July 13, 2017

What to Do, Where to Stay, What to Eat in the Grand Rapids Area

Tips for the best places in the Grand Rapids area to eat, stay and play!
I recently had the chance to visit the Grand Rapids area like we did in the fall. We were invited to check out the renovations that the Residence Inn Grand Rapids West completed since our last stay there and decided to make a family trip around it.

Troy's dad and step-mom joined us and it was Oliver's first vacation staying in a hotel. We had the most wonderful trip and I cannot wait to return again.

We visited Grand Rapids, Comstock Park, Grandville, Fennville and Saugatuck during our trip which are all within ~45 minutes of Grand Rapids. We stayed in Grandville and went out for most of the day and had some rests during the day for Adalyn.

When we first got to the area, we went right to John Ball Zoo which I love! It is not huge but has lots of fun extras like a petting zoo, where you can feed the birds on a stick, a zipline, a train that you can stand up and ride and more. We had so much fun and my in-laws enjoyed it as well. We packed a picnic so we could eat right there.

Adalyn loved petting a turtle, petting the goats, running around and seeing the monkeys the best.

After the zoo, we checked into our hotel: Residence Inn Grand Rapids West. The renovations were very modern and the room was amazing. They provided us with a two bedroom suite which was incredible for us since we have two young kids. Adalyn had her own room, Troy and I shared a room and Oliver slept in his rock 'n play in the closet- haha. There were two bathrooms in the suite, a full kitchen and a living room. We could have stayed there for a month and been happy.

I love the modern glass shower and the bed was very comfortable. This hotel has the best hotel breakfast that we have been to- we loved the oatmeal bar, eggs with salsa and cheese, sausage, waffles and more. This time, we had the opportunity to use the pool and hot tub which are outdoors and were closed last time- the pool was so warm it was like bathwater. Adalyn loved it!

The staff was very helpful and the place was clean. In the evening after the kids went to bed, we had my in-laws over in the living room and had some wine and chatted. Our hotel room was so big that there was plenty of room for everyone!

That evening, we visited Amore Trattoria for a delicious Italian meal. We all left stuffed. The best thing that we tried had to be the Involtini which was like an eggplant parmesan. The sauce was so fresh and flavorful. We split a couple of salads and the guys got the lasagna soup which we all enjoyed. The other stars of the meal were the gamberetti which is shrimp in a spicy sauce and the burrata which is mozzarella filled with cream, fresh tomatoes and crispy toasts.

At the end of the meal, we had a nice bite of dessert: a delicious raspberry dessert covered in edible pink glitter. How fun! All of the food was so fresh and flavorful. A really nice touch about the restaurant is that the owner Jenna walked around the whole meal and talked to all of the customers- what a nice touch!

The next morning, after a nice breakfast, we headed off to our old stomping grounds: Fennville. If you have been reading this blog for many years, you may remember that we used to live there. We have extremely fond memories of our time there and love to visit every couple of years. We visited our old home which was a great trip down memory lane.

Then, we went to my favorite beach in the world: the beach in Fennville, MI. There is never too many people there which is amazing compared to the beaches in Saugatuck which are always packed.

The beach is so, so beautiful and I wish we had beaches that awesome near us. We went on a walk on the beach and Adalyn had a bunch of fun jumping through the stream.

Next, we went blueberry picking at Crane's Orchards. The blueberries were only $1.50 a pound and were super plentiful on the bushes. Adalyn and I are fruit queens and loved it so much. I highly recommend stopping there for fruit picking- check their website for what is in season.

Giant root beer barrel in Saugatuck!
My mother-in-law loves going in little shops so I knew that she would love browsing around in downtown Saugatuck. I love the feel of the city and always have fun visiting the shops around there. We used to do this all the time when we lived there.

Right outside of downtown Saugatuck is a restaurant called The Farmhouse Deli in Douglas. We ordered a variety of dishes to share. Troy's Dad enjoyed the turkey club, I got the pork bahn mi, Troy got the belly buster and my mother-in-law got the farmhouse chop salad. We also got a big salad to share. For an appetizer, we got the stuffed vegetarian grape leaves which were affordable and so delicious. I love grape leaves.

The restaurant was really cute. It is setup where you can grab food to go or eat it there. There are a bunch of refridgerators where you can grab a drink, salads, cheese and more. They have lots of baked goods, soups, deli salads and much more. I want to go back and try a bunch more of the items.

Afterwards, we went to one of my favorite places in the area, Mt. Baldhead. There are a ton of stairs to walk up (something like 212 I believe) and then about a 1/2 mile down sand dunes to the beach. It is definitely an activity for a fit group of people.

Troy easily convinced my in-laws to go and I'm so excited he did. We took turns wearing the kids and felt like warriors after doing so. My mother-in-law said that this was her favorite part. It was definitely an adventure for sure!

Gorgeous outlook once you get to the top of the stairs
We arrived at Oval Beach from our hike and swam in the lake. There were a ton of waves and I had so, so much fun swimming. This was my favorite part of the trip. Jumping in the waves and being like a child was just what I needed.

That evening, we went to dinner at Atwater Brewery in Grand Rapids. What is interesting about this is that we live within walking distance of Atwater in Grosse Pointe and were excited to visit another one of their three locations. They were a lot busier than expected so the service was slow but the staff did everything that they could to make our experience the best it could be.

The vegan buffalo wings were so amazing! They were crispy pieces of breaded cauliflower with just the right amount of spice. We also tried the pretzels, some of the hot dogs, pizza and more. My mother-in-law enjoyed a bloody Mary and Troy and my father-in-law enjoyed a couple of Atwater's beers.

The sweet tader sally salad was great with smoky bacon, dried cherries, spinach, apple, caramelized sweet potato and a cherry mustard vinaigrette. I need to recreate this! Yum! Atwater Grand Rapids specialty is their small hot dogs which are so cute! We all tried at least one. I got the falafel which I really liked.

The next day, it was raining which almost ruined some of our plans but luckily by mid-morning, the rain stopped!! We got to visit Grand Rapids Children's Museum which is just the best for kids. I wish we had one like it nearby. There is so much for kids to do. They can learn science, they get to play different roles, play with groceries in a grocery store setting and more.

Adalyn is definitely a dietitian's daughter because she loaded up her cart with mostly fruits and veggies. She kept filling it higher and higher until it overflowed and then stuck some down her top- haha.

Our final stop of the trip was Frederik Meijer Gardens and it was my third time there. My in-laws had never been and they both said it was amazing.

I love how it is divided into a farm center, Japanese gardens, children's gardens and more.

If you visit the Grand Rapids area, I highly recommend checking this out! This time, we visited the boardwalk area which we had never seen before and got to see tons of frogs! Each time, it is a new experience and there are new things to see. I love it!

The trip was fabulous and we had almost no problems during the it. I am typing this up the next day after we returned and am feeling a little sad to be back home after so much fun. Visiting the west side of the state of Michigan is so beautiful, especially in the summer. The beaches are like no others, the food is great and there is a ton to do. Until next time west Michigan!

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary hotel stay, meals and activities. All opinions are my own.

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