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Grand Rapids Summer Activities

Personal finance website WalletHub.com named Grand Rapids one of America’s Top 20 Summer Travel Destinations in 2023, citing its ease, affordability and “bang for the buck.” We’re not about to argue – in fact, we think Grand Rapids is the perfect warm-weather playground for all ages and interests.

Our compact size and long hours of sunlight make it easy to pack in all the fun you can handle into your getaway – you can hit the golf course, the bike trail, the beach and the town in a single glorious day. Of course, most folks stay a little longer so they can also sample our amazing restaurants, breweries, museums, music venues and family fun spots.

Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy summer in Grand Rapids:

Festivals & Holidays

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The 29th Annual Riverwalk Festival in Lowell includes live music, classic cars, a 5K, kidz zone, boat race, food booths and more. July 11-13.

The Global Water Festival honors the centrality of water to life by showcasing global cultures that celebrate the water. Highlights include live music, food vendors, artisan booths and a Dragon Boat Race. At downtown’s Canal Street Park July 27-28.

Gran Fiesta Independence de Colombia celebrates the Colombian Independence Day  with music, dance, food and family fun. From noon-10pm at downtown GR’s Pochis Colombian Restaurant and Café July 27.

The Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival returns to Calder Plaza for its annual celebration of the local community’s rich heritage. Aug. 2-4.

Launch a floating lantern to commemorate a loved one at the Grand Rapids Water Lantern Festival in Millennium Park Aug. 3. There will be food trucks, music, activities and thousands of lanterns lighting up the night.

The Sparta Celtic Festival presents live music, dancing, food, historical encampments, Highland Games and other activities expressing Celtic heritage. Aug. 9-10.

A Glimpse of Africa Festival beckons people to Calder Plaza to celebrate, educate and share the diversity of African cultures through food, music, dance, fashion, arts & crafts, and community activities. August 9-11.

The Grand Rapids Yassou! Greek Cultural Festival shares the music, dances, gifts and food of the Greek Orthodox people. At Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Aug. 16-17.

The Greenville Danish Festival observes its 60th year with a Grand Dansk Parade, Danish food, an artisan fair, live music, Miss Danish Festival Pageant and more. Aug. 16-18.

Experience traditional Polish food, beer music, and more at the Dozynki Polish Festival in Calder Plaza, Aug. 23-25.

Join 100,000 of your fellow car-lovers for the 28th Street Metro Cruise, a two-day gathering featuring 340+ show cars, food vendors, live music and more. At Rogers Plaza Town Center, Aug. 23-24.

Celebrate our downtown riverfront at the Return to the River Festival featuring live music and entertainment, circus performers, food trucks, art and games. Three locations – the Downtown Skate Park, Sixth Street Park and Canal Park – are connected by a Riverwalk. Aug. 24 & 25.

Kwave Summer Fest immerses you in the captivating world of Korean pop music via live singers and dancers, interactive games, photocard trading, a diverse array of vendors and more. At Garfield Park Aug. 31.

Art & Culture

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For The Love of the Game” at downtown’s Grand Rapids Public Library is an exhibit highlighting the Detroit Tigers, Grand Rapids Chicks and Grand Rapids Black Sox baseball players. Through Sep. 30.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park presents Paul Vilinski: Flight Patterns, which explores various notions of “flight” through found-material sculptures, and Jennifer Angus: Flying Jewels & Other Insects, featuring the small creatures assembled in kaleidoscopic room installations. Through Aug. 18.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum invites visitors to consider new perspectives on a variety of subjects:

Broadway Grand Rapids presents MJ: The Musical (July 9-14), centered around the making of Michael Jackson’s 1992 Dangerous World Tour.

The Artist’s Way Project is a 12-week city-wide public art project that includes art workshops and events every Monday night in downtown GR’s Canal Park from June 10-Sept. 6.

Circle Theatre on the campus of Aquinas College packs its annual summer series with crowd-pleasing works:

AQS QuiltWeek is the annual Grand Rapids gathering of the world’s largest quilting membership organization, featuring quilt displays, workshops, lectures and a huge vendor Merchant Mall. Aug. 21-24 at DeVos Place.

The 2nd annual Grand Rapids Ballet Summer Dance Festival presents two FREE evenings of dance, food, drinks and more outside downtown GR’s Peter Martin Wege Theatre. Aug 25-2

Outdoor Recreation

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Grand Rapids is an outdoor paradise in every season – but summer is especially near and dear to our hearts. Reason #1: perfect weather for golfing at 30+ local courses.

If frisbees are more your thing, check out these 14 disc golf courses – all free to play. You may also want to enter the River City Open disc golf tournament in June – stay tuned for details.

Pickleballers of all ages come to Grand Rapids every year to compete in the Beer City Open Pickleball Championship at Belknap Park. This year’s tournament takes place July 9-14, and it’s free to watch.

Grand Rapids is actually a Midwest hub for pickleball – check out the list of 100+ local indoor and outdoor courts at the end of this article.

Warmer water means this is also prime season for boating, paddling and tubing. Bring your own gear or rent everything you need here.

Hundreds of miles of paved trails in and around Grand Rapids give bikers and hikers ample opportunity for scenic exercise. These trails are particularly accessible for people with disabilities – and these trails are dog-friendly. (More dog-friendly spaces here.)

Feel like a picnic in the park? Order takeout from a local restaurant and take your pick of 130+ nearby greenspaces.

Feeling competitive? Test your skills in the Tri Millennium Triathlon (July 27) Michigan Titanium (Aug. 11-12) and Millennium Meadows Marathon (Aug. 25).

You can also test your endurance during the Michigan Spartan Event Weekend at Cannonsburg Ski Area. You’ll traverse more than 11 miles of trails packed with steep climbs, descents and sand pits. July 13-14.

The Dirty Burg Races at Cannonsburg Ski Area include 5k, 10k, 25k and 50k routes through rolling track and up and down the ski hill. July 20.

Want to kick up your heels? Head to downtown’s Rosa Parks Circle every Tuesday evening for outdoor Swing and Line Dancing – no partner required!

Food & Drink

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Fresh food just tastes better in fresh air – check out 130+ restaurants with great outdoor dining & drinking spaces.

Take advantage of the Downtown Refreshment Area to stroll the city center while enjoying delectable food and alcoholic beverages. There are plenty of places to sit and relax along your journey! Similar outdoor refreshment areas are available outside downtown and along the lakeshore.

Visit the Grand Rapids Downtown Market to shop butcheries, bakeries, patisseries, fishmongers, coffee roasters, chocolatiers and other artisan vendors, all under one roof. Refuel yourself after shopping with a restaurant meal – the Market hosts American, Asian, Hispanic and Mediterranean eateries, and you can dine indoors or out.

Summer’s the perfect time to become a Beer City® Brewsader – download the app and visit eight breweries to earn a FREE t-shirt. Take a guided beer tour and let someone else do the driving.

Do you ever look at a menu and think, “I can’t decide, everything looks good”? Then you’ll want to get the Flights of Flavor digital pass to find the area’s best food + drink flights, allowing you to sample multiple dishes and/or beverages in one sitting. You can even earn free merchandise for doing it!

Did you know that USA Today dubbed Grand Rapids the “Craft Beverage Capital of the U.S.” in addition to America’s Best Beer City? Yes, we’ve got great breweries – but you should also visit our amazing cideries, coffeehouses, distilleries, meaderies and wine bars.

Shop the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market five minutes from downtown GR and other farm markets to enjoy fresh-picked fruits, vegetables, flowers and more, all summer long.

Enjoy delicious food from a variety of local food trucks while watching planes take off and land during Food Trucks at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Viewing Park, Wednesdays from June 5-Aug. 28.

Start your weekend with a visit to Riverside Park for Food Truck Fridays, featuring 20 or so local food trucks, a beer tent and live music. Through July 26.

Tour de Food Trucks brings food trucks to downtown’s Lookout Park on the 4th Thursday of each month through the summer. Enjoy the food and the spectacular view!

Blues, BBQ & Bourbon at Sullivan Field on the city’s West Side includes three musical acts plus great food and drink. June 15.

Adults 21 and older are invited to Rock, Roar & Pour at John Ball Zoo, featuring food trucks, specialty drinks, themed entertainment and local bands. June 27, July 25 and Aug. 8 & 29.

The 3rd annual Grand Rapids Foodie Fest offers finely curated foods and drinks, live music and dance, local vendors and more. In Calder Plaza July 5-7.

The GR Taco and Tequila Fest is an outdoor celebration featuring 100+ tequilas plus beer, sangria, margaritas, food trucks, live music and more. At Riverside Park July 27.

