Four Ways to Experience Arts and Culture in Grand Rapids

If you’re looking for unique arts and culture events, a visit to Grand Rapids is in order. From LiveArts, an extraordinary, collaborative stage production, to the amazing beauty of the new Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’ll want to catch everything that’s happening in Grand Rapids this spring.

Here are four ways to experience the arts on Michigan’s west side from Experience Grand Rapids. 

1. LiveArts

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.27.00 PMFor starters, you won’t want to miss LiveArts, a multi-media extravaganza about the vital role arts plays in our lives. LiveArts takes place at Van Andel Arena on April 24 and is a unique collaboration between the Grand Rapids Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids, and Broadway Grand Rapids.

The performance will include 1,500 performers and feature highlights from familiar music, like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” and Beethoven’s “Choral” Symphony No. 9, as well as dancing, visual effects, and more.

As you watch and listen, you’ll be drawn into the story of a young boy who discovers his passion for the cello and follow his journey as he attempts to master the instrument. Instead of taking place entirely on a traditional stage, LiveArts is creatively using multiple levels in the production.

Another unique component, says Roger Nelson, Vice President and COO for the Symphony, is the addition of visual elements. “In an ordinary concert presentation of the symphony, we ask people to use their imagination,” he says. “This show is different because in addition to hearing the music and watching the performers, people will see coordinated lighting, graphical images, and larger-than-life images of the performers.”

You can click here to read more about LiveArts in our first post on the event. Or, click here to buy tickets for LiveArts.

2. DisArt Festival

For 2 weeks, from April 10 – April 25, venues throughout Grand Rapids will host an international exhibition of artwork by artists with disabilities for the DisArt Festival. The 16-day festival will feature innovative work by over 35 international artists, with the aim of changing public perceptions about disability and connecting people through art.

DisArt logo[1]Head to the GRAM at 6PM on April 10th to hear the Curator Talk that kicks off the DisArt Festival, then join the fun at other kick-off events that will take place throughout the evening at a number of venues around Grand Rapids. During the festival, you’ll have the opportunity to view a film festival, a fashion show, several cultural education events, and dance performances as well as more traditional art exhibits. Check here for a complete list of DisArt Festival events.

When you visit the DisArts Festival you’ll also have the opportunity to see the U.S. premiere of Art of the Lived Experiment, which will be on display at three downtown locations: the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Kendall College of Art and Design, and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA). Art of the Lived Experiment was curated by artist Aaron Williamson for the U.K’s DaDaFest International 2014 and includes a range of artworks, from sculpture and painting to photography and ceramics, by artists from around the world. The collection will remain in Grand Rapids through July 31st

Another exhibition you can see both during and post-festival is artist Riva Lehrer’s The Risk Pictures. Lehrer’s work has been displayed at the United Nations and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, among other locations. Visitors to Grand Rapids can see The Risk Pictures at The Richard App Gallery from April 11 – through June 30th. M

For more information, visit the DisArts Festival website.

3. The Discovery of King Tut Exhibit

For an entirely different kind of experience, check out the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s super cool exhibit, The Discovery of King Tut, which opens May 16 and runs through January 2016.

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

King Tut (short for Tutankhamen) became pharaoh when he was only 8-years old and died mysteriously about 11 years later. For unknown reasons, his name was erased from Egyptian monuments and he was all but forgotten until British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his tomb in 1922.

Two parts comprise the exhibition at the Grand Rapids Public Museum: First, you’ll be transported, via media, thousands of years back in time to the world that existed when King Tut ruled. Next, you’ll learn how Howard Carter discovered his tomb all those years later.

The second part of the exhibition is a reproduction of the three incredible burial chambers discovered by Carter. The exhibit uses scientifically produced reconstructions of the chambers and their contents, so you’ll essentially see what Howard Carter saw when he made the discovery.

You can read more details and find ticket information on the GRPM website.

4. The Grand Opening of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

If you’ve been to beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’re not alone. With more than 550,000 visitors annually, it’s a destination that attracts people from all over the world to see sculptures by artists like Rodin and Moore, explore the latest gallery exhibits, play in the magnificent children’s gardens, enjoy Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory (wonderful anytime of year but especially nice to visit in the winter), take in a summer concert, or stroll through the bountiful outdoor gardens and—one of my kids favorites—Michigan’s Farm Garden.

