Grand Rapids Adventures

Grand Rapids Adventures

A Family-Friendly Guide to Unforgettable Experiences

We had dear friends visiting from Washington State this past week. They had made stops in St. Louis and Chicago before coming to Grand Rapids to see us and the town we call home. Alli and Devin, traveling with their kids aged 10 months and 2.5 years, were excited to explore a part of the Midwest they had never seen before. And I couldn’t wait to show them what makes Grand Rapids so special.


If you have kids, you understand that your vacations often revolve around their schedules: when they need to eat, sleep, and ensuring activities will be enjoyable for them, while also helping them maintain composure when their normal routines are disrupted. So, instead of adding stress to the trip by over planning and attempting to squeeze in what I perceive as must-see or must-do activities, we spontaneously crafted plans that worked for both us and the kids.

The result?

We had an absolute blast.


Here’s a recap of our low-stress, low commitment (and relatively low cost) experience entertaining friends with little ones:


Frederik Meijer Gardens:

This was undoubtedly the highlight of our trip, appealing to all age groups. We timed our visit during the Butterfly Exhibit, allowing us to leisurely explore the botanical gardens while admiring butterflies and keeping our children in check as they explored the paths. Our senses were treated to the symphony of bird calls, the sensation of warm, humid air contrasting with the outside weather, and the graceful flight of butterflies amidst tropical greenery. The carnivorous plant room and the perennial garden were particularly popular among our group. Knowing that we could visit at any time during their open hours made it the perfect attraction for our group.

Dinner at Donkey Taqueria:

Donkey turned out to be a stroke of genius. While I enjoy exposing my daughter to different experiences like any parent, the thought of dining out with a baby can be daunting. The prospect of taking three small children to a restaurant seemed utterly daunting (we're newbies), until the idea of dining in the igloos at Donkey Taqueria surfaced. The kids would be contained in these delightful outdoor bubbles, allowing us to enjoy a delicious meal at a beloved GR restaurant without causing frustration for other patrons. It was a win-win situation for everyone! We had a delightful meal, impeccable service, and created lasting memories within our cozy dining bubble.


One of the many aspects that make Grand Rapids special is the quality and abundance of our playgrounds. I appreciate the unique features of each one and the sense of community they foster daily. We introduced our friends to Wilcox Park and Cherry Park, the two closest to our house. Despite the cold weather, the kids had a fantastic time, and it was the perfect way to tire out the toddler before her flight home. If the weather had been nicer, we could have enjoyed a picnic lunch and extended our stay. Both Wilcox and Cherry Park offer splash pads and public restrooms, making them ideal hangouts on warm summer days.

Downtown Strollin':

We decided to park downtown to explore the Maker’s Market at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase the GRAM! If only we had known the Children’s Museum was open on Sundays (I highly recommend checking their hours beforehand), we would have included it in our plans. Afterward, we indulged in a quick treat at Kilwin’s and briefly visited the Amway Grand to marvel at the magic of the Pantlind Lobby, with its charming fountains and dazzling crystal chandeliers. Finally, it was time to pick up some takeout and head home with the kids for lunch and naps.





Two Beards Deli:

As a devoted sandwich enthusiast, stumbling upon Two Beards Deli was a delightful find, and I knew my foodie friend had to experience it too. While I aspire to explore their full menu someday, for now, it's all about the Grilled Yeti. This spot gets incredibly busy during lunchtime, and rightfully so—their sandwiches are simply delicious. It's definitely worth the wait, but be sure to plan ahead if you have kids eagerly awaiting their lunch!


Furniture City Creamery:

Grand Rapids offers several excellent options for ice cream, and one standout near our house is Furniture City Creamery. They boast an array of exciting flavors, house-made waffle cones and sauces, and even cater to vegan preferences. If you're seeking an alternative to ice cream, I highly recommend trying the delicious popsicles at The Black Napkin, just a few blocks away.


In addition to the Children’s Museum, I would have loved to find time for a visit to the playground at Millennium Park, attend story time at the library, go swimming at the YMCA pool, and visit the Everyplay Cafe. There’s an abundance of fun activities to explore in this city, and it might take a few more visits from our friends to experience all the magic GR has to offer, both with and without kids. Stay tuned for part two of this list, titled “Grand Rapids Adventures: A Family-Friendly Guide to Unforgettable Experiences; Summer Edition.”


-Kate Goldman

Grand Rapids House and Home

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