Grand Rapids, Michigan is your perfect Midwest Summer Vacation! When I first found out, I was headed to Grand Rapids, I have to admit I thought, “What am I going to do out there’? Little did I know, Grand Rapids is packed with restaurants, boutique shopping, events, museums, street art, gorgeous lakes, hikes, and tons of breweries which nicknamed the city “Beer City USA”! It truly is the perfect getaway and now one of my favorite cities in the USA! Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second largest city with it’s own international airport. It has nonstop flights to over 31 domestic destinations! Grand Rapids is not only a wonderland for outdoor recreation and family fun, it is a beautiful city that is easy to get around and will take you on a culinary adventure!
Below, I have put together the perfect itinerary showcasing where to stay, the best restaurants throughout the city, and the best things to do when visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Where to Stay:
AC Hotel Grand Rapids Downtown
The AC Hotel Grand Rapids Downtown is a beautiful brand new Marriott property offering a seamless experience. The rooms are very modern and spacious with European- inspired decor.
This beautiful hotel offers a gym and a daily buffet breakfast. The AC Lounge is a place where guests can come relax while enjoying cocktails and tapas, dinner, or occasionally nightly entertainment. The hotel offers easy access to just about everywhere and is within walking distance to some of the best eateries, craft breweries, and coffeeshops in Grand Rapids!
Best Restaurants in the Grand Rapids
Host at The Sovengard:
Farm to Table Dining Experience, Recommend for Lunch or Dinner
Come experience two separate farm to table food menus at one of the best restaurants and indoor/ outdoor biergartens in the city! This was by far one of my favorite dinner experiences in Grand Rapids. Host at the Sovengard features a daily changing menu of local and seasonally sourced ingredients.
Come experience a multitude of craft beer, cocktails, local farms, and Nordic Spirit! Host is located in the Westside neighborhood of Grand Rapids inside The Sovengard on the upper level. The lower level, Sovengard Biergarten, offers a lively atmosphere, casual farm to table, outside games, and fantastic drinks.
Walk in the Woods: Described as floral, herbal and unexpected! This delicious cocktail has seasonal fruit puree, creme de cassis, Long Road Aquavit, Monte Negro Amaro, lemon juice, Wormwood Bitters, and dill sprig.
VooDoo Head: Described as tropical, warm, and rich! This delicious cocktail has plantation pineapple, overproof, 3- star rum blend, Velvet Falernum, house Voodoo Syrup, Jack Rudy Grenadine, fresh lime juice, and Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters.
I loved our shared appetizer of the evening which was salt and vinegar pearl potatoes with smoked char roe, creme fraiche, garlic scape puree and dill.
For dinner, I ordered the wild caught Lake Superior whitefish which came with potato latke, fennel- cucumber- radish salad, yogurt, and sumac. It was incredible!!
The Little Bird
The cutest cozy cafe you will find in Grand Rapids! Best for Brunch!
The Little Bird cafe is a charming cozy downtown restaurant that is famous for its delicious breakfast and brunch! The decor is very European inspired. Little Bird owner Joel Wabeke said the design was inspired by Ramen Bars Hanging Noren and that the bulkhead invokes a cozy atmosphere that you’re not likely to experience elsewhere in Grand Rapids! When you first enter the bar, it looks almost like an old streamliner train. It feels almost as if your walking into a dining car or European train station cafe. I happened to order the Full English breakfast which was delicious and truly made for a king! It consisted of eggs made to order. mushrooms, baked beans, blistered tomato, breakfast potatoes, breakfast sausage patty, bacon, and a toasted english muffin!
Additional Recommendations: Avocado Toast, The Littlebird Sandwich, and the French Toast.
Downtown Market Grand Rapids
Perfect for a Lunch Picnic at the Beach
The Grand Rapids Downtown Market is home to over twenty indoor market vendors, two full service restaurants, monthly outdoor market events, hands-on cooking classes, private event venues, a state of the art incubator kitchen, rooftop greenhouses, and more… welcome to your next fun food experience! The Downtown Market is also the first LEED- certified market in the country! This market is the perfect stop to gather up some delicious cuisine and head out to Lake Michigan for a picnic on the beach! In our experience, we gathered some tasty cheese and crackers from Aperitivo, ceviche at the Fish Lads, and a delicious salad from Bliss & Vinegar!
Recommendations: Malamiah Juice Bar, JuJu Bird Chicken, Field & Fire (famous bakery), Sushi Market, Old World Olive Oils, Aperitivo, Fish Lads, Bliss & Vinegar
Recommended for Cocktails and Appetizers
One Bourbon features over one hundred and sixty different whiskies and bourbon quality spirits, beer, and wine. The interior of the restaurant reflects the hip sensibilities of the surrounding area. The decor is complete with unfinished bricks, tin ceilings, and Edison lights. They also had a pretty awesome sign, pictured below.
