The Chilly Challenge, sponsored by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., returns in January 2020! This FREE seven-week series consists of 45 minute walks through Downtown Grand Rapids…outside in whatever weather Mother Nature throws us. Participants will enjoy a unique tour each week, traversing the sidewalks while focusing on a theme, narrated by Caroline Cook of Grand Rapids Running Tours. Walkers who complete all seven tours will win a $25 gift card to the JW Marriott.
Walkers meet in the lobby of the JW Marriott at noon each Thursday.
No registration is necessary.
Lapping the Landmarks
An absolute “must-do” for visitors, new residents and longtime citizens who want a new perspective on our fair city! We’ll cruise by Campau Square, named after the founding father of Grand Rapids, on our way to explore some of the city’s “first and finest” including historic sites, museums, colleges, Indian mounds, hotels, bridges, churches, the Medical Mile, the Grand River and more…all neatly contained in a downtown loop. Simply, fascinating!
Legacies & Legends
The Grand Rapids Community Legends Project was established by local philanthropist and businessman, Peter Secchia and his family, in 2008 with the intent of keeping local history alive. They made a pledge to provide downtown Grand Rapids with a selection of no less than 25 bronze tributes of Grand Rapids’ most notable contributors. 11 years later, there are eleven 7-foot tall bronze sculptures placed throughout the urban core that have been gifted by the Project. In the words of Peter Secchia, “How will you know who you can be, if you do not know who you have been?” Discover who, what, and where on this blended tour of statue art and local history.
America’s Furniture City
Over the course of 60 short years, small family-owned furniture shops grew into large-scale furniture manufacturers, earning Grand Rapids the title of Furniture City. Learn as you move through downtown and pass the intriguing remnants of the residential furniture glory years: 1870 – 1930. Discover why “timing was everything” when our tiny frontier city was able to capture the world’s attention and furniture making dominated the economic landscape of Grand Rapids. We will also go by places that connect the dots to today’s thriving office furniture industry.
Architecture of Downtown Grand Rapids
We invent cities. We create streets and we construct buildings. Whether the structures are historic, brand new, a combination of both, or a glimpse into our future, they provide a creative portrayal of our collective story of our “place”, our built environment. No one architectural style is more important than another…they are all invaluable pages in our city’s scrapbook. Each building tells a story as we physically move through time.
African American History on the Grand
If we review the demographic changes over the less-than-200 years that Grand Rapids has been a city on the banks of the Grand River, the ethnic makeup of our population has shifted dramatically. This tour specifically examines the African American population from 1826 until present. The remarkable people, places, events, issues…the legends and facts about what it meant to be black in Grand Rapids.
The Lighter Side of Life
Just for fun and giggles, we examine entertainment through the ages in Grand Rapids as we meander down city streets, past shop windows, restaurants, performance venues, by the Grand River, and museums. What did we do for pleasure back “then”? What made us laugh? Are we really willing to give up our twenty-first century electronic toys for a return to the age of innocence? HA! Maybe.
The Tale of Beer City USA
“In Grand Rapids, the German-born immigrants began arriving in the 1840’s, and within a decade, they were one of the city’s largest immigrant groups. This increased the local demand for beer and the need for more breweries and brewmasters.” This is the beginning of the Tale of Beer City USA…as told to participants and seen through the lenses of beer-colored glasses. In this fun and fascinating tour, you will learn about the history of the beer brewing industry in Grand Rapids, its demise and its comeback that earned Grand Rapids the “Beer City” title. You will be so captivated by the story, that your feet won’t even know they are moving.