Host City and State
Our hosts have put together lists of the best, tastiest and most awe-inspiring places that you just have to see while you’re here.
Experience Grand Rapids
Experience a city Expedia calls “Super Cool” – bursting with art and culture, overflowing with beer and craft beverages, filled with food and dining adventures, and packed with endless outdoor recreation opportunities.
This is Grand Rapids – a metro region of one million residents located in the western lower half of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It’s one of the Midwest’s favorite warm-weather playgrounds, thanks both to its super-cool reputation and its super-comfortable summer weather.
The city is just 30 minutes from Lake Michigan, a vast body of water that moderates the West Michigan climate – keeping us cooler in the summer. That makes it a perfect setting for ESTO 2020!
Art & Culture
Don’t miss Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the world’s 100 most visited art museums. Six additional museums are located within a 10-minute walk of each other in the city’s bustling downtown, along with 80 public art pieces, dozens of live-music venues, three theatrical stages and two movie theaters. One of the nation’s oldest zoos – home to nearly 2,000 animals – is a five-minute ride away. Culture Pass GR lets you visit the area’s top attractions at a considerable discount.
Beer and Craft Beverages
Grand Rapids has been voted Beer City USA, Best Beer City and Best Beer Scene by beer lovers across America. There are 80+ breweries on our Beer City Ale Trail – and one of them, Founders Brewing Company, is hailed as America’s #2 Craft Brewery by Zymurgy, an industry magazine. (Zymurgy also lists four Founders brews among America’s Top 10 Craft Beers.) Visit eight Ale Trail breweries to become a Beer City Brewsader® and earn a free t-shirt. Numerous transportation options let you get around safely and easily.
Beer isn’t the only beverage we do exceptionally well – try our coffees (and our coffee classes), our spirits (Travelocity named us a Top 10 Craft Spirits Tourism Destination) and our award-winning hard ciders (made with apples grown right here on our Fruit Ridge).
Food and Dining
The Lake Michigan micro-climate produces one of the world’s finest growing regions – and fresh, local ingredients are a staple at 800+ restaurants and food trucks throughout the city (100+ eateries in downtown alone!). The Downtown Market food emporium hosts two restaurants and 20+ artisan food vendors – and it’s one of 50+ delectable destinations on the self-guided Grand Rapids Food Trail. Still hungry? Visit close-by farm markets for a selection just-picked (or pick-your-own) fruits and vegetables.
Grand Rapids is where big city meets big country. You can hike or bike, fish, canoe, kayak and golf within five minutes of downtown – and there are dozens of additional trails, rivers, lakes and golf courses within 30 minutes. Take a video tour of our Grand Outdoors for a glimpse of favorite local activities.
Tap into Grand Rapids insider information and share your Grand Rapids adventures on Twitter and Instagram with #ExperienceGR.
Ten Things That Are Pure Michigan
1. Great Lakes
Michigan spans two inland peninsulas and is the only state that touches four out of the five Great Lakes. That’s a lot of large water. It’s also why the state is known as the Land of the Inland Seas. We simply call it The Great Lake State.
Art in all of its one-of-a-kind glory is what ArtPrize is all about. This Grand Rapids bi-annual festival is the most-attended public art event on the planet. It lasts for 19 days, takes over the town, attracts over 500,000 visitors and is free for everyone to enjoy.
Sipping season is a year-round pastime in Michigan. And for good reason. The mitten is the fourth largest grape-growing state in the country. It’s home to over 140 wineries, 150 tasting rooms, and bottles more than 2.7 million gallons of wine annually.
They say life’s short. So we say eat cherries. Harvesting over 90,000 tons of cherries each year, Michigan is the nation's leading producer of tart cherries. It’s also home to the National Cherry Festival that dates back to 1925.
Known for automobiles, it may come as a surprise to learn that Michigan is considered the #1 trail state in the nation. But with the largest rails-to-trails system in the country, 12,500 miles of hiking, horseback riding, ORV and more, it’s easy to see why.
At 3,288 miles, Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline in the country. Inland, there are more than 11,000 lakes. Which means that no matter where you are, you’re never more than six miles from a body of water. It’s also why we say no salt, no sharks, no worries.
7. Beer City, USA
Beer is essential to any great state. So naturally, Michigan ranks 5th in the nation with about 330 breweries. More than 80 of those can be found on the Grand Rapids Beer City Ale Trail. Anointing the town with the high honor of being voted Beer City, USA.
8. The U.P.
Connected to Michigan’s Lower Peninsula by the roughly 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Its 8.8 million acres of pristine forest is magnetic second only to the people who live there, lovingly known as Yoopers.
Michigan is the nation’s 2nd most agriculturally diverse state in the nation. Which means what’s served comes with a generous use of fresh ingredients from nearby farms, forests, waters and orchards. In other words, from hot spots to square pizza, Michigan-made has never been more delicious.
If music feeds your soul, come hungry. Michigan is home to the world’s largest free jazz festival, the world’s longest-running dance music event and one of the most highly sought-after music festivals in the country. Combine that with countless lounges steeped in history, tucked-away intimate indie venues, not to mention Detroit’s gift to the world as the birthplace of techno and of course Motown, your choices are pretty tasty.