Best of Grand Rapids: Venues

By Vicki Arkoff, September 26, 2019

Grand Rapids is filled with venues that meld history with current events and culture. Find some venues to explore when in town for Connect Faith here. Remember, all are available for private rentals.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

This official presidential museum is also the burial site of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, and first lady Betty Ford. Exhibits include hundreds of artifacts from the Fords’ personal collection. Interactive rooms invite visitors to attend a White House state dinner and explore the Oval Office—with no security clearance needed.

Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives

GRAAMA exhibits a 100-year civil rights timeline from Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation through the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom featuring Martin Luther King Jr.’s exalted “I Have a Dream” speech.

Grand Rapids Art Museum

This modern architectural landmark houses collections ranging from Renaissance to modern art, with a focus on 19th and 20th century European and American paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and photographs. Highlights of the 5,000-piece collection include notable artworks such as Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ingleside” (1963). Admission is free on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Part of the Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, UICA is a multimedia venue for contemporary visual arts, gallery talks and artist receptions. Changing exhibitions feature regional, national and international artists, and the 195-seat theater screens independent films and documentaries six days a week.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Fascinating, hands-on discoveries are everywhere in this award-winning science, history and culture museum. One of the oldest history museums in the United States, it was founded in 1854 as the Grand Rapids Lyceum of Natural History. The museum now includes the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, a cafe, a gift shop and a 1928 Spillman carousel in its own pavilion over the Grand River.

La Grande Vitesse

This enormous 1969 sculpture by Alexander Calder is more than the iconic landmark of Grand Rapids: It was the first public artwork funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Literally translated as “the grand rapids” or “the great swiftness,” the bright red, 42-ton city masterpiece is known simply as “The Calder” by locals.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Stroll or ride a tram to take in the beauty of autumn at this 158-acre botanical garden and open-air sculpture park—one of the nation’s finest—featuring 50 works by renowned artists such as Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Roy Lichtenstein, George Segal and Richard Serra.  

John Ball Zoo

Walk on the wild side at this charming zoo that more than 200 international species call home. Zookeepers inspire visitors with conservation programs and natural environment efforts, and entertain with a funicular, zip line, high ropes course and more. The Forest Realm Trail takes you to the wolf, grizzly bear and tiger exhibits, and don’t miss the Living Shores Aquarium with tide pools and a 40,000-gallon kelp forest tank.

Werkman Outfitters

This local company offers a unique urban fishing experience catching smallmouth bass, northern pike and steelhead trout from guided charter boats on the Grand River. The fully licensed program supports Michigan’s wild fisheries. Book ahead for daily guided tours for up to six anglers from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pro Tip

Your $24 ticket to explore the best of Grand Rapids’ cultural attractions includes admission to the John Ball Zoo, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives, Grand Rapids Art Museum, UICA and more.

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Grand Rapids is filled with venues that meld history with current events and culture.

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