Have you ever considered Michigan when planning a weekend away? Have you ever considered Michigan as a travel destination, period? If you're like many Americans, chances are the answer is no.
But you really should reconsider.
In 2013, Lonely Planet listed Grand Rapids, Michigan, as one of the top 10 U.S. travel destinations for 2014. Learning this made me immediately curious about Michigan's second-largest city and maybe it has made you curious, too.
If you're within driving distance of Grand Rapids and decide to give it a try for your next weekend trip, here are a handful of things you can look forward to doing there.
Art museums aren't really my thing, and I know a lot of other people feel similarly. Thankfully, Grand Rapids has a great alternative in the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. It's more of a botanical garden than an art venue, even though there are sculptures and works of art peppered throughout the park's 158 acres. My favorite was the American Horse, a 24-foot-tall sculpture of a horse that is an homage to a similar sculpture created by Leonardo da Vinci for the Duke of Milan.
If your trip to Grand Rapids happens in the fall, then you have something really special to look forward to: ArtPrize. ArtPrize is an annual international art competition held in Grand Rapids each autumn. But, unlike many other juried art shows, the art competing in ArtPrize isn't found just inside museums or one specific venue. You can find it outdoors, in hotels, in restaurants, and in just about every corner of the city even in the Grand River. ArtPrize is also unique in that while a jury selects one winner out of the thousands of entries, the public also gets to vote on who takes home one of the $200,000 grand prizes.
This year, ArtPrize will be held September 23-October 11 in 2015, so if you're visiting then, be sure to seek out some pieces and cast your vote, too.
In both 2012 and 2013, Grand Rapids was voted BeerCityUSA. The city has also been named Best Beer Town by readers of USA Today. Why? Because Grand Rapids has some great craft breweries. You won't want to miss places like Founders Brewing Company, the Hopcat brewpub, and Brewery Vivant. Do some brewery hopping on your own, or book a tour with Grand Rapids Beer Tours.
Grand Rapids has a lot of museums to choose from including the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Museum. But one is a little more unique than the others - the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Ford served as Vice President of the United States from 1973-74, and then served as President until 1977 after Richard Nixon resigned. The museum is close to the banks of the Grand River and contains exhibits about Ford's life and career.
Wait, beaches? In Michigan? Yes, believe it or not, there are a lot of beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan. Beaches that have won awards for their soft white sand and turquoise blue water, in fact. There are quite a few beaches within driving distance of Grand Rapids, including Oval Beach in Saugatuck and Grand Haven City Beach in Grand Haven (this one also has a really nice lighthouse). Be sure to spend at least an afternoon to get out of the city for some sand and sun if you're visiting at the right time of year.
So there you have it. Plenty of activities to fill up a weekend (or longer) in Grand Rapids. I'll bet you had no idea this city was so cool.
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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