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Grand Rapids, a small-town warmth and Midwest friendliness

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D. Alwinsky, M.D. ▼ | February 3, 2018
Grand Rapids, Mi.
Michigan, USA   On the banks of the Grand River

What's the connection between fabulous beer and fluoride in drinking water? You can find the answer in the second largest city in Michigan, the place where you can find more breweries than you can imagine, and their beer as far away as Dublin and London.

Grand Rapids shoppingGrand Rapids, Mich. is a mix you can't find in a lot places around the world. This is a place where you can find people from all walks of life: from visitors who enjoy vivid festivals, to the strong medical industry (it seems every other person is a doctor), to the gay community (it seems every other person...) with their well-know Grand Rapids Pride. While you stroll its historic streets you'll find a huge range of dining, entertainment and shopping choices, all within a 10-minute walk.

Grand Rapids streetBack in 1945, a city in Michigan was the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water which greatly helped public health, and it later expanded its "water" business into the beer industry. Grand Rapids, today known as the Beer City USA, is one of those rare cities from which you don't expect much but when you visit it you'll shout "Why didn't I come here before?!" Despite being the second largest metro area in Michigan, its small-town atmosphere combined with the pleasures of big city life.

Beer at FoundersBut before all, when you arrive there, visit Founders, the brewery with most probably all beer awards that exist out there. It is a kind of beer Disneyland. Enjoy one of two before you head further. The city next to the great Grand River is especially worth a visit if you are into art thanks to a number of museums, and galleries, annual art competitions, and outdoor exhibits. Places not to be missed are the house designed by the greatest architect of them all, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

Fish Ladder ParkHowever, Grand Rapids has not just "usual" museums and parks, it has interesting things to see you can't find anywhere else. First, when the construction of Sixth Street Dam was done, fish lost their usual way upstream. Humans to the rescue! The concrete fish ladder at Fish Ladder Park was created to give them a new way upstream and tourist a chance to see them up and close. In Grand Rapids you're never more than a few miles away from water and for anyone thinking about fishing, this is the place to be, Grand Rapids is one of America's best fishing cities.

Artprize competitionIn southwest Grand Rapids there's a building that was home to the factory that was the source of flypaper to the whole world. Now it's the place for artists to exchange their ideas and compete during the Artprize competition. And something even more interesting! At the Ford Presidential Museum, which is also a resting place of Gerald Ford, you can see President Nixon's tape recorder, the device that recorded conversation that the President didn't want anybody else to hear but we did and he stepped down.

Great Lakes Pub CruiserWe also must mentions The Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve, an outdoor research and teaching venue at East Beltline Ave., where you can mix with the locals and can enjoy the green spaces or buy youself a new plant for your home. But, how to get around the city to see all those beautiful places? It's always good to use a bike but we recommend the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, a 15-person party bike on which everybody pedal together from one eating place to the next. Wave "hello back" to locals hanging out on porches.

Fulton Street Farmers MarketIf you want something to eat and are a fan of good old times, your destination is The Chop House in downtown Grand Rapids. Its spirit of the 1940’s, spectacular beef and even better wine is a celebration of food. So, 190 Monroe Avenue NW is the address to have in mind. And if you want to explore food on your own, the Fulton Street Farmers Market, it's on 1145 East Fulton, is the place when more than 200 growers are coming to offer their products at the oldest farmers market around. Go there for fruits, doughnuts, hot cider or some other goodness.

Grand Haven City BeachAfter that walk the many pedestrian neighborhood streets, check some great little antique shops to fill your home or to surprise your sweathard and then go to - a beach. Pretty great bonus, you'll surely agree. Just 30 minutes or so away from the bustling heart of the city you'll find spacious sugar-sand beaches and lots of golf courses. Stroll soft sand beaches, hit the greens or just sip a frosty pint and enjoy. And that was Grand Rapids, a great place with the small-town atmosphere where people wave and yell "hello" to strangers while hanging out on porches.

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