Category: Michigan
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Updated

The 19 Best & Fun Things to Do in Grand Rapids, MI [2024]

#10 on this list is something many people have never heard of...
Shot of downtown Grand Rapids off Ottawa St


Are you looking to visit a city that is clean, safe, virtually free of homeless people, and doesn't have the traffic nor noise of larger U.S cities, like New York or Chicago?

If you answered 'yes', then I encourage you to visit Michigan's second largest city-- Grand Rapids!

Located about 2 hours west of Michigan's largest city, Detroit, Grand Rapids is a quieter metropolis with plenty to do for solo travelers, couples, and families! Being the second largest city, Grand Rapids also has its own international airport for those wanting to fly in.

Downtown Grand Rapids is full of fun self-guided scavanger hunts! Not only will you be able to take awesome pictures of the beautiful items you'll find, you'll always get to see much of downtown in the process!

Grand Rapids is home to some great museums and parks, such as the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and the Frederick Meijer Sculpture Garden!

For street art lovers like myself, downtown Grand Rapids has lots of it!

Do the suggestions in this article and I promise you'll have a grand time... in Grand Rapids!


For 2024, here are the 19 most fun things to do in Grand Rapids, MI...

01 // Rad American Women A-Z tour

The starting place for the self-guided scavenger hunt Rad American Women A-Z Tour. This tour is one of the best & fun things to do in Grand Rapids, MI!
The starting place for this broad downtown scavenger hunt!

It's funny that most other travel blogs writing about Grand Rapids neglect to mention this activity. This is because many bloggers just Google "things to do" in a certain area and act as if they've been there. This is how they miss sometimes either obvious or new attractions. Very dishonest.

This attraction is hard to miss when you are walking about downtown Grand Rapids. Why are there painted electrical boxes with letters of the alphabet on them?

Here's why: they're all part of the Rad American Women A-Z tour.

Designed in 2019 as a public art project and based off a New York Times bestselling book, the purpose behind this initiative was to commemorate 25 American women for their outstanding achievements in various fields and influence on American culture.

"25 women? But I thought there were 26 letters in the alphabet??". Yes. One of the letters doesn't technically have a name associated with it. Can you guess which letter? That or, you'll find out on the tour!

For example, the letter 'A' is for Angela Davis, 'B' for Billie Jean King, etc.

You'll find the starting point of this tour near the Amway Grand Plaza off Campau Street.

You can do one of three things: 1. use your smartphone, 2. pick up a printed guide or 3. find all the boxes yourself with no help!

The tour is entirely self-guided and is completely free to do!

The auxilary benefit that I love about this self-guided tour is you'll see nearly all of downtown Grand Rapids doing it.

Address: Starting point: near Amway Grand Plaza, off Campau Street
Hours: 24/7

02 // Art Around the Corner

A cool statue you'll find on the Art Around the Corner tour at the Vandenberg Center in downtown Grand Rapids. This tour is one of the best & fun things to do in Grand Rapids, MI!
One of the cool art statues you'll find on this tour!

For another fun self-guided tour where you'll see incredible public art sculptures (and get to see much of downtown in the process) is the Art Around the Corner scavenger hunt.

This fun and free scavenger hunt is provided to visitors via the GRTagTour, a tourism-aimed project funded by multiple non-profits and the city.

You can either have all the stops on the tour texted to you or you can scan a QR code that will show the stops in Google Maps.

There are ten stops on the Art Around the Corner tour. Quite a few less items to find than the Rad Women A-Z tour and the radius of where the stops are is smaller. Still, you'll get a good glimpse of downtown as you go on the hunt!

Address: Starting point: 250 Monroe Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: 24/7

03 // Grand Rapids Art Museum

The entrance to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Exploring this museum is one of the best & fun things to do in Grand Rapids, MI!
The entrance to this amazing downtown art museum.

While we're still on the topic of art in downtown, you'll want to check out the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum has three floors for visitors to explore. The museum has a wide array of art, spanning from paintings, digital art, drawings, sculptures, and photographs. Some time periods of the artwork include Renaissance, 19th and 20th century American and European art, and modern art.

A distinguishable feature of the Grand Rapids Art Museum is their 4500 square foot "Creative Learning Center". It may sound like a place just for children but, seriously, it's just as fun for adults!

The Creative Learning Center is all hands-on here. You can build your own sculptures and on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m learn some fundamentals of painting.

Admission for adults is $12.

