How To Spend A Really Awesome Weekend in Grand Rapids Michigan



Michigan. The mitten state. When you think about Michigan you might not think of culinary diversity but you would be wrong. Many towns in Michigan actually feature some of the best food in the Midwest. Located just about a three-hour drive from Chicago, Grand Rapids is one of those places we wanted to explore.

We’d like to thank Experience Grand Rapids for hosting our visit to Grand Rapids. We also received the Mazda CX3 to test drive on our road trip from DriveShop. As always, all opinions are our own and reflect our experience.

We had heard that Grand Rapids was known as “Beer City USA” for all the local craft breweries in the area but after just a little research we learned that it has so much more to offer.

Let’s Hit The Road

Mazda CX3 in Park
Mazda CX3 in Park


We jumped in our shiny new Mazda CX3 from Drive Shop and shouted “Road Trip!” One of the great things about living in Chicago is that there are so many wonderful road trip destinations within just a few hours.

The CX3 is a compact crossover vehicle that is perfect for a road trip. It’s really sporty and has all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a new car. We really appreciated the Mazda Radar Cruise Control that practically drives the car for you. The Active Driving Display keeps you keenly aware of the speed limits and your speed. Safety is an important part of your drive and you can be sure that this vehicle has you covered.

Let’s Eat! 

The three hours sped by while we listened to tunes from the 60s and 70s, as well as the weather and the news. We love listening to all kinds of entertainment on our trips and the Bose audio system in the Mazda CX3 sounds great. With SiriusXM satellite radio you can find something for everyone!

Our first stop in Grand Rapids was for lunch. We were craving a burger and we’d heard that The Cottage Bar & Restaurant had a special burger aptly named the “Cottage Burger.”  In fact, it’s so good USA Today even listed it in the 51 Great Burger Joints.

This 1/3 pound beef patty is served on a dark rye bun, topped with green olives (unusual but really good), Swiss and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, BACON!, and their special hickory mayonnaise. Let’s just say we were off to a delicious start.

Cottage Burger Grand Rapids Michigan
Cottage Burger Grand Rapids Michigan


Let’s Relax

Now to check into our home base for the weekend. Our host hotel was the Amway Grand Plaza part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. From the moment you walk into the gorgeous and expansive lobby, you know you’re in for an extra special stay. Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids the Amway Grand Plaza is truly grand and perfect for weekenders to make the most of their stay.

This historic hotel erected in 1913 is a member of Historic Hotels of America®. The weekend we were visiting happened to be the final weekend for the amazing annual ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids.

Art Prize Grand Rapids River Installation
Art Prize Grand Rapids River Installation


ArtPrize is a unique event that lasts 19 days every fall. It’s free and open to the public. The unique art competition accepts applications from anyone who wants to submit their work.  There are prizes awarded by public vote and also by a jury of art experts. The art is placed extensively throughout the city in galleries, restaurants, bars, museums, public parks, bridges, vacant storefronts and office spaces. The idea is to encourage visitors, art lovers, students, families, just about everyone there to explore the limitless possibilities that art and artists represent.

Throughout our weekend we saw many groups of people from all over strolling the city and enjoying the art. It’s a great way to see the city, experience culture, meet new people and share ideas with others.

If you’re an art lover, plan your visit to Grand Rapids around this wonderful event that attracts some 500,000 visitors.


Amway Grand Plaza Curio Collection by Hilton Grand Rapids
Amway Grand Plaza Curio Collection by Hilton Grand Rapids


The Amway Grand Plaza had many works from ArtPrize displayed throughout the hotel. In fact, the Public Vote Grand Prize Winner of $200,000 “A. Lincoln” by artist Richard Schlatter, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln created completely out of pennies was on display in the lobby.

Art Prize Winner Grand Rapids Abraham Lincoln
ArtPrize Winner Abraham Lincoln Portrait by artist Richard Schlatter.


Beer Me!

