Area features

One of the best parts of Grand Valley State University is its location. Drive 30 minutes west and you’ll hit Lake Michigan. Hop a bus and go 30 minutes east and you’ve reached a bustling, downtown Grand Rapids. Whether you enjoy traipsing through the woods and exploring new trails or prefer to stay in air conditioned, bug free zones you’re bound to find something to do. Turn the pages for a glimpse at a few of GVSU students’ favorite local spots.


Downtown Grand Rapids is filled with fun cultural, art, music and sporting events throughout the year and is home to hundreds of eateries, shops and boutiques. Whether you’re looking for dinner, an afternoon at a museum or a night out, the options are endless. Here are a few ideas for your trip to the city.

On the menu

Stella’s Lounge

In 2012, Stella’s Lounge was voted best burger in America by GQ Magazine. The giant stuffed burgers quite literally melt in your mouth. The lounge is also known for its bar, which is stocked with over 200 whiskeys, and their collection of vintage arcade games.

Madcap Coffee Company

This downtown coffee shop is committed to selling coffee that is both high quality and sustainable. The owners Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp have personally visited over 75 percent of the farms- located around the world- that produce the coffee they sell. Their goal is make it to 100 percent by the end of 2014. The duo only buys from farms that they believe are committed to their craft.

XO Asian Cuisine

If you love sushi or want to try it, XO is bound to have something you like. The restaurant also has Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian cuisine. The lunch specials are great for students on a budget, and it’s only a 10 minute walk from campus making it convenient for those with downtown classes.

5th Annual Taste of East Grand Rapids

This event will take place on Aug. 21 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will feature many different restaurants from Gaslight Village. The event will also have live music, booths and sidewalk sales throughout the night. Admission is free and food tickets only cost $1 each.

The Downtown Market

Grand Rapids’ Downtown Market provides students the opportunity to get local food year round. The market offers baked goods, produce, meat, cheese, coffee and more. It also provides resources for education on healthy living practices with cooking classes, yoga and other special events. The indoor market is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. During the fall, the outdoor market is also open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

With hundreds of eateries in Grand Rapids you can spend the entire year finding new spots for breakfast, lunch and dinner. More favorites include:

  • Marie Catrib’s
  • Electric Cheetah
  • Bartertown Diner
  • Rockwell Republic
  • Brewery Vivant
  • HopCat
  • Amore Trattoria Italiana
  • Spoonlickers

Out and about

Grand Rapids Art Museum

Including hosting many of the best pieces during ArtPrize, the Grand Rapids Art Museum is a great place to go to look at amazing artwork year round. Here are a few of our favorite things about the GRAM.

  • Free admission to the public on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and free general admission Thursday nights from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Updated exhibitions such as Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America, currently being featured until Aug. 24.
  • Ongoing events being planned and hosted by the GRAM including concerts, special exhibitions and much more.
  • Conveniently located close to top-notch restaurants, hotels and other museums and events.

Rosa Parks Circle

Rosa Parks Circle is a great space for hanging with friends or a first date. During the warmer months, there are concerts and dances every week. For those who can brave the cold, the winter months transform the plaza into an ice skating rink. Even if there isn’t something going on, it’s always a nice place to sit and enjoy the day with friends. Listed below are a few upcoming events:

  • Parks & Recreation Zumba on Aug. 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
  • Swing dancing on Aug. 19 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Blues on the Mall on Aug. 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Dozynski Festival Aug. 22 through Aug. 24.

Movies in the Park

While the weather is still warm, going to Movies in the Park is also a good way to get your mind off of preparing for classes. On Aug. 22 there is a double feature playing Jurassic Park and a voter’s choice movie. It will take place at 7 p.m. in Ah-Nab-Awen Park in Grand Rapids. Be sure to bring blankets, chairs and snacks to enjoy the movie!


During the school year, one of the most popular events for students to attend is ArtPrize. People come from all over to display their work around Grand Rapids and then viewers get to vote on their favorite pieces. There are many amazing works of art and admission to many of the museums that host the artwork is free during the festivities. This year the event will take place from Sept. 24 through Oct. 12.

