6 Reasons Grand Rapids is Lonely Planet’s Pick for Top 2014 Travel Destination

As you begin to plan your travels for the new year ahead, here are six reasons why Grand Rapids is Lonely’s Planet’s Top 2014 travel destination from Experience Grand Rapids

When Lonely Planet named Grand Rapids the #1 travel destination of 2014, citing its natural beauty and beaches, ArtPrize, and the local craft beer scene as a winning combination, West Michigan residents weren’t surprised. They already knew that Grand Rapids is a gem just waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world – and here’s why:

The art.

Grand Rapids has been home to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park for almost 20 years. The park houses rotating exhibits, as well as its own collection, and continues to expand. In 2007, Grand Rapids kicked its commitment to art up a notch with the opening of the new $75 million Grand Rapids Art Museum, the first art museum in the world whose entire facility is built to LEED standards.

Of course, the event making the biggest splash today is ArtPrize. Named one of the Five Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013 by Time magazine, this open art competition with prize money totaling $350,000, attracts artists and visitors from across the globe.

The beach.

Just 30 minutes from 300 miles of Lake Michigan coastline, the beach is never out of reach for those who live and play in Grand Rapids. And not just any beach, but a stretch of white-sand shoreline featuring expansive blue waters and a portion of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America.

The beer.

From its designation as “Beer City USA” for the past two years running, to individual awards granted to some half a dozen if its breweries, Grand Rapids has earned its reputation as a beer-lover’s paradise. New breweries, focused on sustainability and crafting that just-right-draft open regularly, and what was formerly a little neighborhood spot, Founders Brewing Co., has grown up, expanded, and taken its place in the international spotlight.

The food.

Grand Rapids’ restaurant scene is flourishing. A farm-to-table scene rivaling that of a major metropolis; innovative partnerships between brewers, winemakers, and chefs; the long-established Fulton Street Market; and the new Downtown Market – a culinary treasure trove – all mean that local foodies never have to look far for fresh ingredients, inspiration, and a world-class meal.

Performances aplenty.

Looking for live music? Check out one of Grand Rapids’ venues featuring local, regional and national talent both established and up-and-coming, take in a performance from the top-notch Grand Rapids Symphony, or experience a production from the Grand Rapids Opera. If live theatre is your passion, you can see touring Broadway productions or watch a play staged by one of several local professional theatre companies or the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, one of the largest community theatres in the country.

The scenery.

Despite all Grand Rapids has to offer, while in the city you’ll never be far from the rolling hills and abundant trees and wildlife of Western Michigan. Nature lovers can quickly get out of the city and enjoy the lush greenery surrounding its borders, but even right downtown, nature is always within sight – and within grasp.

With all that waiting for you in beautiful West Michigan, now’s the time to take the Lonely Planet’s advice and plan your trip! See you in Grand Rapids.

Established in 1927, Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR) leads the marketing of Grand Rapids/Kent County as a premier convention & visitor destination providing a significant positive impact to the West Michigan economy. Previously named the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, EXGR represents the second largest city in Michigan with over one million residents.

Something Good’s Brewing in Grand Rapids

BOB Brewery

Grand Rapids, MI is home to a number of award-winning craft beers and breweries. Guest Blogger Kirsetin Morello tells us about some unique craft beers brewing in Grand Rapids this fall.

Change is in the air in Grand Rapids, MI, Beer City USA 2013. The crisp, cool West Michigan mornings have local brewers ditching their citrusy summer concoctions, topped with wedges of fruit, and turning their attention towards crafting heartier beer to warm chilly crowds.

At The B.O.B, brewer John Svoboda is looking forward to some substantially darker, deeper caramel malts this fall, rolling out his Oktoberfest beer, and taking advantage of seasonal crops. “In Michigan, we’ve got some wonderful fresh hops at this time, so we can incorporate those into brewing,” he explains. “They’re going to pick them in the morning and I’m going to use them that afternoon.”BOB Brewery

But don’t come in looking just for hoppier, darker beer. As the season progresses, think about spices, too, like nutmeg, apple, and cinnamon. “We try to look at it from a more culinary perspective,” says Svoboda. He describes the fun he has making a small batch of apple cinnamon beer, for example. “What you would do in the kitchen, we try to do in the brewery.”

