If you’re new to the Festival, or especially if you’ve been attending for years and haven’t taken the opportunity to step off campus, we hope you’ll consider exploring our friendly city. Over the last several years, Grand Rapids has seen a boom in openings of serious coffee places, craft breweries and distilleries, and restaurants with menus that venture well beyond hamburgers.

Online travel sites list and rate many of the established favorites of the Grand Rapids restaurant scene, but they can’t keep up with the crop of fine newcomers. Keep scrolling for links to some of our favorites, both familiar and new.

The addition of shops and restaurants in recent years has enlivened certain neighborhoods and corners. Nearest to the Calvin campus, you’ll find Gaslight Village, the tidy downtown of East Grand Rapids beside Reeds Lake, once home to an amusement park and summer resort and now the site of a walkable collection of shops, restaurants, and a waterfront library. It’s a little over two miles from campus, so either a 45 minute walk or a very short drive.

Head farther west and you’ll reach Eastown, which is full of funky stores, restaurants, a hot-yoga studio, and many casual dining options. Nearby Wilcox Park and Aquinas College offer great spaces for stretching your legs.

Wealthy Street offers a variety of restaurants and boutique shopping options, including Stoffer Home. The Cherry Street corridor is a popular destination for diners looking for full food and drink menus and warm pubs. Find one of our favorite independent booksellers on Cherry Street, serendipitously near both an ice cream shop and a European style beer hall.

Most of the information you’ll find about Grand Rapids online covers the immediate downtown, including the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Public museum, and the grand main building of the public library. If the weather allows, you might consider walking a loop from the art museum, across the Blue Bridge, along the footpath in front of the Grand Rapids Public Museum and back across the Pearl Street bridge. Along the way you’ll pass a carousel, and you might see a person or two reeling in a big steelhead or trout from the river. 

Not to be missed: the Downtown Market, an indoor food hall, greenhouse, and restaurant space; MadCap, a local coffee roaster with a national reputation; and Founders, a prime destination for craft beer aficionados.

Art & Nature

Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park A striking integration of gardens with fine art located just up the East Beltline. Here you'll find more than 200 works scattered across a 158-acre campus complete with a Japanese Garden, children's playground, and beautiful walking trails.

Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) 
Located in the heart of downtown in a distinctive, modern building that was among the first LEED® Gold certified museums, the collection focuses on American and European 19th- and 20th- Century painting and sculpture and more than 3,000 works on paper.

Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives Honoring the lives, culture, and accomplishments of African Americans from Grand Rapids including Al Green, Marvin Sapp, and Helen Claytor.  

Lake Michigan Some of the country's most beautiful beaches are about 30 miles west of Grand Rapids along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Favorite access points include Kirk Park, Grand Haven, and Saugatuck. 

Bookstores & Gifts

Baker Book House Located a hop, skip, and a jump from Calvin’s campus, featuring a large selection of new and used Christian books—plus overstocks from Baker Publishing Group imprints—and a comfy coffee shop that's open late. 

Books and Mortar A proudly progressive, consciously curated, and fiercely independent neighborhood bookstore, plus there are dozens of amazing macaron flavors just next door. 

Schuler Books Started in 1982 by a couple of Grand Rapidians with a passion for connecting writers and readers, Schuler Books is one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores and also boasts a full-service café featuring salads, sandwiches, soups, and more.

We Are LIT We Are LIT is an independent, multicultural bookshop selling new, diverse books across all genres. Its inventory is hand selected to connect readers of all ages to their interests through thoughtfully curated books.

Rebel Reclaimed Giving gifts is just as much fun—maybe more fun—than receiving when you shop at this cute boutique jam-packed with luxe greeting cards, quirky jewelry, home goods, and attitude. 

Art of the Table One-stop-shopping for the very best in gourmet goods, wine, and tableware.

Local Transportation

How, you might ask, can I get to these places? The Rapid, the city’s extensive and recently upgraded bus system, takes passengers from Calvin University to downtown Grand Rapids via the Eastown/Woodland line, as well as in a loop around downtown on the new, free Silver Line. See their website for route planning and further information. In addition, as in many cities, ride share services are readily available and popular.  Better still? Gather a group of Festivalgoers and explore together.