Subscribe About Us Advertise Newsstands Contact Us Jobs
  < home< inside this month< online feature archive

The bucket list
50 things to do in our great city.

By Dana Blinder, Charlsie Dewey, Maureen Di Virgilio,
Alexandra Fluegel and Marty Primeau

Compiling a bucket list can be a serious task. But put aside all those must-do-before-I-die lofty goals for a minute and skim through Grand Rapids Magazine’s compilation of 50 things to do in our great city.

We assembled a group of people of varying ages, interests and backgrounds and asked them what they thought should be on a Grand Rapids bucket list.

The result was more than 100 suggestions — all stuff that people who live here should do at least once. Not included are many of the obvious items, like voting during ArtPrize, yucking it up at Laughfest, visiting all of the amazing museums, etc.— which we are certain our readers already are doing.

Did we miss some? Of course. So please send your GR bucket list items to

Adventure Seekers
1 Paddle a river. With five scenic rivers in the Greater Grand Rapids area, there’s no excuse not to canoe or kayak at least one.

And if you’re thinking it’s too big a hassle, consider hiring Jeff and Rita Neumann of GR Paddling to guide you on a custom voyage along the Grand, Thornapple, Rogue, Flat or Coldwater rivers. The Neumanns are pretty laid back, so you can choose your own schedule. Best part? They pick you up and drop you off. And they have everything you need, from snacks to binoculars. If you want to get really fancy, the Paddle & Dine option stops for lunch at a restaurant (order dessert without feeling guilty!). Paddle & Art includes a visit to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park., (616) 558-2609

2 Ice fish on Reeds Lake . The minute the water freezes over, shanties begin popping up all over Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids. There’s plenty of fish to be caught, including bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch and northern pike. But if nothing else, just sitting in one of those warming huts looks like fun.

3 Bike the White Pine Trail. If you’re looking to burn some serious calories, steer your bike toward the White Pine Trail.
From Riverside Park in Grand Rapids, you can follow the trail 93 miles through five counties all the way up to Cadillac. It’s Michigan’s longest rail-trail showcasing a variety of landscapes from swamps to farmland. Not up for the whole enchilada? Rockford is just eight miles to the north and is an ideal spot to grab lunch before heading home.

4 Challenge yourself. There’s no paucity of races, fun runs and other athletic happenings in West Michigan. But perhaps some of the most intriguing events are Michigan Adventure Races that combine “Amazing Race” type challenges with active pursuits — running, biking, stair climbing, snow shoeing and more.

The ArtPrize Edition in September will have contestants searching for clues in downtown Grand Rapids. The Epic Edition, coming up Aug. 2, offers eight hours of trekking, orienteering, mountain biking and river paddling in some rugged terrain in Ada Township. Sounds daunting, but founder Mark VanTongeren says you don’t have to be an elite athlete to compete. You do need to know how to read a map — a paper map — and figure out some mental challenges. And you need to cross the finish line by the deadline. It’s all for fun, but some of the events partner with a charity and add an educational twist.

5 Swing dance in Rosa Parks Circle. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

Every Tuesday in the summer, Rosa Parks Circle is filled with big-band music and bold moves. Don’t know how? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of help. It kicks off at 7 p.m. and the first half hour has lessons to get you started. Grab a friend and make sure you put on your dancing shoes. The first Tuesday of the month is live band night. In the winter, the Original Swing Dance Society moves indoors (see website for details).

6 Snowshoe at Blandford Nature Center. If the winter of 2013-14 was a foreboding of future snowfalls in West Michigan, learning how to snowshoe might not be a bad idea.

Head over to Blandford Nature Center for an introductory lesson on rented snowshoes and take off on the many trails. When it’s not snowing, the 143-acre center is a green oasis just minutes from the urban center. Blandford hosts community events and a range of educational programs. Or you can just stroll through the sprawling patch of sylvan beauty (the center is even dog-friendly!). And here’s something fun. Blandford offers authentic blacksmithing classes, where participants can learn everything from the art of building and maintaining the forge’s fires to hammering, drawing and tapering skills. 1715 Hillburn Ave. NW, blandford, (616) 735-6240

7 Ride the zipline at the zoo. Plenty of cities have zoos, but not all of them have a zoo with a 300-foot zipline that carries humans between ridges overlooking Red’s Hobby Farm.

