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Note: Experience Grand Rapids hosted me for a long weekend in exchange for coverage on my travel blog. As always, all opinions are my own, and it is my main priority to truthfully write about my experiences.
Grand Rapids is a thriving, fast-growing city that also serves as a getaway to Lake Michigan. A lot of visitors fly into Gerald R. Ford International Airport in order to embark on a beautiful scenic drive around West Michigan.
However, as a city, Grand Rapids is a fantastic destination in its own right, especially for solo travelers who are seeking hospitality and a “taste of home” on the road.
As you know, I’ve been a solo female traveler for years, and I’m confident in saying that Grand Rapids is the perfect city for travelers like me.
Visitors who want great craft beer, friendly people (seriously, everyone is so nice), quirky and unique neighborhoods, stunning art, and so much more, will fall in love with Grand Rapids.
11 Great Things to Do Alone in Grand Rapids MI
Still not convinced? Don’t worry. I’ve discovered (at least) 11 fantastic things to do alone in Grand Rapids MI to prove this city isn’t only a “flyover” destination.
Just keep in mind that I visited Grand Rapids in August. I had glorious and comfortable weather, and was able to spend most of my time outdoors exploring the city.
Obviously, if you visit in winter, you’ll have an entirely different experience that most likely involves snow, haha. Michigan has cold winters (stating the obvious). Forewarned is forearmed, after all.
With that said, let’s talk about the things to do alone in Grand Rapids MI.
Breweries, Breweries, and Breweries
Grand Rapids is home to a wide variety of breweries. Fans of craft beer will instantly fall in love with the brewers’ collective creativity that permeate every brewery in this city.
But where to even begin? I have you covered!
One of my personal favorite stops was Brewery Vivant. Located in the East Hills neighborhood, Brewery Vivant provides a unique experience since customers drink their beers inside a beautiful historic funeral home. Yes, a funeral home.
Thanks to Brewery Vivant’s historic vibes, you feel as if you’re being teleported from Michigan to a brewery in the Belgian countryside instead. The stained glass above the bar is a true work of art that reminds me of cathedrals in Europe.
Unsurprisingly, Brewery Vivant focuses on European-inspired beers, so if you love a good Belgian, then this is the perfect place for you to unwind.
Furthermore, plenty of seating is available for solo travelers, including the bar, as well as an expansive patio that is delightful on a summer day. The patio is “first come, first serve.”
Another recommendation would be Speciation Artisan Ales, which is a short walk from Brewery Vivant. Speciation is a family-owned brewing company that uses natural yeast and bacteria in all its products, and their love of science is apparent in each drink.
As a side note, the staff is also super nice here. I had a lot of laughs with the bartender and other patrons, which was a great way to end a long day!
All in all, I thought Grand Rapids had a lot of breweries where a solo traveler would feel comfortable sitting down to enjoy a beer. Embarking on your very own self-guided brewery tour is another one of the best things to do alone in Grand Rapids MI.
Enjoyable and Friendly Nightlife
Grand Rapids has so many outgoing, friendly people that it’s easy to go out on your own at night and enjoy the bars and live music.
For example, I had a lot of fun as a solo traveler in IDC, This 70s style speakeasy is wonderful on a summer evening, because you can sit outside with your drink and watch the crowds explore downtown Grand Rapids. You can socialize as much (or as little!) as you want here.
Of course, like any other city, you will want to exercise some additional precautions going out at night. Limit your drinking (two drinks is a good amount), and always keep an eye on your alcohol, meaning accept drinks that are personally served to you by the bartender.
Lastly, depending on the time, I would take a rideshare back to my accommodation. Over all Grand Rapids is a safe city, but I like taking extra care at nighttime.
Explore Eastown and East Hills Neighborhoods
Want to experience a fun neighborhood setting outside of the bustling center of the city? Never fear!
Grand Rapids has a lot of great neighborhoods outside of the downtown area. Two of my favorites were Eastown and East Hills. These areas are in close proximity to one another, so you’re easily able to walk (and drink, and shop) between them without having to drive several times.
Eastown is sometimes described as the “Greenwich Village” of Grand Rapids. The neighborhood’s progressive, artsy vibes make it a delight for exploration. I loved popping into the local shops, such as Spirit Dreams for crystals and books, and Yours Truly for Michigan-specific gifts.
