Monday, August 13, 2012

My Love - Hate Relationship With Grand Rapids

If you know me, as some of you do, then you know that I have never had strong feeling of love for the Grand Rapids area.  Now, I do enjoy the Lake Michigan coastline.  Fun times have been had in Traverse City, sipping wine and enjoying the sights around Leelanau, and Grand Haven will always be a favorite town.  But, as a student at Grand Valley State University in the early nineties, I was a very lonely girl.  At the time, GVSU was primarily a commuter campus.  My dorm cleared out ever Friday night.  Allendale was a long ways away from Grand Rapids and even GR seemed to empty out on the weekend.  The winters were cold and vicious.  Plus, I have always been a bit on the liberal side and I was one of only ten Student Democrats on campus.  I think there were about a 1,000 kids in the Republican club.  After two years, I said goodbye to my dear friends and completed my undergraduate degree at Michigan State University.  Go Green!!!

My only reason for staying at GVSU:  Two great friends!
About a year and a half ago, my husband suggested we take a road trip to the "west side."  We used a hotel in 28th Street as our base.  From there, we spent a day frolicking around the Tulip Festival in Holland and playing at the Frederick Meijer Gardens.  We even took a short trip to GVSU.  My children were hungry and cranky so we did not stay long.  While there, that all too familiar feeling of dread filled my belly.  I felt a longing to run into some old friends, but knew I had made the right choice to leave so many years ago.

Grand Rapids and GVSU are not the same places that they were in 1992 to 1994.  Just as I have changed, so have they.  Grand Rapids has boomed!!!  It is a pretty snazzy city.  So, when the my husband suggested we take another trip, I did not hesitate.

What spurred our visit to Grand Rapids was an exhibit at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.  The GRAM is hosting an exhibit called Cities in Transition.  As an urban planning junkie this was of great interest to me.  I saw some of Andrew Moore's photographs at the Detroit Institute Arts and they are beautiful.  Kevin, being the LEED Certified environmentalist, was really interested in the GRAM building. (Kevin started his own blog -and wrote a great post chronicling fun and concrete use in GR.)   The GRAM is the first LEED art museum in the world.  It is a very snazzy building - very modern looking, sophisticated.  Very quiet inside.  My kids are not quiet and sophisticated.  I felt mildly uncomfortable.  But, tucked away in the basement is a great room set aside for kids to do art projects.  The volunteers are very friendly and the projects are based on the Cities in Transition exhibit.

My kids learning about cities.
This chocolate milk rivals Calder Dairy's chocolate milk.
Thank you Grand Central Market and Deli.  Hope you enjoy our $2 bottle deposit.
We kind of needed a souvenir. 

After some down time and very fancy pizza dinner in the hotel lobby, we headed out to the beach town of Grand Haven.  When I was in college, I spent so much time at the beach, the pier, and Tip-A-Few Tavern.  Going to Grand Haven brings back some of the happiest memories I have of living on the west side of the state.  Now, I can say that I created some great memories with my family in this lovely spot.  I am not going to describe the fun that we had with words, you can see for yourself.

Sunday morning we met my old college buddies for breakfast.  It has been over a decade since all three of us have been together.  We are all grown up, we have all moved on from college, we are all pretty different.  But, in some ways we were still the same.  The smiles, the giggles, the ways we seem to still know each other is still with us.  Oh, I think I have really missed my friends.  I hope there are more breakfasts in our future!

Of course we could not drive all the way over the Grand Rapids without a trip to the Frederik Meijer Gardens.  By the time we got their the girls were worn out.  But, the thrill of the tree house kept them going and ensured a long nap on the ride home.

No one, I mean no one can resist the mouse door.
Yep, two years ago I would have told you that I really truly disliked the west side of the state.  I would have told you I would never go to Grand Rapids for a vacation.  It is funny how I am starting to come around to liking the dark side of our state again.  GVSU still gives me shivers.  But, the new memories I have been creating with my family in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven are warming me up to more and more trips back.  I suppose I learned my lesson, never say never, again!    


  1. Jenny,

    It was fun seeing your trip. You are a much better traveler than I am. I like the west side of the state because that is where I met your cousin:) I have some fond Grand Haven memories as well, but I don't remember ever being at Tip a Few:)

    1. Pam,

      Didn't you just go camping for two weeks with six kids and eat homemade food every single day? I think you have much more patience than me. But, I do love to travel. Now that we have the kids, traveling has changed a bit but we are finding kid friendly travel is just as much fun.