We mentioned earlier that Grand Rapids calls itself Beer City, USA. USA Today readers voted and named Grand Rapids Best Beer Town and Best Beer Scene. So you know it’s legit. They have a Beer City Ale Trail that covers more than 60, yes that’s 6-0 breweries!

There’s even a Beer City Brewsader Passport. If you collect 8 stamps from these breweries you get your very own exclusive Brewsader t-shirt! Check out the details at  There are beer tours that cart you around from brewery to brewery so you can really enjoy yourself without having to worry about driving or anything else.


Beer City Ale Trail Grand Rapids
Beer City Ale Trail Grand Rapids


Although we didn’t get to all 60 breweries we did try quite a few local brews, some in incredibly unique and memorable places. For instance, have you ever thought of a funeral home as a great place to get a beer? Well, if it’s, Brewery Vivant then it certainly is that place. They serve Belgian style beer in what is now a fun and hip setting. This place was packed on Friday night so come prepared to sip a beer, chit chat and wait.

Cherry Street

The Brewery Vivant menu is a mix of French-inspired food and bar grub. Don’t miss the Crock O’ Pickles. These house pickled veggies make a wonderful snack with beer along with some tasty soft pretzel loaves. They also have a popular burger, steak frites, and even boar bourguignon.

Brewery Vivant Grand Rapids Food Travelist
Brewery Vivant Crock O’ Pickles and Beer Cheese with warm Bakery Pretzels.


While you’re there take some time to explore the neighborhood. Cherry Street has lots of cute shops, bars, and restaurants to check out. Right across the street from Brewery Vivant is Green Well. It’s a great place to grab another local beer (they have quite a list) and something tasty to eat.

The menu has everything from appetizers to full plate dinners. Honestly, the menu was so terrific we had a difficult time selecting what to eat. It’s an international feast of choices. Brazilian, Indian, Cuban, German, Mediterranean, lots of veggie dishes and classic burgers, salads and soups. We had the mussels which were excellent. The tomato, garlic and spinach made this taste almost like a Caprese salad. We also and the tasty chicken and waffles.


Michigan Beer Mussels with tomatoes caramelized onions roasted garlic and spinach Green Well Grand Rapids
Michigan Beer Mussels with tomatoes caramelized onions roasted garlic and spinach Green Well Grand Rapids

Sweet Endings

After all that if you’re hankering for something a little sweet walk back across the street to Le Bon Macaron. They have an interesting selection of flavors like Marie Antoinette cake batter, cassis, yuzu, and champagne plus all the traditional flavors you would expect. A full coffee bar, tea selection and hand-crafted French and Italian sodas will quench your thirst.


Le Bon Macaron Grand Rapids
Le Bon Macaron Grand Rapids


More Beer

Another popular spot to try some local brews is Founders Brewery. They have a huge facility, restaurant, and bar. If you visit when the weather is nicer you’ll get to take advantage of their outdoor patio. It’s lots of fun, very crowded on a warm night and a great place to hang out, try some beer and grab some food.

Founders Brewery Grand Rapids
Founders Brewery Grand Rapids


We had a couple of sandwiches which were really good but what really had us oooing and ahhing was the cheesy garlic bread. Don’t miss it!

Founders Brewery Cheesy Garlic Bread
Founders Brewery Cheesy Garlic Bread


Grand Rapids Downtown Market

One of the do-not-miss spots in Grand Rapids for us food lovers is the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. It’s filled with lots of shops and restaurants for all your interests. Be sure to plan enough time to stop in each stall and check out all the locals goods.

Some of the vendors in the Downtown Market are Fish Lads fresh and prepared seafood, Rocket Pies Bakery, Blue Spoon Pasta Studio, Carvers Grand Rapids Finest Meats, Madcap Coffee, Sweetie-licious Bake Shoppe, Pho616, Sushi Market and much, much more.

What makes the market even more special is that they offer cooking classes, seasonal markets and even have an Incubator kitchen for culinary entrepreneurs. It’s a full working area with all the bells and whistles from a catering area to production area and packaging area.

