Atlanta-based content creator Romie Robertson, whose social media channels focus on budget travel with an emphasis on history and culture, visited Grand Rapids in March 2024. It was her first trip to West Michigan, and Experience Grand Rapids was honored to suggest some events and activities that coincided with her interests.

Romie covered the visit in her inimitable fashion on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, but we wanted to provide a written summary of the places and events she highlighted. Join us as we roam with Romie around Grand Rapids:

Roaming with Romie performing karaoke at Forty Acres.

Take Romie's recommendation and join Forty Acres Soul Kitchen for delicious soul food, and on Wednesday nights from 7-10pm, karaoke!

Photo by Courtesy of Romie Robertson (@roamingwithromie)

Day 1

Romie flew into Gerald R. Ford International Airport. “I was impressed by how modern and spacious it is,” said Romie of the airport named the best in North America for its size. She then took a 20-minute ride into downtown Grand Rapids.

After settling in to the JW Marriott Hotel, Romie walked to nearby Stella’s Lounge for dinner. While Stella’s is known for its giant stuffed burgers – one of which was named America’s best burger by GQ Magazine – Romie noted that “pretty much half the menu is vegan or vegetarian, so there’s something for everyone here.”

She chose the Krabby Patty, an Impossible Burger topped with a vegan krab cake, along with a side of Loaded Chronic Fries. “I had to pause every few bites and talk about how good it was.”

Next up was a quick jaunt to Uptown Grand Rapids and Forty Acres Soul Kitchen for R&B Karaoke. The Black-owned “authentically American” restaurant invites people from every culture to come together to celebrate Black culture, community and success, and their weekly karaoke event draws big crowds. Romie joined in on the fun, duetting with a Grand Rapids City Commissioner and taking a spin on the dance floor.

Like Stella’s, Forty Acres offers a surprising number of vegan dishes – organized under “vegan soul” on the menu – in addition to its more traditional soul food selections. It also offers a huge cognac bar in addition to wine, beer and cocktails, many from Black producers (including local Black Calder Brewing.)

Fox Naturals Store

Fox Naturals, a botanical skin care and perfume apothecary located in Uptown, is the perfect place to craft a signature scent for yourself.

Photo by Alina Albin for Experience GR

Day 2

The day began with a short walk to the Grand Rapids Art Museum, one of five museums in downtown Grand Rapids. GRAM, as it is affectionately known, houses a treasure trove of 6,000+ works in its permanent collections and it hosts special exhibitions throughout the year. The Museum building itself is something of a work of art, honored as one of the world’s best new buildings the year it was built (2007).

Romie said she was “blown away” by the exhibitions on display during her visit, which included Border Cantos | Sonic Border, a series of photographic landscapes, sonic compositions and sculptures that convey the human consequences of immigration policies.

Later in the afternoon came a trip to Fox Naturals in Uptown GR for a perfume-making class. The friendly staff at this botanical skin care and perfume apothecary helped Romie craft her own signature fragrance. “I walked away with a scent that embodies ‘Romie,’” she said. “You HAVE to add a visit to Fox Naturals to your Grand Rapids itinerary.”

Dinner was at GRNoir Wine & Jazz, a wine bar and restaurant owned by husband and wife duo Shatawn & Nadia Brigham. Romie ordered the “Black Love” flight, featuring wines from different Black-owned wineries around the country, along with some small-plate dishes. “I was pleasantly surprised by how big the portions were.”

GRNoir hosts live jazz throughout the week, but this visit happened to coincide with Spoken Word Night, which is reserved for the first Thursday of each month.

Romie checking out the Meijer Gardens.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is one of the area's top-rated attractions, and is the perfect destination in any season.

Photo by Courtesy of Romie Robertson (@roamingwithromie)

Day 3

Romie kicked off day 3 with a luxurious session at the Black and woman-owned, LGBTQ-friendly Apsara Spa in Uptown GR. This full-service spa offers body treatments, facials, massages, manicures, lash service and more, in a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. Romie enjoyed the “Red Island Ritual,” identified as the spa’s “most-loved” body service. “I felt like I entered a different dimension” after the treatment, she said.

Next up was a trip to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, named the nation’s #1 sculpture park by USA Today and ranked among the top 50 most visited art museums in the world. Inclement weather kept Romie from venturing too far into the outdoor gardens, but the indoor gardens and the annual Butterflies are Blooming show in the tropical conservatory were “phenomenal” and “another highlight of the trip.”

Later that night, Romie experienced a bit of LaughFest, an annual festival launched in 2011 as a fundraiser for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a local affiliate of the cancer support community conceived by the late comedienne Gilda Radner. Each year, LaughFest brings in some of comedy’s biggest names to perform – Kevin Hart, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Seth Myers, Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Chris Tucker are just a few of the entertainers appearing in years past.

Romie attended a performance by Piff the Magic Dragon, the magician and comedian who wowed America’s Got Talent judges and has won multiple “Best of Las Vegas” awards for his critically acclaimed run in the Flamingo Showroom.

The day ended with a “lovely late dinner” at Reserve Wine & Food that included charcuterie, tofu green curry and hot chocolate cake. Romie was fortunate to experience this premium dining experience before Reserve closed to reinvent itself with a new concept and menu scheduled to debut by the end of 2024.

Grand Rapids Rise Pro Volleyball Team

The Grand Rapids Rise is the city's first major league women's team. With a season running from January to May, catching a game is the perfect winter activity!

Photo by Courtesy of Grand Rapids Rise

Day 4

This day’s excitement included attending a professional volleyball game at downtown’s Van Andel Arena, which hosts a wide variety of sports, entertainment and family shows. The Grand Rapids Rise, the city’s first major league women’s team, scored a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Fury. “I’m not really a sports person but I ended up really enjoying the match,” said Romie.

After the game, Romie stopped by the city’s annual Noodle Fest, a battle between local chefs to create the yummiest noodle dishes. Held outdoors in Calder Plaza, Noodle Fest is sponsored by the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation as part of the World of Winter, America’s largest winter festival. “It’s like the entire city came out for some warm noodles on a cold day.”

As day turned to night, Romie toured some of the illuminated art installations that are the calling card of World of Winter. The eye-popping collection changes each year, and the 2024 works included eight giant inflatable frogs, three large and colorful Mastodons, a human-sized kaleidoscope, singing tree and 20+ other impressive installations.

World of Winter also includes 150 free events and activities, from entertainment and games to walking tours and street parties, all taking place outside in downtown Grand Rapids. The event helped convince Romie that Grand Rapids is a great destination for a family trip. (Mark your calendar for World of Winter 2025, Jan. 10 - March 2.)

The last dinner of the trip was at Fratelli’s Kitchen & Bar, an eatery in the bustling Bridge Street Entertainment District, which is lined with trendy restaurants and breweries, and is located just across the Grand River from downtown Grand Rapids.

Fratelli’s is a pizza and pasta restaurant that also offers an array of sandwiches, salads and small plates. It also has some talented mixologists crafting delicious cocktails. “The limoncello martini was the best martini I’ve ever had,” raved Romie.

It was a whirlwind trip filled with the kind of affordable socio-cultural experiences Romie loves. “I was so impressed with how friendly everyone is, how good the food was, and how much there is to do,” she said as she urged her followers to add Grand Rapids to their 2024 travel list.

Check out Romie's Ultimate Winter/Spring Grand Rapids Itinerary below: