Grand Rapids and the nearby Lake Michigan gold coast we’re recently named the number one travel destination for 2014 by Lonely Planet. People outside the region may look at that designation with a bit of bewilderment. But locals know that West Michigan is a hidden gem that is starting to get noticed on a national level. From world class art to great local restaurants to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, this area is a world class vacation destination.
The art scene
In just five years ArtPrize has set the art world abuzz with its radically open approach. The largest art competition in the world, featuring a $200,000 grand prize, annually draws over 1,500 artists and 400,000 visitors to downtown Grand Rapids in the early fall. However, this city is no stranger to making a big splash on the art scene. Back in the 1970’s the city commissioned a large outdoor sculpture from Alexander Calder. La Grande Vitesse graces the center of the city and has even been incorporated in the Grand Rapids logo.
The craft beer scene
Michigan, and specifically Grand Rapids, could be called the center of the craft brewing universe. The quality of Michigan beer is well known. Founder’s Brewing Company in downtown Grand Rapids is one of the top breweries in the state and country, regularly winning awards for their strong but delicious offerings. If the beer enthusiast is looking for something different there seems to be a brew pub on every other corner. There are small neighborhood places like Harmony and Mitten Brewing. Large bar/restaurants like Grand Rapids Brewing Company. And, according to Beer Advocate, the number 3 beer bar in the whole country, Hop Cat. There are so many craft breweries that the local business association Experience Grand Rapids came out with a brewery trail map. An on-line poll named Grand Rapids “Beer City USA” two years in a row.
The beach scene
Saugatuck. Holland. Grand Haven. These beach towns dot the gold coast of Lake Michigan and are just a short drive from the thriving city life of Grand Rapids. Whether you want to go sailing, rent a fishing charter, or just lay on the beach, the gold coast is the place to be for summertime relaxation. The sunsets are magnificent. Watching the sun dip into the waters of the big lake, past an iconic lighthouse, is one of the best parts of spending a day at the lake.
The recreation scene
Are you a cyclist? Kayaker? Runner? Grand Rapids was rated by Outside Magazine as the top mountain biking city in America in 2010. The area is covered with rail trails and parks built exclusively for mountain biking. In Michigan you’re never more than six miles from a body of water. Several of those bodies are rivers that cut through the west Michigan landscape. These rivers don’t provide a whitewater experience, but the Grand, Flat, Rouge, and others provide peaceful paddles through natural areas. Runners can enjoy any number of events including the largest 25K in the world, the River Bank Run. For the recreation lover there’s no excuse not to enjoy the great outdoors in the Grand Rapids area.