Everyone needs time away, but long trips might not be in the cards for whatever reason. Sometimes you only have the weekend, which does not always mesh well with waiting in line at the airport for two hours and being stuck on a plane, only to wait in baggage claim for another thirty minutes. It just does not allow much time for activities or fun when you are trying to have an action packed summer. How did folks travel before planes, they drove or took the train! I am so thankful that folks from Pure Michigan invited me to come out and experience their amazing state. It was great being able to create my own adventure, so I decided to do a Carrie Bradshaw and travel by Amtrak to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It has been a long time since I was on a train, you cannot just pop on it at the last minute like taking the blue line. I suggest you arrive at least 45 minutes before departure. They need time to board all the passengers and the luggage so that they can leave on time, and by the way, Amtrak does leave on time. I caught the train at Union Station, where all the staff were extremely helpful and friendly. Ticket booth agents answered questions and made ticket changes, while other employees directed traffic and readied lines for departure. It is a well-oiled machine, just don’t go on their Wi-Fi expecting to stream your favorite television shows. I am so glad, I have unlimited data. It came in handy when I wanted to watch Game of Thrones on the way back!
My hotel accommodations were at the Amway Grand Plaza. The vibe is traditional, luxury hotel with a beautiful entryway, good sized rooms and grand chandeliers throughout the facility. Upon arrival, I saw a bride and groom as I was checking into the hotel. In fact, I saw several wedding parties at the hotel throughout the weekend. My mission was to experience Grand Rapids, so I did not spend as much time exploring the hotel as I would have liked. Everyone there was friendly and professional, plus they had a Ruth’s Chris Steak House on site, so that is an automatic gold star for me!
When visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan, your first stop should be the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. This place is absolutely stunning. The 13 years of planning by the West Michigan Horticultural Society really paid off. It is a sculpture and botanic experience. I fell in love with the 30-acre sculpture park and spent hours walking around taking pictures. It is the home of both large scale and traditional works mixed throughout the garden. If you just have a weekend, definitely mark a nice chuck of time for this location because it is worth seeing!
I also had a chance to visit the Grand Rapids Arts Museum. Their mission is to connect people through art, creativity, and design. Seeing different art museums is something I have always enjoyed. Growing up in the Chicagoland area, I consider myself lucky to have experienced some of the best museums and architecture in the United States. So I was curious to see what Grand Rapids had to offer. I saw exhibits that included the art of Rube Goldberg and the Tattoo Art of Leo Zulueta. It also offered a really robust permanent collection.
I did not spend all my time at museums and gardens. When I was not taking taxis here and there, I was able to walk around visiting local restaurants and shops. I am not a fan of using ride services in unfamiliar cities, so I made nice with a cab driver, got his card, and worked with him for the duration of my stay.
I also had a chance to try Scandinavian cuisine at The Sovengard. Here is the deal, when traveling, I always like to try something new. Try something you can’t get in your home city. Who visits another city to go to KFC? The Sovengard food offerings include smoked trout rillette and chicken liver pate with schmaltz. They also had plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes. This restaurant proudly supports other local businesses. The Sovengard regularly features products from Visser Farms, Vertical Paridise Farms, Double L Farms, Dubs Heritage Meats, Louise Earl Butcher Shop, Cherry Capital Foods, Field&Fire, Turtle Island Farms, Mostly Fruits Farm, and Ferris Organic Farm. I enjoyed their food. It was tasty but light. Have you ever been on vacation and felt all your meals were real heavy and unhealthy? Yeah, I did not get that feeling here and they had a really great casual vibe with good drinks. If you are ever in Grand Rapids, give them a try!
Next to The Sovengard was a clothing consignment shop called The Conscious Collective Consignment Shop. Shout out to this local business for suggesting The Sovengard to me. They sell current seasonal styles, current trends, and popular styles of accessories for men and women. The shop also sells vintage items from 1970 and earlier. I am team- consignment shopping and I am always looking for good finds. Getting away for me, means experiencing the local flavor, and what better way to do that than by supporting local shops and businesses!
I was really trying to see as much of Grand Rapids as possible. One very affordable activity I found was the John Ball Zoo. It cost next to nothing to get in and yes, visitors may bring food. If you are a lover of animals, you will need to make time for this stop. It is not very big, but it is a fun activity, especially, if you have small children!
Growing up in the Chicagoland area, you are surrounded by the legend of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was an architect, interior designer, writer, and educator. In addition to his houses, Wright designed offices, churches, schools, skyscrapers, hotels, museums and other structures. He also designed the interior elements for his buildings, including furniture and stained glass. So when I had a chance to visit Grand Rapids’ Meyer May House, I was overjoyed! There is no charge to tour the house and view the film, The Renewing of a Vision. They do ask that you allow 90 minutes to enjoy the complete experience. If you are an architecture enthusiast or just love the look of a beautiful home, this is a stop you need to make happen while visiting Grand Rapids!
I want to thank Pure Michigan for the opportunity to discover Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was a great experience in a very lively city. There was so much to do, especially if you are into museums and beer. Honorable mentions include the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and the JW Marriott Grand Rapids Hotel where I had the pleasure of meeting chef Elvis. Their Sunday breakfast buffet is life changing! Did I forget to mention that they have beer tours in Grand Rapids! If you are into breweries, visit this link to see available tours. Thank you Grand Rapids, Michigan for a great visit!