It’s not hard to find excitement and fun stuff to do on just about any given day in Grand Rapids. City festivals, community events and new downtown venues keep things pretty hoppin’ throughout the weeks. But what about those times when you need to disconnect from it all and find your own little quiet corner for some peaceful meditation and reflection? Well, lucky for you solitude-seekers, the city and its surrounding areas has plenty of spots for that, too!

We hereby present our list of our 13 favorite places in and around Grand Rapids to “Find your Zen”.

1. Fish Ladder – Put yourself in the thick of the roaring rapids our city is famous for and take a venture to the’ Fish Ladder located at the Sixth Street dam near downtown where stairstep concrete pools to allow carp, steelhead and salmon to bypass the dam during their annual journey upstream toward Lansing.  It’s a perfect spot to catch a fun glimpse of local wildlife performing a miniature wondrous feat … without feet!

2. Blandford Nature Center – Located at 1715 Hillburn Ave NW, Blandford Nature Center has 143 acres of open meadows, towering forests, wetlands and streams to bring you back to your organic roots. Multiple trails meander throughout the property for over four miles, with abundant wildlife here and about. The Center organizes many events for visitors throughout the year, but for those who prefer to take in nature’s wonders all on their own, nothing beats a solitary walk along its paths.

3. Cannonsburg Ski Area in the Summertime – Bustling with skiers and snowboarders in the wintertime, Cannonsburg Ski Area located at 6800 Cannonsburg Rd NE in Belmont is a “practically deserted” sanctuary of quiet once the hills go green and the air turns warm. Hike the trails, enjoy a picnic or just sit and watch the day go by sans ski crowds.

4. Buck Creek Trail Between Lemery Park & Palmer Park – The Buck Creek Trail winds through the cities of Wyoming and Grandville and up toward downtown, but the part that threads between Charles Lemery Park and Linus Palmer Park is especially idyllic. Easily accessible off lots stationed at both parks as well as a small lot at the halfway point west off Burlingame Ave, the trail is paved as you head west toward Lemery Park, with a wonderful boardwalk section that connects southeast off the 44th St/Burlingame intersection and takes you through a mature wooded stretch toward Palmer Park. Step off the path at any point along the way and lose yourself along the placid creekbed. You’ll feel like you’re at a different point in time!

5. Keeler Art Gallery at Fountain Street Church – Everyone knows the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) is THE place to go for your local art fix, but the lesser-known Keeler Art Gallery offers an inspiring and sanctimonious alternative. Located just beyond the welcome lobby inside Fountain Street Church (24 Fountain St SE), the Keeler Gallery houses a rotating collection of works by various artists, many of them local, and usually revolving around a particular theme. Soak up the beautiful silence that fills this softly lit gallery while you take in what will feel like your very own private art show.

6. The Bitter End Coffee House – It’s true there are many superb independent coffeeshops in and around Grand Rapids, but The Bitter End Coffee House located just on the outskirts of downtown at 752 Fulton St W is one of the few that stays open all night. Low lit tables, dark woodwork and bookcases well stocked with used “help yourself” classics to enjoy during your stay make The Bitter End a coveted landing spot for late night city dwellers. Catch up with some peace and quiet while you get your caffeine fix.

7. Lookout Point/Belknap Lookout – Also known as Belknap Hill, this 160 foot high bluff in the Belknap Lookout Neighborhood overlooks downtown Grand Rapids to offer visitors striking views of the city. Breathe it all in from this unique vantage point and feel like you’re on top of the world. (Well, on top of Grand Rapids at least.)

8. GVSU Arboretum – Located on Allendale’s campus, Grand Valley State University’s Arboretum consists of 7 acres of over 700 trees and shrubs, 200 different species in all. The Arboretum was established in 1990 as part of an environmental effort that called for one tree to be planted for every ton of paper recycled by the university. Find your way back to nature while being just steps from the chaos of dorm life.

9. Grand Rapids Public Library – Sitting smack in the middle of downtown at (where else?) 111 Library St NE, the Grand Rapids Public Library’s huge and historic building offers countless ways to lose yourself in the beauty of books, movies and music. Curl up with a good read, explore some of Grand Rapids’ local history or scour the library’s archival digital collection of photographs. Find your happy place right in the middle of the city at the Grand Rapids Public Library!

10. Gerald R. Ford International Airport Lookout Point – You’ll find a different kind of one-ness here at a unique spot in Kentwood that offers a perfect vantage point of planes coming in and taking off from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Quiet it is not, but the powerful roar of the engines soothes the soul in a unique sort of way. There are even tables to accommodate picnickers! To get there, take 52nd St to Kraft Avenue and head north until the road dead-ends into the airport viewing area. Then tune into 1650 AM to listen to air traffic controllers coordinate the safe take-off and arrival of the various aircraft.

11. Yoga Studio – OK, so if you’re a true Zen-seeker you know that you can do yoga pretty much anywhere, but The Yoga Studio at 955 Cherry St SE in Grand Rapids offers an especially welcoming setting for those looking to indulge. The $5 community classes offered on Sunday nights gives newcomers a chance to test the waters without too much up front commitment while classes and events throughout the week offer die-hards a variety of ways to make one with themselves. There are even child-friendly options so you can teach junior the importance of finding his or her mini Zen!

12. Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park – Become a member or just go for the day … the flowering exhibits and unique art pieces at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park will take your breath away! Looking to lose yourself in an especially magical moment? Visit the Gardens during their annual ‘Butterflies are Blooming’ exhibit, the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the country featuring hundreds of butterflies from all over the world. This year’s exhibit takes place March 1 – April 30 and is open during the Gardens’ normal business hours. Throughout the rest of the year, enjoy a plethora of delights at Frederik Meijer Gardens, including a Japanese Garden and even a mystical Children’s Garden.


13. The Lakeshore – This is a no-brainer, of course. When life gets hectic for Grand Rapids residents, all you have to do is hop in your car and head for West Michigan’s “Golden Coast.” There are many options when it comes to beautiful beach spots, but Oval Beach in Saugatuck gets our vote for prettiest view with the softest sand and (most importantly for Zen-seekers) the thinnest crowds. Go late in the day to catch the sunset on a nearly deserted beach!

For more information about places to live and things to do in Grand Rapids, please contact SVG Real Estate Firm at (616) 284-1528. 

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