A Step-by-Step Guide to Experiencing ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids

ArtPrize 2014 kicks off in just a couple of weeks! Grand Rapids will hum with creative energy across three square miles of downtown as artists and visitors from around the world flock to display and view the artwork.

Photo courtesy of Experience GR

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

This world’s largest art competition boasts more than 4500 artists at 515 venues! If you’re heading to the event for the first time or want to see more of what the area has to offer, use this step-by-step guide for experiencing ArtPrize from Experience Grand Rapids.

The sixth year of ArtPrize®, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, returns September 24-October 12. The largest art competition in the country will feature over 1,500 international works of art throughout a three square mile area. What truly sets ArtPrize apart though is the fact your vote helps select one of the winners of the $200,000 grand prize.

To help make your ArtPrize experience the best it can be, we’ve gathered the top five insider tips from experienced ArtPrize visitors both in and outside of Grand Rapids.

Plan Your Day

Stick-to-it-tive-ness Richard Morse 2012

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Visit the ArtPrize website to see all 1,536 entries and start planning your “must see” exhibits. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Android device, download the ArtPrize app to search for specific entries or discover art near you when you come to town. You can also vote through the app-no need to wait in line! If you can swing it, plan more than one day to visit. Grand Rapids is home to many hotels downtown and in outlying areas to meet your overnight needs.

Pick a Parking Spot

Getting to ArtPrize early in the day will give you the most parking options. There are many downtown surface lots to choose from, and the Monroe Center Ramp provides one free hour of parking if you arrive between 8 am and 6 pm. Downtown parking meters are free after 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and most meters are free Saturdays while all are on Sundays. Don’t carry change in your pocket? Create an account to pay for parking via your cell phone.

Bus in

Why drive your car into the city, when you can leave it at participating Meijer stores and ride the bus!? Starting September 17, you can pick up two ArtPrize wristbands for only $5 at participating Meijer stores.  These wristbands give you unlimited rides on all Rapid, DASH and Silver Line buses all 19 days of ArtPrize. Wristbands are also available at the HUB and all Exhibition Centers.

Avoid the Crowds…or Not

Photo by Amanda Baarmen

Photo by Amanda Baarmen

The early bird gets the worm and fewer people on the streets at ArtPrize. Getting to ArtPrize early especially on day one not only helps you beat the crowds, you may even get to meet a few of the artists and speak to them about their work. Another way to manage the crowds is to visit Monday-Thursday when crowds are significantly less. And if you are a member of Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) you can get into GRAM two hours before the public to see nearly 20 ArtPrize entries.

But there is also an upside to additional people; especially when many are in town for the same reason. Being surround by likeminded people enjoying art, Grand Rapids and such a unique event can add energy and excitement to your day. Instead of “fighting the crowds,” soak in the amazing vibe of ArtPrize as you wander around the city and take it all in.

Explore ArtPrize

There are many ways to discover ArtPrize. To take any guesswork out of your day, download a self-guided tour for families and small groups available August 29. Speaking of groups, it’s a good idea to tour in smaller groups of two to four. Having fewer people to keep together makes it easier to get around. Then make plans with a larger group at a restaurant downtown to compare notes!

Another helpful tip is to bring your bicycle. Bikes make it easier to get to outlying venues and simply see more art since you can get from one venue to another that much quicker. You can also park a bit farther out of the city and ride in to avoid any parking jams.

Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes to ensure you can access any venue. It’s also a good idea to bring a sweater or dress in layers. The weather can be a bit unpredictable near the lakeshore!

Time to Eat

Brewery Vivant - Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Brewery Vivant – Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

While you are enjoying the cultural feast, it’s easy to forget to eat physical food. Luckily, with over 100 restaurants in the downtown area, finding a place for a bite and a beverage isn’t too hard.

Since Grand Rapids is Beer City USA, stop into one of the many brewpubs for a pint and a nice little lunch. Or grab something to go and eat outside in front of your favorite outdoor art.

