Blake Walsh

17 Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids, MI

  • Published 2022/10/13

As of 2020, Grand Rapids is the second most populous city in Michigan.

It serves as Kent County’s seat and has become the economic and cultural hub of West Michigan.

The city got its name from the Grand River’s rapid waters that run throughout its topography.

Known for its rich waters, the city has since evolved and is now famous for its museums, art exhibits, and architectural landmarks.

Being a metropolitan city, Grand Rapids is also famous for its commercial establishments and vibrant urban life.

Before you plan your itinerary, check out this list of the 17 best things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Take a Photo of the La Grande Vitesse

Daytime view of the La Grande Vitesse

Susan Montgomery /

As a representation of its rich art culture, La Grande Vitesse has become the icon of Grand Rapids over the years, currently serving as the city’s logo.

Popularly known to locals as “The Calder,” La Grande Vitesse is an art installation by American artist Alexander Calder, dating back to 1969.

It’s a massive sculpture comprising several parts structured like a jigsaw puzzle.

Details of the La Grande Vitesse

RJCooper, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Installed at the heart of the city plaza where the city hall stands, La Grande Vitesse makes for a great souvenir photo if it’s your first time in the city.

You can find this art installation along Ottawa Avenue, Northwest.

Have an Interactive Experience at Grand Rapids Public Museum

Exterior of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

John Eisenschenk, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Grand Rapids Public Museum is one of Michigan’s best interactive museums, offering you a unique experience that takes you as far back as 19th-century Michigan.

Highlights here include a trip to 1890s Grand Rapids. It’s an exhibit that shows you various vintage machinery and tools relevant to the city centuries ago.

There is also an exhibit that shows artifacts from the Anishinabek people, an indigenous tribe that resided in Michigan and Canada.

Steam engine in the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Tim R7 /

There is much more to see here, such as a planetarium and a comprehensive showcase of flora and fauna throughout Grand River’s natural history.

Grand Rapids Public Museum at 272 Pearl Street, Northwest, should be atop your priority list when visiting the city.

Interact with All Kinds of Animals at John Ball Zoological Garden

Entrance to the John Ball Zoological Garden

WMrapids, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another tourist landmark in Grand Rapids is the John Ball Zoological Garden.

Advertised as an urban zoological park, John Ball Zoological Garden is uniquely situated at the foot of a forest hill full of ravines and bluffs.

A variety of wildlife, such as tigers, apes, leopards, and a diverse set of marine life, is present on this massive land.

Bongo at John Ball Zoological Garden

User:BeckyAnne, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

John Ball Zoological Garden is also an active wildlife conservation organization, using its profits to improve conservation efforts worldwide.

Pay a visit to this unique zoo located at 1300 Fulton Street West and interact with its beautiful wildlife.

Stingrays at John Ball Zoological Garden

w:User:BeckyAnne, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Satisfy Your Food Cravings at Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Grand Rapids Downtown Market is perhaps the best place to let loose if you’re looking to spend some extra cash and get a delicious meal during your trip.

Located along Ionia Avenue Southwest, Grand Rapids Downtown Market has a wide variety of shops and restaurants.

It has a diverse variety of fresh seafood, cheese, and fresh produce along with spices and cooking oils. It also serves a wide array of desserts, pastries, and alcoholic beverages.

Also known here are its multicultural cuisines.

With Asian, European, and classic American dishes, the place is sure to satisfy your hunger cravings.

No itinerary is complete without a good meal, and Grand Rapids Downtown Market does an excellent job at it.

Shop for Fresh Produce at Fulton Street Farmers Market

People shopping at Fulton Street Farmers Market

ByteofKnowledge, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The long stretch of Fulton Street is also home to Fulton Street Farmers Market.

Michigan is famous for a lot of its fertile agricultural land, so the Fulton Street Farmers Market will not disappoint you in terms of its produce.

Vegetables, fruits, and other organic products from various local vendors congregate in this portion of Fulton Street.

There are also other items, such as handmade gifts and gardening plants. The pastries and bread are also well known among locals.

Fulton Street Farmers Market usually opens on Saturdays upon announcement on their website.

You can find it at 1145 Fulton Street East.

