1. It’s Okay To Go To Church And Have A Beer
Inspired by Southern Belgium and Northern France, Brewery Vivant is a local brewery built inside of an old funeral chapel. So it's not EXACTLY a church, but when you enter the pub, you still feel as if you’ve stepped into a monastery… except there are no monks, simply delicious beer.
Which is no surprise, as Grand Rapids has been named Beer City USA for the second year in a row. People in Grand Rapids appreciate good beer and fine breweries, which is why they’re so prevalent (and award-winning) here.
2. Once You Eat At Yesterdog, You’re A Fan For Life
Yesterdog has been a local favorite in Grand Rapids since the ‘70s. It’s so iconic that it got a nod in the movie “American Pie” as the popular restaurant hang out “Dog Years.” Yup, they’re basically on the big screen.
The crazy ordering process doesn’t faze the people of Grand Rapids, in fact some may even look forward to it. You must order your hot dog first. If you don’t, you may be yelled at ala “Soup Nazi” style. After hot dogs you may proceed with your drink order and then chips, if you’re so inclined. Get your food and then seat yourself. Maybe it doesn’t sound that ridiculous now, but once the tourists get in there it definitely is.
Maybe they’re not the best hot dogs you’ll ever have, maybe they are. Once you’re a fan, you’re a fan for life and nothing will compare. It doesn’t matter what your favorite is, Yesterdog reminds you of East Town Grand Rapids and you wouldn’t change it for anything.
3. The Irony That There Are No Rapids In Grand Rapids
In the early 1800s, rapids flowed wildly from Sixth Street to Wealthy Street and once boasted a free-flowing fall that was nearly 18 feet high.
Over time, the river’s appearance was changed as companies harnessed its power for over 100 years and more and more dams were put in place. The natural rapids ceased to exist as the river’s natural flow was disrupted by the dams and boulders and gravel were removed for construction along the river.
Though the namesake rapids no longer exist, a group in Grand Rapids is working to put the rapids back in the Grand River. Grand Rapids WhiteWater is in the preliminary stages of restoring the rapids, which includes increasing the sturgeon population while lowering the some of the dams. Their intent is to create a river that can once again be used by all.
4. Downtown Is Alive, Happening And Downright Awesome
When the downtown is voted the coolest city by a magazine, you know Grand Rapids is doing something right.
Maybe it’s the LipDub video put on by the city or maybe it’s the fact that it was voted the most sustainable mid-sized city (they have the highest amount of LEED certified buildings per capita in the United States).
It could be the Start Garden—a place that works to turn ideas into businesses by creating an ecosystem in which they can flourish. Perhaps it’s the Avenue for the Arts, a district of art galleries or the abundance of craft breweries.
Whatever it is, the people of Grand Rapids know it to be true.
5. Nothing Beats Local Eats
Whether you call it farm to fork or farm to table, the end result is the same–restaurants making a commitment to serve only the best and the freshest using locally sourced ingredients.
With more than 17 different restaurants offering dishes prepared with local ingredients, like Grove or The Green Well, it’s obvious that Grand Rapids is full of fresh-loving foodies who know the best meal is served up sourced from the farm next door.
6. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Is The Most Gorgeous Place On Earth
Whether it’s beating the winter blues with some pretty fauna and pleasant temperatures or attending one of the summer concerts, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a premier location for the people of Grand Rapids to unwind while stimulating their senses.
With so many exhibits, awe inducing sculptures and amazing horticulture, Grand Rapidans know the beauty here is simply unsurpassed.
7. The Berries Here Are So Much Sweeter Than Anywhere Else
The surrounding area of Grand Rapids is a rich farming land that is just perfect for apples, blueberries and peaches.
With more than 22 local farms in the county where you are able to pick your own deliciously fresh fruit, like everyone’s nearby favorite, Sandy Bottom Berries, this is an area that knows that fruit is better served up locally. Preferably from your fingers while in the field.
Apples, blueberries, strawberries and/or peaches, the options are ripe for your picking depending on your palate. An added bonus for those without access to these farms? This means that the farmers markets are full of outstanding produce-especially plump, juicy fruit.
8. Art Is For More Than Just Museums
Home to ArtPrize, an international art competition named one of the world’s top five festivals by “Time” magazine as well as various other art festivals, Grand Rapids is a bustling mecca for both art and artists. But it doesn’t stop there.
They’re the only city in Michigan to have a professional ballet company, their symphony has been around since the ‘30s and they have more than 10 separate theaters for performing arts. It’s safe to say that the live music and performance art scenes here are just as large as some of the sculptures entered into ArtPrize.
9. Just Because You Lean Right Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Lean Left Once In A While
Southwest Michigan has historically been the most Republican location in the state, with a large population located in Grand Rapids. Having a large Dutch descended Calvinists and Catholic heritage in the area helps to lend some understanding to that history.
That being said, the city itself tends to elect Democrats, like their current state house representatives. What does this mean? That though it was once a largely conservative area, it is getting a little bit more liberal as time goes on. There may be some lively debate from time to time, but wouldn’t life be boring without it?
10. Shutting Down Anyone Who Suggests Demolishing Heritage Hill Because It’s The Heart Of Grand Rapids’ History
Heritage Hill is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country and Grand Rapids’ first neighborhood. This beautiful neighborhood is full of historical homes that boast nearly every architectural style, including one by Frank Lloyd Wright.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s the residents of Grand Rapids rallied together to prevent the city leaders from tearing down the neighborhood, who were doing so in an effort to make Grand Rapids more urban.
Truly a sense of pride, the people of Grand Rapids love this little pocket of history amongst an urban, city landscape. The architectural tours allow you to catch a glimpse into the Victorian era with homes that are so well preserved many feel they are being transported back in time. It’s a surreal experience to explore such a historic neighborhood amongst a city landscape.
Did we miss anything? Tell us what's unique about Grand Rapids in the comments below!