9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids, in western Lower Michigan, was the boyhood home of Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States. Some of the main attractions are the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, with a model of the President's Oval Office in the White House, the Meyer May House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The city also has a number fun family attractions, including the Grand Rapids Children's Museum and the John Ball Zoo. Regardless of the time of year, there is also plenty to keep visitors busy.
See also: Where to Stay in Grand Rapids
1 Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park offer indoor and outdoor space that can be enjoyed year round. The outdoor gardens showcase flowers and peaceful green spaces through a variety of garden styles. Outdoor sculptures are set in the beautiful natural scenery, backed by trees and waterways, with winding paths. The five story Lena Meijer Conservatory provides a tropical setting with exotic plants from around the world. Indoor sculpture galleries feature bronze sculptures by internationally renowned artists.
Address: 1000 East Beltline NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525-5804, United States
2 Meyer May House
The Meyer May House was built in 1908 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a modest-size Prairie style that has been restored to its original concept. It was built originally for a wealthy clothier, and over the years the house had been worked on and altered, including an addition. Restoration to return the structure to its original state took two years and involved removing the addition.
Address: 450 Madison Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503-5312, United States
3 Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
The permanent exhibits at the Gerald R Ford Museum offer information and insights into the lives of President and Mrs. Ford. Temporary exhibits feature items from the entire Presidential libraries system, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Archives. The museum also hosts various community functions.
Address: 303 Pearl Street
4 Grand Rapids Children's Museum
Grand Rapids Children's Museum has colorful play areas with hands-on exhibits geared to children 10 and under. The museum offers an opportunity for physical activity, interaction with other children, learning, and fun through a variety of permanent and temporary theme exhibits.
Address: 11 Sheldon Avenue NW
5 Grand Rapids Public Museum
The museum offers a variety of exhibits related to the people and history of Michigan. Visitors can take a walk down a Grand Rapids street which has been re-constructed with storefronts accurate to the times of the 1890s. A working 1928 Spillman carousel is available for rides, and visitors can walk through recreated sections of a working furniture factory from the early 20th century. Displays and artifacts from the Anishinabek people, the American Indians of West Michigan, are also on display.
Address: 272 Pearl Street NW
6 Grand Rapids Art Museum
Housed a LEED Gold Certified green building in the downtown area, the Grand Rapids Art Museum has collections that include 19th and 20th century prints, paintings, photographs, sculptures and decorative arts. It also features an impressive Modern Art collection. Changing exhibits are held throughout the year.
Address: 101 Monroe Center NW
7 Blandford Nature Center
Blandford Nature Center is a 143 acre area with woods, fields, ponds and streams as well as over 1,000 feet of trails, boardwalks and overlooks available. The nature center focuses on promoting stewardship through education on the environment and natural systems. The center offers all kinds of programs for kids and groups to allow them to interact with nature and wildlife. The Blandford Farm features community gardens and provides a chance for children to learn about farming and sustainable agriculture.
Address: 1715 Hillburn Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504-2452, United States
8 John Ball Zoo
John Ball Zoo is an adventure zoo featuring a 300-foot, 4-story Zipline and a 2-story ropes course with seven different climbing elements on each level. The zoo also features a variety of animals from all over the world. Among the many up-close-and-personal animal experiences are a Stingray Lagoon, with touchable rays and sharks, and a walk among the wallabies during the summer months. Some of the main animal attractions are the grizzly bears, lions, chimpanzees, and a Komodo dragon.
Address: 1300 W Fulton Street
9 Fish Ladder Sculpture
This five-step concrete environmental ladder was built by a local artist to assist salmon jumping over a six-foot dam to reach the spawning grounds. It is conveniently situated along a walking area by the river for easy viewing.
Where to Stay in Grand Rapids for Sightseeing
To get a true feel for this university town and to be within easy reach of the major attractions, including the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Children's Museum, it's best to find accommodation in the city center. Those in town for a trade show should consider staying near the DeVos Place Convention Center, which is connected to some of the larger downtown hotels via skyway. Below are some highly-rated hotels in good locations:
- Luxury Hotels: The towing JW Marriott Grand Rapids is the city's newest luxury hotel, featuring modern rooms with commanding city views, and it is conveniently connected via skyway to the DeVos Place Convention Center. The iconic Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton offers contemporary rooms and five restaurants in a beautifully restored 1920s-era hotel. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is a short stroll away. Also in the heart of the action is the Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown, with an indoor pool, a seasonal sports deck, and skywalk access to the DeVos Place Convention Center and other downtown buildings.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Slightly to the southwest of downtown is the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Ideal for families or long-stay guests, the hotel features large rooms with kitchens and separate sitting areas. The new Hampton Inn & Suites is a stylish option and well-situated, just a 10-minute walk from the downtown attractions. Close to Van Andel Stadium and downtown, the Holiday Inn is a good choice for sports fans in town to see a game.
- Budget Hotels: Slightly east of downtown and 1.5 miles from the Frederik Meijer Gardens is the Country Inn & Suites By Carlson. The hotel has large rooms, a free breakfast, and an indoor pool. Other good budget options are near the airport, a fifteen-minute drive from downtown, and include the Comfort Inn, featuring large rooms and a free hot breakfast, and the Econo Lodge & Suites, offering clean and basic rooms at an attractive price.