Riders at John Ball Zoo are expertly fitted into a harness by staffers and — after a few quick prayers — are safely able to fly high above earth to a landing point where another staffer will grab you. It’s only $6 ($5 for zoo members). 1300 W. Fulton St.,, (616) 336-0230

Grattan Raceway in Belding features a hilly 2-mile course
for sports car drivers and motorcycle riders with a need
for speed.

8 Race for the fun of it. It’s not Le Mans or Indy, but for drivers with a need for speed, Grattan Raceway in Belding is the place to go in West Michigan.

The winding, hilly 2-mile road course has 10 technically challenging turns and some beautiful scenery. Many sports car clubs — Audi, BMW, Porsche and Lotus, to name a few — lease the track for events. There’s Motocross racing, as well. If you’re there as a spectator, the bleachers offer stellar views and a swimming pool for the kids. 7201 Lessiter Road, Belding,

9 Be a winter daredevil. Did you miss your calling as an Olympian? Fear not — the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers many opportunities to play in the snow and ice.

It has the longest lighted cross-country trail system in the Midwest with more than 15 kilometers of trails for cross-country skiing (and lessons for adults and kids). The complex also has two acres of outdoor ice skating when the temps dip below freezing.

But the most impressive experience is the luge. Muskegon has one of only four luge tracks in the U.S., and while shorter than the Olympic tracks in New York and Salt Lake City, the Muskegon track provides a thrill of zipping through six curves at up to 30 mph feet first down the 850-foot track. 462 Scenic Drive, North Muskegon,, (877) 879-5843

10 Try SUP yoga. If you’ve mastered bujangasana on your mat, why not ramp up your yoga routine by trying that cobra pose on a paddle board?

Stand Up Paddling yoga classes are offered at several area lakes, including Muskegon, Bear, Macatawa, Spring and Reeds and on the Grand River in Grand Haven. If downward dog doesn’t excite you, rent a stand-up paddle board and do your own thing.

Culture Lovers
11 Attend a fashionable tea party. Each year the Grand Rapids Public Museum throws some tea parties that transport guests back in time to the Victorian era. And, yes, there are treats and tea, but you’ll also learn about fashion, customs and culture from the Civil War era into the 20th century. The fun begins in the Streets of Old Grand Rapids exhibition and continues in the Overlook Room on the museum’s third floor. Check website for 2015 dates., (616) 456-3977.

12 Experience St. Cecilia Music Center. The center’s Royce Auditorium is said to have one of the finest acoustical settings in the world.

Says who, you ask? David Finckel and Wu Han of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City who’ve teamed up with St. Cecilia Music Center to present a series of concerts in the 131-year-old building. Dozens of other performers have performed in Royce Auditorium, including Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, James Galway, Tony Bennett, Sarah Chang, Wynton Marsalis, Emanual Ax and Midori. 24 Ransom Ave. NE,, (616) 459-2224

13 Check out Open Projector Night. The theater at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is well-known for its cutting-edge programming, offering more than 75 foreign, independent and documentary feature films each year.
But it also serves as a platform for local filmmakers to show what they’ve got, from short films to home movies. Audience members cast votes for their favorite submission and the winner gets to host a film in the theater. Don’t forget your popcorn! 2 W. Fulton St.,, (616) 454-7000


Avenue for the Arts: Galleries along South Division Avenue, like Mexicains Sans Frontieres, open their doors on First Fridays to present cutting edge art and music.

14 Discover Avenue for the Arts. Anyone who thinks Grand Rapids is boring should head downtown for First Fridays at Avenue for the Arts.

