Last November, I spent 48 glorious hours in Grand Rapids, Michigan with Liz, Lauren, Rachelle, Alejandra, and Experience Grand Rapids. I ate, I drank, I went to the art museum, and generally just spent time adoring how beautiful it was, how clean the streets, and how friendly the people were. It was so walkable and accessible, and the food and beer scene was fantastic—better than I could have expected.
Where We Stayed
The location of the J.W. Marriott Grand Rapids is hard to beat. It’s perfect for walking to restaurants, breweries, and other attractions downtown. On top of that, this hotel is sleek, modern, and as clean as can be.
Check-in was a breeze in the beautiful lobby and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more willing to help. My room was large and had a gorgeous bathroom I never wanted to leave (that tub!).
What We Did
The Grand Rapids Art Museum
Our group was lucky enough to get a private tour of the Grand Rapids Art Museum and explore Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen’s Transforming Fashion exhibit, where she had 45 one-of-a-kind haute couture looks on display.
Each dress we saw was more original and incredible than the last—so inspired, thoughtful, and unique.
Founders Brewing Company
We couldn’t visit “Beer City” without going to Founders Brewing Company. Thrillist named Founders one of the “19 American breweries you need to experience in person” and I get it now. The craft beers we sampled were smooth and delicious: Rubaeus (my favorite), Breakfast Stout, All Day IPA, Lizard of Koz, etc…consider me a full-blown Founders fan.
International Wine, Beer & Food Festival
Grand Rapids’ International Wine, Beer & Food Festival offers attendees the chance to interact with about 1,600 wines, beers, ciders and spirits. For $15 to $20 (the cost of a ticket), you can walk around and sample wine, beer, and cider from any of the hundreds of vendors. That’s exactly what we did on Friday night! It was a great way to meet local vendors and to sample a $400 bottle of pink champagne ;)
Cooking & Cocktail-Making Classes – Downtown Market
Aside from exploring the 24 cute/delicious vendors inside the Downtown Market, you can also take cooking classes there as well. Our group took two!
The first was a fall cocktail making class, where we made the most delicious Pumpkin Pie Rum Punch, and the second was a quick and easy dessert class that taught us all how to make a fall-flavored tiramisu.
We had so much fun learning from our chef instructors.
Where We Ate
Reserve was the first restaurant we hit up in Grand Rapids, and it set a really high bar for the rest of our stay. There, we ordered wine flights (I always go with bubbles) and appetizers to share—nothing too big or filling since we were gearing up for the International Wine and Food Festival afterward. We ordered and would highly recommend these snacks: schmaltz popcorn, pork fat fries, and Johnny cakes with pimento cheese.
San Chez Bistro
Our Friday morning breakfast spot, San Chez Bistro, just so happened to be a place I’d dined in before—and loved. It’s a short walk from the J.W. Marriott and I can’t recommend it enough. The menu offers a slew of elevated diner classics, with local, high-quality ingredients and generous portions (the way breakfast should be in my opinion).
The omelets are fluffy and fantastic and so are the smoothies (especially the Yellow Smoothie, wth guava and mango), but it’s absolutely the right decision to order a warm cinnamon pecan roll for the table.
Lunch on Friday took us over to Social Kitchen, located in the Downtown Market. We ordered one of just about everything on the menu, which was exactly as fun as it sounds. Standouts: the Turkey Burger (made with house ground turkey, parsley salad, sriracha, garlic aioli, and homemade pita) and the Crispy Brussels Sprouts (almonds, capers, parsley, garlic).
Of course Grove had to be a stop on our Taste Tour; it was the #1 rated restaurant in the state of Michigan by Business Insider, and in 2015 it was awarded Top 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America by OpenTable. Since it’s farm-to-table dining, the menu is always changing. We shared a whole bunch of the appetizers to start (I remember the small plate tacos being a favorite!), and then each ordered an entree. I got the fried chicken, which was drop dead delicious and a lot fancier than it sounds. Definitely go to Grove if you’re in Grand Rapids!
Thank you to Liz Della Croce and Experience Grand Rapids for inviting me on this special trip!