Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running Grand Rapids

One of the best things about my job is getting to travel around the State of Michigan to various communities. I've been all over the state from Detroit to Grand Haven on Lake Michigan to the very tip of the Keeweenaw Peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Despite being merely an hour from Grand Rapids, I haven't spent a lot of time there. Last week we had our convention in downtown Grand Rapids, so naturally the first thing I did upon arriving was to change and go for a run.

Downtown Grand Rapids
We were fortunate enough to visit Grand Rapids during Art Prize. Art Prize is a public international art competition displayed throughout Grand Rapids. The event, in its third year, draws thousands to Grand Rapids to view amazing public art and vote on the winner. As I ran on a gorgeous, unseasonably warm October afternoon, the streets were packed with people viewing Art Prize. Downtown Grand Rapids was hopping on a Tuesday afternoon.

LOVE this Art Prize piece with the monkeys on the bridge
While visiting we had dinner at Tre Cugini, a local Italian restaurant. If anything the crowds grew throughout the evenings.  Another night we visited Hopcat, a great bar with about a million beers on tap. I exaggerate, but seriously, it was a lot of beer.

Grand Rapids has utilized its river front beautifully with accessible trails and pedestrian walkways crossing the river. On my final morning in the city I woke up early to run at sunrise along the river. It was a warm fall morning, and though the city was sleeping, I felt extremely safe. It was like having my own private viewing of Art Prize.

Running along the river at sunrise
Grand Rapids checks many of the boxes of what a great city needs - a vibrant, walkable downtown, green initiatives (GR has been recognized nationally as a leader in pursuing renewable energy), cultural economic development (hello Art Prize!) and entrepreneurship, to name a few. 

As someone who immigrated to Michigan, I'm often intrigued by Michigan's east side/west side divide. My husband grew up in Metro Detroit, and we always head to Detroit for entertainment, dinner, etc.  It's interesting that many people here migrate towards where they're from - either GR or Detroit. We've been to Grand Rapids a few times for concerts, and we've always enjoyed being in town. I know we'll continue to go to Detroit regularly, but I think it would be fun to add a little GR into our lives as well. 

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