Beginning June 13, 2015 visitors can add the 8 ½ acre Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden to their list of must-see exhibits.

The Japanese garden represents the culmination of 3+ years of hard work, begun in 2012 following the initial idea proposed by Fred Meijer in 2009. Designed by Hoichi Kurisu, president and founder of Kurisu International, Inc., the Japanese garden is in an ideal setting that includes elevation changes in addition to a variety of horticultural elements, including scenic bridges and waterfalls. As you walk through and explore the new Japanese garden, you can expect to find tranquility and simplicity in its beauty.

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

In a departure from traditional Japanese gardens, the Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden will also contain sculptures, in keeping with Frederik Meijer Gardens’ dual mission of horticulture and sculpture. To honor the essence of the Japanese garden tradition and philosophy, these contemporary sculptures will offer thoughtful and thought-providing aesthetics amidst the naturally peaceful setting.

For more information on the grand opening of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, click here.

So many events, all in one place: it’s time to experience Grand Rapids!

Eat Your Way Through Western Michigan: 27 More Stops on a Foodie Adventure

Last month, we walked you through an Eastern Michigan food tour, but we couldn’t forget about the magnificent culinary creations of the west side of the state. If you’re planning to travel the Lake Michigan coast this spring or summer, let your tastebuds be your guide. Reference this list of just a few fantastic places to eat when you’re on the road on Michigan’s west coast. 

Savoring the Flavors of Southwest Michigan
In southwest Michigan you will find intriguing country towns mingled with vibrant cities along the scenic Michigan shoreline. These towns have an abundance of culinary destinations to visit, as well as sandy beaches and lighthouses lining the coast.

southwest mi

1. Visit (1)Arcadia Brewing Company and discover small batches of beers such as Cocoa Loco, Jaw Jacker and Shipwreck Porter. The labels for these beers are just as unique and creative as they are created specifically for each flavor.
2. If Michigan made wine is more your style, (9)Tabor Hill is definitely worth a stop.  The menu changes every day so you never know what you will discover.
3. Check out a vibrant Café with a spin on your familiar comfort foods, (2)Food Dance Café will make delectable dishes you will be talking about days after.
4. The bustling (3)Kalamazoo Farmers Market is the perfect destination for fresh produce, plants, flowers, baked goods, fresh meats and handmade crafts.  Have a picnic at (8)Tree-mendus Fruit Farm, where you can pick your own fruits or rent an apple tree for the season.
5. A rustic American eatery and bakery is (4)Salt of the Earth. They pride themselves on buying locally to emphasize the flavor of their menu items and products. The menu offers wood fired pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, steak, chicken and pork which can be paired with some delicious varieties of Michigan wines from their wine menu.
6. If fresh blueberries makes your mouth water, you have to stop at this location. (5)The Blueberry Store offers every blueberry product imaginable. Blueberry products range from chocolates, jams, jellies, muffins, syrups, to meats and so much more.
7. Delectable truffles made with Michigan wine from Contessa Wine Cellars are some of the mouth-watering flavors at (6)Chocolate Garden. These handmade chocolates are perfect for a gift or a sweet treat for yourself, and have been featured on the Food Network and in Midwest Living magazine.
8. The magnificent view of Lake Michigan is what you will see as you dine on the deck or dining room of (7)Bistro on the Boulevard. Their menu offers an array of local ingredients that create delicious meals that include soups, salads, sandwiches, duck, chicken, fish, crab cakes, pasta dishes and handmade desserts.
9. Unlike your normal garden center, (10)Sawyer Garden Center offers not only its quality bedding flats, hanging baskets, color bowls and perennials along with a selection of fresh Michigan produce throughout the year and over 50 fine wines from local wineries.