We came here for drinks and appetizers while awaiting our dinner reservation. I was very impressed with their pickles and cheese plate, chicken dip, and wide spread of appetizers. The outdoor patio in the back is very insta-worthy and has a very relaxed atmosphere to enjoy with your loved ones, family, and friends.
Recommended for Dinner, Known for their Meat and Whiskey!
Butcher’s Union offers delicious steaks and cocktails at a great affordable price-point! The warm ambiance, great customer service, and amazing cuisine makes this restaurant a favorite of the Westside area. I opted for the crispy brussels sprouts with bacon and Charred Flank steak!
It was very tasty! Also, can I just include that the price was only $19.75! You can also order some Wagyu New York Strip steak for $47! Butcher’s Union serves a variety of entrees as well including chicken, fish, steak, pastas, and more.
(Recommended for Lunch or Dinner)
Donkey Taqueria is a one of a kind mexican street food restaurant! This was personally my favorite as I love mexican food! This place is always packed and strongly lives up to its hype! It is a very casual and laid back restaurant with the best tasting guacamole and tacos you will ever encounter!
Donkey Taqueria is located on Wealthy Street, so there is plenty to see and do while you wait! I recommend ordering a variety of tacos including the Taco De Carnitas De Puerco and the Taco Al Pastor, the Queso Fundido De Coliflor (chile roasted cauliflower cheesy dip), the Flautas De Pollo, and for dessert, the churro or deep fried icecream!
Recommended for Cocktails, Live Music, and Tapas! Best FROSE in the city!!
You don’t have to travel far to enjoy the flavors of Basque Country! Zoko 822 offers a laid-back outside patio to enjoy cocktails, tapas, live music, and the best Frose in the city! Come relax, kick back, and enjoy time with your significant other, family, or friends at Zoko 822! They also serve brunch, lunch, and dinner.
Recommended for Dinner
Terra is another great farm to table authentic restaurant that sources seasonal and sustainable ingredients from local farms throughout the area. The truffle mac and cheese with chicken was my personal favorite!
I also tried the wood-fired margherita pizza, daily cheese board, and terra greens salad! The wine and beer flights are also not to miss!
Recommended for Rooftop Drinks and Sunset Views
Haute is located at the New Hotel Mertens and is one of my favorite places in Grand Rapids! The views of the city and the setting is absolutely unbeatable! It is gorgeous! The atmosphere is very trendy, filled with victorianesque furniture. The wine and cocktail menu is superb and the service is impeccable.
Things to Do in The Grand Rapids:
Lake Michigan Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Saugatuck Dunes State Park offers two and a half miles of stunning shoreline. The park’s major attractions are the long sandy beaches and the three hundred acre natural area, which contains a coastal dune system, as well as three endangered plant species. This is the perfect beach for a picnic! The beaches of Lake Michigan are only about 30 minutes away from the city and Saugatuck offers a short beautiful 15- minute hike down to the beach.
The hike is relatively easy along a guided path covered in stunning scenery and lots of trees. We highly recommend stopping at the Downtown Market to pick up lunch for a picnic!
Boutique Shopping and Coffee Crawl: Visit Wealthy Street
Come on down to Wealthy Street and start your day on a coffee crawl while boutique shopping in some of Grand Rapid’s favorite boutique stores! You can find great gifts, a nice bottle of wine, a cute new outfit, home decor, and visit Indy (the house parrot) at Dime and Regal while checking out their handcrafted goods and jewelry!
Another personal favorite was Mokaya for their famous artisan chocolates!
Their handcrafted chocolates were delicious and I was super excited to take home Mikey a unique truffle set that was created with all of the local beers!
I also recommend trying their peanut butter cup as not only was it incredibly tasty but it truly was the prettiest and most unique peanut butter cup I have ever ate!
Additional Recommendations: Rowster Coffee, Outside Coffee Co, and Fox Naturals
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Experience masterpieces of art and nature that will delight your senses at one of the nation’s premier horticultural display gardens and sculpture parks in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The tropical conservatory was one of my favorite places in the park. It reminded me of being in a tropical rainforest! There were a variety of exotic plants in numerous greenhouse spaces. Throughout the park, there are tropical birds, an orchid wall, artistic sculptures, and gorgeous gardens.
It was also really unique to see on display one of the famous American Horses created by famed animaliere Nina Akamu and inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci. There are only two in the world and the Meijer family gifted the other one to Italy.
Come to Frederik Meijer for a wonderful relaxing day and sights you won’t want to miss!
Grand Rapids, Michigan is a wonderful city filled with many adventures, great restaurants, breweries, wineries, and events! I want to thank Grand Rapids for hosting me on an incredible trip and allowing me to experience their beautiful city! I hope my insight has convinced you to book your next getaway to Grand Rapids, Michigan!