Ten Cool Things You Can’t Miss at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

The Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids are 158 acres of art, science and pure natural beauty. With new exhibits, special events and a 20th anniversary celebration, it’s going to be a busy year at the gardens. Guest blogger Andrea Wolschleger describes 10 experiences you can’t miss at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park this year. 

Photo courtesy of Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

If Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park isn’t on your list of places to visit this year, it should be. This year marks our 20th birthday and with it, a multitude of ways to celebrate and experience our unique marriage of horticulture and sculpture.  To only choose 10 was tough, but here are the highlights you won’t want to miss:

1. The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden
This highly anticipated 8-acre addition will open to the public on June 13th. Three years in the making, visitors will be able to experience cascading waterfalls, a soothing Zen-style garden,  and seven works by master sculptors amidst lush plantings in a peaceful setting.

2. Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan
This special, seven-month exhibition features works never seen outside of Japan and will change seasonally. View centuries-old pottery, and kimonos among other Japanese treasures.

Photo courtesy of Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

3. Fred and Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming
Welcoming over 50 species of tropical butterflies, this exhibition is our most popular among the young and young-at-heart. Over the course of the exhibition, over 7,000 butterflies will fly freely in the 85 degree conservatory.

4. Fifth Third Bank Summer Concert Series
Our amphitheater is one of the most intimate and picturesque venues in Michigan, and the perfect place to bring a picnic dinner and enjoy live music. Past performers include Harry Connick, Jr., Santana, Willie Nelson and John Legend. The 2015 lineup will be announced mid-April.

5. Ai Weiwei
We recently announced a major sculpture acquisition by this prominent and provocative artist. Iron Tree will be dedicated in the Sculpture Park on Meijer Garden’s birthday, April 20th. Join us for cake afterwards.

Photo courtesy of Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

6. Sculpture Park
One of the most comprehensive collections of outdoor sculpture resides right here in West Michigan. More than 50 major works by masters such as Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Louise Bourgeois, Mark di Suvero, Richard Serra, and Roxy Paine are nestled among waterfalls, wandering pathways and meadows.

7. Lena Meijer Children’s Garden
A favorite of our smallest guests, little ones can launch boats in the Great Lakes Garden, dig for buried fossils in the Rock Quarry, listen to a story, or discover leaves that feel like lamb ears. This garden invites kids to do what they do best—play and learn!

8. Tuesday Evening Music Club
Looking for something fun to do on a summer evening? Join us Tuesday evenings for concerts by talented local and regional musicians. Best part? They’re free for members.

Photo courtesy of Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

9. Carnivorous Plant House
Meat. Eating. Plants. Discover plants of all shapes and sizes; the Venus flytrap, colorful pitcher plants, sundews and butterworts are just a few in our carnivore collection.

10. Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World
Experience the most magical time of year as Meijer Gardens transforms into a world of winter magic with the glow of 300,000 lights, over 40 trees and displays representing traditions form all over the world, strolling carolers and horse‐drawn carriage rides. A visitor favorite, the enchanting railway garden wanders through three indoor greenhouse spaces.  Santa and live reindeer complete the picture.

Come explore, and be sure to visit in all seasons.  Meijer Gardens has something for everyone. Take an inside look at the gardens from Under the Radar Michigan below!

_DSC0597_USEAndrea has been the public relations manager at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for approximately three years.  A Grand Rapids native, she returned to the city after a five year tenure working in community relations in Washington DC. Andrea earned her degree in journalism and media arts from Butler University in Indianapolis.

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.

Have Appetite, Will Travel: A Guide to Grand Rapids Restaurant Week 2014

Restaurant Week Grand Rapids is happening August 13-24, 2014. Sixty restaurants offer three-course tasting menus featuring their culinary team’s skills and the West Michigan harvest. Molly Crist, Experience Grand Rapids blogger and Onward Travel tour operator, fills us in on this year’s RWGR highlights.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapidians love food, beer, wine, and getting out on the town… which makes Restaurant Week one of the best times of the year in our corner of the Mitten. It’s time to head to West Michigan and warm a restaurant seat while soaking up the waning summer because RWGR is happening Wednesday, August 13 to Sunday, August 24. Read on for highlights of this year’s event that combines creative chefs, a range of beverages, the peak of Michigan’s harvest, and summertime revelry.

