbeque such as beef brisket and pulled pork slowly smoked to perfection in their barbeque pits.

They also serve short orders such as the famous poutine, mac and cheese, burgers, and smoked Cuban panini.

Final Thoughts

Big Rapids is an unassuming city with many hidden attractions waiting to be discovered.

Its attractions mainly highlight relaxation, history, education, and leisure, making it a perfect destination for the entire family.

So, which of the attractions in Big Rapids you’ll be visiting first?

If you find this post exciting, you can bookmark this page or perhaps share it with your fellow travelers.

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