Furthermore, East Hills is a nearby historic and diverse neighborhood that’s also worthy of your time.
Not only do you have Wealthy Street, but book lovers will feel smitten with Books & Mortar. This woman-owned and independent bookshop has a very thoughtful collection, and will make you want to curl up a nearby coffee shop (perhaps Le Bon Macaron?) with a thoughtful read.
I absolutely adored exploring these neighborhoods. Even if you don’t buy anything, checking out the old homes and admiring how the owners restored the properties is also an enjoyable way to pass the time.
Fulton Street Farmers Market
I, personally, love going to the farmers market. Not just for food, but to also support local artists in their endeavors. It’s seriously one of my favorite things to do at home and on my travels.
Luckily for solo travelers, Grand Rapids hosts Fulton Street Farmers Market.
This historic market was first established in 1922, and still brings farmers, artists, shoppers, and other creators all together. The atmosphere feels communal, which is beautiful.
Just keep in mind that Fulton Street Farmers Market has two separate six month seasons, so always know the days and hours in advance of your solo trip to Grand Rapids.
You can easily reach Fulton Street Farmers Market using a car or rideshare, or riding a bike as there are plenty of bike racks available for cyclists.
The Remarkable Food Scene
Fair warning: as a solo traveler, you need to come to Grand Rapids on an empty stomach. You must.
Why? No one else will restrain you from eating all the glorious and incredible food that you will find in this city. Oh my gosh, the food is wonderful. I could write a whole book about how great it is.
Want sushi? Grand Rapids has it. Want international cuisine? You’ll find that here too. Farm-to-table goodness? Absolutely! Bar treats and happy hours? Always.
Last but not least, don’t worry about reserving a table “for one” if you’re uncomfortable sitting alone.
Dining alone in public is still tricky for some people, and I completely understand it. Fortunately for us, most restaurants in Grand Rapids have plenty of bar seating open and available, so you won’t stand out as a solo diner in the slightest.
Trust me, it’s easy to dine alone here, even at busy dinner hours.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is one of the most popular attractions in Grand Rapids. If you have limited time and can only pick one major attraction to see, then I would go with this one. It’s seriously one of the absolute greatest things to do alone in Grand Rapids MI. You could easily spend an entire afternoon here.
What makes Meijer Gardens unique for me is that is skillfully combines botanical gardens and sculpture parks. You’re able to appreciate the wonders of wildlife and human-made art at the same time. It’s a photographer’s dream come true, and one of the best places to explore on your own without distractions.
Due to its size, you’ll want to go with a plan to maximize your time.
So, although it costs a little extra, I first recommend going on a Tram Tour to learn about the sculptures and get a “feel” for the area. Meijer Gardens covers a lot of ground. The Tram Tour will not only educate you, but help you feel less overwhelmed. Tram Tours run on a “first come, first served basis.”
Furthermore, make sure that you are taking the right tour. Meijer Gardens is popular with families, so you don’t want to do the children’s tour by mistake (as a FYI, I think this tour is a wonderful addition and the teacher-side of me adores the concept, but this tour might not be as interesting for a single adult visitor, haha).
These are some of my favorite highlights in Meijer Gardens.
- The American Horse: Probably the most popular sculpture in all of Meijer Gardens. The American Horse was inspired by another work created by Leonardo DiVinci. Photos don’t do the American Horse justice. It’s massive.
- Michigan’s Farm Garden: An absolute gem for those of you who adore American history. This garden recreates the feeling of living on a 1930s family farm. The buildings and plants absolutely ooze nostalgia.
- The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden: You’ll feel stress evaporate from your body as you wander this stunning little Japanese Garden. It has everything. A teahouse, waterfalls, zen garden, and so much more.
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Anyone who follows my blog already knows that I adore a good art museum. Especially alone. I like spending as much or as little time absorbing the art around me.
Grand Rapids Art Museum (or GRAM) is a “must see” on your solo trip to Grand Rapids. This museum’s goal is to make art accessible for everyone, and as you wander through the exhibits, you’ll find yourself connecting with the GRAM’s thoughtful selections.
