This weekend, my family hopped into our car and drove the easy 10 minutes from suburbia to downtown Grand Rapids for the 9th annual Local First Street Party. Parking in Grand Rapids is easy and cheap ($2/hour or $6 for the entire event), so we quickly ditched our car and walked the two blocks to the festivities. Entrance is free, which left us with plenty to spend on food and beverages.

We made our way through the happy crowd to the stage, where we enjoyed the groovy sounds of Afro Zuma, one of 7 local bands who serenaded guests throughout the day. (Other talent playing: Grupo Aye, Fauxgrass Quartet, Larry McCray, The Hard Lessons, La Famiglia, and Grand Rapids Soul Club.

Next up: It was time for us to get in line for a nice cold cup of Centennial IPA from Founders Brewing Co., one of my favorite local breweries and a sponsor of the Local First Street Party. My husband likes the Pale Ale, which they were also serving, and my kids were thrilled to have a Faygo for a special treat.

As we relaxed and enjoyed our drinks and the music, we talked about how lucky we are to live in such an agreeable city, and one that supports local businesses with so much enthusiasm. My kids--ever on the lookout for a reason to buy pizza--suggested that we show our support by buying pizza from GRPD or, perhaps, a donut from the Little Pearl booth.

While the kids enjoyed their traditional fare, my husband and I tried two different kinds of tacos from What the Truck: one Citrus Beef and one Korean Pork taco. They were both delicious but the Korean Pork Taco (of which, I will just admit, I was wary), was un-be-lieve-able. If you're in Grand Rapids and hungry, try one. It was the perfect accompaniment to my Founders Centennial IPA.

Stuffed and happy, we walked off a few of the calories and headed back to our car. As we walked, I recalled that last August, Grand Rapids was named one of the 10 Best Places to Live in the U.S. and earlier this year we were named One of the Best Cities for Raising a Family.

Anyone who lives here, or visits often, wasn't surprised. We can all give you our list of personal favorites (mine include Meijer Gardens, Hopcat, the downtown museums, and close access to great beaches, to name just a few). But events like the Local First Street Party give Grand Rapids big city fun with a local twist all our own. That's something everyone can appreciate.