We’d also suggest you stop and ogle the bakery items at Field and Fire Bakery. They have fresh baguettes, croissants, cookies and more. Their chocolate financier is by far one of the best I’ve ever had.


Field and Fire Bakery in Grand Rapids
Field and Fire Bakery in Grand Rapids


Eating in the Downtown Market

If you’re looking to relax after exploring the market there are several sit down restaurants to enjoy. We tried Social Kitchen and Bar for breakfast and loved their “design your own” skillet for $12. You choose from a laundry list of sautéed veggies, sauces, meats, cheeses and how you’d like your eggs prepared. Don’t miss the Social bacon, which is a super-thick cut pork belly with a yummy bourbon vanilla glaze that arrives sizzling at your table.

Breakfast at Social Kitchen and Bar Grand Rapids
Breakfast at Social Kitchen and Bar Grand Rapids


Another spot in the Downtown Market we just adored was Aperitivo. It’s not only a full-service charcuterie and cheese counter but it also has some of the most knowledgeable cheesemongers in the business.

We had a chance to chat with co-owner Kate Leeder, a former Chicagoan and Sous Chef at noted restaurant NAHA and cheese buyer at Whole Foods. Kate brings her cheese expertise to Apertivo.

You can pick up cheese, meat and wine to create your own boards at home or kick back, relax and let them do the work for you. We had a lovely afternoon sampling some wonderful French cheeses recommended by Kate that we wouldn’t normally have access to.

If you just want to sit and have a sip or two you can also bring in food from one of the other food specialty spots in the market. They’re happy to serve you either way.


Apertivo Charcuterie Boards Grand Rapids
Apertivo Charcuterie & Cheese Boards Grand Rapids


If you need a break from all the fun-seeking, stop back at the Amway Grand Plaza and relax. The indoor swimming pool, fitness room, tennis courts and spa are at your disposal. After the rest get back out there! There’s a lot more to explore in Grand Rapids.

Indoor pool and spa at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Plaza
Indoor pool and spa at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Plaza


Heritage Hill 

We took a short spin over to the historical Heritage Hill neighborhood. If you’re architecture buff you will fall in love with this part of town that has everything from Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Greek Revival and even a Prarie Style house from one of our hometown favorites Frank Lloyd Wright.

After putting in some serious steps exploring you’ll want to discover a few places to rest a spell, have a coffee, tea or cocktail and think about what to eat next!

Mazda CX3 In Grand Rapids
Mazda CX3 In Grand Rapids


Neighborhood Eats 

There’s one corner of Grand Rapids that’s perfectly built for us Food Travelists. In just one block you can experience the Nantucket Bakery, Martha’s Vineyard wine and gourmet store and Martha’s Pizza.  Word of warning when you walk into Nantucket the intoxicating aromas will have you jonesing for everything you see.

Nantucket Bakery Grand Rapids
Nantucket Bakery Grand Rapids


Martha’s Pizza next to Martha’s Vineyard had some really original pizzas with unique ingredients. We had our eye on the Fairhaven, a veggie pie with fresh mushrooms, onions, red peppers, Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes.  They’re all ready to go by whole pie or by the slice.

Nantucket Pizza Grand Rapids
Martha’s Pizza Grand Rapids


Martha’s Vineyard is a full wine store with a ton of local brews too, but it seems more like a friendly corner store. This is a great place to pick up everything you need for a picnic. The pre-made sandwiches looked delicious!


Wait There’s More

Grand Rapids may be known as Beer City, USA, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the food scene is secondary. In fact, every neighborhood has its special places beckoning you to taste and experience. You can easily explore it all by following the self-guided Grand Rapids Food Trail, a handy guide to many delicious spots in Grand Rapids. You can use the guide to find markets, cooking classes, breakfast, burgers, donuts and even haute-cuisine.

If you’re looking for more suggestions, here are a few more recommendations that we found enjoyable too.

