Ranked the No. 1 attraction in Grand Rapids by TripAdvisor, Meijer Gardens, as locals call it, is an oasis of heavenly-smelling plants and flowers, chattering tropical birds and magnificent sculpture by masters old and new. It’s hard to decide if this treasure is an outdoor art gallery with fantastic foliage or a rambling playground with great art.
Rodin, Chihuly, and da Vinci are just a few of the artists on display. One of the world’s two 24-feet-tall da Vinci horses — based on the Renaissance man’s original drawings and sculpted by an American artist — calls the Garden home; the other is in Grand Rapids’ sister city of Perugia, Italy.
Care to sneak in some culture on your trip? Even if your 6-year-old couldn’t care less about art, he/she may still soak in the exquisite sculptures unknowingly while watching caterpillars feed on milkweed in the Caterpillar Room, chasing the Red-legged Honeycreeper in the Tropical Conservatory, and digging for buried fossils with shovels or hand-operated diggers in the Rock Quarry.
The Lena Meijer Children’s Garden is especially suited for younger kids. Wiggle-worms can get their squirms out by navigating the Butterfly Maze and ringing a bell to sound victory, launching a boat in the mini-replica of the Great Lakes or sniffing a plant that smells like buttery popcorn in the Five Senses Garden.
Just 10 to 15 minutes from downtown and completely handicap accessible, indoors and out, the Gardens also host the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in America in March and April every year, a stellar outdoor concert series in the summer, and an enchanting international Christmas tree exhibit during the holidays. Admission is $12 for adults 14 to 64; $6 for kids 5 to 13; $4 for kids 3 and 4 years old; and free for those under 3.