Address: 101 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: M closed, T 12:00 p.m - 5:00 p.m, W closed, Th 12:00 - 8:00 p.m, F 12:00 p.m - 5:00 p.m, S, Su 10:00 a.m - 4:00 p.m.

04 // Gerald R. Ford Museum

A reconstruction of the Oval Office when Gerald Ford was president. Seeing the Gerald R. Ford Museum is one of the best & fun things to do in Grand Rapids, MI!
A reconstruction of the Oval Office when Gerald Ford was president.

Nope-- that's not a picture of the Oval Office in Washington D.C, but rather, a faithful reconstruction of what the Oval Office looked like when Gerald R. Ford was president.

To this date, Michigan has only had one person become president-- that person being Gerald R. Ford.

Ford did not win the presidency through election though. He gained entry to the White House being the vice president for Richard Nixon. However, when Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal, Ford ascended to the presidency.

Ford served as president for two and a half years and ran for re-election. He narrowly lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Even though Ford only served a short time as president, an entire museum was built in remembrance of his life. One bit of trivia I personally found fascinating was that Ford was scouted to play for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. He gave up a career as a professional football player to attend law school.

Aside from the Oval Office reconstruction, there is also a reconstruction of the cabinet room. The museum also is in possession of the exact desk Ford sat in when he was in the House of Representatives.

The Gerald R. Ford Museum is very close to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Admission is $12 for adults.

Address: 303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Hours: M-S 10:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m, Su 12:00 p.m - 5:00 p.m

05 // Grand Rapids Public Museum

A whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Visiting this museum is one of the best & fun things do in Grand Rapids, MI!
One of the coolest features on the first floor is the giant whale skeleton!

The Grand Rapids Public Museum was my favorite museum in the city. It's conveniently located across the Gerald R. Ford museum so you can easily visit both in the same day.

The name of the museum is a bit ambiguous. "Public" museum? So, what's in there? Is it about the history of Grand Rapids? Is there art in there?

On the side of the museum, you'll see an orange painted wall with the catchphrase "Be curious" on it. That's a good mindset to have going in. The Grand Rapids Public Museum is an eclectic museum. It's got fossils, art, reconstructions of past decades, collectibles, and even a carousel to ride!

Their "Old Streets of Grand Rapids" reminded me a lot of the same type of exhibit in the Detroit Historical Museum.

The hightlights of the first floor: you'll get to see a huge whale skeleton dangling from the ceiling and the "Old Streets of Grand Rapids". On the second floor, I remember there were clothes and toys throughout the decades. The third floor has more toys throughout history and a whole archeological section with more fossils of aquatic creatures and dinosaurs.

Admission to the museum is $12.

Address: 272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Hours: M-F 9:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m, S-Su 10:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m

06 // Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives (GRAMMA)

Cardboard cutouts of notable African Americans at the front of the museum. Visiting this museum is one of the best & fun things do in Grand Rapids, MI!
Mike Tyson didn't feel the need to put dress clothes on!

There's "GRAM"... and there's "GRAMMA"!

GRAMMA... known as the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives, is more of a store in my opinion than a museum. It is located to the left of Vault of Midnight's Grand Rapids location.

The "museum" has a bunch of memorabilia, from music albums, t-shirts, clothes, books, newspaper clippings, posters, etc. You could walk through the whole thing in just a couple minutes.

Since the museum functions like a store, there is no cost of admission.

Address: 87 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: Tu-S 12:00 p.m - 5:00 p.m, Su-M closed

07 // Grand River riverwalk

Along the riverwalk neighboring the Grand River. Going on the riverwalk is one of the best & fun things to do in Grand Rapids, MI!
The blue buildings are perfect to have by the water!

Many cities I've written about, like Minneapolis and Detroit, have gorgeous riverwalks to stroll down, and Grand Rapids, being located along the Grand River, is no exception.

Grand Rapids is a rather quiet city as it is but if you are seeking additional tranquility, come to the riverwalk!

The Grand River riverwalk spans 2.5 miles. Not only will you get close views of downtown across the water that will make for excellent photos, you'll see a lot of smaller adornments along the path too like cool murals (there's a great one called the 'Walphabet') and small parks.

And how can you forget great views from the bridges too?

08 // Fish Ladder Park

Fish Ladder Park in Grand Rapids, MI
My favorite public park in Grand Rapids. Great for weddings!

Fish Ladder Park is one of the parks you can walk up to if you're on the riverwalk. If you are not walking, you can drive to it and there is parking. The park itself is so nice it deserves its own mention.

