In late November, I was invited to spend a weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan as part of a blogger Familiarization (FAM) Trip. These trips are typically offered to travel journalists, but smart Convention and Visitors Bureaus know that reaching out to bloggers is a smart move. Even smarter is hiring a blogger to assist in planning the event and helping the CVB staff understand the difference between working with bloggers and journalists. In this case, the blogger was Michigan native, Meagan Francis; in Galena's case, it was MomImpact.
We pulled off the highway and headed into downtown Grand Rapids. "Wow, there's tall office buildings and everything!" I exclaimed. Heading from Chicago to Detroit, I'd only bypassed the roads leading to Grand Rapids in the past. I expected it to be some rinky-dink small town. It's not!
Grand Rapids has a newly thriving downtown and is home to many large companies like Amway, Meijer (grocery stores) and Steelcase. In addition, Herman Miller is nearby. In 2008, Fast Company named Grand Rapids the "greenest" city in the US based, in part, on its number of LEED-certified buildings. Who knew?
Kate Wiltzer and Janet Korn, the team from Experience Grand Rapids, wined and dined us from the start, quite literally via the Grand Rapids International Food and Wine Festival, where we enjoyed a delectable pairing dinner from the folks at the 1913 Room.
The next day we took in several of the town's main attractions. First stop, the GRAM, or Grand Rapids Art Museum, where we were treated to a private showing of the Princess Diana exhibit.
With another royal wedding just months away, it was fascinating--and bittersweet--to tour this exhibit which GRAM is hosting through mid-February. It's fascinating that one of the best-known humanitarians of our time had a rather lackluster life prior to marrying Prince Charles. She seemed neither an outstanding student nor an outstanding worker. Yet, she went on to touch so many lives before her own got cut short.
In addition to hosting travel exhibits such as this, GRAM hosts Saturday family programs and an outdoor ice rink in season (click for a coupon). Of course, they have a lot of art for adults, too, including the winner of Art Prize 2010, Chris LaPorte's, Cavalry.
ArtPrize is a new tradition in Grand Rapids. It's a "radically open" art competition. As noted on their site, Art Prize is, "Open to any artist in the world who can find space. Open to anybody in Grand Rapids, Michigan who wants to create a venue. Open to a vote from anyone who attends."
In 2010, nearly 200 venues hosted close to 2,000 works of art for this event.
Later in the day our group visited the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The park has a pleasing blend of horticulture and sculpture. They have indoor gardens representing different biomes and the plants that grow within them. A busy little boy who might not want to stop and smell the flowers might be taken in by the carnivorous plants (though not literally!).
The building is currently hosting a "Holidays Around the World" event, similar to the one hosted at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry each year. That is, traditionally and beautifully decorated trees representing different countries, cultures and religions are on display throughout the building. (Yes, there's a shout-out to Chanukah and Eid, as well.)
The main building's architecture is delightfully reminiscent of a forest.
It boasts a wooded wetlands area with a child-sized beaver lodge, a treehouse village for running and climbing and a log cabin for warming up and playing old-fashioned games.
In warmer weather guests of all ages can enjoy the Great Lakes Garden and other features of the children's area. This garden offers an amazing blend of education and fun.
And here's where your fun comes in! Experience Grand Rapids will provide one of my readers with:
- an overnight stay for a family of four at Country Inn and Suites in Grand Rapids
- tickets for a family of four to to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
- an iPod shuffle with a podcast about Grand Rapids
- The Polar Express DVD (Grand Rapids is portrayed in the film)
- an official Experience Grand Rapids Visitor Guide
Hop on over to Experience Grand Rapids and then come back and comment here letting me know what else you'd like to see or do there, or where you'd like to eat on your Getaway.
Comment prior to 1 AM, Tuesday, December 14, 2010 to be entered to win.
Tweet about this contest and come back and let me know about it for an extra entry.
Sample tweet: Win a #GrandRapids Getaway from @KimMoldofsky & @GrandRapidsCVB http://bit.ly/hOOhMK
Share this giveaway with a link back on Facebook and comment here to let me know.
Open to U.S. residents only.
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Winner will be chose via Random.org based on the total number of comments.
Edited to add: You can also enter:
Stephanie's Grand Rapids giveaway at Adventures in Babywearing
Julie's is up at Dutch Being Me
This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to @MarketingMommy, our winner
Turns our that our first winner already won a GR getaway on another blog, so she graciously declined my prize.
The new winner is @McMama!