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!

Experience Serious Laughs in Grand Rapids this Month

Have you been looking for an excuse to explore the west side of Michigan? Consider LaughFest in Grand Rapids! LaughFest is an annual comedy-filled event you won’t want to miss.  

The sixth annual LaughFest boasts hundreds of comedic acts including solo performers, groups, and community showcase participants March 10-20 in and around Grand Rapids. With big name acts including Seth Myers, Kathy Griffin and Emmy Award winner and Grammy Award nominee David Cross there is someone to fit everyone’s sense of humor.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

“It’s one of the many things that makes West Michigan a unique place,” Joanne Roehm, festival director for Gilda’s LaughFest, said. “LaughFest is a great opportunity to get out of the house, laugh a lot, and beat the winter blues – all for a good cause. Raising funds for free cancer and grief programming offered through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.”

Over the past five years, the ten-day festival has raised over $1,000,000 in proceeds for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids which provides free emotional healthcare to children, adults, families, and friends on any kind of cancer journey or those grieving the death of someone in their life due to any cause.

This year, LaughFest partnered with over 50 locations throughout Grand Rapids for #selfieswithsmiles. This fun, social media campaign is a fun and easy way to get involved with LaughFest and win some great prizes to commemorate your stay!

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

To enter, while out and about in Grand Rapids, look for a LaughFest #selfieswithsmiles poster at most of the LaughFest key venues and snap your selfie! Then simply tag #selfieswithsmiles and #experiencegrandrapids on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and you’re entered to win LaughFest tickets and swag, Beer City USA merchandise, and restaurant gift certificates. Find and take selfies with as many #selfieswithsmiles posters as you can for more chances to win in the weekly drawing. Winners are announced via social media so be sure to follow and “like” LaughFest and Experience Grand Rapids on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

When asked if any of the LaughFest comedians might be at the #selfiewithsmiles locations, Roehm answered coyly, “You never know what will happen during LaughFest!”

So get your tickets and head on over to Grand Rapids for LaughFest 2016. It promises to be seriously funny.

Have you ever attended LaughFest? Share your experience with us below!

Experience Winter Cycling in Grand Rapids This Season

If you’re looking for a new activity to enjoy during your Pure Michigan Snow Day, or just need a new way of staying active, try winter cycling! Using fat-tire bikes, you can experience the joyful scenery of the state while also staying fit. Guest blogger Howard Meyerson provides some suggestions of top Grand Rapids trails for your cycling pleasure. 

When the lure of winter woods grows strong and the urge to ride is even stronger, Grand Rapids is the place to be. Outside magazine, in 2010, named Grand Rapids a “Best Town for Mountain Biking.” Michigan’s second largest city is also now becoming a hub for winter biking trails.

Grand Rapids and the surrounding area offers riders a choice of groomed, winter cycling trails. Free demo-days are offered on some by bike shops in the area. Curious riders or enthusiasts can come out on those days and test-drive the newest fat-tire designs.

Fat-bikes, as they are commonly called, have soft, wide tires and comfortable frames that make riding in wet and snowy conditions easy. They appeared on the Michigan cycling scene several years ago and were considered a fad, but riders soon found their utility and comfort appealing. Stable with enhanced traction, they opened the door to winter riding at a time of year when most bikes stay in storage.

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Lance Climie, clubhouse manager at Indian Trails Golf Course, Photo Courtesy of Howard Meyerson

If you’re looking for a good winter cycling trail, or to try-out a fat-tire bicycle, visit these top trails around Grand Rapids, in no particular order:

  1. Indian Trails Golf Course:  Located 15-minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, at 2776 Kalamazoo Ave SE, the golf center has become a popular in-city riding destination with 3-miles of groomed trail in rolling, wooded terrain. Riders gather at the heated clubhouse for hot chili and beer by the fireplace.  The trail is open to the public from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Wednesday in January and February. It closes at 7 p.m. on race nights. A $5 daily trail-pass or $20 seasonal pass is required to ride. Wednesday is free demo-day on the trail and area bike shops bring 10 to 15 fat-bikes to try.
  2. Merrell Trail: The very popular 4 to 5-mile groomed winter forest bike trail at 2908 10 Mile Rd. NE, Rockford, has become a destination for intermediate and advanced riders. It is maintained by the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance. There is no charge to ride. The trail opened in 2012 and was developed by WMMBA, Plainfield Township, Kent County Parks, the Wolverine World wide Foundation and Merrell.
  3. Deep Lake Trail: The hilly woods of Yankee Springs State Recreation Area are a magnet for mountain bikers year-round. The long-popular Barry County cycling trail at 2526 S. Yankee Springs Rd., Middleville, offers seven groomed miles for winter riding. It is maintained by the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance.  There is no charge to ride.
  4. Cannonsburg Ski Area: This is hilly terrain. The ski area at 6800 Cannonsburg Rd. NE, Belmont, grooms a 5 to 6-mile loop for fat-tire bicycles. Trail fees are $5/day, $30 for the season. Rental bikes are available.

James Gunderman riding at Indian Trails Golf Course, Photo Courtesy of Howard Meyerson

If you’re thinking to try winter fat-tire cycling, be sure to:

  1. Wear a helmet.
  2. Dress warm, but not too warm. Think hat and gloves.
  3. Choose layers for active play.
  4. Pick footwear that will keep your feet warm.

Howard Meyerson is lifelong outdoor enthusiast and freelance writer/photographer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work appears in a variety of publications.

Have you ever cycled in the winter? Share your experiences with us by commenting below!