Sporting Events

Selling tickets to sporting events can be good fundraisers for campus organizations, but it’s also a great way to get off campus and enjoy the area around GVSU. During the beginning of the year, students can enjoy watching a West Michigan Whitecaps baseball game or check out a Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game during the winter. Tickets are very reasonably priced and can be a good way to relax after a long week. Plus, Friday nights have $2 beers and hot dogs at Griffins games.

Events downtown are especially convenient for GVSU students to attend with free transportation from The Rapid bus system.

Tips for Riding The Rapid:

  1. If you’re standing, always hold on. Tight. People will laugh if you fall over.
  2. If you get a phone call on the bus remember everyone around you is listening in on your conversation. The bus isn’t always the best place for personal discussions.
  3. When the bus is packed, don’t be that person who puts their backpack on the seat next to them so no one can sit there. The death glares will be deserved if you do.
  4. When you’re getting out the back door of the bus, hold it for the next person rather than letting it slam in their face.
  5. When the bus finally comes and the crowd starts moving toward the doors, don’t push ahead. Most of these people have been waiting just as long as you have and are no less impatient.


Students looking to have a great time, but who don’t want to go all the way to Grand Rapids, can find many fun things to do in Allendale, both on and off campus.

On the menu

Grand Coney

If you don’t feel like cooking but want a great tasting but reasonably priced meal, head to Grand Coney. What do we like about Grand Coney?

  • It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Serves a wide variety of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert foods.
  • Fast and friendly service.
  • Grand Valley pride displayed inside.

Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe

This ice cream shop is a newer location that has become very popular among students because of their great flavors and services. Our favorite things are:

  • Unlike most ice cream shops, Scoops will deliver!
  • Location is very close to campus and near a bus stop.
  • In addition to ice cream, they also have flurries, parfaits, sundaes and more.

Main St. Pub

This restaurant and bar offers a extensive menu of burgers, pasta, sea food and sandwiches. It’s the perfect spot for a quick lunch with friends or for a dinner with visiting family. Come stop by for a Laker Club Wrap.

Students can also try out these eateries along the 37 bus route. Just a few are:

  • Peppino’s Pizza
  • Jimmy John’s
  • Menna’s Joint
  • Biggby Coffee

Out and about

There are also many fun activities on campus that students can do between classes or on the weekends. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Hiking or geocaching in the ravines.
  • Golfing at The Meadows golf course.
  • Watching a movie in the Kirkhof theater.
  • Taking a walk in the arboretum.


One of the best parts about GVSU is it’s only 30 minutes away from Lake Michigan. The shoreline is dotted with small towns, such as Holland, where students can go for a relaxing day at the beach or to explore new shops and restaurants.

On the menu


The relationship between a person and their coffee can only be described as true love. When you’re in need of a little affection head right over here for a cup or two. Come use the free Wi-Fi and get some homework done while you enjoy your drink. If you don’t like coffee, don’t worry, the menu has options for you too. A few of our favorite drinks:

  • Stress Reliever Mood Latte: Chocolate, caramel and hazelnut
  • Summer: Hot chocolate, blackberry and strawberry
  • Green Army Guy: Apple soda, strawberry and an army guy

Ottawa Beach Pizza Co.

This take out and delivery restaurant is right across the street from Lake Macatawa and just a few minutes from Holland State Park. Plus, Ottawa Beach Pizza Co. offers gluten free crust and has over 30 pizza toppings. Grab some friends and a Beach Bum pizza and head to the lake.

New Holland Brewing Company

Microbreweries have become extremely popular in West Michigan. New Holland Brewing Company is well known for their Dragon’s Milk, a bourbon barrel stout, and their Beer Barreled Bourbon. The pub, located in downtown Holland, also has a food menu and is a great spot to stop for lunch or dinner after a day at the beach. While you’re at it, go on a brewery and distillery tour at their production facility located at 684 Commerce Court. The tours are every Saturday and cost $10.

Our Brewing Company

If you need a relaxed environment to do some group work or to hold a meeting, this is the place to go. The owners (Trevor and Lisa Doublestein & Dane and Brynn Sexton) encourage people to make the bar their own and to bring work or just hang out. Trevor calls it an office away from the office.