Galleries, shops, eateries and other establishments along South Division open their doors for the monthly gallery hop from 6-9 p.m. Experience this microcosmic glimpse into the city’s artists’ district, with new shows, miscellaneous live installations, and a chance to mix and mingle with some of the city’s most creative folks. After-parties and related events take place at surrounding downtown bars and venues. For participating locations and more information, go to the event page at

15 Hit a SiTE:Lab event. If you’re going to attend a SiTE:Lab event, you’d better be paying attention.

The site-specific art installations transform the spaces they occupy for only one or two nights (with the exception of ArtPrize), so marking your calendar is a must. Since 2007, events have been held in vacant and underutilized structures such as the former Junior Achievement building, the former Grand Rapids Public Museum, and this fall, in the former Morton Hotel. GR has become an art destination and SiTE:Lab is something you shouldn’t miss.

16 Take part in a Drunken Retort. Monday nights at Stella’s Lounge offer one of the city’s hottest — and loudest — event mainstays: the Drunken Retort.

The show doesn’t start until after 9 p.m., but get there when the doors open at 8:30 to snag a spot because the room fills up fast. While the Retort has developed with an emphasis on spoken word poetry and usually hosts an out-of-town featured poet-performer, all acoustic talent is welcome, including musicians and comics. This interactive and highly unpredictable show is not for the faint of heart, combining sarcastic hosts, a devil-may-care attitude, and an audience with the power to ring performers off the stage. 53 Commerce Ave. SW,

17 Catch a lecture at Calvin. While cold January temperatures might tempt you to hibernate, Calvin College offers a great reason to pull on those snow boots and parka.

Each year the college offers The January Series, a month of free mid-day lectures by some of the brightest thinkers across the country, held at its Covenant Fine Arts Center. Last year’s line-up included a Pulitzer Prize winner, a U.S. Senator, bestselling authors and award-winning journalists, top professors in weather and theology, and the founder of ESPN. The series has been held for more than 25 years and is considered the leading lecture/cultural arts series in the country. Can’t break away from work? Calvin live streams the lectures, and most of the speeches can be found in its online archive later.

18 Join the poets at GVSU. As part of its Fall Arts Celebration, Grand Valley State University hosts Poetry Night every October at the Eberhard Center on its downtown campus.

The yearly event is usually packed, and GVSU’s department of writing has been lauded for consistently attracting nationally recognized poets to give powerful readings. The effect tends to be electrifying, bringing together a mixture of students, academics and the public in appreciation of art in its spoken form. Two poets, often of differing styles, are invited to share their work and are available afterward for conversation and book-signings; past invitees have included Tony Hoaglund, Patricia Smith, Bob Hicok, Ted Kooser, Terrance Hayes, Nikky Finney and B.H. Fairchild.

19 Watch a movie at Wealthy Theatre. Everything about the Meanwhile Movie Series is just good.

The Meanwhile Bar teams up with the historic Wealthy Theatre to present cult classics every Tuesday night. The list of upcoming movies is on Wealthy’s website and posted at the Meanwhile. Expect such classic flicks as “American Werewolf in London,” “American Graffiti,” “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Dazed and Confused.” Admission is $6 ($5 for members). Wine, beer and mixed drinks are available for Community Media Center members (membership is fairly inexpensive, and the funds go to a good cause). For those who aren’t members, the Meanwhile offers $3 Long Islands and 75-cent cans of Black Label on Tuesday nights, so head there before or after — many moviegoers do both. The Meanwhile, 1005 Wealthy St. SE; Wealthy Street Theatre, 1130 Wealthy St. SE,

20 Tour downtown GR by smartphone. The GRTagTour is cool even if you think you know a lot about Grand Rapids.

Each stop on the tour has a scan-able barcode that connects you with a mobile website offering interesting stories, a gallery of visitor-submitted photos and more. There’s a walking map and directions to the next stop, plus a link to the downtown Grand Rapids mobile site to find nearby places (like where to stop for lunch or a drink).

