The Budget and the Beautifully Hilarious | GRNow’s Insider’s Guide to LaughFest  

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It’s that time of year where Grand Rapids gets together to get its giggle on.

Photo courtesy of Gilda’s LaughFest and Brian Kelly Photography

Gilda’s LaughFest, the nation’s first-ever community-wide festival of laughter, is just around the corner, running March 7 – 17, 2019 and to celebrate we’ve created a guide filled with featured events, happy hours, free programming and tips to get around the festival. Even ideas for a budget-friendly night out! Make sure to check out the bottom of this guide for information on how you can be entered to win tickets to LaughFest shows and events.

Celebrating laughter for the health of it!

Before we let out that first laugh, here’s why supporting LaughFest matters. This 10-day community-wide festival of laughter supports Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. Gilda’s provides free emotional healthcare to children, adults, families and friends on any kind of cancer journey or those grieving the death of someone in their life due to any cause.

Gilda’s Club is locally based and their Grand Rapids and Lowell clubhouses see over 10,000 visitors annually. Gilda’s Club is also supported 100% through charitable events and all of the funds raised through LaughFest stay in West Michigan.  

Not only is this charity making a difference in lives of those impacted by cancer in West Michigan, but it’s also helping the entire community by honoring laughter as an essential part of emotional health and wellbeing. Gilda’s offers “a comprehensive program of support groups, education, structured sharing times, networking, lectures, workshops and social activities designed to support emotional health. Find out more about their program and resource online at gildasclubgr.org

By attending a show, you are helping those in YOUR OWN community and gaining the benefits – you know, those endorphins that are much needed this time of year (is it Spring, yet?).

Insider Tip => Get connected to your community by donating or volunteering with Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids. Can’t make the festival? Shop the merchandise online to rep LaughFest all year long!



The FREE and The VERY Funny

Over half of the programming for LaughFest is FREE!  

From pet-friendly to improv and basketball to stand up and more, there is something for everyone. All ages are welcome and for your convenience, shows and events are segmented into easy to understand categories. Click “rating” on the LaughFest website to choose between Clean Adult Laughs, Rated R…Really, and Family Friendly Events.  

All the shows AND events are worth attending but here are 10 of our top FREE picks:

****Psst*** We added restaurant recommendations close to the venue. Check it out…

Laugh @Rosa!

What better FREE event to attend than the kickoff to the entire festival? Laugh @ Rosa is a taste of what LaughFest is all about. From contests and performers to food and music, you’ll get a taste of what LaughFest is all about in one place.

  • Thursday, March 7th | 11am-3pm
  • Rosa Parks Circle
  • Family Friendly
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Recommended eats: Pick a food truck or two. Also, Parsley is a short walk from Rosa Parks. They offer $3 drafts all day and delicious Mediterranean fare fit for the whole family.

Seriously Funny Family Adventure Challenge

Laughing strengthens bonds and during this race, you’ll find out what it means to work together in an exciting, time challenge activity involving you and your best friend or the whole family.

  • Saturday, March 9th | 2pm
  • The BOB
  • Family Friendly
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Recommended eats: You’re already at The B.O.B. so you don’t have to go far. We love the wood-fired pizza from Bobarino’s. Or splurge on a Peach Cobbler or Brownie dessert.

Grand Rapids Kids Joke Time

Proving that adults aren’t the only humorous ones, the kids crack jokes and explore their inner comedians.

  • Wednesday, March 13th | 6pm
  • Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library Main Branch
  • Family Friendly
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Recommended eats: Brick and Porter is only a short walk from this event with great burgers and drink specials every day of the week for the adults! For families with younger children, snag a quick hotdog lunch before the event at One Stop Coney Shop.

LaughFest Stand-Up Showcase @Pyramid Scheme

New fresh faces of stand-up comedy at one of the LaughFest Stand-Up Showcases. You never know – you may witness a star in the making! All of these events are free and give individuals an opportunity to perform in front of excited audiences.

  • Friday, March 8th | 11:30pm
  • Pyramid Scheme
  • Rated R | 21+
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Recommended eats: Head to Rockwell Republic before a weekday show or stop in late night Monday – Friday 3-7pm. You’ll find great drink pricing, $7 sushi and shared plates, and Happy Hour after 10 pm every day.

Ricco & Friends II…Live at GRAAMA’s

Comedian Ricco (Rick Pulliam) is leading a group of funny, local comics at the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA). Friday, March 8 at 7:00 pm. This is a FREE event with limited seating, so get there early!

  • Friday, March 8th | 7:00 pm
  • Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives (GRAAMA)
  • Rated R
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Recommended eats: Most know of CityFlats Hotel but did you know they have a restaurant? CitySen Lounge offers a full bar and happy hour daily along with specialty food that includes Firecracker Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps and Truffle Fries.

