Grand Rapids is thrilled to welcome athletes, enthusiasts, and families to the 2017 State Games of America! For the first time, Michigan will host this prestigious event, and Grand Rapids is the perfect location to welcome 12,000 visitors to “The Mitten State.” Because there is so much to do in West Michigan, guests should plan to make their trip a true vacation. With so much to do around town, August is the perfect time to explore and enjoy! Whether you’re making it a couples’ trip, bringing the whole family, or coming solo, take a look at some of the region’s top attractions.
Bring your swim suit if you head towards Lake Michigan - it's worth the drive to cool off! Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids
Did you know Grand Rapids is conveniently located thirty minutes from Lake Michigan? Beaches in Saugatuck, Holland, Muskegon, and Grand Haven are all sandy and refreshing in early August. Grand Haven’s famous Coast Guard Festival is taking place July 28 – August 6 and has a craft fair, ship tours, a carnival, and fireworks right next to the beach. I would recommend you go early to find parking and enjoy the festivities for the full day!
For those looking for a shorter drive, check out Millennium Park in Grand Rapids. Visitors can rent a paddleboat, cool off on the splash pad, or build a sandcastle at this beachy nature area. Admission is around $4 per person with a family discount, and there are bathrooms and concessions on site.
The beautiful circular room that juts out over the Grand River houses an antique carousel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum! It still works! Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids
Rainy Day Activities
Since it’s too early to even try to predict the weather, visitors should know that there is plenty to do if the weather is crummy. If you are a fan of museums, then the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Grand Rapids Public Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts (UICA), and Grand Rapids Children’s Museum are all within walking distance from downtown hotels. If you have previously been here for ArtPrize, it might be nice to see the museums without all of the crowds.
Grand Rapids also has an awesome IMAX theater located on the East Beltline, just ten minutes from downtown. The northwest side of town has an AMC Movie Theater with reclining lounge chairs. If you’d rather be on the move, check out some of the local shopping. Just this past winter, Experience Grand Rapids took a closer look at where visitors can find boutiques, antiques, outlet and mall shopping, and consignment stores. The Downtown Market would be a great place to spend a rainy day. With a huge selection of food, drink, shopping, BBQ, classes, a greenhouse, you can easily spend a day there.
The animals at John Ball Zoo are active and fun to watch. Try them on a cooler day to see the most activity. Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids is a great family destination. You’ll run out of vacation days before you run out of things to do with kids around town! If your kiddo is an animal-lover, John Ball Park is a great zoo that’s only five minutes from downtown. It’s small enough to tour in two or three hours if you have little ones, but big enough to be the home to some amazing animals. Blandford Nature Center is also a fun day trip. They have well-maintained hiking trails, a Wildlife Education Center, and a farm with chickens, goats, and pigs for petting.
Another ideal place to let the kids run and burn some energy is the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The gardens are located ten minutes east of downtown, and while they have exhibits and sculpture from all over the world, the kids will love the Kid Sense Garden, the Butterfly Maze, and the Caterpillar Room. There is a cafe and gift shop on site if you’re there during lunchtime, so it’s easy to make a whole day of the Frederik Meijer Gardens. Since it’s prime baseball season, Fifth Third Ballpark would be a fun evening out to see the West Michigan Whitecaps play. There are no home games during the State Games scheduled events, but if you come early or stay late, you can catch a game.
Grand Rapids is home to more than thirty local breweries. Collect stamps all over town to become an official Brewsader®! Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids
The Ale Trail
For the past ten years, Grand Rapids' craft beverage scene has exploded. Breweries, distilleries, wineries, and cideries have become a delicious part of this city’s landscape. If you like craft beer or want to see what the craze is all about, then hit the Beer City Ale Trail while you’re in town. The Brewsader® Passport is an excellent way to keep track of the places you’ve visited. Pick up a Passport at any participating brewery (just ask your server), and then collect stamps around town. If you can make it to eight breweries, you can redeem your passport for an official Brewsader® t-shirt. If you can’t make all eight in one trip, bring it back next year and keep collecting. Many of the local breweries serve food or have food trucks nearby, if you know you’ll be hungry while you try your unique, Grand Rapids brews.
This list is just a snapshot of what’s available to do during your trip to Grand Rapids. Transportation to and from these destinations is easy too. Grand Rapids has great walkability and is also bike-friendly. The bus stops are easy to navigate, and the ride-share services Lyft and Uber are both available here. For more trip-planning information and ideas, check out the city’s visitor’s bureau, Experience Grand Rapids. Enjoy the State Games of America, and enjoy West Michigan this summer!