Mobile technology not your thing? Experience Grand Rapids has a list of self-guided tours for pedestrians and drivers alike. You may actually learn something about your city. experiencegr

Quirky stuff
21 Jump and duck. Why settle for backyard football when you can play trampoline dodgeball?

Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park in Kentwood offers a whole court full of angled trampolines that allow you to jump higher, bounce off walls and dodge like a champion. Don’t like dodgeball? Try the SkyRobics fitness classes or just go and jump. 3636 29th St. SE,, (616) 214-4221

22 Watch a game of Quidditch. Grand Valley State University students have transformed Harry Potter’s favorite sport into a fast-paced mix of soccer, football, dodgeball and water polo.

Even without flying broomsticks, this coed “muggle version” of the sport is worth watching — the “Grindylows” made the World Cup in 2014! The season starts in October and picks up again in March-April.

23 Discover a bit of the Scottish Highlands. The pipers and drummers of the Grand Rapids & District Pipe Band practice at 1 p.m. every Sunday in Riverside Park at the pavilion near boat launch No. 3.

More than 45 years old, it’s the oldest pipe band in West Michigan and 10 members strong. The group regularly performs at various St. Patrick’s Day events in the area and has performed at West Michigan Whitecaps and Grand Rapids Griffins games, as well as at the opening of the Van Andel Arena — on the ice!

24 Explore downtown without touching pavement. It’s true, there’s an underground Grand Rapids! Well, sort of.

Tunnels created in the early 1900s were mostly used to house utilities, but a tunnel from the Civic Auditorium to the old Pantlind Hotel (now Amway) allowed guests a protected trip in nasty weather.

These days, if you want to stay off the main drag, your best bet is to take the seven-block-long skywalk connecting Van Andel Arena to downtown hotels and DeVos Place.

25 See ice sculpted in Rockford. Tired of being cooped up in the winter? Join the nearly 15,000 people who head out to Rockford’s annual Ice Festival.

This early February event shows off spectacular live ice sculpting, and includes an opening ceremony, carriage rides, musical entertainment, a photography contest, interactive ice games and yes — even miniature golf.


The Haunt’s Jim Burns has created a maze of terror with a new theme each year, complete with actors whose
job it is to scare the you-know-what out of you.

26 Get spooked at The Haunt. The Haunt has put West Michigan on the map when it comes to Halloween chills and thrills: More than 350,000 people come from all over just to get scared.

Located on a 20,000-square-foot “compound of fear” in Walker, it’s an experience that’s not for the faint of heart. The warehouse is a maze of terror with a new theme each year, complete with live actors whose job it is to scare the you-know-what out of you — and let’s just say they’re really good at their jobs. The thrill-all also features a corn maze and side attractions Madness and 3D Claustrophobia, so no matter what freaks you out, you’re sure to go home shaken.

Word to the wise: Watch your back, it may not always be one of your friends behind you. 2070 Waldorf St. NW,, (616) 791-9818

27 Be Polish for a day. Pulaski Days is a gem of a festival that attracts hundreds of locals to celebrate the vibrant local Polish culture. Folks of all nationalities come together to watch the parade, eat, drink, polka and have a good time.

Every year during the first weekend of October, local Polish halls throw their doors open to the public for events such as raffles, dance contests, recognition of the Pulaski Days Queen and court, and, of course, kielbasa-eating contests. Wear red, bring a group of friends, some cash to purchase food and drink tickets, and an empty stomach — but don’t worry, if you eat too many pierogis, you’ll work them off trying to out-polka somebody’s proud Polish grandma — and probably lose.

28 Frolic with the lambs. Leave Running of the Bulls to those crazy Spaniards. Critter Barn in Holland has an annual event that may not be as challenging but is sure to amuse kids and adults alike.

The annual Running of the Lambs happens each May when the newest members of this hands-on farm are put out to pasture for the very first time. Though timid at first, they’re soon baaing and leaping playfully across the grass.

