I sat down thinking I'd create a sort of "informational" blog to assist those who are planning to come to MY HOMETOWN this Christmas. But then I started getting all schmoopy.
Grand Rapids. It's where I live and work. I guess I'll have to go back a few years to give this narrative a proper lift off.
When I moved to this place 16 years ago the downtown area was mostly just a series of rundown buildings with the exception of a very small triangle in the very center of the town which included the Federal Building, the Main Post Office, a hospital, two bank headquarters, a performing arts hall a library and of course the Amway Grand Hotel, which even in those days was a city unto itself. There was a cobblestone "mall" which I assume in it's day was probably the bustling town center. But the first time I visited it I found only a very out of date department store, a single shoe store and I think there may have been a coffee shop. But the turn of events these past few days have made me stop to remember how much things have changed.
Anyway, coming downtown was always pretty scary. Even though I had to bring my girls in 4 to 5 nights a week (but only to the outskirts) for their ballet lessons. And then for years I only had to venture into the "heart" of downtown a couple of times a year. For the three week run of "The Nutcracker" each December and then again for the Grand Rapids Ballet's offering every spring and fall. The performances were always held in the DeVos Hall, and over the years of being a ballet mom I really began to feel at home in that place. As I speak I can picture the stagedoor leading into the backstage area... with the "STAR" dressing room to the right, directly across from the bulletin board and the table where flowers were always placed for the performers... the double doors to the left that entered into the wings of the stage and the many dressing rooms and rehearsal rooms on the floors above.
...But most of all I remember all those nooks and crannies and secret corridors that I'd have to sneak through to get from watching the performances from the house back to the dressing rooms backstage where I could help "quick change" little girls from their mouse costumes into their little angel outfits. But I digress...
And then my kids grew up and moved on and it was a long, long time before I ever ventured downtown again.
Then three years ago my company relocated my department to their building right smack dab in the center of town. Which coincided, coincidentally, almost precisely with the emergence of Clay. And the city had changed. Except it’s not really a city… it’s still a town... which is what is so COOL about it... a town which now has just about anything and everything one would ever want a city/town to offer… including Clay on December 19th! Heh.
For three years now I have parked in the (newish) VanAndel Arena parking lot just south of town to catch the shuttle to work… because parking in actual downtown is reeeeely expensive. And there has not been a day gone by when I haven’t looked up at that arena and thought "Someday Clay… someday." (BTW… every single one of the AI tours has performed there, with the exception of 2…)
My typical day consists of resting cheek in hand and staring out my window at the marquee of the new DeVos Convention Center, which scrolls the announcements of all the coming attractions for "the Place" which includes the convention center itself, DeVos Performance Hall and the Van Andel Arena, and saying "Someday Clay… someday."
My typical lunch hour consists of sitting in the plaza right outside my office building reading a book while intermittently glancing up at the windows of the Amway Grand Hotel wondering which window it will be that "someday" he will eventually gaze out of.
OK… so well anyway… the rest is history.
Grand Rapids is really a great place to visit. But I’m suspecting anyone coming in December won’t really have much time to explore and appreciate the incredibleness of this town. So I’ll keep it simple.
The Amway Grand is of course the place to stay if you feel you can afford it and is definitely within reason especially if you can bunk with someone else… or two. It’s right next door to the venue and almost completely attached. There are tons of restaurants, shops, ornate lobbies... and a Starbucks.
Down the street is The Courtyard Marriott which is a beautiful new hotel. The bottom 5 floors are the hotel with about 20 floors of apartments above. And who knows, I guess it’s possible that Clay could stay here too. From what I understand, there is now an indoor "skyway" that will take you a short ten minute walk up the street to DeVos Hall.
Directly across the street from the Marriott is The B.O.B. which I would probably suggest for any of the before or after concert gatherings. There are tons of options there. Any suggestions? Or… there’s a T.G.I.F. right next door.
If you find yourself with any extra time on your hands here are some sites you might want to take in.
- The Frederik Meijer Garden’s
- The Gerald R. Ford Museum
- Heritage Hill Home Tour
- Grand Rapids Public Museum
With the exception of "The Garden’s" these are all located right downtown. And then there’s the Monroe Mall, which is also right there and which still has the cobblestones… but a "few" more quaint shops than there used to be.
The Weather: It will be cold probably in the 20’s to 40’s and if it’s snowing it will be slushy. Dress warm and hope for a crisp and sunny winter’s day and a clear night.
Driving: It’s fairly easy to get around downtown and not congested at all unless it’s during the rush hour. The streets are mostly one way, so beware of that.
Parking: It’s expensive any way you look at it and, as always, it’s cheapest if you don’t plan to go in and out.
Amenities: Sparkling Christmastree lined streets and a romantic carriage ride if you want one. *g*
And then, of course... Clay! Geesh, with all that pimpin' going on... I almost forgot about HIM! Heh