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Grand Rapids, Michigan: My Hometown

Author: sightseeingsue (More Trip Reviews by sightseeingsue)
Date of Trip: April 2006

Artist Maya Lin (designer of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.) designed a sculpture within a public park called Rosa Parks Circle, which is located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids in Monroe Center. Her design consists of three distinct areas suggesting the differing states of water: liquid, solid, and vapor. The core of the park is the "Ecliptic" (intersection plane of the earth's orbit with the celestial sphere, along which the sun appears to move as viewed from the earth), which is a 13,000-square-foot oval outdoor amphitheater (with a stage) that transforms into an ice-skating rink during the late fall and winter and hosts many festivals and concerts during the warmer months. The park's other two components include a small tree-enclosed reflecting pool and a secondary pool emitting water vapor.

Enclosed in the structure's floor are 166 fiber-optic lights that shine through the ice at night and are patterned after the midnight sky over Michigan on January 1, 2000 (start of the third millennium). Two lights that shine through represent the planets Jupiter and Saturn, and another light portrays the North Star. Now add in FREE skating and a warming hut with refreshments and you may see why this place is such a hot spot in winter.

During the summer, every Wednesday night at 6pm from mid-June through July (2006: June 14th to July 26th), a "Blues on the Mall" concert series hosted by GR's local classic rock radio station (WLAV-FM) is held, presenting wonderful blues performances, and it is totally FREE. In addition, this great location is the ideal meeting spot for area business professional or residents who live downtown to congregate at during lunch hour, to enjoy each others company or to enjoy their meals.

There are several parking lots nearby to park at, or if you are lucky, you might even find a free after-hours parking meter. The park is located in Monroe Center, right off Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, and is very close to many of the downtown hotels. The skating is free, but skate rental is a couple of bucks. Skating is open during the day as well as nighttime. Hours vary. There is a nice police presence downtown, so you should free safe while down here.

It's family friendly, totally teen, and an awesome adult experience. I can't think of why you wouldn't like this place.

While browsing through our newspaper's "Weekender," we ran across a 2 for 1 coupon for dinner being offered at the "Tavern on Kraft" restaurant. We love to try new places, so we reached for the scissors and did a little snip-snip-sniping.

28th Street is a road you can find just about anything on, it's our busiest street by far and Tavern on Kraft is located right off 28th on Kraft. This place has an absolutely ideal location, easy to get to and easy to find.

It was only quarter to five, maybe we'd beat the dinner rush and from the looks of the cars in the parking lot...we had. We entered into a very dimly-lit corridor which had two brown micro-suede couches, two coordinating chairs, a coffee table and a "please wait to be seated" sign... but we were all alone. Our first thoughts...nice place, but are they even open? Shortly, a young lady popped out of the kitchen. She informed us that,"We don't open until 5pm on weekends, but I would be happy to seat you." Our table was located in the back of the dinning area, next to a huge floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace.We weren't alone. Another early-bird couple was there, finishing up their fish and chips baskets.

The room was tastefully decorated with wainscoted walls all in earthy tones and had an upscale casual tavern-style feel to it. There was a long, L-shaped bar in the front area that is partitioned off, but still able to see through the etched glass. The only thing that seemed a little out of place was the vaulted ceiling directly above us which had a hand-painted mural of the sky on it. It wasn't the whole length of the room just in the middle area.... a little odd in my opinion.

The menu was not overwhelming with choices featured for lunch and dinner. A few appetizers, six sandwiches (Reuben, burgers), entrees of pasta, fish-n-chips, chicken and a few steaks. That's about it. We both settled on the NY steak ($15) and paid the extra $1.50 to include a bowl of home-made french-onion soup.

The steaming hot soup was delicious, our steaks done perfectly, the mix of zucchini and summer squash fresh and tasty and some fried potatoes that weretasty as well...but no bread or rolls, what's up with that? We should have passed on the dessert, as it was by far the smallest slice of cheesecake ($4) I have ever been served.

Probably catering more to the working-class professionals, but fit for anyone, this place offers a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a meal or after-work cocktails. On Wednesday through Saturday evenings, live bands perform and the place offers dancing. Full bar, featuring a large list of martinis, beers, wines, and other specialty drinks, and on some evening they offer all-u-can-eat specials. So, with its reasonably priced good tasting meals, music, dancing, cocktails, and an outdoor deck in the summer, I give this place a thumbs up.

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