The first time I went to this park, there was a wedding part doing a photoshoot. The constructed bridge is a great place for people to get their picture taken.

Fishers often visit this park to, well, fish. Fish are known to jump up from the water, especially in the summer!

Fish Ladder Park is a cozy chill spot where you can fish, sit on the large steps, and explore the constructed artwork throughout the park.

Address: 606 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Hours: 6:00 a.m - 10:00 p.m.

09 // Skywalk

Part of the Skywalk in downtown Grand Rapids, MI
The skywalk is a great way to see downtown from the indoor if it's raining or too hot/cold outside!

If your name is Luke and you go on the Skywalk, is Luke a...

Yeah, you know how I'll end that dad joke!

But anyway, one of my favorite things to do in downtown Minneapolis was the option to explore the city through these awesome elevated tunnels. Usually referred to as a "skywalk", these are great to utilize when you want to explore a city and the weather won't cooperate with you.

Not only does Grand Rapids have a riverwalk but a skywalk too!

The Grand Rapids Skywalk covers about a mile of downtown, starting at DeVos Place and terminating at Van Andel Arena.

The Skywalk grants easy access to multiple local restaurants along the way, a couple Starbucks's, and a Panera. And of course, you can easily access the larger buildings the skywalk is connected too, such as the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and Van Andel Arena.

The hours for the Skywalk are a bit tricky. Since there are a few hotels connected to the Skywalk, those sections of the Skywalk are usually 24/7, whereas others may be closed depending on the day.

10 // The underground tunnels

You'll see arrows on the walls pointing to various buildings in Grand Rapids's underground tunnels.
Underground in the lesser known 'tunnel system' of downtown.

When you're walking the streets of downtown, the Skywalk is above ground so it's pretty hard to miss. But the tunnels? There's no markings anywhere around the city there even exists a tunnel system. This is why many people don't know about the tunnels!

The area the underground tunnel system spans is smaller than the Skywalk. The tunnel system only covers DeVos Place, Lyon Street NW, and Ottawa Ave NW.

Still worth checking out? Yep! It's pretty cool to see the painted walls with large arrows telling you which major buildings are nearby. The tunnels will be quiet and likely empty.

One easy to enter the tunnels is to start at DeVos Place and look across the street to an entry to a parking garage for the government center. Just keep walking down. There will be two levels: one of the levels has green painted walls and the one below that has red painted walls.

Like the skywalk, a great benefit to checking out the tunnels is you can use them to wait for rain to pass.

11 // The five Kcymaerxthaere

One of the five Kcymaerxthaere outside the Kendall College of Art and Design in downtown Grand Rapids.
And people think my last name is hard to say. Haha...

I really love the picture for this item. I last was in Grand Rapids in early October 2023 and snapped this. The leafs were already like that, so beautifully surrounding the... oh man, how do you pronounce this thing!?

The only attraction in Grand Rapids where you'd ideally ask a professor of anthropology for the correct pronounciation is the scavenger hunt for the five Kcymaerxthaere.

You may have noticed by now that doing scavenger hunts is an awesome way to spend your time in downtown Grand Rapids. The search for the five Kcymaerxthaere is another one you can add to your to-do list!

I'll be nice and say where the Kcymaerxthaere in the above picture is: it is outside the Kendall College of Art and Design. But the other four? That's up to you to find!

Address: (one of the five items) outside 17 Fountain St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: 24/7

12 // Admire the murals

A cool mural you can find near Veteran's Memorial Park in downtown Grand Rapids.
Lots of thought provoking street art in this city.

Another scavenger hunt you can toss into the mix here are looking for murals throughout the city. Grand Rapids has a lot of them. Some of them politically charged. Whether one agrees with the political call-to-action or not, I think it adds personality to a city and at least you'll remember how the city made you feel.

My loyal readers know I love to recommend mural hunts for city exploring!

If you do some of the scavenger hunts I recommendeded early, like the Rad Women A-Z tour, you'll encounter quite a few of the city's murals on the way.

For some assistance in finding more of Grand Rapids's murals, you can download an app for the iPhone called CANVS Street Art.

Once the app is downloaded, toggle "Hunt Mode On" and the app will show you murals in your geographic area.

13 // La Grande Vitesse

One of the most popular sculptures in downtown Grand Rapids is the large red majestic La Grande Vitesse.
An art sculpture you can't pass up in downtown!