Whichever way you decide to spend your time at ArtPrize, remember there is no one way to visit ArtPrize. Make the experience yours and have a blast.

Have you been to ArtPrize? Tell us your helpful tips and tricks for first-time ArtPrize visitors.

Six Exceptional Things to Do on Mackinac Island

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. tells about six of his favorite can’t-miss Mackinac Island activities and attractions.

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Growing up in the central Upper Peninsula made it easy for my family to take day occasional day trips to Mackinac Island. My Dad would pack up the car in the early morning and about three hours later my mom, dad, sister and I would be on a ferry to the island.

Those early memories include horses (lots of horses), fudge and ice cream, the hustle and bustle of the downtown area and bike rides around the island. They’re fond memories, but I realize now that my family only scratched the surface. Known for it’s horse and buggy rides, fudge and bicycles, I continue to discover things to do on the island that I never knew about.

Below I’ll list just a few of my favorite things to do on the island. Some you’ve heard of, others you probably haven’t!

The Mackinac Legends and Lore Nature Trek

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Want to to be guided around the lesser known parts of Mackinac by a local? Mary Patay’s “Mackinac Island’s Legends and Lore Trek” will get you just that. On my recent trip to island, Mary guided my friends and I away from the busy downtown and through the solitude of Mackinac Island State Park. We toured Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, Fort Holmes and caught the view from Robinson’s Folly.

The walk was peaceful, scenic and it was great to get a local’s perspective. The tour is just $10 per person and you can set up your own trek by calling Mary at (231) 590-5731 or emailing her at mackinachealthandfit@yahoo.com.

The Observation Tower and Exhibits at Mission Point

Maybe you’ve seen the tall glass observation tower at Mission Point Resort, maybe you haven’t. But one things for sure, it’s well worth checking out. With five floors of historical exhibits ranging from the filming of Somewhere in Time to the construction of the Mackinac Bridge and much more. And though each level boasts a different enthralling exhibit, they all share one feature, an awesome view!

The Carriage Ride

The Mackinac Island Carriage Tour is popular for a reason! It’s a great way to see some of the islands highlights while experiencing part of what makes Mackinac great, the horses. And the tour guides to a great job with imparting tidbits of history and little known facts as you’re pulled away from downtown, past Arch Rock, to the Butterfly House and back again.

Bike Around the Island

Photo by Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Also popular for a reason, the eight mile bike ride around the island is one of a kind experience. Even though there was a light rain, we threw on our raincoats, rented bikes from Mackinac Wheels†and had a great time. I love this bike ride because it’s mostly flat, very scenic and of course, there are no cars. And for you fat tire enthusiasts, Jimmy from Mackinac Wheels has been guiding weekly group single track rides through Mackinac’s interior, so be sure to ask about that.

Tour Mackinac by Kayak

Though we weren’t able to make time to get out on kayaks or stand up paddle boards on my last trip, I really, really want to make sure we do next time. Paul and the crew at Great Turtle Kayak Tours have a great selection of kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards to choose from, as well as a few great tour options. Personally, I want to check out the nearby Round Island Lighthouse so I’ll be connecting with them on my next trip!

Stay on the Island!

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

One thing we didn’t do during my childhood trips to the island was stay there. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I fist stayed on the island and I’ll never forget how cool it was to wake up to the sound of the horses hooves clopping on the street below our room. On my most recent visit, we stayed in a waterfront suite at the Chippewa Hotel and wow, what a view! And of course, it was nice to be just a few steps from the Pink Pony, too.

Yes, it can cost more to stay on the island but if you sign up for the hotel’s newsletters (like I do) and keep an eye on their social media channels (which I also do) you might be surprised at some of the great deals they offer.

Those are just a few of my favorite things to do on Mackinac Island. What are a few of yours?

Jesse-Land-headshot1Jesse Land writes about Upper Peninsula travel at www.thingstodointheup.com.

