Now that the holiday decorations are packed away, the snow continues to fall and overcast winter days drag by indoors, your family might start dreaming of a change of scenery. You don’t have to go far to experience a unique, vibrant and family-oriented city filled with new adventures that will renew a love for our wintry state. One of The New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2016” and the second-largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids has a big-city feel with a small-town heart. Take a two-hour drive to experience firsthand all that Grand Rapids has to offer— it’s truly a winter wonderland!
Day 1: Fun-filled Saturday in the heart of Downtown
Hitting the road at 8am should get you to Grand Rapids by 10am, with a full day of exploring ahead! Be sure to keep a close eye on the weather report, as Grand Rapids is often affected by unpredictable lake-effect snow showers off of Lake Michigan.
For a taste of spring, start your journey at the Frederick Meijer Gardens (1000 East Beltline NE) with its five indoor gardens including tropical birds and flowers, unique sculptures and plant varieties from all over the world. For ticket prices, hours and directions visit meijergardens.org.
Head over to Marie Catrib’s (1001 Lake Drive SE) in Eastown, Grand Rapids’ popular eclectic walkable neighborhood. A local favorite, with frequent long lines to prove it, the menu has options for everyone (including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free). It’s no wonder that Marie Catrib’s has earned such a glowing reputation. Check out the menu at mariecatribs.com.
After lunch, visit the Grand Rapids Public Museum (272 Pearl Street NW), a kid-friendly museum with unique exhibits that will give your family a taste of the region’s history and West Michigan’s natural environment. Be sure to check out Whales: Giants of the Deep, an exhibit offered through April, explore outer space at the museum’s planetarium and take a ride on the 1928 Spillman Carousel overlooking the beautiful Grand River and Grand Rapids cityscape. Find all the details on ticket prices, planetarium showings and more at grpm.org.
After a long day of exploring, sit down for a family meal at one of the four restaurants housed at The B.O.B., short for Big Old Building, a popular Grand Rapids landmark. Taste foodie-fare and local beers at Gilly’s or Judsons, or share a pizza at Bobarino’s. For a full list of venues, menus and more check out thebob.com.
Finish off your day with a Griffins hockey game at the impressive Van Andel Arena (130 Fulton Street W), a favorite winter tradition with local families. Check out the schedule at griffinshockey.com/schedule. Or, bundle up for a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of downtown! Classic Carriage LLC offers 30- and 60-minute rides on Saturday nights starting at 7pm. To make a reservation, and for rates, visit classiccarriagellc.com.
To cuddle up for that winter’s nap, splurge at the lovely Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (187 Monroe Avenue NW, amwaygrand.com) or save at the Holiday Inn (310 Pearl Street NW, higrdt.com), or check out Homewood Suites (161 Ottawa Avenue NW, homewoodsuites3.hilton.com).
Day 2: Relaxing Sunday embracing the winter wonderland
Enjoy breakfast at a Grand Rapids’ favorite, Anna’s House (2409 E Beltline Avenue SE). A retro diner featuring classic breakfast fare served all-day and made with locally grown ingredients. Between the delicious food, fun atmosphere and community feel, you’ll be hooked! See photos and a full menu at annashouseus.com.
Head to the Downtown Market (435 Ionia Avenue SW) to peruse the mixed-use facility focused on production, distribution and education about local produce. Sample locally crafted artisan cheeses, baked goods and more, and visit the kid-friendly demonstration kitchen for a foodie’s dream and a taste of Grand Rapid’s unique approach to community revitalization. Learn more at downtownmarketgr.com.
For lunch, to refuel before bundling up to spend the afternoon in wintry bliss, try a more upscale experience with a likeable kids’ menu at the popular San Chez Bistro (38 Fulton Street W, sanchezbistro.com) in the heart of downtown, or venture away from the city center for a laid-back lunch at West Michigan family-favorite Russ’ Restaurant (2750 28th Street SE, russrestaurants.com).
After lunch, bundle up and bring your bait and tackle to try your hand at fishing for steelhead in the Grand River from the Sixth Street Bridge Park (647 Monroe NW). Experience outdoor ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle (135 Monroe Center Street NW) in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids! Skate rentals are available, and the rink is open until about 9:45pm on Sundays, though times are weather-dependent. Find the most current information on Facebook by searching “Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink.”
Before heading back home, warm up and make one last West Michigan memory with your family at Uccello’s Ristorante (2630 E Beltline Avenue SE, uccellos.com). Share a delicious Sicilian pizza and your favorite experiences from your family’s weekend adventure.
Grand Rapids Getaway Itinerary
8am – Hit the road!
10am – Explore Frederick Meijer Gardens
12pm – Grab lunch at Marie Catrib’s
2pm – Grand Rapids Public Museum
5pm – Dinner at the B.O.B.
7pm – Choose your own adventure! Griffins hockey game at Van Andel Arena or horse-drawn carriage ride in downtown Grand Rapids
9am – Breakfast at Anna’s House
11am – Visit the Grand Rapids downtown market for a unique shopping experience
1pm – Lunch at the popular San Chez Bistro downtown, or for a more laid-back West Michigan family favorite, try Russ’ Restaurant
2pm – Bundle up and fish for Steelhead in the Grand River from the Sixth Street Bridge Park
3pm – Ice skate at Rosa Parks Circle downtown Grand Rapids
6pm – Share a pizza at West Michigan favorite Uccello’s before heading back home to Ann Arbor