Last week, I got the opportunity to combine two of my passions – education and travel! While I own a small travel agency and am an avid traveler, my “other career” is an 8th grade science teacher at a Christian School in Southern California. My colleague and I were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a conference, and even got to make a few other pit stops along the way! It was my first visit to Michigan, and really to the Midwest in general (outside of airports), so it was a lot of fun! While it was chilly and there was lots of snow, for this California girl it was a blast to experience a change in weather and actual seasons! 🙂
Michigan is a blast to visit!
Grand Rapids is a fun little city, which is small enough to walk around and very clean and accommodating. We had a lovely experience at the Homewood Suites – Grand Rapids, which is a modernized/converted brick building that offers small studios and one bedrooms with full kitchens! I have talked about our experiences at Homewood Suites in the past, but this property was especially impressive. The staff was kind, constantly checking in to see if we needed anything and how things were going, and the breakfast and dinner options were delicious. The complimentary Happy Hour on weeknights is always fun as well! We loved our rooms design, cleanliness, and joked with our families that it was a dream urban apartment and we might not come back!
Homewood Suites – Grand Rapids is an awesome and convenient hotel!
In Downtown Grand Rapids, we enjoyed local beers and fries at Hop Cat, a fun local Michigan place that I would definitely recommend visiting! It was a welcome respite from the chilly temperatures outside! We also had a delicious dinner at San Chez Bistro, which serves excellent Spanish tapas, tasty Sangria, and awesome Spanish wines as well. Both restaurants were well worth the visit! I also want to give a shout out to the Van Andel Institute, which hosted our conference and allowed us to take a peek at their Electron Microscope and some of the amazing research they are doing. This is a city that flies under the radar but is a blast to visit if you make it to Michigan!
Grand Rapids has a fun restaurant and bar scene, not to mention amazing science research in town!
After our conference, I got the chance to visit Western Michigan and the charming town of Holland, where many of my friends/coworkers come from. This town near Lake Michigan has a lot of Dutch heritage and influence, but it’s a blast for everyone! The downtown area is adorable with Cherry Republic, a little shop that provides all things cherry-related (Michigan is a top producer) including some tasty Cherry wine and cider! We also made stops at Fustini’s, where you can taste amazing olive oils and balsamic vinegars (plus take cooking classes) and New Holland Brewing which offers great local beers and a fun outlet for the college students. Speaking of which, did I mention it’s a college town? Holland is home to Hope College, which has an adorable campus in town and a lot of opportunities for its students! Just outside of Holland, we snuck in a visit to the giant windmill, which was a gift to the town from the Netherlands! The following morning, we visited the Dutch Bros. Bakery, which was nothing short of delicious and a great way to experience the local vibe and culture of this fun little town!
Holland has a lot to offer for a small town – Dutch bakery, Hope College, foodie/wine scenes, a brewery and a giant windmill! Super fun little town!
Before I left Holland, we got to visit the local lakeshores including Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan! All I can say is wow! The water is clear, the beaches are beautiful, and lighthouse itself is a fun sight to see! While it was chilly and a bit icy, it was so pretty in the sunshine and I could picture the spectacular fun that must be had during the summer months by travelers to the lakeside communities. Kayaking, swimming, fireworks and more await visitors to this fun destination! I personally would love to take my kids back!
Lake Michigan is an awesome place to visit!
My last stop in Michigan was the Eastern suburbs near Detroit, where I have relatives! The drive across the state was far more pleasant than the LA Freeways, and I had a blast seeing the quaint towns, Christmas decorations, more snow and sunset views! We had a nice dinner at Black Rock Bar & Grill, where you can actually cook your steak yourself! It’s a fun place to catch the local sports games and enjoy a drink as well.
The rest of the state also had plenty of scenery and good food to offer!
All in all, I had a blast on my first Mid-West travel experience – during the beginnings of winter no less – and would love to go back! As usual, if you have any questions or are planning a trip of your own, please contact me to help you plan your stay! 🙂