With its median age of 31.5 — seven years younger than the national average of 38.9 — Grand Rapids, Michigan, thrives with youthful energy. The city’s vibrant atmosphere is matched by various attractions catering to families, making it an appealing destination for both residents and tourists.
In 2022, Grand Rapids welcomed 21.1 million visitors, with more than 9 million lodging overnight. Of those, a third were children under 18, demonstrating its growing reputation as a family destination. Their response to this trend is a wide array of activities with the younger crowd in mind.
“Families traveling to the Grand Rapids area can choose from museums for play and learning, art and cultural attractions, a downtown zoo, and easy access to outdoor recreation and activities,” says Janet Korn, Senior Vice President of Experience Grand Rapids. “These activity choices combined with great lodging, food and beverage options, and convenient travel options make a trip to Kent County a great get-a-way destination for families.”
With 197,858 residents, Grand Rapids stands out not only for its younger demographic but also for its commitment to being a welcoming, family-friendly city.
Exploring Downtown: A Clean, Walkable Experience
Grand Rapids sets a high standard for urban cleanliness, distinguishing itself from many other cities. Its downtown area, in particular, is notably well-kept, fostering an atmosphere that encourages families to get out and explore.
The historic Amway Grand Plaza Hotel mirrors the city’s commitment to cleanliness and walkability. It offers luxury accommodations a short stroll away from award-winning museums, scenic parks, diverse dining, and boutique shopping. The hotel’s central location not only places visitors within easy reach of Grand Rapids’ main attractions but also ensures a pleasant, walkable experience through the city’s well-kept downtown area.
Wide Range of Interests and Offerings
Grand Rapids hits the sweet spot for families looking for a getaway that’s as dynamic as it is relaxing. The range of activities combines relaxation with educational opportunities, appealing to leisure seekers and curious minds.
Family itineraries vary widely, allowing each visit to be customized according to individual interests and preferences.
Family Time at Grand Rapids Museums
If “Beer City” comes to mind first when thinking of Grand Rapids, you’re not wrong, but you might also be surprised to learn how active the city’s museum scene is. Families have solid options to add to their itinerary, with six popular museums in the downtown area.
“The Public Museum in Grand Rapids is one of my favorite places to visit with kids,” says frequent traveler Alex Caspero. “It’s usually less crowded than the nearby children’s museum and features a historic carousel from the 1920s that’s free to ride with admission. Kids can dig for dinosaur bones, explore a replica 1890s street, and conduct science experiments. The Planetarium shows are a must, depending on what time you visit.”
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is also located downtown and welcomes more than 100,000 visitors annually. Rodney Blunt, a traveler who recently visited the museum, said, “The Ford Museum surprised me in several ways. Not only was it so well done and much larger than I expected, but I learned more about President Ford than I ever knew.”
Moreover, the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, a short drive from downtown, is among the world’s top museums. It merges the beauty of natural landscapes with the intrigue of sculpture art. To enhance the museum-going experience, families can purchase the Culture Pass, which provides access to multiple museums and cultural sites across the city at a reduced rate.
Proximity to Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan’s beautiful sandy beaches are less than an hour from downtown Grand Rapids. For many families, these beaches alone are a compelling reason to make the trip. Oval Beach in Saugatuck and Holland State Park are popular choices, as is Grand Haven State Park. These beaches rival many of the best in the world.
Another popular water activity near Grand Rapids is navigating a vintage or donut boat (aptly named for its unique shape) from Retro Boats in Saugatuck. This leisurely two-hour self-guided tour along the Kalamazoo River embodies the relaxed charm of Michigan’s waterfront lifestyle.
John Ball Zoo
Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo is another favorite destination for many families visiting the area. While smaller than other zoos in the country, it has more than 2,000 species represented.
“John Ball Zoo is one of our family’s favorite zoos — and we’ve been to many zoos in the U.S. The location is convenient, and the layout is conducive to a day of exploring the many animal habits and enclosures. Add in the special events throughout the year, and it’s a family-friendly destination worth visiting time and time again!” says Ashley Pichea, a mom of five.
Family Fun at the Ballpark
For a slice of Americana, families can enjoy the spirit of local sports with the West Michigan Whitecaps, a family favorite for a classic ballpark experience. Grand Rapids also supports the Grand Rapids Gold G League NBA basketball team, and the Griffins AHL in hockey, offering year-round athletic excitement for all ages.
The connection between community and recreation is clear in Grand Rapids, with local sports teams drawing families into the city’s energetic fold.
Along with a diverse offering of museums and natural attractions, this positions Grand Rapids as a destination that caters to all interests and ages, making it a home run for families vacationing in the area.
This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Karee Blunt is the founder of OurWovenJourney.com, a travel blog focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.