Disclaimer: This Grand Rapids post was originally written in June 2021 and was updated in January 2022 for relevancy.
When I first told friends and family I was going to visit Grand Rapids, Michigan this spring, their first reaction was “Grand… where?”. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Grand Rapids before this year either. But, after visiting western Michigan with Experience Grand Rapids, I think it’s worthy of a trip and I’m going to tell you why! This post is going to cover the complete guide to visiting Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Experience Grand Rapids. Thank you so much to the Experience Grand Rapids Team for working with me and hosting me during this portion of my Midwest trip. As always, all opinions written here are my own.
Some Background Information On Michigan
Michigan is a state located in the Great Lakes and Midwestern region of the United States. It’s known for its two major land masses, the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula, which sit alongside 4/5 of the Great Lakes. The capital and largest city in Michigan is Detroit, which is located in the eastern portion of the state, about 2 hours away from where I was staying. For this trip, I only visited western Michigan. This is where Grand Rapids is located! It’s the largest city in the area and is the second largest in the state. Holland, Michigan is a small Dutch town located about 30 minutes from Grand Rapids by car. This is where the world-famous Tulip Time festival is held each May. I was lucky to visit both cities during my trip to Michigan!
How To Get To Michigan
I flew direct from Boston to Grand Rapids, Michigan on Allegiant Air for… wait for it… $32! Allegiant is one of America’s budget, regional airlines and I was very impressed. If you can find an affordable flight right into Grand Rapids I recommend flying into the Gerald R. Ford airport here. It was clean, easy to navigate, and right near the city. You could also fly into Detroit, but that’s over 2 hours from Grand Rapids. A lot of people opt to drive as well. I recommend this, if possible, as public transportation is a bit limited in this area. A local was telling me most families have multiple cars and just drive everywhere, so be aware of this if you’re planning a multi-city stay.
If you do choose to fly and are looking for a driver (Ubers can be limited), I recommend booking a ride with Ben! Ben is a local taxi driver with a young family and is a great conversationalist! He can get you anywhere you need to go. And I mean anywhere. He drove me 30 minutes to Holland and then another 1.5 hours to the Indiana Dunes beaches!
Ben’s email: [email protected]
Ben’s cell: 616-821-8929
Tell him I sent you if you book a ride!
Where To Stay In The Area
There are plenty of chain hotel options in both Grand Rapids and Holland, but I only stayed in Grand Rapids. Holland is a much smaller town, so I just visited there for a few hours on my way to Indiana Dunes. I stayed at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, which is by far the nicest hotel in the city. They’re actually expanding the hotel as we speak, building modern towers for guests to stay in. I stayed on the historic side and really liked my room!
This hotel is special because of the amenities it offers. There are several restaurants in the lobby, boutiques to browse in, and even a Starbucks on site. The hotel has a pedestrian bridge to a nearby parking garage for guests to utilize as well. The best part about the Amway was the 70s-themed speakeasy here! Located on the second floor, away from the crowds, this speakeasy has a door with a code that opens up into an all-white bar with a disco ball. From there, it opens up to a roof deck that can only be accessed through this door. It’s open year-round as it’s complete with swanky chairs and fireplaces!
A Complete Guide To Visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan
Now that you know a little bit about where Grand Rapids is and how to get there, let’s hop into the guide to visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan. There are a few major attractions that shouldn’t be missed in the area!
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
This park is probably my number one recommendation for Grand Rapids… I loved it! This park opened in 1995 after years of planning and fundraising by the West Michigan Horticultural Society. The idea for the park came from Fred and Lena Meijer, a married couple who dreamed of combining their love for art and gardening into one communal space. Today the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a top cultural destination in the Midwest, and is known internationally for its art and gardens.
The gardens host seasonal events throughout the year, perfect for couples and young families. They’re also in the process of expanding the interior to make room for future exhibits. Currently, you will find classrooms, a cafe, library, gift shop, a theater, restrooms, and central lobby inside the main building. There’s also Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory (my personal favorite!), a 5-story exotic oasis, along with indoor arid and Victorian-era gardens.
Outside you’ll find several miles of walking trails that wind through Japanese gardens, kid’s treehouses, a boardwalk, and past sculptures from around the world. There’s also an amphitheater here that hosts events each summer!
Pro-tip: The outdoor amphitheater’s summer concert series will begin in July and run through September. This is one of the most beautiful settings in the area for a concert!
