Six Reasons for a Group Getaway in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids garnered headlines this January when the New York Times named it #20 of 52 Places to Go Worldwide in 2016. But the city won an equally important honor a few months before, when readers of Groups Today magazine voted it the Top Emerging Destination in the U.S. – confirming that Grand Rapids is a great place to travel en masse.

Whether it’s a bus tour or a family reunion, a girls’ getaway or men’s weekend, you can’t go wrong with these crowd-pleasing group ideas.

1. Hit the Beer City Ale Trail.

With more than 40 craft breweries within minutes of the city, it’s no surprise that USA Today just picked Grand Rapids as the nation’s best beer scene. Start your journey with three excellent downtown breweries – including Founders, widely acknowledged as one of the world’s best. Pick up a Beer City Brewsader Passport while in town and visit eight Brewsader breweries to earn a collectible t-shirt!

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

2. Travel the Grand Rapids Food Trail.

Tour 30+ delectable destinations on the Food Trail to learn why Grand Rapids has been named America’s #2 Most Affordable Foodie City. Trail stops include the Downtown Market, a local food emporium featuring 20+ artisan food vendors – from butcher to baker to organic ice cream maker. Still hungry? You’ll find an incredible array of creative farm-to-fork restaurants around every corner.

3. Shop ‘til you Drop.

Five huge shopping centers include a new Tanger Outlet Mall, home to 80+ brand-name designer discount stores. Distinct neighborhood shopping districts offer more unique items, and downtown’s Avenue for the Arts is lined with artisans selling handmade goods.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

4. Soak up the Culture.

Downtown hosts four world-class museums, including the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, which is undergoing a major renovation in advance of a June 7 reopening. Just 10 minutes away is Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, named one of the world’s Top 30 Must-See Museums. Don’t miss the breathtaking Japanese Garden there.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

5. Get Your Art On.

ArtPrize, the world’s richest, most radical art competition, draws half a million people to downtown Grand Rapids each year. (This year’s event takes place September 21-October 9.) But art is everywhere you look, every day of the year – on sidewalks and buildings, in three art museums, and throughout neighborhoods and business districts.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

6. Enjoy Nights on the Town.

From Broadway musicals to live-music bars, from comedy clubs to pro sports games, Grand Rapids offers something for every taste when evening rolls around. Much of the nightlife is concentrated in downtown’s safe, walkable entertainment district – including this year’s biggest theatrical show, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera (May 18-29).

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting Grand Rapids? Share with us by commenting below!

Become a “Brewsader” with the Grand Rapids Beer City Passport

Grand Rapids is many things- one of USA TODAY’s Top Ten Best Beer Towns, #6 on Livability’s 10 Best Beer Cities, and the winner of the Beer City USA vote in the final year of the competition in 2013.  It can now add ‘Home of the Brewsader’ to that list of accolades as Experience Grand Rapids pilots GR’s first ever Beer City Passport experience.

What’s a “Brewsader”?

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Brewsader is a brand new term coined by the inventors of the passport.  It refers to a person who is an advocate, enthusiast, and imbiber of great beer, on a never ending quest for the perfect brew.  This has come to describe not just locals, but also the 13,000 annual visitors coming to the city annually just for beer.

“Beer tourism has been a key contributing factor in the tourism growth we have seen the past few years,” said Janet Korn, CTA, Senior Vice President of EXGR. “The Beer City Passport will give beer enthusiasts a new way of documenting and experiencing the Grand Rapids beer scene.”  Brewsader status is earned during the completion of the Beer City Passport challenge.

How does the Passport do this?

The passport, which is actually passport-sized, includes 35 pages of valuable Beer City information.  Visitors can see what area hotels offer as Beer Experience Packages, how to brewery hop responsibly, and where some of GR’s finest beers can be found.

There are 23 participating breweries marked on the passport and the challenge is to visit 8 of them by October 2016.  As you taste and try new breweries, you will get your passport stamped by your brewer/pubtender/server!  With eight stamps, Brewsaders can either mail in their passport information sheet or visit the GOSite in the Downtown Destination Neighborhood to exchange the Brewsader page for a t-shirt!

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5 Things to know about the Beer City Passport:

1. It’s free!  You can pick one up starting Monday, October 19th at any participating brewery or at the GOSite in downtown GR.

2. Participants must be aged 21 and up and can all receive a free Brewsader t-shirt after visiting just 8 out of 23 breweries on the map.

