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Grand Rapids Fact Sheet

Downtown Skyline with Golden Hues and Moon, 2021
Lake Michigan is just 35 miles from Grand Rapids, making it a popular day trip for locals and visitors.

From a great city the to the great lake, Grand Rapids is only 25 miles from Lake Michigan.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan with a population of about 199,000 in the city and a bit more than one million in the Metro Grand Rapids area.

Grand Rapids is located on the banks of the Grand River that winds its way through downtown. Grand Rapids gets its name from the Grand River and the rapids that used to help the local furniture industry with the transport of logs. In the early 1900s flood walls were installed in the river to remove the rapids in order to help manage flooding. The Grand Rapids WhiteWater Project is now in the works to restore the river and the rapids.

Grand Rapids is only 25 miles east of Lake Michigan and a 30-40 minute drive from the vibrant lakeshore communities of Grand Haven, Holland, Muskegon and Saugatuck/Douglas.

Grand Rapids and Kent County are situated on the ancestral land of the Anishnaabe: the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodéwadmi people also known as the People of the Three Fires. European immigrants in the 1820s – beginning with fur traders, who set up trading posts along the Grand River – and became self-governing in 1836. The county is named after James Kent, attorney and author of "Commentaries on American Law." Grand Rapids became a village in 1838 and a city in 1850. The city was a center for craftsmen, carpenters and woodworkers during the lumber boom of the 1880s, and became known as "America's Furniture Capital." At the height of the lumber boom, Grand Rapids was home to 44 furniture companies.

Gerald R. Ford, 38th president of the United States, was raised in Grand Rapids and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is located here. The burial site for Gerald and Betty Ford is located on the Museum grounds. The Ford Museum was most recently updated in 2016 with the addition of an education center and renovation of the exhibits.  

Betty Ford

One of the most iconic couples, President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford spent their…

Industries

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West Michigan's major employment industries are Life Sciences, Food Manufacturing, Retail Trade, Construction, Professional/Scientific/Technical Services, Manufacturing, and Health Care and Social Assistance. The city has launched a 10-year strategy to add 20,000 more tech jobs over the next decade and become a Midwest tech hub.

Grand Rapids' top employers include Corewell Health, Meijer Inc., Trinity Health and Amway Corporation.

There are 10,724 hotel rooms throughout Kent County and 2,526 in downtown Grand Rapids.

Meetings & Conventions

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Grand Rapids is one of the Midwest’s hottest convention cities, hosting groups of all kinds from all areas of the country. Grand Rapids has an infrastructure of a much larger city, offering a compact convention neighborhood just 20 minutes from Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

It includes a state-of-the-art convention center located in the heart of downtown, DeVos Place Convention Center, which offers over 250,000 square feet of space on a 13-acre riverfront site. There is a 162,000 square foot “Class A” exhibition hall, 40,000 square foot ballroom, 35,000 square feet of sub-dividable meeting space and 75-foot high Grand Gallery pre-function space.

Also included in the neighborhood is Van Andel Arena, a $75 million entertainment venue downtown Grand Rapids which is home to three pro sports franchises – the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team, Grand Rapids Gold basketball team and Grand Rapids Rise volleyball team, and seats 12,000 for events, concerts, family shows, ice performances, seminars and conferences.

These two facilities are connected via climate-controlled skywalk to three excellent hotels: the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton, JW Marriott Grand Rapids and Downtown Courtyard by Marriott, which together offer 78,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 1,202 guest rooms. Ten additional downtown hotels (1,300+ rooms) – including such brands as AC by Marriott, Canopy by Hilton, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Hyatt Place and Residence Inn – are located within an easy walk (or free bus ride) of the convention center.

DeVos Place Convention Center

  • 303 Monroe Ave. NW
  • (616) 742-6500

DeVos Place puts visitors right in the middle of everything happening in downtown Grand Rapids. This multi-purpose facility is unequaled in service and support. Its management team of SMG provides the same high caliber of meeting and…

Van Andel Arena

  • 130 W. Fulton St.
  • (616) 742-6600

Located in the heart of Grand Rapids, Van Andel Arena provides the perfect balance of cosmopolitan flair and Midwest hospitality. This state-of-the-art 12,000-plus seating capacity arena is managed by ASM. It is connected via skywalk to the…

The Gerald R. Ford International airport was ranked the number one airport by size in 2016.
People and the Information Desk at the Airport

The Gerald R. Ford International airport offers more than 100 daily nonstop flights to and from 30+ major market destinations.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Gerald R. Ford International Airport, (616) 233-6000 or www.grr.org, is the second largest airport in Michigan. In 2023, it was honored by Airports Council International as the Best Airport of 2-5 Million Passengers in North America and the Easiest Airport Journey in America. It is currently in the midst of a $500 million development project to further enhance the passenger experience.

The airport offers more than 100 daily nonstop flights to and from 30+ major market destinations: Atlanta, Austin (seasonal), Baltimore/Washington, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago-Midway, Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Destin/Fort Walton, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale (seasonal), Fort Myers (seasonal), Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles (seasonal), Miami (seasonal), Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville, New York-Newark, Orlando International (seasonal), Orlando-Sanford, Philadelphia, Phoenix-Mesa, Phoenix- Sky Harbor International (seasonal), Portland (seasonal), Punta Gorda (seasonal), Sarasota/Bradenton, Savannah/Hilton Head (seasonal), St. Petersburg-Clearwater International, Tampa International (seasonal) and Washington-Reagan.