The Taste of East Grand Rapids lines Wealthy Street with food booths offering a sampling of local cuisine from Gaslight Village eateries and also features local artisans, all-ages entertainment and live music. Aug. 15.

The End of Summer Cookout and Showcase is a six-hour foodie event featuring food and merchant vendors, and open mic and artist performance elements. At Rosa Parks Circle Aug. 31.

Flights of Flavor are unique food and/or drink pairings that let you sample multiple flavors at once. You'll find them at some of the area's best restaurants and breweries - and you'll get rewarded for trying them!

Live Music

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At least 20 of the Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts are Meijer are already sold out – but that means there are 10 or more shows still on sale, including Il Divo (July 25), Black Violin with Grand Rapids Symphony (Aug. 1), Grace Potter (Aug. 18), Buena Vista Social Orchestra (Sept. 15) and Keb’ Mo’ & Shawn Colvin (Sept. 16).

Meijer Gardens also hosts a Tuesday Evening Music Club featuring local and regional musicians every Tuesday evening from June-Aug. and a Sunday Strings live classical chamber music concert series on Sundays from July 7-Aug. 11.

Relax at Rosa brings live music, yard games and food trucks to downtown’s Rosa Parks Circle every Thursday from noon-1:30 pm. May 2 - Sept. 12.

Outdoor concerts are a highlight of summer in Grand Rapids. Slather on your sunscreen, grab a lawn chair and groove to the music every night of the week:

Many of these concerts are FREE. Click here for even more FREE music events.

Valley Field ballpark on the city’s West Side is the site of several community concerts featuring food, drinks and more:

The Summer Concert Series at Circle Theatre on the campus of Aquinas College features local theatrical talents interpreting much-loved popular music:

Downtown’s The Lit GR hosts Candlelight Spring: A Tribute to Beyoncé (6:30pm June 27) and A Tribute to Coldplay (8:45pm June 27), live musical performances bathed in candlelight and a lush floral display.

The Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill celebrates its 13th anniversary with local bands on an outdoor stage plus  food and drinks. July 13.

The Midwest Groove & Smooth Jazz Festival welcomes local and national artists to Rosa Parks Circle for a celebration of music, culture and community. July 20.

Watercolors Jazz & More features live jazz, blues, reggae and R&B performers in downtown GR’s Rosa Parks Circle, July 25.

The Upheaval Festival, Michigan’s largest rock festival, returns to Grand Rapids with 30 acts over two days in downtown’s Belknap Park. July 19 & 20.

Midtown offers a series of Listening Lawn concerts on the piazza at downtown’s Studio Park: The Wood Brothers (July 12), Victor Wooten & The Wooten Brothers (July 13), Spin Doctor (July 19), Robert Randolph Band (July 26), The Lone Bellow (July 27), May Erlewine (Aug. 22) and KT Tunstall (Aug. 24).

The Breakaway Music Festival returns to Belknap Park for the seventh year, presenting two days of hip hop and pop musical acts. Aug. 16 & 17.

Van Andel Arena hosts some of music’s hottest tours this summer:

Browse the concert calendars for The Intersection, GLC Live at 20 Monroe, Midtown GR, The Pyramid Scheme and Skelletones for even more great live music.

If laughter is music to your ears:

 The Comedy Project and Dr. Grins Comedy Club are also packed with summer gigs, and Don’t Tell Comedy offers a “secret” show on Aug. 24.

Music Festivals

Tours coming to Grand Rapids

Family Fun

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Beat the heat at Building Buddies, an educational adventure for visitors of all ages, with a particular focus on ages 2-8. Visitors will help a family complete various construction projects in a charming neighborhood. At the Grand Rapids Public Museum through Sept. 1.

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum presents Emotions at Play with Pixar’s Inside Out, an interactive exhibit based on the hit animated feature film. June 1-Sept. 8.

Explore nature in Spanish at Blandford Nature Center – Bilingual at Blandford is a walk along a paved accessible trail accompanied by a guide who will identify plants, wildlife and ecosystems in both Spanish and English. July 9 & Aug. 13.

Dino Adventures at John Ball Zoo features 20+ life-size robotic dinosaurs in an interactive exhibit in the Zoo’s Forest Realm. Kids will also get a big kick out of these special Zoo events:

The African American Arts and Music Festival hosts two summer park parties: Juneteenth Pride Silent Disco at Grand Rapids Public School University Park on June 14 and Christmas in July at Garfield Park July 12. Free food, games, resources and more or the whole family!