Relax by the Grand River at Riverside Park

The waters of Riverside Park

Michael Deemer /

One of the best places to visit to relax and appreciate the Grand River is Riverside Park.

It offers spectacular views of the Grand River, best on a clear day.

It also has a guided kayak tour if you want to experience the river fully.

Beyond that, there are many recreational activities to do here.

Rollerblading at Riverside Park

Michael Deemer /

The park has amenities for fishing, jogging, and picnics.

It also has areas dedicated to sports, such as baseball, disc golf, frisbee, and table tennis.

Riverside Park is a great place to wind down at the end of the day.

It is just along Monroe Avenue, Northeast.

Scenic view of Riverside Park

Naturally awesome /

Do Wine and Cider Tasting at Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery

Established in 1911, Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery has provided locals with Grand Rapids’ freshest produce for generations.

Over the years, their farm has evolved into an Apple Haus and Winery, creating an authentic farm-to-table experience for their customers.

You can visit their winery, which sells house-brewed wine and hard cider. Their Apple Haus, meanwhile, offers freshly baked goods and a variety of fresh produce.

Their 125-acre orchard is also open to the public. Here, you can see a wide variety of fruits, such as peaches, apples, and apricots.

Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery is a fantastic destination for kids and adults alike. You can visit them at 3142 4 Mile Road, Northeast.

Appreciate the Meyer May House, Michigan’s Prairie Masterpiece

Exterior of Meyer May House

Michael Deemer /

The Meyer May House is one of the most beautiful architectural hotspots to visit in Grand Rapids.

A project of world-renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Meyer May House was commissioned by its namesake in 1908.

People widely consider it the “Michigan Prairie Masterpiece,” as it is one of the best representations of Wright’s Prairie School, which heavily focuses on horizontal lines.

Facade of Meyer May House

Michael Deemer /

There are guided tours around the house to give you a comprehensive understanding of its aesthetic.

Don’t miss out on the Meyer May House, which is full of beautiful architectural designs, sprawling rooms, and gardens.

It’s in the Heritage Hill Historic District along Madison Avenue Southeast.

Beautiful flowers at Meyer May House garden

Michael Deemer /

Check Out More Beautiful Architecture at Heritage Hill Historic District

A house at Heritage Hill Historic District

BD Images /

If Meyer May House isn’t enough to satisfy your geeky architectural side, then simply walking around the area will introduce you to more amazing structures.

The Heritage Hill Historic District is one of the largest urban historic districts in Grand Rapids, even in the country.

You’ll see structures with a variety of architectural styles, such as Tudor, Chateauesque, Gothic Revival, and Italianate, to name a few.

Registered in the National Register of Historic Places, you can find notable houses here besides Meyer May House, such as the Voigt House.

People can access the Heritage Hill Historic District through Crescent and Pleasant Street along with Union and Lafayette Avenue.

Take Scenic Shots of The Blue Bridge

The Blue Bridge at night

J.A. Dunbar /

Grand Rapids’ The Blue Bridge is another vintage landmark that’s a must-have in your photo gallery.

Dating back to the 1860s, The Blue Bridge was originally a railroad bridge. It has since turned into a pedestrian-type bridge after its destruction during the 1883 Great Logjam incident.

It’s a quaint bridge best observed at night. The blueness of the bridge illuminates beautifully amid clear night skies.

Night scene within The Blue Bridge

View_Point /

If you’re going in the morning, it catches a lot of beautiful sunlight, making it perfect for a walk.

The Blue Bridge is found stretching across the Grand River along Campau Avenue, Northwest.

Daytime view of The Blue Bridge

Suzanne Tucker /

Explore the Waters of Millennium Park

If you’re looking for a wet adventure in Grand Rapids, Millennium Park is the place to be.

It’s the largest park in West Michigan, and it connects Grand Rapids to the neighboring cities of Walker, Grandville, and even the state of Wyoming.

You’ll have access to the park’s massive lakes, where you can do various boating exercises and fun activities.

There’s a sandy beach, splash pad, and nature trails full of wild birds in Millennium Park as well.

With over 1,400 acres of land, you’ll enjoy exploring Millennium Park.

You can access the park at Walker, along Maynard Avenue.

