Located on the Grand River in Western Michigan, Grand Rapids is the second largest city in the state. In 2007, the city had an estimated population of 194,000. During the second half of the 19th century, the city became a major lumbering center and the premier furniture manufacturing city of the United States, and was nicknamed "Furniture City." The city is also known as a center of Christian publishing, and the surrounding area is noted for its fruit production. It's an environmentally minded town, too: The city has more LEED-certified energy efficient homes per capita than any other city in the United States.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Some of the many distinctive neighborhoods in Grands Rapids are:
- Center City: Location of the historic Civic Theater, the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Monroe Center walkable mall, as well as government and office buildings.
- Heritage Hill: The city's first residential district and among the most sizeable historic neighborhoods in the nation, with approximately 1,300 distinctive historical dwellings, some dating back to the 1840s. The buildings also showcase dozens of different architectural styles; one of the area's most noteworthy buildings is Frank Lloyd Wright's Meyer May House. Originally a neighborhood of lumber barons, judges and legislators, today the district is home to an economically and ethnically diverse population.
- Belknap Lookout: Overlooking the Grand River, with many lovely Victorian homes.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Nicknamed "Furniture City," Grand Rapids emerged in the second half of the 19th century as a major center of lumbering and furniture manufacturing. Today, the city remains a world leader in the production of office furniture and is home to leading corporations such as Steelcase, Herman Miller, American Seating, Haworth and Knoll.
Other major employers in Grand Rapids include Altcor/Amway, Haworth, Johnson Controls, Meijer Supermarkets, Farmers Insurance, Spectrum Healthcare, Wolverine Worldwide and Zondervan Publishing House.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Grand Rapids is home to a wide range of cultural institutions. Professional opera, ballet and theater companies, a symphony orchestra and one of the largest community theaters in the country are all central to the artistic life of Grand Rapids. Many of these organizations can trace their roots to the St. Cecilia Music Center. Founded in 1883, St. Cecilia's offers music instruction and sponsors concerts by world-renowned performers and local artists. The city enjoys a number of performing-arts venues, including the Devos Performance Hall, Aquinas College Performing Arts Center, Spectrum Theatre, historic Wealthy Street Theatre and the newly constructed Peter Martin Wege Theatre, a small dance venue.
Other cultural and arts institutions in Grand Rapids include:
- The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is both an elite botanical garden and a world-class, outdoor art museum. The facility includes a tropical conservatory, a butterfly garden, an outdoor amphitheater and more than 100 sculptures by major artists including Alexander Calder, Dale Chihuly and George Segal.
- The newly constructed Grand Rapids Art Museum is the first LEED-certified art museum in the world.
- The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is a popular venue for cutting-edge exhibitions of visual arts, poetry slams, film, music and dance.
- The Van Andel Arena is home to the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team, an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, and the Grand Rapids Rampage, an arena football team.
- The West Michigan Whitecaps, a Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, play in the new Fifth Third Ballpark.
- The Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink in Downtown Grand Rapids was designed by renowned sculptor Maya Lin, best known for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.
- The award-winning Grand Rapids Children's Museum is known for interactive, hands-on exhibits. One of its most popular exhibits is the live beehive.
- The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum focuses on the significant events of the Ford administration. One of the museum's most popular permanent exhibits is the detailed scale model of the Oval Office.
- The Meyer May House is one of the most complete restorations of a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
- The Public Museum of Grand Rapids is dedicated to both local and natural history. Exhibits include a working 1928 Spillman carousel, a display illustrating the history of the Ottawa, Chippewa and Pottawattamie peoples of Western Michigan, and a full-scale recreation of a Grand Rapids street from the 1890s.
- The Voigt House Victorian Museum is a well-preserved, 1895 mansion complete with its original furnishings.
A wide range of higher education opportunities are available in Grand Rapids. Some of the city's notable institutions include:
- Aquinas College
- Calvin College
- Cornerstone College
- Davenport College of Business
- Ferris State University GR
- Grand Valley State University
- Kendall School of Art and Design
- Grand Rapids Community College
- Cooley Law School
- Michigan State University-West
- Western Michigan University-G.R.
Transportation to and from Grand Rapids is relatively easy. The city sits in a network of interstate, federal and state highways. Eight airlines provide service to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The city also has three rail freight systems, 40 major trucking lines and Amtrak passenger service to Chicago.
Grand Rapids has access to a wide range of local, regional and national media, including six television stations and 23 radio stations.
Local publications include:
- The daily newspaper The Grand Rapids Press.
- The weekly Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Times, are targeted to the city's African American community.
- Two free, monthly entertainment guides: Revue and Recoil.
- Grand Rapids Magazine
- Grand Rapids Family
- Michigan Blue