Exploring Grand Rapids Public Museums
Justin and I returned to Grand Rapids last weekend for a special beer release at Founders Brewing Co. and to explore a bit more of the downtown. We arrived to a full house at Founders but found a table to share with two random guys who happened to be from metro Detroit too (small world!). After a good lunch and tasty beer, we headed to our next destination: Grand Rapids Public Museum.
The museum is located at the Van Andel Museum Center, across the street from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum we visited two weeks ago. I thought the admission fee was affordable – $8 for adults and discounts for children, students ($3) and seniors. Planetarium shows are additional ($3), as are carousel rides ($1) and special exhibits (varies on exhibit). There is a $5 parking fee (structure across the street is convenient).
This isn’t a very intellectual sounding way to describe a museum but overall I thought the museum was ‘friendly,’ meaning the exhibits at the entrance were colorful and inviting for guests of all ages to read and explore. Past the lobby, you initially walk into a three-story, glass-walled, open floor plan. The museum experience reminded me of a combined Greenfield Village, Cranbrook Institute of Science and Detroit Historical Museum – exhibits that replicate the streets of a historic city; fossils, minerals and other science intermixed throughout the various floors; and model storefronts and other exhibits that
take guests back in time.
Throughout the museum, you’ll see letters of the alphabet correlating to a specific themed exhibit (F is for fossils, H is hats, U is for USA and so on). Collecting A-Z highlights many unique artifacts. It’s a fun way to engage visitors and encourage exploration of the entire museum.
The Streets of Old Grand Rapids exhibit lets you wander through a 3/4 scale detailed re-creation of the city in the 1890s. There are 11 shops featuring actual businesses that display real merchandise from that era. While we weren’t alive during that time period, it was interesting to see how different life was then. I’m sure our ancestors would both marvel and cringe at the technology and product advancement.
We didn’t know that Grand Rapids was dubbed “Furniture City” because it was the first place for mass-produced furniture in North America. The exhibit, The Furniture City, displays furniture made from the 1840s – 1990s in Grand Rapids. It also shows a model of a factory, where a volunteer was demonstrating how to make wood furniture parts with real 19th century factory machines. The exhibit was under construction so some areas weren’t completed. It will be the largest museum exhibit when finished. Fun facts to learn!
There are many other exhibits to see at the museum. The Habitat exhibit takes visitors through several models of environments found in Michigan, as well as displays of numerous animals (none alive!). A special exhibit showcases the impact people in Michigan had on the Civil War, and Great Lakes Shipwrecks: Storm and Stories shares stories of survival, heroism, tragedy and discoveries found in the wrecked vessels at
the bottom of the Great Lakes. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is open at the Grand Rapids Public Museum through July 7, 2013. We didn’t have time to add this to our schedule plus it’s an additional admission fee. It sounds really fascinating.
We were happy to have the extra time to visit another museum and explore Grand Rapids. It’s a great city and I look forward to heading back someday.