Schnitz Deli

Schnitz “World Famous Delicatessen.” We stopped by when they were just getting ready for the day so unfortunately we didn’t get to sample their traditional and unique deli sandwiches. But we’ve heard great things and they supplied the bread for our delicious French Toast at Real Food Cafe on the other side of town. Once we heard that we had to stop by just to check it out. It looks fantastic so we’ll be back!


Schnitz Deli Grand Rapids
Schnitz Deli Grand Rapids


Real Food Cafe

Our photo does not begin to do justice to this little gem in Grand Rapids. You guessed it, they serve really good food. Simple and fresh breakfast is a treat at this great spot. There are a zillion omelet and egg choices along with a whole host of expected and unexpected breakfast choices. A plus for me, a crazy tea drinker, they serve Harney and Sons tea!


reakfast at Real Food Cafe Grand Rapids Food Travelist
Breakfast at Real Food Cafe in Grand Rapids


D’Art Donuts

Billed as “donuts the way Grandma used to make” and they are not kidding. The recipe they use for their yeast raised donut has been in the family for five generations. That’s some serious donut cred. Their family has been getting up at the crack of dawn to make the donuts for decades.

We tried several of their creations but one of the more unique donuts was the mac and cheese donut, ooey, gooey, crunchy it’s an indulgence that’s worth trying!

Mac and Cheese Donuts at D'Art Donuts Grand Rapids
Mac and Cheese Donuts at D’Art Donuts Grand Rapids


Logan’s Alley

A terrific spot if you’re looking for a place to relax and try a few local beers. They have over 200 craft bottle beers and some yummy eats.  Be sure to try their famous smothered tots with Colby jack cheese, BACON!, sour cream and green onion. It’s a local favorite for Sunday brunch and a late night snack.


Logans Alley Grand Rapids
Logan’s Alley Grand Rapids


Happy Cat Cafe

If you are animal lovers like we are, be sure to stop in the Happy Cat Cafe. You can book half or a full hour and spend some time mingling with feline friends. You get your choice of beverage and for a few cents extra you can buy some treats or catnip to share. Happy Cat has an adoption program that offers an opportunity for those seeking a kitty to come and get to meet some furry friends and make a match that could lead to a forever home for a homeless feline and a new friend for life for you. But you don’t need to be looking for a fur baby to visit. In fact, many local students want to chillax a bit take a study break by enjoying the company of some fabulous pussycats and having a coffee with their furry companions for a bit.


Happy Cat Cafe Grand Rapids
Happy Cat Cafe Grand Rapids


Visit Grand Rapids

Although we gave you plenty of ideas for what to eat, see and do in Grand Rapids be sure not to miss the many other the attractions, museums and cultural events available in the city. GR has a symphony, opera, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and many other important museums.

We sure found a lot to keep our taste buds interested in while visiting Grand Rapids. We only wish was that we had more time and more room in our bellies for all the many options that surrounded us at every turn!  We’ll definitely need to make another trip to continue our eating explorations.

To plan your own trip to Grand Rapids be sure to visit for more information. 

Pin to your board for planning your next Midwest culinary destination




31 thoughts on “How To Spend A Really Awesome Weekend in Grand Rapids Michigan

  1. I love Grand Rapids. I was at the ArtPrize wand saw the penny Lincoln up close. It was so cool! There’s a lot to see and do there, and in some of Michigan’s other cities, too!

  2. Pinned. We share your enjoyment of Mazda, art, food, beer:) I wonder if I could find a new/old home for my mission furniture, since I’m mostly nomadic these days.

  3. Definitely pinned this. I spent part of my weekend in GR this past February. We did some of the things you listed here (Founders was a must, as well as Bells in Kzoo) and also a few others. Brewery Vivant was on my list but I didn’t get to it.

    You should try the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange next time you are here, too 🙂 it was a lot of fun.