3. The enthusiast’s app Untappd has released a Brewsader badge for any beer lover who drinks five GR area brews.

4. The Beer City Passport pairs wonderfully with the Beer City Ale Trail Map- this map is a comprehensive look at the craft beverage locations all over West Michigan!

5. Grand Rapids is the perfect place to start or continue your never ending quest for the perfect brew- Go forth and enjoy the craft beer this city has to offer!

Beer city map

What do you love most about Grand Rapid’s beer scene?

23 Things to Do in West Michigan Before the Summer Ends

West Michigan is home to some of the best kept secrets and awe-inspiring attractions in America. No matter where you go, there’s something new to try right around the corner. To help you get the most out of this summer, we’ve compiled a list of things you’ll want to make sure you do in West Michigan before the summer ends!

1. Climb to the top of one of Lake Michigan’s many lighthouses, or volunteer for one of the keeper programs offered at a handful of the lighthouse museums in northwest Michigan.

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McGulpin Lighthouse, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

2. Complete the tree scavenger hunt on the Nature Trail at Stokes Homestead Farm Market in Grand Junction and get rewarded with a free ice cream cone!

3. Kiss a turkey at Cornwell’s Turkeyville in Marshall.

4. Drive the Tunnel of Trees to the end, where you can enjoy an authentic Polish pierogi overlooking Lake Michigan at Legs Inn in Cross Village.

5. Embrace your inner pirate when you sail on the tall ship “Friends Good Will” in South Haven, and visit the Michigan Maritime Museum when you’re back on land for a look into the past.

6. Hand feed a giraffe at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek or Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto.

7. Hike, swim, and explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with 64 miles of beaches, coves, islands, and hills on the west coast of the Leelanau Peninsula.

8. Hunt for the state stone, the Petoskey Stone, along the shores of Lake Michigan. No license required to pick up the fossilized coral, but what a cool feeling when you find one!

9. Cycle down the paved Leelanau Trail and enjoy a picnic lunch while you visit up to seven wineries just off the trail with Grand Traverse Bike Tours.

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Grand Traverse Bike Tours, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

10. Learn to Fly Fish at the Red Moose Lodge on the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin with their full day trips out on the river & cozy accommodations at night.

11. One of Michigan’s most visited shrines, the 55 foot tall Cross in the Woods in Indian River is a must-see.

12. Peddle your way around town on the self-propelled Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, the first and only “Green Pub” in Michigan, located in Grand Rapids.

13. Ride the Fins of a Windmill on Harry’s Windmill ride at Nelis’ Dutch Village in Holland, which combines a restored 1940 Eli Bridge #5, 45ft high Ferris Wheel matched with a reproduction of a Netherlands windmill.

14. See the Big Yellow Dinosaur on US 31 at Kampvilla RV Park (her name is Sunny!).

15. Stay overnight aboard the USS Silversides Submarine Museum, which is officially credited with sinking 23 major Japanese ships and is considered the U.S. Navy’s most successful surviving World War II submarine.

16. Take a “Paddle n’ Pints” trip with Rockford Brewing Company, where you’ll fill up plastic growlers at the brewery before spending two hours floating down the river and enjoying the outdoors.

17. Take an outdoor adventure with friends and a good book with Outdoor Book Club, which hosts meet-up in various West Michigan cities.

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Outdoor Book Club, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

18. Tour a Coast Guard Ship, dance in the streets of Grand Haven at the yearly street dance, and then settle in to enjoy the fireworks and musical fountain from the waterfront at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival each August.

19. Try your hand at the Sporting Clay course at Blendon Pines Gun Club in Zeeland and see how many clay pigeons you can hit with a shotgun over twelve different shooting stations.

20. View many of Michigan’s remote lighthouses aboard a multi-day boat cruise aboard the Keweenaw Star, based out of Charlevoix.

21. Visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids and marvel at the 24-foot-tall bronze horse statue.

22. Visit the Headlands and the Dark Sky Discovery Trail in Emmet County, which is one of just 13 prestigious International Dark Sky Parks in the United States.

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Emmet County International Dark Sky Park, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

23. Watch a sunset from the middle of Lake Michigan with nothing to obstruct your view on Beaver Island.

Courtney Sheffer considers herself a professional when it comes to exploring all West Michigan has to offer. As Marketing Director for the West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA), Courtney is always on the lookout for new West Michigan experiences to share with visitors. Whether you live, work, or play in West Michigan, WMTA can help you discover something new that you’ll love!