If you do the Art Around the Corner scavenger hunt, then you will come across the La Grande Vitesse. For those who don't do this self-guided tour, then of all the public art sculptures in downtown, don't pass up La Grande Vitesse!

In fact, this sculpture is so important to the city of Grand Rapids that an abstraction of the art piece is in the city's official logo. It's the same manner as how the Spirit of Detroit statue is used for Detroit's city logo!

An alternative (and easier to pronounce) name for this sculpture is "the Calder".

The steel art piece is quite large. It stands at an impressive 43 feet tall. The sculpture is also 54 feet long and 30 feet wide!

The plaza the artwork rests on often hosts local festivals. In fact, in the picture I took, people were packing up after the plaza had hosted a weekend-long Polish-American festival.

Address: 525 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: 24/7

14 // Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

The second floor of Grand Rapid's most beautiful and unique looking hotel-- the Amway Grand Plaza!
The second floor of downtown Grand Rapid's most unique looking hotel.

You don't have to be a guest at this hotel to walk around and explore it. But if you do choose to stay at it and you have a Hilton Honors account, you'll get points for staying here!

No Hilton Honors account? It's free to sign up! Enough points and you'll get yourself free hotel rooms!

The exterior of the Amway Grand Plaza hotel is really cool, as it has flags from several different countries cascading over the valet lot.

The interior is exquisitely decorated. If visitors choose to dine inside the hotel, they offer nine onsite restaurants!

The Amway Grand Plaza is one of the buildings connected to the Skywalk.

Address: 187 Monroe NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: 24/7 (hours of restaurants will vary)

15 // Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

The most popular sculpture in the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is 'the American Horse'.
One of the park's most popular sculptures.

For this next attraction, you'll need access to a car. You'll be leaving downtown and heading over to the Frederik Meijers Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Even though it is a park, it is not a public park. You'll have to pay to explore it. It is $20 for an adult ticket.

Two of the park's most popular sculptures have really imaginative names. Ready for it?

The horse sculpture I took a picture of? It's called... "The American Horse". Hmm, okay, not the most creative, actually. It's rather straightforward.

Then there's a really tan stone arch. It's called... umm... well, just the "Grand Rapids Arch".

Regardless of the functional names, these sculptures are incredible to see-- as well as the other 200 sculptures you'll encounter as you walk through the park. The whole park is 158 acres.

Address: 1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Hours: M, W-S 9:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m, Su 11:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m, T 9:00 a.m - 9:00 p.m.

16 // Meyer May House

The living room of the Meyer May House.
The living room of the Meyer May House.

Located in the Heritage Hill Historic District of Grand Rapids is the historic landmark known as the Meyer May House.

The Meyer May House is one of the very few houses designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908 and 1909. The century-old house has several cosmetic features that are considered unorthodox for a house, which is part of its appeal.

Unlike all the self-guided adventures you can have in Grand Rapids, this tour is guided and is available by appointment only. I did not know an appointment was required when I visited the house. Luckily, I was able to get in, as there were a couple spots left.

It'd be much better if you book an appointment online. The tours sell out rather fast due to the tour only being available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and the house is only open for tours for three hours. You may only be able to book this tour months out!

The first part of the tour involves you watching a 25-30 minute film about the history of the house. In my opinion, I felt the film was a bit long for a tour, but it was still astounding how much niche skill and intricate labor had to go into preserving the integrity of the home.

Once the film is over, you then get to the more enjoyable part, which is a guided exploration of the outside and inside of the home.

If you are rather tall, you may have to slouch for much of the tour indoors, as the ceilings and window placements were designed for Meyer May's height of 5'6" if I remember his height correctly.

Unlike the museums, this tour is entirely free!

Address: 450 Madison Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: T, Th 10:00 a.m - 1:00 p.m, Su 12:00 p.m - 3:00 p.m, M, W, F, S closed

17 // Fulton Street Market

Fulton Street Market.
Fulton Street Market in uptown Grand Rapids.

The Fulton Street Market is a weekend long farmer's market (and it's open on Wednesdays too) that has been a staple of Grand Rapids for over 100 years.

The Fulton Street Market provides a community for artists, farmers, and food enthusiasts. A bulk of the market is hosted underneath a long roofed corridor, as seen in the picture.

This four day farmer's market is located off Fulton Street in uptown Grand Rapids.

Address: 1145 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: W, F-S 8:00 a.m - 2:00 p.m, Su 11:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m, M-T, Th closed

18 // College tour

Entrance to the Kendall College of Art & Design in downtown Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids has several colleges to check out!

