You’ll be looking in vain for the “Rapids” piece of the city’s name, but look no further than the imposing Public Museum/Van Andel Museum for a bit of grandeur. The grand staircase sweeps visitors up to the second and third floors, with a grandiose view of the Grand River flowing below. Before you even hit the staircase, look up and gaze at the majestic, 76-foot fin whale skeleton floating above. It’s one of the most complete and largest whale skeletons on exhibit anywhere. Other highlights include a reconstruction of an early furniture factory, a tour through Michigan’s natural habitats, and detailed (smaller) re-creation of Grand Rapids in the 1890s. Before leaving, give the 1928 working Spillman carousel a whirl ($1), and don’t forget a visit to the cosmos at the extensively remodeled Chaffee Planetarium ($4). The Museum also hosts regular top-notch rotating exhibits.
Admission is $8 for adults and $3 for children. The museum is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.