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Navigating the US: Getting Around in Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan after Detroit. Known as “River City” for the river after which it was named, and sometimes as “Furniture City” for the five world-leading office furniture manufacturers that make its home there, Grand Rapids is no doubt a comfy place to live and a great place to visit.


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Grand Rapids Michigan bridge

Photo: Jack Amick via CC

Major Highways and Roadways to Know

There are two highways of note in Grand Rapids: I-196, which you’ll probably spend most of your time on as it cuts across the middle and then loops around the south side of the city; and I-96, which curves around the city from the northwest to the southeast. Slicing through all of these is the north-south US-131, which follows most of the river through the city.

Transportation | Major Highways Alternatives | Parking | Airports | Hotels

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Grand Rapids Michigan train

Photo: Russell Sekeet via CC

Alternative Ways of Seeing the City

One notable way to see the city is by pedicabs, which are becoming increasingly popular in the downtown area and are usually seen during special events and weekend evenings. It’s a good way to make someone else exercise while you tour the city!

Transportation | Major Highways | Alternatives | Parking | Airports | Hotels

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Grand Rapids Michigan transportation

Photo: Matthew Deighton via CC

Best Places to Park

We wouldn’t recommend trying to park downtown in Grand Rapids, as it is usually inconvenient and expensive, especially on weekdays and during major events. However, there’s plenty of convenient free parking outside of downtown, and walking the rest of the distance is generally safe. If you have to park downtown, one of the best places is at the Monroe Center parking garage, which offers an hour of free parking every day for anyone entering before 6:00pm.

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Grand Rapids Michigan at night

Photo: Russell Sekeet via CC

Airports and Car Rental

You can get to and from most of the country’s major hubs at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, which is located just southeast of the city between I-196 and I-96. From there, the latter provides the best route to head downtown. There are multiple car rental companies spread around the city, including six different ones at the airport, such as Enterprise and Hertz.

Transportation | Major Highways | Alternatives | Parking | Airports | Hotels

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Grand Rapids Michigan cityline

Photo: Russell Sekeet via CC

Hotels and Attractions

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a big city with a friendly, small-town atmosphere. The usual chain hotels are there to provide a place to stay for individuals or groups with all kinds of budgets, including a Marriott, Crowne Plaza, Hilton, and several Holiday Inns. There’s plenty for them to do as well, from catching a performance at one of the many theaters or attending an ethnic festival to drinking at Mulligans and splurging at The Chop House.

Transportation | Major Highways Alternatives | Parking | Airports | Hotels

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  • Thanks for the heads up! We’ve corrected the photos.