In our quest to seek out new adventures, Justin and I wanted our mini-moon to be in locations new to us. So after we left South Haven, we headed to Grand Rapids. I had been to visit friends a few times in the popular west Michigan city but never spent much time exploring, and it was new to Justin. I always wanted to visit the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park so that cultural icon was our primary destination. We hadn’t realized that it was the last weekend for ArtPrize, an art competition open to any artist and voted on by the public. It’s a pretty cool concept with big prizes.
We checked in at the Homewood Suites by Hilton. The hotel is a bit outside of the downtown area but that worked in our favor as it wasn’t as crowded and still located close to the gardens. We were pleased with our suite. The living room, kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom were all spacious. We took advantage of the exercise room, getting in some cardio and weight training. A variety of hot breakfast foods (waffles, eggs, sausage, etc), baked goods, fruit and yogurt was offered on Sunday.
The Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is 132 acres containing gardens, wetlands, woodlands and meadows. More than 160 pieces in the indoor/outdoor collections earn it the reputation as one of the most important sculpture collections in the United States. There are also galleries displaying changing exhibits and areas for dining, shopping and relaxing. And we’re lucky to have this amazing gem in Michigan! When we arrived at the gardens, the temps were crisp but the rain had stopped. Throughout the exterior of the entrance and the gardens, fall decorations created a festive environment.
We first explored the indoor gardens. The Arid Garden displays plants able to survive in the driest climates. The Carnivorous Plant House is the only publicly displayed plant exhibit in the country dedicated exclusively to carnivorous plants, with the Venus flytrap being the most popular of course. I loved walking through the Tropical Conservatory, which is designated as the largest conservatory of its kind. There is something peaceful wandering through tropical plants from five continents of the world, hearing waterfalls, and seeing exotic birds. During our visit, the annual Chrysanthemums & More celebration was in full bloom, providing an extensive chrysanthemum display with hundreds of flowering plants in both interior and exterior areas.
One of my favorite exterior gardens was the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. There are many hands-on activities, such as digging for fossils in the Rock Quarry or sailing a boat in the Great Lakes Gardens or exploring the Treehouse Village. It’s called the Children’s Garden but adults will definitely enjoy wandering through the area too!
After we left the Children’s Garden, I practically skipped to the sculpture park, anxious for THE sculpture I’ve been dying to see in person. Those who know me well won’t be surprised to learn my giddiness was due to seeing The American Horse. This 28-foot bronze sculpture by Nina Akamu was amazing. Not only is the size impressive, the details of the horse’s muscles and hooves were so authentic. I was disappointed when Justin told me we probably couldn’t have it for our backyard. But then we spotted Akamu’s other horse sculptures – two different Homage to Leonardo, one standing at 8 feet and the other 15 inches. I decided I would settle for one of these bronze sculptures in the future (ha).
We toured the rest of the Sculpture Park, enjoying many of the pieces, tilting our heads in confusion at others (art is definitely an objective enjoyment). As I mentioned earlier, ArtPrize was in the final days so we were fortunate to see many pieces still on display at the gardens and at various locations in Grand Rapids. I’d love to visit in the summer when the gardens are at their most exquisite.
We wanted to check out a local brewery for dinner/drinks so chose HopCat on Ionia Street. It reminds us of Clubhouse BFD, one of our favorite locations in Rochester Hills. HopCat has an extensive beer menu, from their own craft beers to statewide and national. They don’t offer flights, which was a bit of a bummer as we wanted to try several! The food was good. It was a busy night in downtown Grand Rapids so the people-watching was awesome.
While our stay was short in Grand Rapids, it was sweet and we both enjoyed our trip to the west side of our great state. We’ll go back!