Getting to Know My Home Sweet Home: Grand Rapids, Michigan

There’s no place like home. Yes, that’s what they say. Even though the world is full of incredible places to explore, sometimes it is just as cool to reacquaint yourself with the wonders of your own hometown. Lucky for me, my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan has only been getting better and better. The city has been growing and developing, and has really put itself on the map, in more ways than one.  In the past few years it has set world records, launched an amazing annual international art competition called “Art Prize“, and has earned itself the title of “Beer City USA“. In 2014, The Lonely Planet even named Grand Rapids as the No.1 US Travel Destination!

Art Prize sculptures in the Grand River near the Blue Bridge, downtown, Grand Rapids.

For the first time in more than 4 years, I will have the opportunity to spend a solid six weeks here, and I can’t wait to reacquaint myself with my home sweet home. Sometimes when you are a from a place, you get used to doing what you always do. You can become comfortable with what you know, and in that comfort you can lose the drive to find what is new. In the past few years, I typically came home, caught up with my friends and family, hit up some of my favorite restaurants, hiked some of my favorite trails, and then I set back off to whatever location I came from. This time, I am going to explore my hometown the way I normally dig into other places I visit… I am going to become a local who is “in the know”.

The interesting thing about getting to know my hometown is that I already know quite a bit about this place. I know there is an awesome art scene, a plethora of delicious and different restaurants, and tons of places to get outside and get active. I am not as completely in the dark as I sometimes am when I am moving around and traveling. Here, I have a network of friends and I have years of history with the city. What I am looking to do is to simply brush up on what I know, and enhance my circles.

Typically when I arrive someplace new, I have a way I go about making connections… First: find local events. Second: meet new people. Third: follow up and have fun!

As I begin to reacquaint myself with my hometown,  I am embracing some of the tools I have learned in my times of travels. For example, I decided to see if anyone in the area is connected with my new favorite form of meeting people: Couchsurfing. It turns out Grand Rapids has a group of Couchsurfers who like to get together for dinner every other week or so. It just so happened that the day I discovered this was the day they were getting together for dinner. I met them right away at some hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant in a part of town I never visit and poof! Newfound friends with great tips on the area, as well as a passion for travel. Perfect. Check, check and check.

Now, to continue enhancing my circles, I am beginning to look up places of interest like local museums, art galleries, yoga studios, theaters and concert venues to see when they have different events or community gatherings. The Experience Grand Rapids website has been incredibly helpful for all this. Through local events, I typically meet new people with different ideas of places to go and things to see, and voila! Soon I will have a whole list of “Must See” places, as well as an expanded network of interesting people to do things with.

Right now, it is only the beginning. I have only been home a week, and as always, it has been a whirlwind of a week… but I can’t wait to see what I find out about good ol’ Grand Rapids. I have no doubt that in the coming weeks I will be able to write several posts of praise to this city, and to my home state of Michigan. I look forward to getting to know my home sweet home of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I welcome any and all comments and suggestions below… Let me know what you think I should see or do while I’m home in the mitten!

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