While there, check out the rest of the farm critters, including pot-bellied pigs, baby piglets, rabbits, chickens, ducks, cats, cows, goats, donkeys, turkeys, peafowl, geese and a horse. And don’t forget a visit to Mr. Chops, the farm’s oldest pig who, at 22, holds the Guinness Book of World Records’ title for his age. The nonprofit asks visitors for a donation in return for their day on the farm., 9275 Adams St., Holland

29 Experience a Rumors drag show. Some of the best drag queens and kings in the state can be found Sunday nights at Rumors Night Club in downtown Grand Rapids.

Beginning at 10 p.m. these gorgeous performers lip sync their hearts out to the latest pop music favorites, as well as the classics. Think Cher, Tina, Madonna and Bette, just to name a few. Keep an eye out for fan favorites Dymond Denae, Batty Davis and Jasinya Sanchez. These ladies are always at their fiercest. 69 S. Division Ave.,

30 Count the steps on the Belknap Lookout stairwell. Drive along the stretch of North Division that morphs into Plainfeld Avenue and you can’t miss the stairway leading up the 160-foot cliff to Belknap Lookout, a historic neighborhood named for Charles E. Belknap, a Grand Rapids Civil War Veteran who later served as mayor and then U.S. Congressman. 

A favorite haunt of runners and history buffs alike, it’s a great place to get a workout or catch the sunset from the bluff. You have to count the stairs on your own, but we’ll give you one hint: There’s a lot. North Division at Newberry Street


31 Have dinner at the farm. Many local restaurants partner with area farmers to make sure the kale you eat tonight was harvested this morning.

But here’s a twist: How about eating at the farm? Andy Sietsma of Sietsma Orchards started farm dinners three years ago when his family built a new facility on 2 Mile Road in Ada Township. There’s a full commercial kitchen and in case of bad weather (in Michigan?), there’s an indoor space for dining. Sietsema has teamed up with restaurants such as Saburba and Amore Trattoria as well as private chefs to dish up some interesting themes. Expect everything from a crab boil in August to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner in February or Facebook.

Foodies List
32 Pick your own berries, cherries, apples … One step better than farm-to-fork is tree-to-mouth.

There’s nothing tastier than Michigan cherries, blueberries, apples, peaches and more plucked from bushes and trees. And yes, technically those berries go in a bucket, but it’s hard to resist eating some. Lots of West Michigan orchards open their gates to allow folks to pick everything from berries to pumpkins — and even to cut Christmas trees in December. For a list of area u-pick farms (including some growing organic crops), visit pick

33 Take a cooking class at Downtown Market. Fans of TV’s “MasterChef” will be impressed by the commercial teaching kitchen on the second floor of Downtown Market.

Six work stations with sinks, stove tops, cutting boards, tools and flat-screen TVs are set up at three long counters facing the front station where instructors demonstrate every kind of cooking imaginable. There are classes for couples, families, girls’ nights out and kids (the counters are on hydraulic lifts so they can be lowered for pint-sized chefs). Most classes are taught by the market’s sous chefs. 435 Ionia Ave. SW, downtownmar, (616) 805-5308

34 Eat (and tip) at Yesterdog. Known for its no-nonsense ap­proach to, well, everything, this Eastown eatery has been a Grand Rapids landmark since opening in 1976.

Remember the hot dog spot featured in the 1999 movie “American Pie”? Yeah, that was based on Yesterdog. From lunchtime to late-night, you can satisfy your cravings while admiring the walls lined with antique advertisements and photos of Yesterdog fans wearing the shop’s T-shirts all over the world. Just be sure when you order to take heed of the “Yester Rules” — NO credit cards, line moves left to right — and try your luck at the basketball-style tip jar. 1505 Wealthy St. SE,, (616) 262-3090

35 Visit the Center of the Universe. Maybe East Hills isn’t the true center of the universe, but the intersection at Lake Drive and Diamond Avenue is a gateway to some great chow (and fun shopping).