Savors and Flavors along M-22 and Sleeping Bear Dunes
Stretching from Manistee to Benzie and Leelanau Counties, the M22 corridor is known for rolling through lush countrysides and along freshwater shorelines. Here, more than 30 restaurants and charter boat operators participate in the award-winning “Catch & Cook” program – where a day of fishing turns into a gourmet meal featuring your own fresh catch.

foodie_M22

1. (1)Blue Fish Kitchen & Bar is a downtown eatery offering new American cuisine in a relaxed, lakeshore atmosphere. Enjoy extensive wine list, craft beer and farm-to-table artisan fare.
2. This truly a unique destination is located in Manistee. (2)Douglas Valley Organic Vineyards offers unique, award-winning hard ciders and wines, as well as a Farm Market with a variety of farm fresh organic produce.
3. (3)Pierport Farms products are made from fresh fruit grown on farms and orchards surrounding Pierport. The fruit is picked daily and prepared in small batches to create products with truly homemade flavor.
4.  Supporting local farmers by providing the best regional items from a five-county area, (4)Elberta Farmers Market has grown into a community of friendships with a common goal of providing the finest fruits, vegetables and other produce.
5. (5)Coho Cafe features fine dining and spirits overlooking Betsie Bay. Specialties include fresh fish from the Great Lakes, locally-raised meats and produce, Michigan drafts, and fine wine
6. Operating with the “Belgian-inspired, Michigan-made” philosophy, (6)Stormcloud Brewing Company brews  well-balanced beers with specific attention to the yeast profiles. These quality Michigan craft brews are served up in the 85-seat vintage-inspired taproom or outside on a 1200-square-foot covered beer garden.
7.  Satisfy your sweet tooth at (7)Hill Top Soda Shoppe. The homemade ice cream is sweetened with Michigan sugar beets. Toppings are hand-chopped and served up fresh.
8. If you’re planning date night out, (8)Nonna’s Ristorante features classically-inspired contemporary Italian cuisine prepared with the freshest local ingredients. Served in a three level, timber-framed structure with natural stone fireplaces, a chef’s table, two intimate dining areas and a warm and welcoming loft.
9.  For more than a century, the Carlson family has operated (9)Carlson’s Fishery in historic Fishtown.  You’ll find some of the best fresh and smoked fish, smoked fish sausage, smoked fish pate, beef and turkey jerky you can find!
10. (10)Martha’s Leelanau Table Cafe could be best described as a European style cafe, where every entree is made from scratch, (including the pastries) and made from the very finest ingredients available in Leelanau County.
11.  Say Cheese! (11)Leelanau Cheese features award-winning artisan cheeses including a variety of cellar-aged Swiss Raclette cheese – rated “Best of Show” by the American Cheese Society in 2007 – as well as French Style Fromage Blanc cheese spread.

If a stop in Petoskey is on your itinerary, don’t miss twelve more places to get your grub on!

Appetizing Creations From Western Upper Peninsula
The west side of the UP offers more than just beautiful scenery, miles of coastline, small friendly towns, and areas for hunting and fishing. You can find amazing and unique dishes from the north such as their famous pasties and the freshest Lake Superior whitefish you can find.

UP

1. (1)Harbor Haus is the perfect spot for a new selection of dishes as their menu changes daily. Their passion, expertise and commitment to serving the freshest foods available make every dish amazing.
2. “Fine dining in a distinguished atmosphere” is what you will find at (2)Fitzgerald’s. The restaurant hosts a magnificent view of Lake Superior with deck seating for the warmer days. Fitzgerald’s takes pride in offering delicious menu items every day such as their Lake Superior Whitefish, Jager Schnitzel, Pecan Walleye, Burgers, Smoked Trout Pate, Hummus and Nachos.
3. (3)Keweenaw Co-op is a one-stop shop for the freshest Michigan produce and products. Above having the perfect ingredients for your meal they have a delightful deli menu. Here you can purchase sandwiches of all kinds, salads and homemade soups.
4. The (4)Keweenaw Brewing Company taproom is located in the middle of historic downtown Houghton. Its rustic barn-wood interior welcomes all with cozy atmosphere that includes a large fireplace area and comfy couches.
5. Nestled in the woods of the Upper Peninsula is (5)Konteka Black Bear Resort, which offers a delicious variety of dishes. Their menu is perfect for any taste bud as they have soups, salads, sandwiches, steak, ribs, seafood, chicken and scrumptious desserts. While enjoying your dinner you can watch wild black bears roaming the premises. This sight makes for a unique dining experience that can be enjoyed by all.
6. What used to be known as Grama T’s Pasties is now (6)Irontown Pasties. Along with their delicious warm pasties, you can enjoy many flavors of their hand dipped ice cream. Your stomach will thank you later.
7. Downtown Marquette hosts the (7)Marquette Farmers & Artists Market every Saturday. The market includes local farmers and growers offering a wide variety of fresh produce, herbs, eggs, meat, baked goods, plants and fresh-cut flowers. Stop in and support Michigan vendors.