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market invites K-7 students to Meet the Machines (July 23), providing kids with an up-close look at emergency vehicles, construction vehicles and more.

Las Canchas Futsal Courts in downtown GR host watch parties for European Championship and Cop America soccer, July 14. There will be a DJ, food trucks and active soccer games.

The Grand Rapids Symphony presents How to Train Your Dragon, a screening of the hit animated film accompanied by a live performance of the film’s score. At DeVos Performance Hall July 24.

The Fallasburg Village Celebration includes family activities, old-fashioned family games, historic village tours, food, and a car & tractor show in Lowell, 20 minutes east of downtown GR. July 27.

Bring the family to a West Michigan Whitecaps baseball game or Berlin Raceway stock-car event ­– both venues offer all sorts of kid-friendly premiums and perks.

Play in the splashpad or Ninja Warrior playground, rent a canoe or kayak, or have fun on the beach at Millennium Park, five minutes from downtown GR.

It’s all fun and games at Craig’s CruisersAJ’s Family Fun CenterTreeRunner Adventure Park and Battle GR – so the challenge will be getting your kids to leave.

Close out the summer at the GrandCon Gaming Convention to shop exhibitors of arts, crafts, toys and games, play in the open gaming library, sign up for a tournament and more. Aug. 30-Sept. 1.

Need more inspiration for your family summer getaway? Check out how Grand Rapids lets kids Play Their Way.

Garden Parties

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No trip to GR is complete without a visit to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the world’s 50 most visited art museums. It’s especially beautiful in summer, when colorful blooms grace the Japanese Garden, Children’s Garden, Farm Garden and Woodland Shade Garden.

Visit the area’s best Greenhouses and Markets for live plants and gardening supplies to brighten your summer.

Visit the Kent/MSU Extension Grand Ideas Garden to learn about plants and gardening techniques you can replicate at home.

The 5th annual Creston Garden Tour is a self-guided outdoor tour of 10-12 gardens within the Creston neighborhood. Garden hosts will be at each property to share their gardens with you. July 20. See the Gardens’ annual Dahlia Show Aug. 24-25.

Merchant and Makers at John Ball Zoo! hosts 100+ local makers plus food trucks and live music in the parking lot in front of the zoo. June 1.

BIPOC Night at Fulton Street Farmers Market lets you shop dozens of BIPOC vendors while enjoying live music and nourishment from local food trucks. Aug. 27.

The Mitten Vintage Market is curated shopping experience with 50+ vendors selling vintage clothes, décor and more in Calder Plaza. July 13.

Creston After Dark hosts pop-up artisan booths, live music and performance artists at Kinga’s Market, July 13.

Shop for taxidermy, preserved specimens, original artwork, Halloween/horror-inspired pieces, antiques, funeral collectibles and all sorts of other wild and weird stuff at the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in DeVos Place. Aug. 27-28.

The Summer Rummage Sale at Fulton Street Farmers Market is a garage sale, flea market, thrift store and vintage shop all rolled into one. July 28.

The Michigan Street After Dark Creative Vendor Market features a handpicked selection of artisan vendors plus live music, magicians, acrobats and more. Aug. 17.

‘Tis the season for back-to-school shopping … and Grand Rapids is the perfect place to do it! You’ll find all your favorite brand names ant RiverTown Crossings Mall and Woodland Mall, and great deals on designer merchandise at Tanger Outlet Mall.

For more distinctive finds, check out local consignment shops & thrift stores and these unique shopping destinations.

Lake Break

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Downtown GR is just 30-45 minutes away from the beaches and beach towns of Lake Michigan. Spend a day on the coast and get back to GR for a night on the town!

Find your vibe – secluded or close to city amenities, bustling or laid back, dog-friendly or not – at 20+ Lake Michigan beaches. Or hit the six-acre sandy beach at Millennium Park beach five minutes from downtown GR.

Shop, dine and enjoy the sights in the beach towns of Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon and Saugatuck/Douglas – each boasts its own unique personality and style.

Grand Rapids is the perfect home base from which to explore the lakeshore’s biggest events:

Save on Attractions with Our Culture Pass

Receive admission into many cultural attractions around Grand Rapids as well as additional exclusive discounts with our $28.00 Culture Pass.