Downtown Grand Rapids & The Market
Downtown Grand Rapids is so charming! I spent some time exploring the Division South portion of the city, walking along streets like Division Ave, Ionia Ave, and Louis Street. Most of the buildings here date back to the late 1800s, including the original cobblestone streets. The whole city gives off an industrial vibe, and is pretty unique from anything I’ve seen in New England, the south, or even the west coast.
The Grand Rapids Downtown Market is located in the heart of this area and is a great place to grab a bite to eat for dinner! It’s open 7 days a week and is filled with artisan cuisine, local grocery items, and specialty food products. There’s some dining inside, although most of the restaurants are offering curb-side pickup or take-out at the moment. I got a green smoothie here and also a delicious panini to go from Apertivo, the Italian restaurant located here. Definitely check this place out if you’re in the area!
Grand Rapids Public Museum
The Grand Rapids Public Museum is the last major attraction I highly recommend checking out in the area! This museum is located across the river on the west side of the city. Tickets must be purchased online and in advance for this attraction, which costs only $8 for adults!
This museum is one of my favorites that I’ve been to because it offers a little bit of everything. There’s a carousel for kids, interactive geography and space exhibits, full-size wildlife habitats, and my favorite exhibit – a real-life replica of what downtown Grand Rapids looked like in the early 1900s! You can walk through an old train station, past boutiques, through a barber shop, and more. I’ve never seen anything like it and felt like I was truly brought back in time.
The museum is only 3 stories and can be easily completed in an hour or two, unless you’re traveling with small children then you may want to set aside more time. I learned so much about the history of the area from this museum and really enjoyed my time here. There’s also a gift shop and cafe on site.
Other than the specific attractions outlined above, I also just recommend walking along the Grand River. Grand Rapids got its name from the river as the rapids here used to be quite intense. Over the years, building material, such as stone, was extracted from the river, causing the rapids to diminish. However, the river still flows today and has several bridges to walk over. Now let’s hop into a quick section about Holland!
A Complete Guide To Visiting Holland, Michigan
As I mentioned above, I only spent a few hours in Holland, so this section is going to be much shorter, but I still wanted to include it for those of you hoping to visit one day! Holland is a small Dutch town located about 30 minutes from Grand Rapids. To get here you’ll want to fly into Grand Rapids and drive, or take the train.
Holland is most famous for its Tulip Time festival, which takes place every May to honor its Dutch heritage. The festival has been happening for over 90 years and features over 5 MILLION tulips! There are several places to visit the tulips in town, but the most popular are…
Windmill Island Gardens
This place is first on the list because this is without a doubt the best place to view the tulips. Not only are there hundreds of thousands of tulips located here, spread out over multiple fields, this place is also home to Holland’s famous windmill. This city wouldn’t be truly Dutch without a windmill! The fee to enter was $10 per person and allowed you to explore the area at your own pace. You could even climb the windmill if you wanted to! The downside? Expect herds of crowds here.
This area can be a bit cheesy with its crowds and carnival food, but there’s a charming little Dutch village located right near the entrance I recommend checking out! I bought a few souvenirs here.
Pro-tip: This place is open seasonally until about 6 pm most days and has a parking lot adjacent to the flower fields, making it super easy to access by car!
Veldheer Tulip Gardens
This garden is the second most popular place to visit in Holland for Tulip Time, although I didn’t get the chance to visit due to a time crunch. This garden also requires you to pay a fee. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $8 for children under the age of 13. On site parking is located here as well.
Pro-tip: Plug this address into your GPS to find the gardens – 12755 Quincy Street in Holland.
This park is completely free, making it the perfect place to photograph tulips on a budget. Parking can be found all along the perimeter of the park. Since this place is free and one of the best places to view the tulips (there’s even a fountain and gazebo here), it can be very crowded here as well, so plan accordingly and arrive early!
Nelis’ Dutch Village
While this area has its fair share of tulips, it’s actually a theme park targeted at children. Here you’ll find attractions such as a petting zoo and a wooden shoe making classroom. The buildings here are super cute, so I recommend coming to enjoy the experience.
Hopefully this post inspires you to add a trip to Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan to your list! This was my first time in Michigan (hello state #29) and I’m thrilled that I got to spend a few days here exploring the area. Thank you again to Experience Grand Rapids for partnering with me on this post. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram @nicole.rosania with questions!
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