Yes, this is Beer City USA — but there are so many more things to do in Grand Rapids. A quick guide to art, Grand Rapids restaurants AND Grand Rapids breweries, proving that Grand Rapids MI might just be America’s most evolving city.
“I was expecting beer-battered cheese sticks”
I joked (but was totally serious) when my order arrived at a hip pizza bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
We had signed up for “beer cheese,” and to my (pleasant) surprise, my hunger was well-received by pretzel sticks and cheese dip. It was like a really fancy version of the Lunchables cheese dip we ate as American kids.
Beer cheese is cheese dip, not chunks of cheese … *noted.*
As we munched on “the good earth” pizza, we learned about how much America’s “Beer City” has evolved in the last five years.
Don’t get me wrong, Grand Rapids is truly Beer City USA… but it has a lot more to offer than a few brews.
If you’re looking for things to do in Grand Rapids, here’s a quick preview of your options. They show just why, this is one of America’s must forward-changing towns.
1. Grand Rapids doesn’t just do beer, it does beer better, smarter and with a purpose.
Aside from the 40 + breweries you’ll find amongst the things to do in Grand Rapids, you can sign up for beer education at Founders Brewing Co, a beer infused-massage at the JW Marriott or pub crawl routed by a bike bar.
Why? Because in Grand Rapids, beer is not just beer.
Fun beer facts about GR:
- Dozens of Grand Rapids breweries have dedicated themselves not just to making great beer, but making great food too.
- Many Grand Rapids breweries partner with chefs to provide meaningful beer and food pairings.
- You’ll find a few cicerones — beer experts — similar to sommeliers, in the Grand Rapids region.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Grand Rapids boasts more craft #beer per square mile than anywhere else in the world. #Foodie #Travel” quote=”Grand Rapids boasts more craft beer per square mile than anywhere else in the world.”]
Learning about how beer is made at Founders Brewing Company
Who knew Grand Rapids is the Dublin of America? Getting my beer-education.
Founders Brewing Company: Winners of six World Beer Cup medals, four European Beer Star medals and three Great American Beer Festival medals.
Recommended Grand Rapids Beer Events + Activities:
- Winter Beer Festival (Feb)
- Cool Brews Hot Eats (Feb)
- Great Lakes Pub Cruiser (ongoing)
- JW Beer Massage (ongoing)
Recommended Grand Rapids Breweries and Bars:
Learn more about Beer City USA on the Experience Grand Rapids website.
2. Grand Rapids is ahead of the art game with the most generous art prize in the States.
Did you think that all of those glorious, light reflecting murals just casually showed up? There’s a dedicated art community in Grand Rapids. When you have the best artists in the world annually competing for $500,000 in art prizes, you’re going to have an expertly molded city.
If you’re not already in Grand Rapids for the art, you should check these out while you’re there.
Museums & Art Things to Do in Grand Rapids:
- Art Prize, a nineteen day extravaganza where local and international contemporary artists are celebrated and ranked. A panel of judges meet a crowd of public voters to highlight visual performance, film, music, painting and sculpture. The categories include 2D, 3D, Time-Based, Installation, and Outstanding Venue.
[clickToTweet tweet=”ArtPrize in Grand Rapids is the largest art competition in the world with a $200,000 grand prize & 1,500 artists.” quote=”ArtPrize in #GrandRapids is the largest #art competition in the world with a $200,000 grand prize & 1,500 artists.”]
- Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park boasts a Japanese garden, seasonal exhibitions, and some of the best sculptures in the world. Check out Kevin’s video below as we tour through the park.
?➡️ I’m swiping right on every sculpture I see in @meijergardens – but still no match yet… ? In swiping order: “American Horse” by Nina Akamu “Iron Tree” by Ai Weiwei “Eve” by Auguste Rodin “Around” by Alexander Liberman “For J.W.” by Tony Smith “Aria” by Alexander Liberman “Large Parrot Screams Color” by Jim Dine “I, you, she or he…” by Jaume Plensa “Scarlatti” by Mark Di Suvero “Neuron” by Roxy Paine #ExperienceGR #TinstaSwipe
3. To match the rise in beer artistry, the GR gastronomy community has brought to life earth-to-table dining.
For a glass of Sauvignon, I found myself wander from Fish Lads in the marketplace to Aperitivo. The Downtown Market at Grand Rapids hosts a bakery, a butchery, a school performance hall and several restaurants.
These are just a few of the places I indulged in…
Top Grand Rapids Restaurants:
The Grove (make a reservation for some of the finer farm-fresh dining in GR)
Hopcat (beer + food; try the “crack fries” with chili; also the beer spinach & artichoke dip)
Harmony Brewing Company (beer + pizza … get “The Good Earth Pizza”)
The Reserve Wine & Food (get the cheese plate)
Marie Catribs (best for brunch)
The Winchester (cocktails/ beer — but the food looked great too)
4. Just thirty minutes from Lake Michigan and Saugatuck, Grand Rapids is literally and socially a green city.
It was one of those cities that reminds you of Singapore — so clean, there’s a fine for leaving out a piece of gum. No crazy tickets here, but the Grand Rapids’ community chooses to keep their streets tidy enough to swing dance in. Maybe they’re making up for Detroit’s bad rep, but the city is so fast forward with high-tech water fountains, recycling and civil employees whose job is solely to keep the streets clean.
Things to Do in Grand Rapids, just a short drive away:
- Saugatuck Dune Ride (experience the dunes + the forest)
- Grand haven Beach, Lake Michigan (fresh water beach)
5. Friendly people. Despite the size of the city, it holds the intimacy of smaller communities.
With an inflow of millennials from Grand Valley State University, Michigan State and the University of Michigan — alongside the 15 local colleges in Grand Rapids, it’s no surprise that Grand Rapids is so lively.
We strolled through Rosa Parks Circle to find a swing dancing party in full swing.
Swing dancing at Rosa Parks Circle, Tuesdays in Downtown Grand Rapids
That’s the people of Grand Rapids. They like great art and even better beer. They’re own kids or little sisters are swing dancing at the park. They keep their streets clean and their hearts open. With all those positive vibes, how could you not be so friendly?
The photos and videos in this article have been created as a collaboration between @SweatEngine and @StephBeTravel in partnership with Experience Grand Rapids. Experience GR is the official tourism department for Grand Rapids, Michigan — so def check out their site for more things to do in Grand Rapids!
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Nice post! Can’t believe you were in my state! Glad you mentioned the gardens. They are wonderful. You should come back for Art Prize! It’s really inspiring. Did you spend any time in Detroit?
I’d love to come back for Art Prize! I didn’t get to explore Detroit, but I’ll get to it eventually :)
The Winchester for pasta and pizza?
Hmm, you’re right I mixed that up. Sorry, I went to a dozen places that week. So the Winchester I just did drinks. I’m wondering which brewery/ bar/ restaurant I’m thinking of. It’s definitely a combo place. I’ll look into it.
Your posts are always mindblowing. Fantastic.
Wow! I’ve lived in GR all my life, and never knew about the beer massages or tours of Founders!
Two minor corrections only a native would notice:
Number 3, paragraph 1: *Downtown Market
Number 5, caption: *Rosa Parks Circle
Number 5, paragraph 3: *Their* own kids