Pure Michigan has so many different foods to discover. Check out more unique Michigan cuisine that you can make your own.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Pure Michigan?

Seven Michigan Eating Challenges That Are Sure to Make You Hungry

Order up! Michigan may be known for its beautiful scenery and outdoors, but Michiganders know all too well that the state boasts some of the best restaurants around. While many of these hometown spots offer delectable classics, a few others bring something far ‘bigger’ to the table.

We rounded up seven eating challenges across the state that are available to try year round. So prepare your stomach, and mind, for these gargantuan Pure Michigan food feats.

The Dog Central Challenge
Dog Central, Mount Pleasant
If you’re heading to Mid-Michigan, ask around: Many of the Mt. Pleasant locals will know about the famed Dog Central Challenge. Dubbed as a test of both mental and physical toughness, challengers are tasked with taking down three foot long hotdogs with chili and two toppings, a bed of French fries, stack of onion rings and a 20 oz. fountain pop to wash it all down. If you complete the challenge, your determination earns you a spot on the Wall of Fame. But be warned! Losing the challenge earns you a spot on the Wall of Shame

Other Dog Central challenges include: most hot dogs eaten in two hours, most hot dogs eaten in one half hour, and the Ghost Chili Challenge (three hot dogs with ghost pepper chili)

DCchallenge

Photo courtesy of Dog Central

Lumberjack Club
The Grill House, Allegan
Do you have what it takes to join the Lumberjack Club? This 42oz Top Sirloin is not for the faint of heart. The record time for eating this monstrous steak is 5 minutes and 26 seconds, but you get one full hour to take on this mountain of meat. Don’t worry if you can’t finish it in under an hour – you’ve still had a wonderful steak dinner, and now you can have a tasty steak and egg omelet for breakfast!

50-Wing Challenge
The Winter Inn, Greenville
Every Sunday, challengers are invited to take part in the famed 50-wing challenge. You’ll have one hour to eat 50 of the Winter Inn’s delectable wings in the hopes of earning a plaque to put on the Wall of Fame. If you’re able to finish the challenge, you’ll receive a Winter Inn t-shirt, $15 gift certificate, and, of course, bragging rights as the wing champion.

Big Bambino Burger
Stucko’s Pub, Marquette
If you’re looking for a burger challenge, look no further than Stucko’s Big Bambino.  This mammoth one-pound burger is topped with a quarter pound all-beef hot dog, three slices of bacon and three slices of American cheese. Served with lettuce, tomato, pickle spear and one pound of fries, this majestic sandwich will bring even the burliest-burger lover to their knees.

Hellfire Hat Trick 
Mallie’s Sports Grill and Bar, Southgate
Spice-chasers head to Mallie’s Sports Grill & Bar in Southgate, a Detroit suburb, to take on the “Hellfire Hat Trick.” Eat 1 hellfire burger, 6 hell fire wings and 1 bowl of hellfire chili in 30 minutes or less with a 5 minute burn period. Complete the Hat Trick and win free burgers for a year or a $100 Mallie’s gift certificate. This challenge is so hot it was even featured in USA Today Travel’s list of America’s spiciest eating challenges. 

Also available at Mallie’s – a burger challenge even more mammoth than the Big Bambino! The 10 lb. Monster Burger Challenge dares the largest of appetites to finish it all in 2 hours or less and it’s free. Plus, you get $100 and your photo on Mallie’s Wall of Fame!

Photo courtesy of Mallie's Grill n Bar

Photo courtesy of Mallie’s Grill n Bar

Burrito Challenge
Sabor Latino, Ann Arbor
If you’re looking for a challenge in Ann Arbor, take a trip to Sabor Latino for the hearty Burrito Challenge. You’ll come face to face with a triple-size burrito stuffed with beans, rice, you choice of meat or vegetables, lettuce, cheese, habanero-onion slaw, and topped with sour cream, guacamole and cheese. If you finish the burrito, you’ll earn a $20 gift card, your picture added to the Burrito Challenge Hall of Fame Facebook page and Sabor Latino will pick up your bill.

Have you conquered an extreme Michigan eating challenge? Do you know of any others to add to the list? Tell us! 

Interested in learning more about places to eat in Michigan? Head over to Michigan.org/dining for more delicious Michigan made entrees.