WITH A DIZZYING array of new microbreweries, hipster-friendly coffee roasters and innovative tech startups joining longtime companies like Steelcase, Grand Rapids has bucked the trend of other Rust Belt cities and successfully positioned itself as one of the hottest destinations in the Midwest. Further burnishing its cred is ArtPrize, an international art competition that returns from Sept. 20 to Oct. 8 for its ninth annual outing. Not restricted to the hallowed walls of art galleries or museums, ArtPrize’s nearly 200 venues include bars, restaurants, hotels and even the Grand River itself. It’s one of the world’s largest art events, and definitely the place to see how modern art is pushing the envelope of creativity.
The centrally located downtown district offers beautiful views of the Grand River and close proximity to many of the exhibitions, making it an ideal place to plant a flag during your stay. In addition to its spacious rooms and top-notch concierge service, the Amway Grand Plaza (room rates from $224 per night) houses several high-end restaurants and the excellent Lumber Baron Bar—a clubby mahogany-paneled space where there’s always a roaring blaze in the fireplace and a crew of skilled mixologists spinning out delicious craft cocktails. Before you imbibe, work out at the fantastic on-site fitness center, which is fully outfitted with top-of-the-line equipment, lighted outdoor tennis courts and a wet area with a refreshing swimming pool and hot tubs.
Also located along the water, the JW Marriott (room rates from $237 per night) offers luxurious rooms with several unique layouts. While there, check out six.one.six. —a gourmet farm-to-table restaurant named for the local area code. Also worth a visit is the posh on-site spa, which offers facials, massages and other indulgent services—just what the doctor ordered after a long day of exhibit-hopping.