48 Hours in Grand Rapids, Michigan

downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan

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.

JW Marriott Hotel Grand Rapids Michigan

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!).

JW Marriott Hotel Grand Rapids Michigan

What We Did

The Grand Rapids Art Museum

Grand Rapids Art Museum - Grand Rapids, Michigan

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.

Iris Van Herpen Transforming Fashion Exhibit Grand Rapids Art Museum in Grand Rapids Michigan - ArtPrize 2016

Each dress we saw was more original and incredible than the last—so inspired, thoughtful, and unique. 

Founders Brewing Company

Founders Brewing Company - craft beer tour in Grand Rapids Michigan

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

Downtown Market Grand Rapids, Michigan

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!

Pumpkin Spice Rum Punch - cocktail class at Downtown Market Grand Rapids, Michigan

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.

Raspberry chocolate tiramisu - cooking class at Downtown Market Grand Rapids, Michigan

We had so much fun learning from our chef instructors.  

Where We Ate

Reserve

Reserve Grand Rapids, Michigan

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

San Chez Bistro Grand Rapids, Michigan

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).

Breakfast at San Chez Bistro Grand Rapids, Michigan

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.

Social Kitchen

Social Kitchen at the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan

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).

Grove

Grove Restaurant Grand Rapids, Michigan

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! 

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7 thoughts on “48 Hours in Grand Rapids, Michigan

  1. Jessica

    I’m so glad you love our little city! Now that you’ve been here a couple times, come back and we can show you some more off the beaten path favorites! :)

    Not going to lie, I read the title and thought you were going to say, “and now I’m moving there!!” ;) That would be a decision I would 100% support, by the way!! Haha

    Reply
  2. Christel Goetsch

    I’m a lifelong Michigander and have never been to Grand Rapids…your article made me want to give it a look! Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Cari Hartman

    I’m so glad you came back to West Michigan and loved it as much as I do. I’m a lifelong resident of the lakeshore (Muskegon) and work in Grand Rapids. It’s such a fun, fabulous city with so much to do and see. Thank you for sharing your experience with your followers!

    Reply

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