A few years ago I convinced a friend that it would be beneficial (it was not) to travel from Ann Arbor to the west side of Michigan for an expo related to our work. But one of the highlights of the trip came when we were just beginning to approach Grand Rapids:

It’s always been a great (grand?) city, but it has been consistently getting cooler and cooler over the past couple of decades, and now it’s an all-around awesome place to visit. Luckily, now you’re all in the know: It’s time to visit Grand Rapids. Here are some of my favorite spots to visit:

Where to Eat

Did you know that in the U.S., Michigan is second only to California in terms of agricultural diversity? AND, that West Michigan produces over three-quarters of all crops harvested in the state? Needless to say, farm-to-table restaurants abound in Grand Rapids.

Grove: They are serious about responsibly sourcing their ingredients from local, sustainable farms and businesses (like Food52 favorite, BLiS). They’ve been named a top restaurant not only in Michigan but also in the Midwest. Grove is on the fancier side, so if you’re looking for a more casual experience, head across the street to The Green Well, a gastropub in the same restaurant group.

Terra: Another restaurant with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients, this is a great spot for lunch, dinner, or a weekend brunch—plus they have a good happy hour. I’m a big fan of the Gazelle Salad (green lentils, toasted farro, vegetables, walnuts, and a cumin vinaigrette) and their Beet Margarita, the latter of which I love so much, I had to try and replicate it.

Osteria Rossa: A not-too-fancy Italian-inspired restaurant with the “Warmth of the Mitten, Soul of the Boot. If I still lived in town, it would be my ideal neighborhood restaurant: they have local beers, hand-crafted cocktails, a just big-enough wine list, and the food is consistently superb. You won’t go wrong with the wood-fired pizzas or house-made pastas—just don’t miss out on a side of wood-roasted mushrooms.

Marie Catrib’s: I like Marie Catrib’s best for breakfast or lunch, though you can get dinner here, too. They have an extensive menu with something for every type of eater, plus they have a packed deli case and shelves full of baked treats if you’d rather take your food to-go.

What to check out

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park: With indoor and outdoor gardens and galleries, you could easily spend the better part of a day here and just begin to scratch the surface of what the facility has to offer, so check the website to map out a few highlights before you go. I’m particularly excited about this summer’s addition of a Japanese garden with a Zen-style rock garden and an authentic Japanese teahouse.

The Fish Ladder Sculpture: On any given day, you’ll get a lovely view of the Grand River and downtown from here. If it’s the right time of year, you’ll realize this is a functional sculpture—you’ll get to watch migratory fish like salmon or steelhead use the fish ladder to move upstream.

Meyer May House: I’m a sucker for anything Frank Lloyd Wright-related, and if you are too, take advantage of the opportunity to tour a meticulously-restored Prairie house for free. I’m especially partial to a wall of windows in the living room because it’s a spot where Wright tailored the house to this client: Most people will find themselves looking at the wood moulding, rather than out the windows, but Meyer May was short in stature, so they were perfectly sized for him.