My girls and I always get excited when we learn that my husband is going to Grand Rapids to speak or teach at a conference. Why? Because he always lets us tag along with him! We’ve been so many times that I have basically memorized where some of my favorite restaurants (e.g., Chili’s, Panera) and stores (e.g., Target, Wal-Mart) are and even have options if our sightseeing or shopping excursions put us closer to one location than another. I also know where some of our favorite tourist spots are located.
One of our favorite places to visit is the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the world’s first LEED Gold Certified art museum. (FYI, the certification reveals that the building has strategies that make it resource-effecient and healthier than other buildings.) This museum was actually within walking distance of our hotel on a couple of trips. With 20,000 square feet of gallery and exhibition space spread out over three floors–and collections that include paintings, photographs, scupltures, design and modern craft pieces–there is lots to see inside of the modern-looking museum. The Museum also hosts drop-in studio activities, story time, as well as summer camps, for kids.
Another place we like to go to is the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Here we’ve found permanent exhibits that showcase the decorative arts, clothing, tools, etc., credited to the Native about Americans who lived in that region years ago; the cultural traditions and lifestyle of the 45 ethnic groups who reside in Western Michigan now; as well as a recreation of how the city looked back in the 1890s, among others. It also is home to a variety of temporary exhibits. So, be sure to check the website prior to visiting so you’ll know what awaits you and your family. There’s also a planetarium and a carousel on site.
During a couple of our trips, we found ourselves using our umbrellas quite a bit. So, we chose to go with a few indoor tourist spots. However, when it’s not raining outside, we like to spend time at the John Ball Zoo. It is home to beautiful animals, an aquarium (a favorite of mine!), a four-story zip line, a funicular, a ropes course, camel rides, a petting corral, and more. The Zoo also hosts activities, classes and camps for kids, as well as night-time tours for the entire family. By the way, the property is kind of hilly, so your legs will get plenty of exercise during your time there.
The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is another place we like to visit when the sun it out. I always end up taking a lot of photos when I’m there because there’s always so many beautiful things to see in the indoor and outdoor gardens and sculpture galleries. So, not only do we not have to deal with umbrellas when its sunny, I don’t have to worry about getting my camera wet either. We’ve always just walked around the sprawling property on our own, but one day, I’d like to go and ride the narrated tram tour so we can learn about the place from the guide. Speaking of tours, there will also be a couple of Kids Tram Tours coming up in October, the first of which will take place on Fall Family Day on October 6. Fall Family Day will also include such activities as story time, crafts, and an educational walk during which kids will learn about trees.
For more ideas on what to see and visit when you’re in Grand Rapids (cultural institutions, ethnic museums, family-friendly restaurants, concert venues, art galleries, etc.), visit Experience Grand Rapids.