Your Family Travel Guide for Grand Rapids, Michigan

Family fun is a smooth road trip away. Grand Rapids has captivating art discoveries, fun dining experiences — and nature! Ready? Let’s go!

Grand Rapids is a family-friendly road trip destination that is quick and easy to get to. For its museums, green spaces and art-city vibe alone, Grand Rapids is worth being on your family travel bucket list.

Add in festivals and a real commitment to art in its many forms and Grand Rapids elevates to a must-visit destination.

Our guide comes from extensive research, insider knowledge and an eye for what families really want from a road trip vacation. Be sure to check out our recommendations for museums, family attractions and festivals!

Why visit Grand Rapids?

Grand Rapids, 30 miles east of Lake Michigan features a lively art scene, highlighted by its Art Museum and abundant murals. It’s also a craft-beer paradise with many, many brewery options and earning accolades as “Beer City USA.” The food, events and festivals, and proximity to Lake Michigan attract pleasure-seeking travelers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. 

Grand Rapids Artprize
Grand Rapids Artprize. Photo Credit: Nick Irwin/ Experience GR

The city’s reputation as a place to enjoy art means there are awe-inspiring destinations like the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. During ArtPrize in September, the city transforms into a massive art gallery, with installations and exhibits scattered throughout its streets, parks and buildings. 

For hiking and biking along the Grand River to kayaking or paddleboarding on its currents, outdoor-loving families can find plenty to love in Grand Rapids. Nearby parks such as Millennium Park and the Fred Meijer River Valley Trail are serene settings for picnics, birdwatching and family outings.

After a day of adventure and with a family that’s hungry, Grand Rapids’ diverse dining scene offers an array of cuisines, venues and fare. Whether you’re craving artisanal pizza, gourmet tacos or vegan delights, you’ll find it all. 

How to get to Grand Rapids

From Detroit to Grand Rapids is about 160 miles and two and a half hours in your Ford SUV. From wherever you are in metro Detroit, connect to I-96 and head west directly to Grand Rapids. 

Starting from somewhere else?

  • From Battle Creek: take I-94 west to US-131 N. From Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids is a straight shot north on US-131. 
  • From Chicago: take I-94 east to I-196 north. It’s just under three hours.
  • From Flint: take I-69 west to I-96 west.

Unplanned traffic and construction might cause delays, so be sure to use your Ford SYNC app to get the ideal route.

Looking for a nature break along the journey? We’ve got you covered with a few fantastic suggestions for leafy stops off of I-96. Whether you’re craving a scenic picnic lunch or a chance to escape the boredom of the car, we’ve got just the spots to unwind and reset:

  • Provin Trails park is the perfect place to take a short (or long) nature hike. Located conveniently close to Grand Rapids, this heavily wooded sanctuary provides a swift nature getaway before your hotel room is ready. Interconnected natural trails entice hikers to explore its sandy-floored forest. 

Grand Rapids Provin
Grand Rapids Provin. Photo Credit: Experience GR

  • Howell Nature Center in Howell offers a range of wildlife exhibits and nature trails, making it an ideal midway stop to stretch your legs during the road trip to Grand Rapids. 
  • Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge offers beautiful natural scenery, hiking trails, picnic areas, and the unique experience of exploring the ledges, which are ancient sandstone rock formations. It’s a perfect spot to take in some fresh air before continuing on.

Where families like to stay in Grand Rapids

Does your adventure include unique places to stay in Grand Rapids that offer a variety of charming and family-friendly accommodations? Here are four suggestions for you:

CityFlatsHotel Grand Rapids’ eco-friendly hotel offers stylish and contemporary accommodations in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids and within walking distance of many family-friendly attractions. The hotel considers itself to be family friendly and kids stay free.

Grand Rapids Cityflats
Grand Rapids Cityflats. Photo Credit: CityFlatsHotel

The Amway Grand Plaza hotel in downtown Grand Rapids features a range of family-friendly modern comforts, such as a restaurant, indoor pool and onsite spa. Located along the Grand River, there’s a convenient skywalk that offers access to Van Andel Arena and other popular downtown destinations. So you don’t have to leave your furry friend behind, the hotel even offers pet-friendly rooms.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown is known for its large suites with fully equipped kitchens, perfect for families who don’t want to eat out for every meal. The hotel also offers a free hot breakfast and a swimming pool and is pet friendly.

SpringHill Suites Grand Rapids North is conveniently located near popular family attractions like the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and the Grand Rapids Public Museum. The hotel’s suites are spacious and families enjoy the heated indoor pool, complimentary breakfast and pet-friendly accommodations.

These hotels often receive positive reviews for their family-friendly atmosphere, amenities, and convenient locations. However, it’s a good idea to check recent reviews and availability before making a reservation, as preferences and rankings can change over time.

The best family food choices in Grand Rapids

When it comes to dining in Grand Rapids, you’re spoiled for choice! Whether you’re craving award-winning pizza or satisfying your brunch cravings, there’s something to please every member of your family. 

The Mitten Brewing Co. features a vintage-baseball theme and for eats, try their award-winning pizza, such as a traditional Margherita or a slice of Hog Heaven with chipotle BBQ and house-smoked pulled pork.

From build-your-own poke bowls to Mexican street food Grand Rapids Downtown Market features a whopping 17 indoor food merchants to make each hungry member of your family happy. 

Grand Rapids Downtown Market
Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Photo Credit: Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Experience the delights of The B.O.B. (Big Old Building). On the venue’s second floor is Bobarino’s Pizzeria Americana, which has build-your-own pizza, cooked in a wood-fired oven. While you’re there, exploring scrumptious options like the smoked-brisket cacio e pepe or chicken gnocchi. There’s a kids menu with all the favorites, plus some more unusual finds like a veggie burger.

From kid favorites like grilled cheese to adult favorites like honey glazed salmon, the menu at Founders Brewing Co. is extensive and should satisfy every palate. For Mom and Dad, the brewery has been ranked among the top in the world by Ratebeer.com since 2006.

Grand Rapids Founders
Grand Rapids Founders. Photo Credit: Founders Grill

Sundance Grill fixes your brunch cravings with French toast and churro pancakes. The restaurant also offers lunch and dinner with Southwest-inspired dishes. 

Indulge in the charming ambiance and delicious fusion of American, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine of Rose’s on Reed’s Lake. “Great food, great staff, great atmosphere. Always,” writes a Tripadvisor reviewer.

Grand Rapids Rose's
Grand Rapids Rose’s. Photo Credit: Rose’s on Reed’s Lake

Looking for more to do in Grand Rapids? Don’t miss our picks for hot-spot attractions, popular museums, and festivals. 

Content brought to you by Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers. Learn more at buyfordnow.com. Find more articles like this at Metro Parent’s Ultimate Family Road Trip Guide.

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