Grand Rapids Offer Museum Magic
Updated: Aug 24
Published in The Battle Creek Enquirer
To battle March cabin fever, a road trip to Grand Rapids is an excellent antidote. Very few cities of this size can offer five museums within a few blocks of downtown and lots of choices for a tasty lunch or early dinner. Let me give you a quick run down of the choices for a very-full day trip.
The modernistic Grand Rapids Art Museum built its new building in 2007. At the time, it was the first “green” museum in the United States. Their collections range from the Renaissance to Modern Art, with a special focus on 19th and 20th century European and American art. Until April 17th, you can see a special exhibit of rarely-exhibited 20th century ceramics, tableware, jewelry, textiles, bookbinding, and graphics, called “Women, Art, and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise.”
If you have children in tow, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is the place for you. The Museum offers interactive experiences that keep hands and minds challenged and occupied. The building has a long expanse of plate glass so you can look in on all of the fun. On a recent trip, the children we were with enjoyed an exhibit called “Little GR.” In this exhibit, they could see Grand Rapids at their scale, including a Fox Motors auto service center, Chemical Bank, Bistro Bella Vita Jr., a Meijer grocery store and the Grand Rapids Public Library Lending Library.
Being a kid at heart, I love to ride the giraffe on the 1928 hand-carved Spillman Carousel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, right on the Grand River. Founded in 1845, it is one of the oldest history museums in the United States. You can while away a number of hours stargazing at the Chaffee Planetarium on the second floor.
The Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts offers its visitors an opportunity to interact with contemporary art in a variety of mediums. Right now, you can see a wonderful show featuring established and emerging Michigan artists. It’s called “Coming Home.”
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum isn’t open until June 7th, but there will be lots of time left in a summer of electioneering to plan a visit and to get a sense of Michigan’s own (and the nation’s 38th) president.
All this art and culture fun makes me hungry. There are lots of restaurants downtown, including one of my favorites, Angel’s Thai Café. It’s a simple, small place where I start off with a bowl of Tom Yum made with mushrooms, green onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, tamarind and chili paste. The Bangkok Chicken is another good option — a breaded chicken breast stir-fried in a tangy Thai sweet and sour sauce and served on a bed of broccoli.
Another great choice has an odd name, the Electric Cheetah, but that is the only thing that is odd. What I love about the Cheetah is that the menu offers two polar opposite choices: The Marconi Zone, featuring their seven-cheese house blend pasta and The Green Zone, where you can choose The Health Hutt with quinoa, lentils, wilted spinach and seared salmon. I’ve tried both, and they are equally delicious.
If you are in the mood for a pub atmosphere, visit the Green Well Gastro Pub on Cherry Street, where craft beer can be paired with tasty, upscale pub food with a locally sourced healthy flair. The cold weather prompted me to order the Cherry Street Pork Posole, which features slowly braised pork served in a tomato broth with hominy. I love the sides of tortilla chips and guacamole on this dish.
In Grand Rapids, you can feed your soul with art and history while indulging your hunger with a wide range of tastes.