Airlines include Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country and United Airlines.

Craft Beverages

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Grand Rapids holds the title Beer City USA, awarded by a national vote, and it’s a four-time winner in USA Today’s best beer city poll. Our Beer City Ale Trail boasts more than 40 breweries, with several hailed among the world’s finest. USA Today also named our city the Craft Beverage Capital of the US, thanks to the quality and ever-increasing number of our cideries, distilleries, meaderies, wineries and coffee roasters.

Discover the art of dining in Grand Rapids. Two unique factors help distinguish the culinary scene in Grand Rapids: we’re located in the middle of one of the world’s best growing regions and we’re home to one of America’s finest culinary schools, the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Visitors can choose from hundreds of restaurants to fit any taste and budget.

Attractions

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  • ArtPrize: The world’s most attended public art event launched in Grand Rapids in 2009 and continues to bring upwards of 500,000 visitors to see hundreds of global artists display their work all over downtown each fall. ArtPrize will return September 13-28, 2024.
  • LaughFest: A community-wide festival of stand-up comedy, improv, live shows, films, authors, community showcases and a variety of other seriously funny stuff. All proceeds benefit the cancer, grief and support programs offered through Gilda's Club Grand Rapids.
  • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States wasn't born in Grand Rapids - but he was raised here and represented the city in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949-1973. The President and Mrs. Ford are buried on the grounds of the Museum.
  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park: Michigan's second most popular tourist attraction ... one of the world's 100 most visited art museums ... one of the Top 30 Must-See Museums on the planet. Combination of a sculpture park and botanical garden.
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM): Collections range from Renaissance to Modern Art, with a special focus on 19th and 20th century European and American art.
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum:  Michigan’s oldest museum tells the tale of our region and our world through interactive exhibits focusing on science, history and culture. The in-house Chaffee Planetarium immerses visitors in space exploration. The Museum has recently embarked on a $50 million renovation that will enhance its indoor and outdoor space.  
  • Heritage Hill Historic District: One of the nation's top old-house neighborhoods is just a five-minute walk from downtown Grand Rapids. Heritage Hill boasts Michigan's largest and finest collection of 19th and early 20th century houses. Nearly every style of American architecture, from Greek Revival to Prairie, is represented in the 1,300 buildings that date back to 1844.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Meyer May House: Presented by Steelcase, as a meticulous restoration complete with original furnishings and faithfully executed reproductions, the Meyer May House provides the rare opportunity to experience a Prairie house exactly as Frank Lloyd Wright intended.
  • Grand Rapids Children's Museum: The Children's Museum is located in downtown Grand Rapids, just a short walk from hotels. Eighteen permanent exhibits include Aunt Daisy's Farm, Mom & Pop Store, Treehouse, Giant Lite Brite, Wee Discover, Wee Bank, Puppet Stage, Buzzy Buzzy Bees and Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles!
  • Millennium Park. One of America’s largest urban parks, this 1,400-acre greenspace five minutes from downtown Grand Rapids offers nearly 18 miles of paved trails, six miles of river frontage, a six-acre beach, boat rental facilities and one of USA Today’s Top 10 splash pads.
  • John Ball Zoo: This classic urban zoo is located two miles west of downtown Grand Rapids. John Ball Zoo is home to more than 2,200 animals from five continents.
  • Robinette's Apple Haus: Century-old family farm offers apples and other fresh fruits in season, plus a cider mill, wine tasting, bakery, lunch counter, dining area, hayrides, mountain bike trails and more.
  • Blandford Nature Center: Your premier nature getaway! 143 acres of woods, streams and meadows, 4 miles of trails open dawn to dusk daily.
  • Grand Rapids Downtown Market: With 20+ restaurants and gourmet food shops and 25,000 sq. ft. of market space, the Downtown Market offers something to satisfy every appetite. It's the first LEED-certified market in the country and it introduced a traditional European-style Christkindl Markt in 2023.
  • In the works in downtown GR: a 12,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, professional soccer stadium, bocce ball-themed “dinner-tainment” complex and riverfront park and plaza.

Performing Arts

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Sports Teams

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  • Grand Rapids Griffins - AHL primary affiliate of the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings; playing in Van Andel Arena.
  • West Michigan Whitecaps - Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers; playing at LMCU Ballpark.
  • Grand Rapids Gold - NBA G-League affiliate of the Denver Nuggets; playing at the Van Andel Arena.
  • Grand Rapids Rise – Women’s volleyball team competing in the Pro Volleyball Federation league.

Colleges & Universities

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15 colleges and affiliate colleges located in Grand Rapids:

  1. Aquinas College
  2. Calvin University
  3. Central Michigan University
  4. Compass College of Cinematic Arts
  5. Cornerstone University
  6. Davenport University
  7. Ferris State University
  8. Grace Christian University
  9. Grand Rapids Community College
  10. Grand Valley State University
  11. Kendall College of Art & Design
  12. Kuyper College
  13. Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
  14. Secchia Institute for Culinary Education
  15. Western Michigan University