|Grand Rapids' Signature Events|
Grand Rapids hosts thousands of events every year, including dozens of signature events that make the city unique. Here's a compilation of those you just can't miss.
Michigan International Auto Show - The Auto Show takes place at DeVos Place during the first weekend of February and annually attracts the highest attendance of any indoor Grand Rapids event. The expo has more than 300 new vehicles, pre-productions and concepts on display from over 35 manufacturers. Side exhibitions include The Million Dollar Motorway, featuring premier auto models priced at $100K+, and The Gilmore Car Museum's display of antique and classic cars. Tickets are usually $9 for adults and $4 for kids 6-14.
Foremost's Butterflies are Blooming - Frederik Meijer Garden's premier annual spring exhibit takes place each year from March 1 through April 30. Thousands of butterflies, representing 40 species, fly freely throughout the 15,000 square foot conservatory. Visitors can also watch the transformation from chrysalide (cocoon) to full-grown butterfly at the Bungalow. Entrance to the conservatory is included with general admission to Meijer Gardens; $12 for adults, $4-$6 for kids. Photos
St. Patrick's Day Parade - Held in downtown Grand Rapids on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day, the parade begins at Lyon & Monroe and proceeds down Monroe Center to its final destination at Fulton and Ransom. A brief ceremony follows in the lot of the First United Methodist Church. The parade is also the unofficial kick-off to Irish celebrations around the city.
Fifth Third Riverbank Run - The largest 25K race in the United States takes place annually on the second Saturday in May in downtown Grand Rapids. More than 2,000 participants register for the event, which also features the 25K USA National Championship, a 5K run, 5K Community Walk and Junior events. The top prize in the Championship Division is usually around $4,000 for both the men's and women's competitions. Races begin at approximately 8 a.m.
Memorial Day Parade - Each year on May 30, downtown Grand Rapids is the site of the tribute to military veterans and current members of the armed forces. The evening parade begins at Division and Michigan, proceeds south on Division to Fulton and ends at Veterans Park, where it is immediately followed by a special ceremony.
Festival of the Arts - Grand Rapids' largest outdoor festival takes place on the first full weekend of June and showcases the visual, performing and culinary arts of the city. Taking place on both Calder Plaza and along Ottawa Ave, FOTA features live music, dancing performances, numerous food booths, children's activities and more. The event is completely supported by 20,000 volunteers and more than a half million people attend each year.
Blues on the Mall - WLAV presents the concert series that features live performances by national and local blues acts on Wednesday evenings during June and July at Rosa Parks Circle. Admission is free and the surrounding businesses often stay open later to accommodate the crowds.
4th of July Fireworks - Live music, patriotic songs, food vendors, entertainment and children's activities at Ah-Nab-Awen Park help warm up the crowd before the fireworks display over the Grand River which begins at dusk. All activities and admission to the park are free.
Taste of Grand Rapids - Sample entrees, desserts, appetizers and more from over 25 Grand Rapids area restaurants at John Ball Zoo. General admission is free and most food samples are $1 to $4 each. The Zoo also has live entertainment, music and activities for kids.
28th Street Metro Cruise - Although a relatively new tradition in Grand Rapids, the Metro Cruise has quickly become one of the area's most popular events. On the fourth Saturday in August, more than 10,000 special interest and classic cars cruise down a 15-mile stretch of 28th Street while upwards of 200,000 people line the streets to watch. Parking lots at Woodland Mall and Rogers Plaza host car shows, low-rider hop-offs, burn-out contests, food vendors, special exhibits and live music. Admission to nearly every event is free; admission is $1 to view the Metro Million display of high-value exotics and museum-quality antiques. 2006 photos
Hispanic Festival - Calder Plaza is the site of the annual early September celebration of Hispanic cultural heritage that features food, entertainment and arts & crafts from Latin, Central and South America. Find tamales, tacos, pastelillo and pork sandwiches at more than a dozen food vendors or browse the Mercado (marketplace) for merchandise from Puerto Rico and the Carribbean. Tex-Mex, Reggaeton and Brazilian Dance bands and musicians perform on the main stage throughout the weekend. Free admission. Photos
Celebration on the Grand - Grand Rapids' second major outdoor celebration runs the first full weekend of September with live music, food and local vendor booths. The Saturday night fireworks show is the highlight of the event and arguably the biggest night of the year for downtown. Families, college students and spectators of every type fill Ah-Nab-Awen Park and the Pearl Street Bridge, as well as the nearby bridges, streets and building rooftops to check out the display. Admission to all events is free. Photos
Eastown Street Fair - Held on the first Saturday in Autumn, the one-day festival along Wealthy Street in Eastown features entertainment, food and artist booths, children's activities and plenty of live music with more than 20 local bands scheduled to play outdoors. Free admission.
Pulaski Days - The annual three-day celebration of Polish food, music and heritage takes at various halls around GR, especially on the city's west side, during the first full weekend of October. The Parade winds through the west side neighborhoods on Saturday and more than a dozen venues and clubs host polka music, live DJs and local bands. Each location also has homemade Polish cuisine including kielbasa, pierogi and golumbki. Expect a $3-$5 cover charge at each hall in the evenings.
Jaycees Santa Parade - The annual Christmas parade has been a mid-November tradition in downtown Grand Rapids for more than 100 years and attracts more than 12,000 people annually. More than 80 entries make up the parade every year including a special float carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus. The route begins at Monroe Ave and Michigan Street, proceeds down Monroe Center, turns west on Fulton and ends at the intersection of Market & Weston. Free.
Christmas Around the World and Holiday Traditions - Each December, Frederik Meijer Gardens is transformed during the holiday season with thousands of lights, strolling carolers and horse-drawn carriage rides through the snow-covered gardens. More than 40 internationally decorated trees line the indoor galleries representing countries such as the Philippines, Sweden, Mexico and Poland. Admission to the family event is $12 for adults, $9 for students and seniors and $4-$6 for kids.