1. Where to Stay: Courtyard Marriott
There is a strip of Marriott properties downtown - the Courtyard, the JW Marriott, and the Amway Grand Plaza. The latter two are super expensive and other than more plushing in their mattress, won't offer you more than the Courtyard. In fact, they offer less because internet is included here at the Courtyard. Perhaps because they are all owned by the same group, the staff here at the Courtyard is better than any 5-star property I have ever seen. The front desk staff is always exceeding my expectations and doing great things for me - like the birthday surprise they put together for me (see previous blog post). Stay here - you won't regret it.
2. Where to Eat:
There are lots of great local eateries here that use only local ingredients that are fresh and delicious. One of my favorites is called Cygnus 27, a restaurant on the 27th floor of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The food is not cheap, but not ridiculously expensive, either. And if you go just before sunset you can get a gorgeous 360 degree view of downtown and the Chicago River as the sun's light evolves the colors over the city. And ultimately, when the sun is set, you can enjoy the manmade lights around downtown. And the food is amazing. I had one of the most moist and delicious salmon dishes I have ever enjoyed. Ever! That said, explore all the local eateries - they each have a niche market and great service.
3. Where to Visit:
Downtown is full of fun places to spend a couple hours.
- Art Museum: It is small and cozy with a pretty small collection. But, the architecture of the building is really cool and they do have some beautiful paintings. The $8 admission is pretty hard to justify, in my opinion, so I won't return - but it is cool for a one time visit.
- Symphony: Hands down a beautiful concert hall and a beautiful sounding orchestra. I enjoyed tremendously their interpretation of Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 61, by Ludwig van Beethoven. And the Grand Rapids crowd is amazing - we gave an almost 10 minute standing ovation at the end of the performance, with several curtain calls. It was well-deserved and a wonderful display of appreciation for a great orchestra. If they are playing when you are in town, YOU MUST ATTEND!
- Gerald Ford Presidential Museum: I haven't been yet, but plan on going.
- Grand Rapids Museum: Haven't been, but plan on going.