Grand Rapids, Mich.
If furniture-makers and sculptors share anything beyond their flair for the creation of solid objects in space, its the unlikely lure of Grand Rapids, home of Amway and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. By the early 1900s, Grand Rapids had produced enough tables, desks and chairs to be dubbed the Furniture City. Though much of the industry has faded,
1) GO WITH THE FLOW
Catch some late-day rays with a stroll along Riverwalk, two miles of peaceful paved paths that edge each bank of the Grand River. Whichever stretch you choose, youll pass leafy elm and cottonwood trees and a series of playful sculptures from local artists, like the massive red (and climbable) Lorries Button, by Hy Zelkowitz, which sprouts from the lawn like a Pop Art flower. The Grand River Sculpture and Fish Ladder, by Joseph Kinnebrew IV, was built to help spawning fish in their struggle to swim upstream. Its bridge draws scores of onlookers in spring and fall, when leaping salmon and steelheads put the creation to good use.
2) THE ART BEAT
The Grand Rapids Art Museum (155 North Division Street, 616-831-1000; www.gramonline.org) is the place to be on Friday nights, when a cash bar and live jazz or blues bands add spark to the collection, which includes works by Ellsworth Kelly, Andy Warhol, Richard Pousette and Robert Motherwell. Next spring, the museum will open a sleek 125,000-square-foot space just around the corner. Friday admission is $3. From the museum, swing by the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (41 Sheldon Boulevard SE, 616-454-7000; www.uica.org), an interdisciplinary complex where youre bound to find an art show, film screening, reading, music or dance performance or maybe a little of all of it at once. Admission is usually $7 to $12.
3) GRAND HOTEL
Check out the 1913 Pantlind Lobby of the citys crown-jewel hotel, the Amway Grand Plaza (187 Monroe Avenue NW, 616-774-2000; www.amwaygrand.com). Youll find elegant gold-leaf ceilings, crystal chandeliers and a fountain encircled by a deep-green velvet banquette. Then you can dine at the hotels opulent 1913 Room, where the menu offers delicacies like osso bucco with crispy veal sweetbreads, organic beef pot au feu and roasted rack of lamb served with an onion-fig timbale. Entrees are upward of $30.
4) BABBING FOR APPLE MARTINIS
The B.O.B. (20 Monroe Avenue NW, 616-356-2000; www.thebob.com) or The Bab in the local variant of the Great Lakes accent is a true urban-renewal success story. An acronym for Big Old Building, the four-story brick behemoth, which dates from 1903, is a former grocery warehouse transformed into an entertainment complex with three restaurants, a microbrewery, two dance clubs and a comedy club. It attracts a mix of elegantly dressed couples and posses of college students, so beware of entrance delays caused by thorough ID checks.
6) CONSIDER A FORD
Grab an espresso and a bagel at the Four Friends Coffeehouse (136 Monroe Center, 616-456-5356) and meander across the pedestrian bridge to the surprisingly compelling Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum (303 Pearl Street NW, 616-254-0400; www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov), dedicated to Grand Rapidss favorite son. Detailed galleries contain everything from televised debates and interviews to the lock picks used during the Watergate break-in and a glamorous array of Betty Fords gowns.
7) THE CITY SCULPTURE
Alexander Calder designed a site-specific sculpture, La Grande Vitesse, to grace the front of city hall in 1969, and Caldermania has gripped Grand Rapids ever since. Youll notice small depictions of the sculpture on everything from street signs to the citys Web site, but be sure to visit the actual piece itself. Its huge red waves of steel anchor Calder Plaza, along with Mark di Suveros interactive Motu Viget and Joseph Kinnebrew IVs Dissected Pyramid. Maya Lins Ecliptic an amphitheater that converts into a public skating rink in winter is a short stroll away.