Here's a suggestion other blogs covering Grand Rapids won't cover: check out the various colleges and universities in the city, especially if you're a younger traveler!

As it turns out, Grand Rapids is home to several institutions of higher learning, such as Grand Valley State University, some schools of Ferris State University (such as the Kendall College of Art and Design), Grand Rapids Community College, Calvin University, and Aquinas College.

19 // Have a beer in "Beer City USA"

Picture of beer.
Grand Rapids is known for two things: furniture and beer. The beer will probably be more fun for travelers! Source: Shutterstock

Grand Rapids is nicknamed "Beer City USA". The reason for this nickname is the city is home to 80+ breweries.

Sure-- you can get a beer anywhere, but hey, if you're in a city who is known for its beer, you might as well stop by and order one!

Two recommendations for bars to visit: Grand Rapids Brewing Company and Brewery Vivant.

The only slight complaint I have about both (and most of Grand Rapids nightlife) is that both bars/breweries close before midnight.

Address: (Grand Rapids Brewing Company) 1 Ionia Ave SW Ste 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hours: M-F 4:00 p.m - 11:00 p.m, S 11:00 a.m - 11:00 p.m, Su 11:00 a.m - 9:00 p.m.

How do I spend a day in Grand Rapids?

The best way to spend only one day in Grand Rapids would be to do the Rad American Women A-Z Tour. Finding all 26 artistically painted electrical boxes will take you through most of downtown Grand Rapids and you'll see many of the city's best landmarks along the way, such as the Grand Rapids Art Museum and La Grande Vitesse.

After finishing the fun downtown scavenger hunt, I'd also advise going to Grand Rapids's best museums, which include the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

What is Grand Rapids best known for?

Grand Rapids is best known for two things: office furniture and beer. The city used to be known as "America's Furniture Capital" and in more recent years acquired the nickname of "Beer City USA".

Travelers will very likely find the fact about Grand Rapids being a hub for beer more thrilling than the office furniture!

What is Grand Rapids best known for?

Yes-- Grand Rapids is Michigan's second largest city and is absolutely worth visiting! If you fly into Michigan via Detroit's international airport, Grand Rapids is only about a two drive away. Grand Rapids also does have its own international airport.

Downtown Grand Rapids has lots of fun scavenger hunts that will take you all over the district, tons of incredible street art, fun museums, a gorgeous riverwalk, and is known for having 80+ breweries.

How do you get around Grand Rapids without a car?

Grand Rapids has an easily walkable downtown. Nearly all of Grand Rapids's most fun things to do are within reasonable walking distance.

Grand Rapids also has an amazing bus system known as The Rapid. Not only does it cover Grand Rapids, it has routes extending outside the city into the broader Kent County area.

What is there to do in Grand Rapids at night?

For starters, have a beer at one of Grand Rapids's 80+ breweries!

Other nightlife options in Grand Rapids include live music venues, theaters, bowling, and dance clubs.

Is Grand Rapids a walkable city?

Yes-- Grand Rapids is a very walkable city. Nearly all of Grand Rapid's most fun things to do in the daytime and its nightlife are all within reasonable walking distance. You will not need a car to have a good time in downtown.

Does Grand Rapids have a beach?

Grand Rapids does not have a beach in the city. The closest thing to a beach would be the riverwalk. That being said, Grand Rapids is rather close to Lake Michigan and a minimum of a 30-45 minute car ride can take you to multiple beaches along Lake Michigan.

How far is the airport from downtown Grand Rapids?

The distance by car from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport to downtown Grand Rapids is within 15-20 minutes.

Is Grand Rapids bigger than Detroit?

No-- Grand Rapids is not bigger than Detroit. In terms of land size and population, Detroit is larger on both accounts.


If you are a city traveler who loves active downtowns with eye-catching public art and you are exploring the state of Michigan, include Grand Rapids on your itinerary along with Detroit and Ann Arbor!

The city is chock full of amazing murals and public art sculptures-- and has plenty of scavenger hunts that cover most of downtown.

The downtown is active enough that it provides a little additional excitement for those visitors used to suburban areas but isn't as overstimulating as a major city.

I trust you'll have an amazing time in Michigan's second largest city with my article. Thank you for checking out my personal list of the best & most fun things to do in Grand Rapids, MI!

Thank you for reading! Like... seriously. So many people just skim sh*t and don't read anything past the headline. You're one of the good ones!

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