In the East Hills business district, you’ll find a variety of cuisine, from vegetarian breakfast at Gaia to comfort foods at Green Well Gastro Pub. Grove is a two-time winner of GR Magazine’s Restaurant of the Year, while neighboring Maru Sushi snagged this year’s Best Asian Restaurant. There’s craft beer and European cuisine at Brewery Vivant, and Marie Catrib’s offers healthy Mediterranean fare. Take time to explore the shops and galleries. Find a list at or on Facebook.

36 Score a KBS. Achieving a storied 100-point rating on Beer Advocate, Its magic is acknowledged all over the nation, with frantic out-of-state beer-lovers haunting craigslist and eBay to get their hands on a bottle. Clocking in at 11.2 percent ABV, this bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout is a heavyweight: thick, dark, with powerful notes of coffee and chocolate. KBS is aged underground for a year and usually released in the spring, when beer lovers turn out en masse for the release party.

For its 2014 release, Founders decided to heighten the anticipation — and maybe do some advance crowd control — by making single kegs available to select local bars and restaurants leading up to the day of the event. The date and time each keg would be tapped was leaked to the public, creating a festive air as KBS-seekers flocked to bars in search of a snifter. Most kegs were gone in less than an hour. 235 Grandville Ave. SW,

37 Eat Greek. The Yassou! Greek Culture Festival offers a frolicking good time every summer with Greek dancing and wine tastings.

But it’s the amazing food that draws crowds for the three-day event (Aug. 22-24 this year). You’ll want to grab a gyro, with marinated lamb and beef cooked over an open flame, or sink your teeth into a plate of moussaka. Be sure to leave room for the Greek pastries. The bakery sells 10 different kinds, from loukoumades (kind of an airy doughnut cooked to order and served warm in a syrup of honey and spices) to karithopita, a walnut spice cake. And, of course, you’ll want to take some baklava and Pecan Blossoms home with you. Start dieting now. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 330 Lakeside Drive NE,

38 Experience The Heritage. For all the trappings of a fine dining experience on a budget, make a reservation at the Heritage Restaurant.

The eatery at 151 Fountain St. NE in the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center is part of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Under the close direction of master chefs, the students create flawlessly plated cuisine. Think Foie Gras Crème Brûlée or Lobster Soufflé for starters, and maybe Pan Roasted Quail or Vegan Wellington for an entrée. Wine and beer are available, and desserts are made by pastry students (delish!). Check the website or call for hours:
or (616) 234-3700

39 Try a Cottage Burger. Cottage Bar prides itself on being the oldest operating bar and restaurant in the city center, and it’s been recognized for serving some of the best burgers in the country.

Cottage Bar opened in its first incarnation as a burger and sandwich joint in 1927, supplying hundreds of burgers to nearby factory workers through the Prohibition era.

Step into this local haunt — the interior definitely feels like it’s witnessed decades of the city’s history — and enjoy one of the traditional burgers (and Cottage Fries) paired with one of the very modern craft beers on draft. 18 LaGrave Ave. SE,, (616) 454-9088

40 Get addicted to Crack Fries at Hopcat. Ok, bad pun, but you get the gist.

Hopcat’s fries are GOOD — real good. Share them with friends or keep them all to yourself, and if you can’t stop when you’re full, don’t say we didn’t warn you. 25 Ionia Ave. SW,, (616) 451-4677

Iconic must dos
41 Visit the Indian Mounds. Wonder what those rolling hills at Ah-Nab-Awen Park are? They’re Indian burial mounds — at least they used to be. During 1850’s construction projects, workers removed the historical remains buried in the mounds and the 46 mounds were leveled. The mounds you see along the river today are symbolic reconstructions.

42 Admire the tulips. There are residents of NYC who’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty. Don’t be one of those people.
If you’ve never made it to Holland for its annual Tulip Time, make a point to go. Where else will you get to see 6 million tulips, national entertainers, lots of wooden shoes and hundreds of people in Dutch costumes scrubbing the streets. Mark your calendar for May 2-9, 2015.