    Unrelated, I too drove a white Mazda CX-3 recently … maybe even the same one you got from DriveShop, ha! Looks the exact same. Fun little car to drive. Here was my review, if you’re interested:

  4. You take the best food and beer photos. Did you really manage to consume everything you photographed in two days!?!?!?! My only visit to MIchigan was a layover at the airport in Detroit when that was a Northwestern Airlines hub. In other words, it’s been awhile and I’m not sure only walking around in the airport even counts as a bona fide “visit” to a state. You’ve certainly put Grand Rapids on the culinary map with this article.

    1. Michigan is such a beautiful state with so many highlights you should add it to your must-visit list. And yes, we did try everything we mentioned. Our trick is one we learned from a food writer in the business for many years. We literally just tasted everything. Most of the time! 🙂

  5. It looks like there is a lot I’d enjoy in Grand Rapids – architecture, art, craft beer, and all that yummy looking food.

  6. Now that is a good looking car, I definitely wouldn’t mind taking it for a trip myself and getting to see how it worked on the open road.

  7. Yum! That pizza looks so good. It’s making me hungry. My daughter is moving to Minneapolis and I’m looking forward to exploring the food in Minnesota too.

  8. This trip looks like a culinary success. We love seeing all of the dining options in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now we will need to add this city to our travel list. Thanks!

  9. I visited Grand Rapids many years ago; wow has it changed!! Thank you for so many tips for anyone visiting this city!!

  10. Oh goodness! This was so overwhelming with all the amazing food and wonderful places to see! It all started with the burger on rye bread for me! I would not know where to begin!

  11. My goodness! You sure ate and drank your way around Grand Rapids! I had no idea it was considered a beer destination! I’m sure I’d enjoy a visit. We drove thru there many, many years ago, but all the memories have faded.

    1. Didn’t have time to hunt out a chocolate shop but I’m sure they have one Doreen!

  12. This looks like a great car and a fun trip. I have never been to Michigan. But this trip looks like a foodie heaven! So many things I would love to enjoy! Thanks for a fun idea. HOpefully we can visit one day.

  13. I live right across the border in Windsor and I have a few friends who have actually moved from Windsor to Michigan (mainly Detroit). I can’t believe there are so many places to see, so many amazing restaurants and upcoming sights right across the border!

  14. Ooh Grand Rapids Michigan sounds too much fun! So much to do! We recently took a small trip out of town and it was a great experience!

  15. I have never been to Grand Rapids Michigan but I have a friend from there and I have always wanted to go. Looks like you could eat for days! I would like to check out this awesome car (Mazda CX3) that you were sporting! Looks like a fun weekend for sure!

  16. Sounds like you crammed a lot of great eating into your trip and even have an excuse to return: Schnitz’ Deli:-)

    1. LOL! You know we never get to taste everything, Irene. Good reason to return.

  17. Art Prize is a great time to visit Grand Rapids! It has such an energetic buzz during the art competition and the entries are really interesting to peruse. I’ve stayed a few times at the Amway Grand Plaza and had nice visits every time.

  18. It looks like Grand Rapids is a great place to see. So much to do. I think I’d be headed to the different bakeries throughout our stay. Everything looks delicious.

  19. The Mazda CX3 is gorgeous!! It’s everything I look for in a car! I love the spacious interior too and if I were to get one, it would definitely be that exact same color!

  20. So many great places and so many different amazing types of foods that you have there. I am getting hungry looking at all of them. I will have to remember these places if I make it back there. The penny portrait of Lincoln I have to admit is pretty amazing.

  21. Lots of yummy food and a sleek looking car is all I need for a great time too! Grand Rapids definitely looks like it has a lot to offer for the whole family!

  22. When we travel, it’s all about seeing the sites and eating the food. But mostly the local food. And shopping!

  23. I would be all over visiting the Happy Cat Cafe. I am a cat lover so that is right up my alley.

  24. If the Mazda CX-3 is anything like the MX-5RF or CX-5, then I’d say the driving experience was great! I drove the cars mentioned in San Diego, and I liked them a lot. The Cottage Bar and Restaurant burger you showed looks delicious, and I’m not a big fan of rye bread! Looks like lots of places to go and enjoy in Grand Rapids!

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