Downtown Grand Rapids is walkable – one of the top 14 walkable destinations in the U.S., according to a 2020 Trips to Discover article. Attendees at meetings and events held at any of the city’s downtown venues have everything they could need within a few short blocks. Take a look:
There are 12 hotels (2500+ rooms) within a half-mile walk of our convention center. The JW Marriott Grand Rapids, Downtown Courtyard by Marriott and Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton are connected to the convention center by the city’s climate-controlled indoor skywalk system, so you can leave your umbrella behind. A 13th hotel, the Hampton Inn & Suites Grand Rapids Downtown, is a mile walk up a somewhat steep hill – perfect for working the glutes, hamstrings and calves, if you’re so inclined.
You don't have to walk far to find a place to eat and drink near the convention center, including The Corner Bar at the Amway Grand Hotel.
Photo Credit: Nathaniel Steve Fischer
Grand Rapids has been named Michigan’s Food City by Thrillist. It’s a matter of both quality and quantity: there are 130+ restaurants of all cuisines and price points within a 10-minute walk of the convention center. Whether you have a taste for a latte, craft brew, quick bite or elegant dining experience, they're all just steps away. Many restaurants are located in downtown Social Zones and offer comfortable outdoor dining – in every season!
Head to the Downtown Market Grand Rapids and attendees can enjoy several dining options under one roof – tacos, charcuterie, sushi, ice cream and more. The Market is on the Grand Rapids Food Trail, which includes 50+ delectable destinations all over the city – including walkable downtown and near-downtown food shops.
Grand Rapids museums host many permanent and temporary exhibits. Check out ArtPrize in the fall.
Photo Credit: Photo: Experience Grand Rapids
Want to take in a bit of culture between seminars? Take your pick from six downtown museums: Grand Rapids Art Museum, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids Public Museum (with a planetarium), Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and – just in case you want to indulge your inner child – the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.
Note: The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Grand Rapids Children’s Museum are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts reopens in July 2021.
Local bands frequent downtown music venues like 20 Monroe Live.
Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids
Live music is easily found at 35+ downtown venues, large and small. Van Andel Arena features megastars like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, while 20 Monroe Live, Listening Room, The Intersection and The Pyramid Scheme draw well-known names to more intimate environs. Downtown bars, restaurants and clubs feature local and regional musicians, while the performance hall connected to our convention center hosts musical events from Broadway Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Ballet, Grand Rapids Symphony and Opera Grand Rapids.
Attendees can consult the Grand Rapids Music Trail to find live-music venues located downtown and around the city. Note: Many music venues are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but have begun to schedule events for summer 2021 and beyond.
More Downtown Strolls
If attendees would like to explore even more of the city by foot, here are a few more options:
- Purchase an alcoholic beverage from a participating bar/brewery/restaurant and enjoy it while walking around three distinct Refreshment Areas: Downtown, Bridge Street and Monroe North.
- Follow the Riverwalk along the Grand River just behind our convention center – the “loop” trail traverses the original rapids for which the city is named and passes by some of the area’s most notable attractions (including the historic Sixth Street Bridge).
- Cross the iconic Blue Bridge, a few blocks due south of the convention center, to view an impressive collection of outdoor public art on the downtown campus of Grand Valley State University.
- Download the free GR Walks and Vamonde Live GR Stories apps to access self-guided walking tours exploring downtown art, culture, history, neighborhoods and more.
That's just a partial list. There are also a variety of stores and boutiques for shopping, theater venues for a show, and parks and greenspaces for peaceful relaxation, all within walking distance of your event site. And if you don’t feel like walking back after your stroll, just hop on a free DASH bus to the convention center or your hotel!