Were you aware that Grand Rapids, Michigan was known as Beer City USA? I sure didn’t, until this past month when I spent three days there exploring the lovely city and its breweries.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of when Grand Rapids earned the prestigious title of Beer City USA through a nationwide poll, so it only seemed fitting to be there for my first time during this special anniversary.

Brewery Vivant beer tasting
Cheers at Brewery Vivant

A Weekend in Beer City USA

My trip began at the Grand Rapids airport, aka. the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. It was a small, quaint airport located just twenty minutes from my hotel. It was easy to navigate and reminded me a lot of my now-home airport in St. Louis.

See all the things we got into while in Beer City USA below:

Where to Stay in Grand Rapids – Amway Grand Plaza

Location: 187 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Amway Grand Plaza Exterior
Amway Grand Plaza exterior. Credit: Amway Grand Plaza

The Amway Grand Plaza is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating only the finest historic hotels in America. Needless to say, it’s a hotel with a rich history worth visiting even if you aren’t staying there. Discover Amway Grand Plaza’s story of transformation here.

Pantiland Lobby Interior
Pantiland Lobby. Credit: Amway Grand Plaza

Amway Grand Plaza Highlights:

  • 5 restaurants, including an upscale steakhouse and a Starbucks
  • 24/7 room service
  • A 9-minute drive from the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (featured below)
  • 24/7 business center
  • Spa, sky-lit fitness center with a pool and 2 hot tubs
  • Boutique shopping

Breakfast / Brunch at Little Bird

Location: 95 Monroe Center, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Little Bird Grand Rapids, MI

I’m normally not a huge breakfast person, but when I travel I tend to look for popular places to grab a bite before setting off on my daily adventures. Our first meal in Grand Rapids was at Little Bird, a classic cafe that serves up unique fare, crafted cocktails, and housemade fountain drinks.

We were at Little Bird to experience their brunch menu, and let me tell you it was a great way to kick off our Beer City USA trip. From the recommendation of our waitress, I went with Little Bird’s Soft Scramble, one of the dishes they are most known for. It featured seasonal vegetables, crème fraiche, red pepper pistou, young gouda, cabbage slaw, and scallion. So delicious!

Little Bird Soft Scramble - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Little Bird’s Soft Scramble – Seasonal Vegetables, Crème Fraiche, Red Pepper Pistou, Young Gouda,
Cabbage Slaw, Scallion

Pizza and Beer Flights at Mitten Brewing Co.

Location: 527 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Mitten Brewing Co. Grand Rapids, MI

My trip to Grand Rapids was a world of firsts, apparently. I’d never heard of a pizza flight until I experienced the glorious fare at Mitten Brewing Co. This was our first brewery stop, and what a way to kick off a Beer City USA trip. Located in historic Engine House No. 9, The Mitten is a vintage baseball-themed microbrewery/pizzeria with a focus on community involvement and charitable giving.

Pizza will always be a “last meal” type of food for me, so naturally, I was excited when they filled our table with various pizza flights. Just look at this selection!

Pizza flight at Mitten Brewing Co.
Pizza Flight at Mitten Brewing Co.

What better way to wash down pizza than with a good beer or two? We picked the brains of Mitten Brewing Co. founders, lifelong friends Chris Andrus and Max Trierweiler, over a variety of beer flights. No joke, this might have been my favorite lunch this year.

Mitten Brewing Co. beer flights

Take a Tour of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Location: 1000 East Beltline Avenue NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI

I try to visit museums wherever I travel to if time permits. In Grand Rapids, we had the pleasure of taking a tour at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Named after its founder Fred Meijer, an avid collector of sculptures, and his wife Lena Meijer, a green thumb who lived and breathed horticulture.

Fred Meijer and Lena Meijer portraits
Fred Meijer and Lena Meijer portraits

After 13 years of planning and fundraising by the West Michigan Horticultural Society, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park opened in April 1995. Just five years prior to its grand reveal, Fred & Lena Meijer were approached by Besty Borre for their support, which as the name suggests, they were in!

This top cultural destination in the Midwest has seen an astronomical amount of foot traffic and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The non-profit organization is privately funded through grants, foundations, and individual and corporate gifts. Through successful funding, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park have been able to employ nearly 200 full and part-time staff, as well as receive generous help from more than 850 active volunteers.

If you find yourself at this wonderful cultural must-see destination, I highly recommend you take one of their sculpture tours.

Keith Haring sculpture at Frederik Meijer Gardens
Keith Haring sculpture

Pasta Making Class at The Local Epicurean

Location: 1440 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Learning how to make pasta at The Local Epicurean in Grand Rapids, MI

I consider myself a pretty good cook but ashamed to admit I’ve never made homemade pasta before. Did I mention I have Sicilian heritage, too? Eek!

On our last night in Grand Rapids, we took a cooking class at The Local Epicurean where we made our own pasta, pasta sauce, Caprese salad, and more! The glorious salad photo you see below is mine. Hungry yet?

Made a Caprese salad from scratch
My Caprese salad creation

The entire experience at The Local Epicurean from start to finish was top-notch. Our chef that tended to our group was an absolute blast and really patient with us. I don’t know if you have ever dined with media before, but let’s just say there were a lot of videos and photos being taken. The class takes place in an industrial-style kitchen that can host far more than what our group consisted of.

You can watch some of what we experienced in the cooking class in my TikTok video. Make sure you follow me over there!

The Local Epicurean doesn’t just host private cooking class dinners. They’re an entire shop that features homemade pasta and practically everything else you could want to make a wonderful dinner at home. Definitely worth stepping inside even if you aren’t taking one of their classes.

Grand Rapids Events

There are three things I look for when I’m researching a new place to visit: food, booze, and events. Sometimes all three align together and then magic happens. Here are a few annual Grand Rapids events I have my eyes on for future trip planning:

  • LaughFest (usually in March)
  • Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids (usually in June)
  • World of Winter (January – February)
  • More Grand Rapids events here.

A huge thanks to the Grand Rapids, MI tourism team for putting together such a wonderful trip. Keep an eye out for more articles about Beer City USA coming soon.