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The temps may be climbing, but this city is nothing but cool. From brewskis to beaches, our guide uncovers why in-the-know travelers are rushing to Michigan’s riverfront jewel. Ready to take the plunge?
By Amanda Gleason
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Frequented by both President Bushes, this historic spread’s lobby sports one of the world’s largest gold-leaf ceilings.
CityFlatsHotel At this boutique getaway’s CitySēn Lounge, relax with a Ginger Mitten cocktail, made with rum, orange juice, and pineapple marinated in white honey–ginger balsamic vinegar.
PrairieSide Suites Each of the seven guest rooms at this B&B is equipped with a hot tub for two. For even more pampering, stop by the massage room for a couple’s treatment.
See even more presidential history when you…
Blast to the Past
In the 1970s, platform shoes ruled—and political turmoil reined. In the wake of D.C.’s Watergate scandal, former Grand Rapids resident Gerald Ford took the highest oath of office, and you can explore his personal history and tumultuous White House tenure at downtown’s Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Mosey through the exhibits and marvel at the artifacts, which include a 1975 diary detailing Ford’s active schedule, and a gold brooch given to First Lady Betty Ford by Queen Elizabeth. If you’re itching to play commander in chief, make your way to the Cabinet Room, where you’ll be presented, via flatscreen TV, with weighty issues faced by Ford and his staff, then prompted to choose your own course of action. If you disagreed with “Mr. Nice Guy” granting a pardon to Richard Nixon, now’s the time to change history.
Pay A Visit To:
Millennium Park Rent kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes from the boating center of this 1,500-acre urban oasis before venturing out on Lake Leota.
Yesterdog Hungry hordes flock to this legendary hole-in-the wall for six varieties of the cylindrical snack, including the namesake best seller covered in chili and all the fixin’s.
Fill your life with flora when you…
Get Back to Nature
Make time to stop and smell the roses. And the plumbago. And the jasmine. These are just a few of the more than 3,000 flower species that thrive at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. You’ll find everything from Egyptian papyrus to silver torch cacti in this bastion of botany’s indoor and outdoor gardens, but plants aren’t the only treasure to behold: Upping the wow-factor is a sculpture park comprising 300 works. One can’t-miss piece? Scarlatti, a 25-foot-tall work created by Mark di Suvero, who designed the masterpiece’s suspended steel beams to move with the wind. As if your senses weren’t stimulated enough, there’s a summer concert series that runs through September in the Amphitheater Garden. That’s what we call being in tune with nature.
Treat Yourself to a Stop At:
Van’s Pastry Shoppe Sprinkled, glazed, and cream-filled donuts fill this family-owned bakery. The best part? One of these tasty goodies will only set you back 50 cents.
Grove This hip eatery lures sweets- lovers with desserts like the salted dark chocolate fudge, made with brown butter brioche, bourbon sauce, crème fraîche, and a peanut praline.
Snug Harbor Soak up river views while digging into dishes like orange-ginger salmon at this seafood joint in Grand Haven, a beach town about 30 miles west of Grand Rapids.
Enjoy the city with a mug in hand as you…
Toast the Town
In May, Grand Rapids won the esteemed Beer City USA poll for 2013. If that’s not enough to convince you that this locale is a “hopping” sensation, consider the nearly 100 unique brews crafted here. Your mission? Sample as many of them as you can. The perfect place to begin your assignment is the iconic Founders Brewing Co. Recently voted the third-best brewery in the world on ratebeer.com, this German beer hall–themed hangout offers more than a dozen of its creations on tap. (We recommend the Rübaeus raspberry ale.) Continue your quest at Grand Rapids Brewing Co., which debuted last year on the 79th anniversary of Repeal Day. End the tour by raising a glass of chocolatey Triple Crown Brown at the baseball-inspired Mitten Brewing Company. Bottoms up!
Stella’s Lounge Sharpen your karaoke skills every Sunday night at this rousing hangout, or savor the award-winning burger and 200 varieties of whiskeys while taking in the show.
Karla’s Place Satiate your inner shopper at this charming boutique in Holland (30 miles southwest of Grand Rapids), which is filled with handmade pillows, picture frames, wine glasses, jewelry, and quirky gifts.
HopCat Keep the rounds coming at this lively bar, which offers 48 taps and more than 200 bottles—and don’t forget the beer-battered “crack fries.”
Still eager to get your feet wet? Then…
Go Beach Hoppin’
If sandy beaches don’t spring to mind when you think of Michigan, it’s time to get to know it a little better. The state’s west coast is speckled with beach communities fronting Lake Michigan, each with its own personality. Take to the open water in Grand Haven, a port where you can embark on shipwreck dives and fishing excursions, or head 20 miles south to Holland, a historically Dutch town where windmills and a wooden-shoe factory prove the heritage is still intact. To spark your creativity, drive another 30 miles down the coast to the twin communities of Saugatuck and Douglas, both full of artists’ galleries. After browsing, choose your method of relaxation: unwinding on Saugatuck Dunes State Park’s calming beaches or exploring its 200-foot-tall dunes.
Getting There Fly into Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR).
Getting Around If downtown is your destination, walking is a cinch. For further exploring, renting a car is your best bet. Check out the airport’s website for a complete list of transportation options.
Getting Out Flock to the American Quilter’s Society’s annual contest, held August 14-17, to browse booths filled with fancy fabrics and more.
Watch This To see some of our adventures come to life, visit our YouTube channel, SWASpiritMagazine.
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