Brewer Rob Wanhatalo (Wob), at The Mitten Brewing Company, is also shifting his focus this fall. “It’s not necessarily a color shift, but a shift to something a little more warming, like a stout or a porter,” he says. For example, they’ve got a Scottish ale coming up that’s more malt forward. He says customers are likely to see their Country Strong IPA and Triple Crown Brown throughout the fall, as well as a rotating stout and something more seasonal. “Last year I did a pumpkin beer,” he says.

Over at Harmony Brewing Company, co-head brewer Barry VanDyke is considering a pumpkin beer, too. “Ours was made with real pumpkins,” he says, describing the beer they brewed last year in collaboration with other local breweries. They used ginger to spice it, rather than traditional pie spices, which he says gave it a bit of a bite.

The Mitten Country Strong IPA

VanDyke is also looking forward to Jackson’s Joy, an amber colored Oktoberfest-style ale. (His brother, Jackson, is the other head-brewer.) “It’s really rich,” he says, “It almost smells like falling leaves to me. It’s a style of beer that plays perfectly with the change of the season.”

Harmony Star Stuff beer

 

 

 

 

In Grand Rapids, there’s no shortage of breweries for locals and visitors to peruse, regardless of season. With the recent opening of Osgood Brewing and Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery and Supply, the number of area breweries jumps to almost 40 (22 in the Grand Rapids area, 16 more within an hour and a half drive).

For a self-guided tour, including HopCat, America’s Best Brewpub (RateBeer.com, 2013) and Founders Brewing Co., the World’s 3rd best Brewery (RateBeer.com, 2013) click here for a downloadable copy of our Beer Tour Map.

Small beer tour map

If you’d rather get an insider peek at the process, both Founders Brewery and Brewery Vivant offer behind-the-scenes scheduled tours every Saturday. (Click their website links for times, cost, and more information.) Many other breweries will offer tours, too, if time permits: just ask.

To get a taste of several Grand Rapids’ craft beers, paired with fantastic food, join the Beer Romp on Saturday, October 19 from 12:00pm – 5:00pm. The Romp will include stops at 15+ local restaurants, including HopCat and Grand Rapids Brewing Company. Tickets are $40 in advance ($50 the day of) and include beer and food samples at each stop. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the local charity, Kids Food Basket.

If all of this sounds so tempting that you want to visit Grand Rapids for a few days, you can indulge yourself with a stay at the JW Marriott, whose Beer City USA hotel package includes 4 local beers served to your room upon arrival.

Or, come for the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival, happening at DeVos Place on November 21-23. The JW and Grand Rapids’ other luxury hotel, the Amway Grand Plaza, are both offering hotel packages that include accommodations, two tickets to the event, parking, and more.

Hope we’ll see you in Grand Rapids soon. Cheers!

Guest Blogger Kirsetin MorelloKirsetin Morello is a writer, author, and blogger who’s called Grand Rapids home for more than a decade. She’s enthusiastic about yoga, basketball and travel, and is a reluctant runner. Kirsetin, her husband, and their three children love to explore everything West Michigan has to offer. You can find her online at www.KirsetinMorello.com.

 

Have you been to any of these Grand Rapids breweries? Which of their Michigan craft brews is your favorite? 

5 Fun Photos from ArtPrize 2013 in Grand Rapids

ArtPrize 2013 is well underway in Downtown Grand Rapids! Through October 6th 2013, the city of Grand Rapids is transformed into an art gallery where artists and visitors come to display and view over 1,500 pieces of artwork. So far, we’ve seen some very striking photographs of the artwork at this year’s competition. Below is a roundup of some fun ArtPrize photos shared with us by Experience Grand Rapids. 

A colorful view of Grand Rapids during ArtPrize 2013 [Photo courtesy of eightWest]:ArtPrize in Grand Rapids 2013

Artists and visitors enjoy a beautiful day viewing the many displays of unique artwork:ArtPrize 2013 in Grand Rapids

A cool shot of a dragon on display at ArtPrize 2013 from Instagram user @sleepymonkey629:A piece of artwork on display at ArtPrize 2013

The Grand Rapids Public Museum  pays tribute to Grandmothers from around the world with this photography exhibit, Grandmother Power:Grandmother Power

ArtPrize visitors stop to marvel at an artist’s work:Viewing an artists work at ArtPrize 2013

ArtPrize 2013 runs through October 6th. Have you been to ArtPrize this year? What was your favorite display?