Where would you take me if I came to visit your city?
I love asking my friends that question. Visiting friends that are spread all over the country often means traveling to a new city. When I travel somewhere, I want recommendations from the people who actually live there not just the tourist-y lists on the Internet.
As a follow-up to my last post, A (kind of) Love Letter to Grand Rapids, I thought it would be fun to answer my own question. So if you came to visit me for a weekend, this is where I would want to take you. This isn’t anywhere near an exhaustive list of all that Grand Rapids has to offer or even a snapshot of the most popular places in GR, but these are the places that I love and would want to experience with anyone that may visit me.
Your exciting trip to Grand Rapids would begin with some coffee (of course!). We would stop at Outside Coffee Co. for an affogato or iced chai latte with oat milk. Outside Coffee is exactly that, a coffee shop that’s outside. They serve coffee out of a big bus in the courtyard and have lots of picnic tables, hammocks, and other outdoor seating options. It’s also dog-friendly, so there are always adorable pups to pet!
After the caffeine fix, we would take you to check out Baker Book House and spend some time browsing in the used book section (if you’re a bibliophile). Jacob and I spend many hours here working on homework, but don’t often get a chance to shop the bookshelves.
For dinner on Friday we would visit the Downtown Market. First, we’d grab some tacos at Tacos el Cuñado. Then we’d walk off our tacos and make a lap around the whole market hall, perusing the sights and smells of the different stands. The night would finish off with the absolute best ever vegan ice cream at Love’s. They have some of the most unique and delicious flavors I’ve ever had, like amaretto cherry, whiskey fig, and lavender blueberry.
Saturday morning would begin with either waffles at Roots Brew, which is one of our favorite coffee shops, OR some fabulous vegan/gluten-free baked goods from Rise Authentic Baking Co. I used to work at Rise, so they have a special place in my heart. The new storefront on Fulton St. just opened this year and the atmosphere inside is great.
After fueling up with donuts and coffee, we would head to the Fulton St. Farmer’s Market and do some shopping. We may pick up a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers or some fresh fruits and veggies. The market is always crowded on Saturday mornings and just walking along the main pavilion is an adventure.
We would then drive over to Reeds Lake and enjoy a picnic with our spoils from the farmers market. Maybe set up a hammock next to the water and watch all of the dogs walk through the park.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to get moving after the picnic, we could drive to Heritage Hill and park along one of the streets, maybe College or Union. From there we would walk around the neighborhood admiring all of the uniquely beautiful old houses. I lived in the Heritage Hill neighborhood when I first moved to GR and it is just gorgeous.
Saturday night we would catch a Whitecaps game and stay to watch the fireworks. On the way home we’d take the scenic route and drive along 196-East. The hill crossing over Bridge St. has the absolute best view of Grand Rapids, especially at night when the city is all lit up.
Sunday morning we would go to church together and then head to Noble for a big brunch. Noble is one of our favorite breakfast places. The food is absolutely delicious and they have lots of vegan and gluten-free options. The gluten-free waffle with strawberries is one of my go-to choices.
In the afternoon, we would finish off the weekend by spending a few hours exploring Fredrik Meijer Gardens. Jacob and I LOVE having a membership here and visit frequently. The Japanese garden and the outdoor sculpture park areas are our favorites. We usually walk around the paths admiring the flowers (me) and humorously renaming the art (Jacob). You could spend a few hours here and still not be able to see it all!
If there’s time for dinner on Sunday, we would love to go out to Butcher’s Union or Little Bangkok. Butcher’s Union is a fancier restaurant and has been our special occasion place because it’s usually too expensive. But hey, if you’re here to visit then we’re going all out. (Just let me dream, okay). More likely, we’d take you to Little Bangkok, which is our favorite Thai restaurant. And that is a hard-earned title. When we first moved here, Jacob and I decided to visit all the Thai restaurants in GR and crown a favorite based off of our own personal rating system. After much deliberation, we chose Little Bangkok and then it promptly burned down. It reopened a year later and now it is better than ever! And there was much rejoicing.
So that’s a very full, ‘ideal’ summer weekend in Grand Rapids, according to me. Now that you’re convinced it will be fabulous, come visit us. You won’t regret it. 🙂
*If you have questions about any of the particular places that I mentioned or want recommendations for your own trip to GR, please let me know! I love introducing people to new restaurants, shops, parks, and experiences.*