Featured in a Pure Michigan commercial that aired on national television, Grand Rapids’ art, festivities, food, attractions, and stunning skyline embody the heart of Michigan’s finest travel destination (http://www.grbj.com/articles/77007-video-grand-rapids-stars-in-national-pure-michigan-commercial). Located a mere thirty miles from the sandy shores and popular summer hotspot of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan is the perfect vacation scene for the family, couple, or solo traveler. And as the second most populated city in Michigan, its streets are flowing with different peoples, cultures, and new experiences.
The list of Grand Rapids’ cultural locations and annual events is endless: Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids Public Museum, John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum… (http://www.experiencegr.com/things-to-do/attractions/?gclid=CIOZh5zlw7gCFchaMgodYwwA_g). But every great city has museums, every great city has music, every great city has parks and zoos and five-star restaurants. It isn’t the interactive museums and gorgeous nature parks that set Grand Rapids apart; it isn’t the intricate architecture and the buildings that scrape the sky, although Grand Rapids is home to all of that. For sixteen years I have resided in Grand Rapids and have encountered most of what it has to offer, and have visited other great cities as well: New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Denver. The one aspect of Grand Rapids that defines it as Grand Rapids and as the finest travel destination, in my opinion, of the continental United States is its sense of community.
The youth of Grand Rapids gathers together every Tuesday evening at 7 PM for swing dancing at a public outdoor venue in the heart of downtown, Rosa Parks Circle, which becomes an ice skating rink during the winter months. ArtPrize is the collaboration of the entire community to produce art to be displayed throughout the downtown area, for friends and families to view as they spend an afternoon together traveling down the clean streets of Grand Rapids. But the most spectacular community event occurs at 10:30 PM on Independence Day each year, with the fireworks display, to which my friends and I had an unparalleled view.
The Amway Grand Plaza: a twenty-nine story glass tower hotel over the renovated Paintlind Hotel of 1913 overlooking the Grand River. The top floor: a spiral staircase to a mini-lobby and a private party room, surrounded on all sides by slabs of enormous, spotless glass panes. The view: at least five bridges crossing the Grand River, all of downtown, and the thousands of residences within the city. 10:00 PM: every bridge, except one, packed tight with onlookers from one month to ninety years old; the sky ablaze with city lights and the bunches of fireworks popping up in every direction from the residential areas in the outskirts of the city. 10:30 PM: the bridges are muted, the conversations are dead as the first firework worms its way up from the uninhabited bridge and explodes, marking the beginning of twenty unforgettable minutes. After ten minutes of red and green and blue and yellow and orange projectiles slicing through the night sky, a waterfall of golden sparks pours over the bridge, continuously for the remaining ten minutes. With massive fireworks that erupt from the sparks of preceding fireworks, and explosions beyond number in every corner of the Grand Rapids skyline, my eyes strain not to blink for fear of missing a single firework. As I look down on the fireworks from the highest point in the Amway Grand Plaza, I know that I will never see anything like this again. Grand Rapids truly is grand.
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