Grand Rapids is a beer tourist’s Mecca. The area boasts more than 40 breweries, and has been voted Beer City USA in various national polls. Accordingly, we spent most of our time there walking around town and checking out breweries. No running, no hiking on this stop!
We stayed at Woodchip Campground, about a 15 minute drive from downtown. It was pretty empty while we were there, which was great because the campsites are small and tightly packed, but since we had no neighbors we had room to spread out a bit. The internet was good and the campground offers lots of playtime options like basketball, a pool, a great playground (with pull up bars for those inclined to work off some beer calories) and a bouncy jumpy mattress thing. Looking at their website, I see that they ramp up their summertime offerings, with scheduled activities and goodies like root beer floats! Sorry we missed those, but I’ll trade a hundred root beer floats for a sparsely populated campground.
Exploring Grand Rapids
A great way to get introduced to a new city is to look for self-guided walking tours from the visitors center, historical society, or similar group. We did two in Grand Rapids: a brief jaunt through downtown, and a longer, really enjoyable trek through Heritage Hill, the architecture district, boasting “Michigan’s largest and finest collection of 19th and early 20th century houses.” The highlight of the walk was the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meyer May house, which is open for tours a few days a week (unfortunately, we didn’t get to tour it).
We also walked around the artsier and slightly grittier Eastown neighborhood, just wandering on our own un-official walking tour. It’s full of coffeeshops and bars, and seemed like a fun area to return for nightlife, but we were too spent after our days of exploring to come back at night.
Getting to a relatively big city was exciting because it meant we could get sushi! We’d been craving it for weeks (since Moab?) and the sushi carryout from Maru hit the spot. We also had a fresh and seasonal dinner at Brewery Vivant; we sat on the patio, but the inside of the pub is unique. It’s a restored historic funeral home, dark and full of stained glass, with a bar in the chapel area at the back.
Grand Rapids has a Trader Joe’s so we restocked our freezer and pantry for the homestretch, and ate most of our Grand Rapids meals at home.
J made his usual thoughtful brewery remarks here. We visited (only) four breweries in Grand Rapids (we felt like underachievers); the highlights for me were:
- Peppercorn beer at Brewery Vivant–it was really good, light and refreshing with a little peppercorn zing at the finish.
- Tasting the cream soda beer at Elk Brewing. It did in fact taste just like cream soda… which doesn’t translate really well into a beer. But it was neat to try.
- Visiting the enormous Founders brewery. Because it’s so big, it didn’t have the character that smaller tasting rooms tend to have, but they make J’s current favorite everyday beer, so it was fun to make the pilgrimage there.
All three of those breweries have dog-friendly patios!