LAUGHsketball

What’s funnier than watching local celebrities battle it out on the basketball court with comedians? Watch the game and entertain yourself with activities like a chicken toss, face painting and a silent auction.

  • Sunday, March 17 | 4pm
  • The DeltaPlex
  • Family Friendly

Recommended eats: The DeltaPlex is a great place to snag a hotdog and pop but if you’re looking for a great location right down the road after the game, Elk Brewing Co. has you covered. They offer a kids’ menu that includes hamburgers, quesadillas, chicken tenders along with apple juice and fruit cups. There’s even PB&J’aley’ beer for the adults.

People & Pets

We already watch hours of pets being silly on the internet, now it’s your time to see it IRL (in real life). Furry or scaly, all types of pets can be found at this event.

  • Sunday, March 17 | 10am-2pm
  • GRCC Ford Fieldhouse
  • Family Friendly
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to Fountain and Division – only a short walk from there to Ford Fieldhouse

Grand Rapids Roast Battle

“A 16 comic single elimination tournament style roast battle. 3 judges will choose which comedians advance in each matchup based on Creativity, Crowd Interaction, and Overall Funniness.”

  • Friday, March 15th | 10pm
  • Garage Bar & Grill
  • Rated R
  • Park in the Market Street lot for only $5 and DASH FREE to the event

Recommended eats: You’re already at one of our FAVORITE foodie places, Garage Bar & Grill. Grab an order of the chicken tenders – the batter they use is out of this world.

Insider Tips => Head to www.LaughFestGR.org for a list of ALL of the FREE programming.

It’s easy to get around downtown – visit www.grandrapidsmi.gov/getarounddowntown for tips on busing, biking, walking and parking.

Use Beer O’Clock GR to find food and drink specials by day and time. Also see where kids can eat free or at a discount at GR Kids.



Roll into LaughFest

Where should I park? How can I get around?

Mobile GR has you covered! Between the affordable parking lots to the FREE DASH bus, there are plenty of low cost, low stress ways to get out and about in downtown GR for LaughFest, and other events throughout the year.

You’ll find the least expensive parking at Area 7 located on Mount Vernon parallel to the expressway or at the Area 9 lot on the corner of Seward and Lake Michigan Drive for $2 during the day and $6 for event parking. After parking, jump on the DASH and ride for FREE to your event. Running every 8 minutes, you won’t have to wait long to walk onto the warm buses. There are two different DASH lines – West and North – covering most of the LaughFest venues.

Insider Tip => Download the Transit app (IOS and Android) to see where the buses are, what time your bus will arrive, and all the stops along the way. Find more parking options using an interactive parking map or a downloadable map. See all the LaughFest venues here.


Shows NOT to miss

Even though we are all about the budget-friendly lifestyle, there are many ticketed shows worth EVERY PENNY. LaughFest always does a great job bringing in headlining talent and events that are as diverse as they are funny! They’re also great at including all ages in their programming.

Check out these featured 5 events + shows that aren’t to be missed:

Jo Koy

  • Sunday, March 10th | 8pm
  • DeVos Performance Hall
  • Rated R
  • Get Tickets
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Loni Love

  • Friday, March 15th | 7pm + 9:30pm
  • Wealthy Theatre
  • Rated R
  • Get Tickets

Amanda Seales

  • Saturday, March 9th | 8pm
  • Fountain Street Church
  • Rated R
  • Get Tickets
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

 Ramon Rivas, Nick Guerra and Aida Rodriguez

  • Wednesday, March 13th | 7pm
  • The B.O.B. – 3rd Floor
  • Rated R
  • Get Tickets ONLY $15
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Kids Hip Hop Dance Party

  • Saturday, March 9th | 10am + 12pm
  • The B.O.B. – HOME
  • Family Friendly
  • Get Tickets
  • Park in the Area 9 lot for only $2 and DASH FREE to the event

Insider Tip => Subscribe to LaughFest’s Facebook and follow Instagram (@laughfestgr) to keep updated on all their shows. Or check out their easy to navigate website where shows are categorized by location, event type and more. Purchase tickets WITHOUT the fees at LaughFest Central.


Ridiculous Wins

Thanks to LaughFest and Mobile GR, you can win ticket packages to shows and events during this seriously funny festival. Make sure to follow GRNow on Facebook or Instagram for more info. Use the #DASH2LaughFest hashtag to be entered to win prizes.

Insider’s Tip => Make sure to participate in all three ways to win: GRNow Facebook giveaway, GRNow Instagram Giveaway, and using #DASH2LaughFest with a photo on your social platforms.


We {seriously} can’t wait to be entertained by all LaughFest has to offer. Make sure to keep up with LaughFest on Facebook and Instagram for more info.

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