Great food for a terrific value

Three-course menus are $28 per person, though you’ll find two for $28 at several restaurants: Lindo Mexico, Rezervoir Lounge, Fajita Republic and Osta’s Lebanese Cuisine. Check out Fajita Republic’s DIY guacamole – fresh haas avocados with a selection of toppings (spiced pepitas, pico de gallo, bacon, chiles, oh my!) that you can mix until your heart’s content.

Perfect timing

August is the height of harvest in West Michigan. It’s the best time of the year for farmers markets and gardeners (holy summer squash!), which means locavore chefs are smiling, too. RWGR menus celebrate the bounty and your taste buds will, too. From sweet corn, to heirloom tomatoes, to Great Lake fish, it doesn’t get any fresher.

Food and beverage pairing

Alambre_Especial1

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

This year’s theme is Perfect Pairings. GR’s reputation as Beer City USA is well established with fifteen craft breweries and more popping up all the time. The Great Lake’s ability to insulate coastal farmland, keeping it cool in summer and preventing a bitter freeze in winter, means Michigan has a climate for wine production, and fortunately many local producers are creating delicious wines. Distilleries are popping up around the state, with creative spirits growing in popularity. To celebrate Michigan’s status as a beverage-producing-triple-threat – not to mention all the carefully roasted and brewed coffees – RWGR’s theme emphasizes the art of pairing food and drink.

CitySen is featuring a Southern-Style American menu, from Fried Green Tomatoes, to Chicken and Waffles, to Pecan Pie. Try the Baby Back Ribs braised in Bell’s Oberon paired with a pint of Oberon mixed with Founders’ Rubaeus, a good complement to the fruity house-made BBQ sauce.  Bar Divani has an eclectic, flavor-forward-menu that offers an appetizer, salad, and entree – try starting with the Pulled Pork Rangoons with Sesame Chili Sauce, paired with a glass of Noel Bougrier Vouvray.

Local beverages are in the food, too!

In addition to pairing food and drink, chefs are cooking with locally-made beverages. At Grand Rapids Brewing Company, you can enjoy Michigan’s only certified organic brewery and chef-inspired, gourmet cuisine. The Brewer’s Flan on GRBC’s RWGR menu is a chocolate stout custard with cocoa nibs, salted caramel and mint, no doubt delicious with some stout in your glass, too. The Rubeaus Cheesecake at Licari’s is quite decadent, too, with Amoretti Cookie crust and a suggested pairing of Ferris Coffee Nicaraguan brew or Atwater’s Decadent Chocolate Stout.

Do good while dining

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

One dollar from each meal goes towards a scholarship fund at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Since 2010, RWGR participating restaurants have donated almost $75,000 to the fund. It’s all about growing our local food culture in Grand Rapids, from farms to classrooms.

Cocktail competition

Local mixologists at participating RWGR restaurants are shaking it up for the Grand Cocktail competition that debuts August 6. Mixologists will vie to win an all-expense paid trip to Woodford Reserve in Kentucky. You can participate by sipping cocktails around town and voting at restaurantweekgr.com. Start at Judson’s at the B.O.B. with a sip of their Bufala Negra, a seasonal concoction of Woodford Reserve, basil, brown sugar, ginger beer and balsamic brown sugar simple syrup. Cheers, indeed!

Be a part of the fun

Beyond the tantalizing food choices, RWGR is an annual dining highlight because of the bustling atmosphere and feeling of culinary-inspired revelry.

Take advantage of an opportunity to visit a spot that might normally be out of your price range, a newly opened restaurant, or a place you’ve never been. invite your friends and enjoy wonderful food, a bustling city, a walkable downtown with many dining choices, and al fresco dining options to make the most of the beautiful summer nights ahead.

Do you plan to check out Grand Rapids Restaurant Week?