43 Ride a painted pony. Or hop on an elaborately jeweled wooden camel, giraffe, lion, deer, goat, tiger, or one of two chariots.

The colorful Spillman Carousel inside the Van Andel Museum Center was built in 1928 and revolves to the music of a Wurlitzer organ. Rides are offered year-round to museum visitors for just $1 — and don’t worry, there’s no age limit. 272 Pearl St. NW,

44 See salmon leap. Michigan fish aren’t stupid. Even though the Sixth Street dam near downtown GR prevents migratory species from moving up and down the Grand River, the crafty swimmers have figured out how to use Joseph Kinnebrew’s Fish Ladder Sculpture to hop from pool to pool and bypass the obstruction. If you haven’t seen the show, by all means plan a visit. A viewing structure allows visitors to see fish as they pass by. Coho and Chinook salmon hit the ladder in early fall while large steelhead can be seen in the spring. For a real treat, the carp are vigorous jumpers and put on quite a performance.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House in Heritage Hill is open for tours.

45 Pay homage to Frank Lloyd Wright. Grand Rapids’ Meyer May House is a particularly important piece of Wright’s work. Built in 1908 for a prominent clothier, it’s considered one of the finest and most complete examples of Wright’s “Prairie” era, conforming cohesively to some of his dearest principles of design.
After decades of private ownership, furniture powerhouse Steelcase acquired the house in the 1980s, painstakingly researched the master architect’s original plans, renovated the structure, and opened it to public tours.

After a tour of the Meyer May House you may want to peek inside some of the other historic mansions in the area. The 2015 Heritage Home Tour is scheduled for May 16-17, and this year’s Heritage Hill Garden Tour is July 12 (see

46 Hike the Grand River Trail. Lace up a sturdy pair of walking shoes for this jaunt — the first paved section of the Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Trail, opened in November 2013, is a lengthy 8.25 miles from Saranac to Ionia.
The non-motorized trail unbelievably has no road crossings. Your workout will fly by with scenic views of the Grand River, five restored railway bridges and lots of assorted wildlife. Six more miles eventually will extend the trail to Lowell.

47 Ice skate on a sculpture. There’s ice skating — and then there’s ice skating downtown with fiber-optic lights under the ice, music and the glorious backdrop of the city.

Maya Lin’s “Ecliptic” sculpture within the 3.5-acre urban park that is Rosa Parks Circle is her interpretation of water in three different forms — liquid, vapor and solid — illustrated by a tablet of flowing water, a mist fountain and, in winter, the ice rink. Bring your skates or rent a pair for a few bucks — and remember: Anything that keeps you warm AND gets you out of the house in the middle of a Michigan winter is more than just fun, it’s a survival tactic.

48 Take a tram tour. No telling how many times you’ve been to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to enjoy the butterflies, summer concerts, holiday trees and boardwalk. And chances are, you’ve escorted many a visitor around the highly touted sculpture grounds. But have you taken the tram tour?

During the hour-long ride, a narrator talks about the significant works of art as the tram winds through the Sculpture Park. When the eight-acre Japanese Garden opens in June 2015, it’ll also be on the tour, along with the 1880’s Farm House. It’s only $3 per adult, $1 for kids. 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE,

49 Ride the “tire swing.” Just northwest of Calder Plaza, “Motu Viget” — popularly known as the tire swing — resides in all its steel-and-rubber glory.

Designed by American abstract expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero in 1977, the name of the structure derives from the Grand Rapids’ motto, Motu Viget, which translates to “strength in activity.” Passers-by of all ages have been known to stop and swing on this gigantic tire in the city center, and the privilege to do so is absolutely free. 300 Ottawa Ave. NW

50 Watch the ball drop. 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … fun! Ring in the New Year with hundreds of friends in Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

There’s live music, a ball drop at midnight, and tons of specials and events happening in the bars and restaurants nearby. Plus, we hear it’s much easier to find a bathroom here than in NYC.GR

  ^ back to top
Grand Rapids
City Guide
Taste This! Michigan
Golf Magazine