Their special exhibits are quite unique, too. For instance, when I visited the GRAM, I took my time wandering through Message from Our Planet. This collection of digital art was both thought-provoking and beautiful, and made me think about how stories are told through digital media (which is cool as a blogger)!
Don’t skip GRAM on your visit. It’s a lovely museum.
Grand Rapids Public Museum
Another one of the best things to do alone in Grand Rapids MI is the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
In addition to its special exhibits, the Grand Rapids Public Museum houses plenty of historical and cultural artifacts to help visitors dive more deeply into the story of West Michigan.
I, personally, thrive on learning about the destinations that I visit, and think local museums are a valuable resource for preserving that history.
I thought the coolest exhibit in this museum was the Streets of Old Grand Rapids. The buildings and streets are a recreation of Grand Rapids in the 1890s. You feel as if you’ve been transported back in time. Some of the shops are even open for visitors! This exhibit is a living history museum inside a larger museum, and I just love it!
Do you want a chance to enjoy the great outdoors, but don’t have the time to drive to Lake Michigan? Never fear! Millennium Park is a fantastic and convenient alternative.
At Millennium Park, you have 1400 acres of green space to enjoy, making you feel as if you’ve been teleported far from the city. On a hot day, you will definitely want to get out on the lake. It’s easy to do at the DeVos Family Boathouse, which offers kayak, paddle boats, canoes, and more, for rent. I personally adore solo kayaking. Listening to the water, the birds, and leaves, all instantly calm my spirit.
If boats aren’t your thing, you can also enjoy the small beach and swim in the lake, which is super refreshing.
Without a doubt, go to Millennium Park. You’ll have a wonderful time.
Street Art Photography
I’m a huge fan of street art in cities, and Grand Rapids definitely doesn’t disappoint in this category. Street art is really ubiquitous, so always have your camera charged and ready to go.
In the downtown areas, I saw a lot of colorful and creative street art that helped me improve my photography skills. Definitely worth while if you have some free time during your stay in Grand Rapids.
In total, there are more than 100 murals in the downtown area. You’ll feel like you’re exploring a free, open-air art museum.
Wealthy Street Shopping
Wealthy Street lives up to its swanky name. On this street, you will discover lots of fabulous food and shopping options.
One of my favorite stops is Woosah. I loved the outdoorsy feel of this shop, which made me want to hop in a van and visit every single National Park in the United States. This is the perfect place to buy a gift for a friend or yourself especially if you love solo travel!
As you wander Wealthy Street, don’t forget to buy a sweet “pick me up” at Mokaya. These artisan chocolates are all made in-house and look like a tiny works of art that belong in a gallery. The best part about being alone is you’re free to eat as many chocolates as you want without judgement.
No doubt, exploring Wealthy Street is one of my favorite things to do alone in Grand Rapids MI.
Grand Rapids MI Travel Tips
Last but not least, I wanted to end this guide with some practical tips for solo travel in Grand Rapids.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you’re a new solo traveler or have some independent travel experience under your belt. Grand Rapids isn’t a very hard city to navigate and explore – which is great!
How to Get Around Grand Rapids
Like many other North American cities, Grand Rapids is hard to navigate without a car. As far as I could tell, I couldn’t see any valid public transportation system that would make sense for casual travelers. Don’t worry about it, though!
Rideshares are everywhere in Grand Rapids. I don’t think I waited for more than fifteen minutes for an Uber, even in further locations such as Frederik Meijer Gardens and Millennium Park.
For ultimate flexibility, rent your own car to explore Grand Rapids, especially if you’re already used to driving in big cities. Either option is valid.
Where to Stay in Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids has plenty of hotel options for you to enjoy as a solo traveler. On my visit, I stayed in the fancy and gorgeous Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, which was the perfect choice for me. I had beautiful views of the river (and The Gerald R. Ford Museum), and loved watching the sunset every night from my room.
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is also located on a busy street and is connected to the Grand Rapids Convention Center, meaning other people are always present.
As a solo traveler, I’m most comfortable in a busy area, and would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone else who is visiting Grand Rapids alone.
I hope you had fun reading all about the wonderful things to do alone in Grand Rapids MI! It’s truly a beautiful and safe city, which is ideal for solo travel, so don’t miss out on Grand Rapids the next time your travels take you to Michigan.