8) THE MYSTERIOUS EASTOWN
Eastown is Grand Rapidss very own bohemian neighborhood. Grab coffee where the cool cats slouch over laptops at Kava House (1445 Lake Drive, 616-451-8600), browse for indie comics at Magnum Opus (1422 Wealthy Street SE, 616-336-9922) and stop for a bite at Yesterdog (1505 Wealthy Street SE), a quirky hot-dog restaurant that figured in the 1999 film American Pie (the writer, Adam Herz, grew up here), or Rafavs (1441 Wealthy Street SE, 616-458-1457), a Mexican restaurant with a trippy, sculptural facade.
9) ART IN THE PARK
The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (1000 East Beltline Avenue NE, 616-957-1580; www.meijergardens.org) comprises 125 acres of meadows and wetlands, featuring a tropical conservatory with a butterfly exhibit each March and April, a childrens garden and indoor galleries. And, of course, there are 35 acres of sculptures, dotted with eye candy including Henry Moores Bronze Form, Nina Akamus version of Leonardo da Vincis Horse, Keith Harings bright yellow Julia and a recent addition: Andy Goldsworthys Grand Rapids Arch. Now through Sept. 10 is when you can catch the five pieces at the park that are part of Tom Otterness in Grand Rapids: The Gardens to the Grand.
10) TAPAS THE EVENING
Settle in for dinner at the hopping San Chez, a Tapas Bistro (38 West Fulton Street, 616-776-6950), where an extensive menu joins traditional tapas try cazuela, a baked casserole of asparagus, artichoke hearts, cheese and crispy yucca crumble topping with a great wine list, along with heartier fare including paella, empanadas and Cuban rice and beans. Tapas average $6. For dessert and a thick Turkish coffee, simply amble into the adjoining Mezze Café and Cabaret, where you can savor a Cuban orange cake soaked in ginger cream sauce ($3.25) with a side of live music. Saturday performers, in a variety of styles, can be Latin crooners or old-school Chicago blues bands. Enjoy a nightcap at Bar Divani (15 Ionia Avenue SW, 616-774-9463), a sleek wine lounge that serves more than 70 wines by the glass in an intimate space softened by warm woods, billowing fabric and low lighting.
11) NOT OVER EASY
Linger over brunch just north of downtown at Blue Water Grill (5180 Northland Drive NE, 616-363-5900), which sits on Versluis Lake and offers options from omelets to wood-fired pizzas. Its casual, sun-drenched dining room features an open kitchen, a handsome limestone fireplace and sweeping lake views; two patios get you a breeze.
13) SWEET PRESERVES
End your exploration with a stroll through Grand Rapidss architectural beginnings. The Heritage Hill historic district, which overlooks downtown, contains 1,300 homes representing more than 60 architectural styles, from Italianate to Queen Anne; many date from as early as 1848. Download a self-guided walking tour map from the Heritage Hill Association (www.heritagehillweb.org) and be sure to stop into the areas two public houses: the Meyer May House, a 1908 Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style gem restored by Steelcase (450 Madison Street SE, 616-246-4821; Sunday tours, free, are 1 to 4 p.m.) and the 1895 Voight House Victorian Museum, in the style of a French chateau and operated by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids (115 College Avenue SE, 616-456-4600; tours, $3, are the second and fourth Sundays of each month, 1 to 3 p.m.).
Round-trip flights between New York City and Grand Rapids start at about $250..
The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (187 Monroe Avenue NW, 616-774-2000; www.amwaygrand.com) has both a modern glass tower with river views and a historic wing. A weekend room for two is about $150 a night. An adjacent JW Marriott glass tower (owned by Amways parent company, Alticor) is set for a fall 2007 opening.
The Radisson Hotel Grand Rapids Riverfront (270 Ann Street NW, 616-363-9001; www.radisson.com/grandrapidsmi_riverfront) has doubles that average $110 a night.
The Fountain Hill Bed and Breakfast (222 Fountain Street NE, 800-261-6621; www.fountainhillbandb.com), in the historic district, has rooms from $105 to $155 nightly.