Also check out these spots in downtown Holland:

  • Crust 54
  • Good Time Donuts
  • JP’s Coffee & Espresso Bar
  • The City Delicatessen
  • Butch’s Drydock
  • Downtown Dogs
  • Crane’s In The City

Out and about

Holland State Park

The park includes 142 acres of sandy beaches and campgrounds along Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. East of the park, the Mt. Pisgah dune walk stairway and hiking trail offers views of both lakes, the Big Red lighthouse and the marinas. The highest point of the trail is 157 feet above Lake Michigan.

Cappon House & Settlers House Museums

The Italianate style Cappon House was built by Holland’s first mayor Isaac Cappon. Now, the house is open to the public for self-guided tours. The interior showcases the lifestyle of Cappon and his family in the 19th century with original Michigan-made furniture, early light fixtures and a family photograph gallery. Five doors down the road is the Settlers House. The 1867 cottage was built by the ship carpenter Thomas Morrissey and shows the contrast between Holland’s working and upper classes.

Windmill Island Gardens

Windmill Island Gardens include 36 acres of gardens, canals and the DeZwaan windmill. The five-story windmill is the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the U.S. The gardens also have costumed guides, an Amsterdam street organ, a hand-painted Dutch carousel and gift shops. Visitors can buy stone-ground windmill flour during the open season or it can be shipped during the off season. The garden is open seasonally from May through October.

1 Adventure Company

Before it gets cold, schedule an adventure tour with 1 Adventure Company. The company gives guided kayak tours throughout West Michigan. You can also schedule fishing, hiking, rock climbing and camping tours in the area.


If you’re in need of a change in scenery, head to this lake town located about 30 minutes northwest of Allendale. The pier and lighthouse are gorgeous when the sun sets and the beaches are hard to beat. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you occupied downtown too. Grand Haven is a fun spot for a day trip on the weekend or an evening visit after classes.

On the menu

Pronto Pup

The tiny food stand was built in 1947. Pronto Pups (not to be confused with corn dogs despite the similar appearance) are a favorite among both locals and tourists. The booth, located on the Grand River near the lakefront, serves battered-and-fried franks on a stick, attracting long lines during the summer months. Make sure to stop here when you’re in the area.

Morning Star Cafe

This cafe serves breakfast and lunch with a Southwest touch. Stop by for a breakfast quesadilla or their huevos rancheros. The homemade cinnamon rolls are both “ridiculously awesome” and “to die for.” Breakfast is served seven days a week and lunch is available Monday through Friday starting at 11:30 a.m.

Butch’s Beach Burritos

When you’re craving Mexican food, stop by this small eatery located within walking distance of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven Lighthouse & Pier. Butch’s offers burritos, tacos, specialty hot dogs wrapped in warm tortillas, nachos and salads.

Grand Haven has a wide range of eateries from breakfast spots to full service restaurants. Other popular spots include:

  • Jeanne’s Cafe
  • Arturo’s Tacos
  • The Fortune Cookie
  • Ray’s Drive-In
  • Mr. Kozaks
  • Fricano’s Pizza Tavern
  • The Kirby House

Out and about

Grand Haven State Park

The 48-acre park is home to a sandy shore along Lake Michigan and offers views of the Grand Haven Pier and Lighthouse. Visitors don’t just come in the summer though. The colder months highlight the beauty of winter in Michigan with frozen waves and sand mounds. Bundle up though!

Rosy Mound Natural Area

This Great Lakes dune system has several trails ranging from .7 to 2.5 miles and includes 1,000 feet of stairs. The hike ends on a sandy beach along Lake Michigan and has gorgeous views of open and forested dunes. Rosy Mound is open year round offering a different hiking experience every season.

Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl

Winter will soon return, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up inside while at school. Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl has six slopes with adjoining trails and five rope tows. The highest elevation is 1,300 feet and the longest slope is 700 feet. The ski bowl offers open skiing and snowboarding, lessons, equipment rental and freestyle clubs.