An Out-of-Towner’s Guide to Planning a Pure Michigan Wedding

Conrad Chase and Abigail Paul are in the process of planning their dream Pure Michigan wedding. Today, they give us an inside look at the process and their reasoning behind choosing Michigan as their ultimate wedding destination.

Photo courtesy of Andreijka Photography

Photo courtesy of Andrejka Photography

My name is Conrad.  I was born in Chicago, have lived in 4 countries, traveled to 15, and spent countless months in major cities around the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and other places considered to be the center of the action, attracting the best of the best.

I have to be honest – two years ago when I was presented with the opportunity to relocate to Michigan, I considered the move to be a temporary one, which would have me back in these major markets in no time.

However, what actually happened (and what I am sure happens to every other guy who falls in love and doesn’t see it coming) is I bumped into the most beautiful and amazing woman in the world, in the most unsuspecting of places, Buchanan, MI.  You have heard of Buchanan, right?  Wrong.  Not many out-of-staters like myself have, which is why this story gets even better.

So here I am, starry-eyed and in love, learning all about this new lady who has come waltzing into my life.  She is from Southern Michigan, as are her family and friends.  Our dates include winery tours, days at the beach, athletic events on the most pristine beautiful lakes, all in Michigan. Very quickly, my calls back to my friends and family became full-blown endorsements for Michigan and aggressive solicitations to get them here to experience this wonderful place!

Photo by Dennis Lee Photography

Photo by Dennis Lee Photography

Well, as you can imagine, our relationship took its course and we quickly moved from dating, to wedding planning.  When evaluating the options of how and where we would get married, all kinds of ideas came to mind.  A destination wedding in the tropics, a church wedding and a high-rise reception in a major city, and more.  However at the end of the day, we both agreed that it would be so much more special, to bring everyone together, as close to our home and our life in Michigan, as possible. We wanted to show them all of the wonderful things in Michigan she has grown up with, and I have grown to love.  With the decision made, we began our planning.

The Venue:  What could be a better setting for a Michigan wedding, than in a barn, on a vineyard, closely located to Buchanan.  We will tie the knot at the Hidden Vineyard Wedding Barn in Berrien Springs. (Birth place of Mohammad Ali… another fun Michigan fact!)

Photo by Nate Farran

Photo by Nate Farran

The Vendors:  We wanted all of the elements of the wedding to be meaningful, and representative of Michigan, and also be appropriate for a barn wedding. We chose a wedding designer from Buchanan called Rustica.   Their shop is located in downtown Buchanan, and is a place that Abby and I go on Sunday mornings after grabbing fresh brewed coffee, and see what new artisanal items this husband and wife team have crafted up.  The music is from a bluegrass band from Southern Michigan called the ArtGomperz.  We both thought it fitting that if we were tying the knot in a barn, a banjo must be involved.  This brings us to food and drinks.  Our main course is a pig roast with a pig from a local Michigan farm.  Additionally, all produce, cheese, bread, beer, wine and spirits are coming from local farms, breweries and wineries.  Even the desert will have a number of delicious items from Cherry Republic, a staple of Michigan tourism.

As I am writing this post, I am looking out the back yard, over the largest inland lake in Southern Michigan, at the boats, jet skis, families on pontoons, and dogs happily running and playing in the shallow water.  I have spent years of my life looking for best places, best cities, most excitement… I never thought that I would find it here, in Pure Michigan.

For more on planning a wedding in Michigan, see our Pure Michigan Weddings board on Pinterest or watch the replay of our live chat with local wedding expert Megan Swoyer.

IMG_3815Conrad Chase is a business development executive for a growing technology company, Data Realty, headquartered in South Bend IN.  His beautiful fiancée, Abigail Paul is a dentist in Eau Claire, Michigan.  The couple share common interests such as travel, Crossfit, and family.  Abigail and Conrad reside in Buchanan, MI with their 2 cats, Susie and Stimpy.