Ranked as one of the “Gayest Cities in America,” Grand Rapids is a must-visit for LGBTQ+ travelers! Just 3-hours from Chicago, you’ll find tons of LGBTQ-owned businesses, queer coffee shops, art, music, delicious (vegetarian-friendly) food, and even the oldest gay bar in Michigan! Here are lesbian-friendly things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan as well as must-see annual events, where to stay and eat.

LGBTQ+ Things to Do in Grand Rapids

Visit Rainbow Road

Rainbow Road, a permanent rainbow street mural, was painted in 2019 by artist Joey Salamon to commemorate Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. It’s located right in front of Apartment Lounge on Sheldon Avenue NE between Fulton and Library streets and makes for the perfect photo op!

Grab a drink at Michigan’s oldest gay bar

Apartment Lounge is a relaxed, towny bar in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Inside you’ll find a full bar, comfortable booths, and welcoming faces. I love when places are inclusive and offer good mocktails–Apartment Lounge did not disappoint! The bartender made me an apple-inspired mocktail that was quite tasty. This spot is great for a pre-game or chill evening with friends.

Rebel Interior
Pride Stickers for sale at Rebel in Grand Rapids, MI

Rebel on Wealthy Street is the perfect place to buy gifts for everyone, even the hard-to-shop-for family member.

Photo by Brian Craig for Experience GR.

Shop with pride

Make sure to shop with pride while in Grand Rapids! There is an array of LGBTQ-owned shops downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods. Check out Woosah Outfitters for naturally inspired art and apparel. Stop by Outside Coffee Co., which is also owned by Woosah founder Erica Lang, for locally roasted coffee, vegan ice cream, pastries and toast year round.

For gifts for you or someone special, stop by one of my favorites, Rebel. Disclaimer: you may be tempted to buy every single item in the store. I found rainbow socks, a candle with a Trans flag on it, LGBTQ+ stickers, a decorative pillow for my office, and even a cute Valentine’s Day card for my partner. I also recommend Fox Naturals for locally-made beauty, cosmetic and personal care products. They have everything from shampoo and conditioner bars to fragrances and facial toners.

For a tarot reading or some crystals (let’s be honest, you can never have enough), stop by The 12th House.

Experiencing art at the World of Winter festival in downtown Grand Rapids

The giant Roaming Gnomes were a featured art installation at the 2023 World of Winter Festival.

Photo by Alyssa Zuiderveen Artwork: Roaming Gnomes by Simone Chua Massimals by Scroggin Studio

Attend the largest winter festival in the Midwest, World of Winter

Did you know that Grand Rapids hosts the largest outdoor winter festival in the Midwest?! World of Winter showcases over 100 free events, activities, and outdoor art installations. This year, the family-friendly event takes place from January 12th until March 10th, and is a great way to embrace the winter! 

I attended the World of Winter Festival in 2023, which I kicked off with the Fire & Ice show that featured the Greater Grand Rapids Figure Skating Club, skating with fire, at Rosa Parks Circle. I recommend checking out all of the different larger-than-life art installations, which can be found at various locations around downtown Grand Rapids, including 555 Monroe Skate Park, Ah-Nab-Awen Park, the Blue Bridge, and Calder Plaza. The installations are switched up every festival, so be sure not to miss this year's features! 

Explore the rainbow houses of Heritage Hill

One of the nation's largest historic districts is located right in downtown Grand Rapids. Heritage Hill features 1,300 colorful homes dating back to 1843 representing more than 60 architectural styles. There are home tours throughout the year, click here for more information!

Visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Explore one of the top horticultural display gardens and sculpture parks in the US! Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park features both indoor and outdoor displays, including The Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, a permanent indoor exhibit perfect for wintertime. Outside you’ll find an impressive sculpture park, children’s play area, and Japanese gardens. I recommend checking the weather beforehand and making sure to go when it’s not snowing to have access to the entire park. 

Through the Trees - A look at Amway Grand Plaza, 2022

The Amway Grand Plaza is a destination within itself with 9 restaurants and bars, 2 coffee shops, and duckpin bowling.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Where to Stay

Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton

If you’re looking for an LGBTQ-friendly hotel that’s a bit of luxury and has everything inside (e.g. 9 restaurants and bars, 2 coffee shops, and even a duckpin bowling alley), I’d go for the Amway Grand Plaza. This 1920s historic, riverfront hotel features modern rooms, perfect for a weekend trip. Their valet service, indoor pool, gift shops and workout facility make it a (very) convenient stay. 

Even if you don’t stay at Amway, I would still stop in for a quick peek. More than 7,000 square feet of ceiling area is covered in gold, making it the largest gold leaf installation in the nation.

Where to Eat

As a vegetarian traveler, I always look for the best vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Below are some of my favorites in Grand Rapids.

Lucy’s (for brunch)

Lucy’s is a scratch kitchen that serves up creative local dishes. I recommend going for a weekend brunch and ordering fresh OJ and their root vegetable hash. Do NOT leave Grand Rapids without trying their fresh croissants and made-in-house vegetarian sausage.

Basalt (for lunch)

For lunch, head to LGBTQ-owned modern Tex-Mex restaurant, Basalt. Basalt blends midwestern sensibilities and Tejano flair. Locals say it’s the best in town for authentic food and good vibes.

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen Exterior
One of 40 Acres' specialties is their flight of grits.

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen offers vegan soul food and is home to the only cognac bar in MI.

Photo by Eric Zuniga for Experience Grand Rapids

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen (for lunch)

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen is a perfect spot for vegan soul food. While they offer delicious food for everyone, their vegan selection is quite impressive. I highly recommend their vegan chicken sandwich, soulpossible chx sandwich. If you’re thirsty, it’s also home to the only cognac bar in Michigan.

The Electric Cheetah (for dinner)

Welcome to the cutest diner in town. The Electric Cheetah is great for homestyle American comfort food like soups and sandwiches, mac and cheese, and a selection of 40 kinds of craft root beer. Their menu features both vegetarian and vegan items.


Alas, some tips for your trip

I loved my time in Grand Rapids and I’d love to go back again. Here are some tips to make your gaycation even better! I recommend pairing Grand Rapids with a trip to Saugatuck/Douglas, another LGBTQ-friendly destination in Michigan. For a unique trip, travel on a train from Chicago via Amtrak (3 hours, 55 minutes). For convenience, I would rent a car upon arrival. There are a lot of things to see, a car makes it easy to see a lot of things in just a few days. Lastly, I recommend utilizing the Skywalk and tunnel system downtown, especially if you come during cold or rainy months! The elevated, heated Skywalk covers 7 blocks across downtown making it easy to check out other hotel restaurants and bars like The Bistro at Courtyard Marriott as well as access events like a concert at Van Andel Arena

Happy travels in one of my new favorite cities!


Originally published in 2023 and reviewed by the Experience Grand Rapids team in 2024.