Take a Stroll at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Children admiring the horse sculpture at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Bo Shen /

Spanning 158 acres, the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a recreational space that features an art museum and a botanical garden.

It’s well known in Michigan for its focus on horticulture and sculptures.

Some of its well-loved areas are its bonsai garden, the tropical conservatory, and an art and nature trail sprawling with various art installations and sculptures.

Turtle sculptures at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Michael Deemer /

It’s one of the best places in Michigan to appreciate flora and art at the same time.

You’ll get lost in the park’s beauty and artistry.

You can access the park by going to its admission booth along Beltline Avenue, Northeast.

Gardener's trowel sculpture at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Bo Shen /

Appreciate Diverse Art at Grand Rapids Art Museum

Chess game on the grounds of Grand Rapids Art Museum

Susan Montgomery /

Grand Rapids Art Museum is one of the best art museums in the country, boasting over 5,000 works of art.

Its wide collection of paintings, photographs, and installations is mostly from the Renaissance and Modernism periods.

The museum has interesting rotating exhibits throughout the year, while their permanent ones feature famous present-day artists like Edward Burtynsky, Kelly Church, and Anila Agha.

Exterior of the Grand Rapids Art Museum

Why.architecture, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Grand Rapids Art Museum is a great place for all ages, making it a desired family destination.

You can find the museum at Monroe Center Street, Northwest.

Pump Your Adrenaline Up at TreeRunner Grand Rapids Adventure Park

Along Celebration Drive, Northeast, lies TreeRunner Grand Rapids Adventure Park—a haven for the outdoor thrill-seeker.

With over 75 obstacles and zip lines, this is the go-to outdoor amusement park of locals and tourists alike.

TreeRunner Adventure Park uses sprawling forest trees to create all sorts of challenges using varying layouts.

You’ll have to maneuver through zip lines, nets, climbing areas, and wooden platforms.

Varying difficulties are available, which makes it a great destination for families and large groups.

Marvel at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew

Exterior of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew

moatazkhalid /

The Cathedral of Saint Andrew is perhaps the city’s most prominent church and religious landmark.

Whether you’re Catholic or not, visiting this massive church will introduce you to breathtaking architecture.

Beautiful stained-glass windows and vintage stone flooring are what you’ll immediately notice upon entrance.

If you’re attending mass, the Cathedral of Saint Andrew is also known for its spiritual concerts and exemplary choir.

The Cathedral of Saint Andrew can be found along Sheldon Boulevard, Southeast.

Learn Political History at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

Exterior of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

Susan Montgomery /

Grand Rapids is home to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum and serves as the resting grounds of former US president Gerald Ford—a native of Grand Rapids.

The museum offers a small but comprehensive view of the life and works of President Ford—from his childhood days up to his work as US president between 1974–1977.

Flower bed in front of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

Fsendek /

There’s also a library inside full of documents about President Ford and then-first lady Betty Ford.

Outside the museum lies the graves of the former president and first lady.

If you’re interested in learning about the 38th US President and his political career, you can visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum at 303 Pearl Street, Northwest.

Graves of the former president and first lady at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

BD Images /

Have a Unique Fishing Experience at Fish Ladder Park

The waters of Fish Ladder Park

Danita Delimont /

Fish Ladder Park offers a unique fishing experience at the heart of the city’s Grand River, along Front Avenue, Northwest.

The park got its name for its uncanny “fish ladder” installation designed by artist Joseph Kennebrew.

By using the ladder, migrating fish like salmon and carp can have an easier time maneuvering upstream, avoiding the rapid waters of the Grand River.

It’s a unique way to observe how aquatic life and human architecture merge to form natural harmony with one another.

Whether you’re here to fish or observe, Fish Ladder Park is a great addition to your itinerary.

Just be sure to visit during the migration season, which happens in spring and summer.

Final Thoughts

Grand Rapids is one of the premier tourist destinations in Michigan and the US.

It’s packed with historical and cultural landmarks that are perfect for the curious adventurer.

You’ll easily spend days covering most of what it has to offer, from art museums to the place’s natural history.

Beyond that, you’ll find a rich urban culture teeming with so many exciting activities.

To make the most of your trip, use this guide to the best things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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