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Best Museums in Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids, Michigan, has a variety of interesting museums. Whether you enjoy history, art, or science, you can find a great museum in this appealing city. Check out what some of the city’s best museums have to offer below.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum

Grand Rapids Public Museum
Image via Flickr by multitrack | Licensed by CC BY 2.0

At the Grand Rapids Public Museum, you can see some truly unique indoor and outdoor exhibits for kids and adults. Amazing Pollinators teaches kids about bees, bats, butterflies, and other pollinators with an interactive maze that has nine environments. Your children can see lotus flowers in the rainforest and moon flowers glowing in a room with black lights for nocturnal pollinators. There are also graphics with information about how to help pollinators at home and in the community.

The POPnology exhibit celebrates interactions between pop culture and technology. It showcases how science fiction has become fact. You can see several iconic replicas from science fiction books and movies. The exhibit has more than a dozen interactive elements. Four areas explore how technology has changed our everyday lives: How We Connect, How We Live and Work, How We Move, and How We Play. The world’s first 3D-printed car will be part of this exhibit as well.

Visitors can borrow one of 11 different themed discovery kits in the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s discovery kit loan program for a small fee. These kits include artifacts, specimens, and other useful educational materials. Themes include fossils, holiday traditions, jewelry, music, newcomers, numismatics or coins, space, zoology, hats, foodways, and Anishinabek culture. You can use these kits to learn at home or at the museum.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The gift shop and the cafe open at 10 a.m. every day. They close at 5 p.m. on most days, and the cafe closes at 3 p.m. on weekdays.

The Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives

At the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, you can immerse yourself in African American history, culture, and art. Visitors will get a lot out of the Voices of the Civil Rights Movement exhibit. It lets you view video and audio recordings of the people who fought at the forefront of the movement recounting their stories and struggles. Featured leaders include U.S. Representative John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles, and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.

The Exposing Our Roots exhibit is a four-part series of lectures that explore racial and social justice, relationships, politics, health, and culture. Panelists include Dr. Andre Fields, Pastor Curtis Thompson, Niecy Stewart, and Fridah Kaniani. The Annette Radden African American Doll Collection will be added to the museum soon. This exhibit helps preserve some of the everyday relics of African American culture, and it includes paper dolls, antique rag dolls, and Christie, Barbie’s first black friend. Free doll appraisals are available.

You can visit this museum Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Before you visit, stop by one of the great pizza places in the area. If you feel like spending a little time outdoors, take the free, interactive history tour of downtown Grand Rapids. It’s about 2 miles long, and it has 11 points of interest, including Fountain Street Church and Crescent Park. Malcolm X and Langston Hughes visited the historic Fountain Street Church, and Lyman Parks, Grand Rapids’ first African American mayor, helped found Crescent Park.

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) will open in July 2021 and will showcase a rich collection of art. The Exit Space exhibit features work from street artists from all over the city. The grounds of the museum are covered in artwork as well. You can already see more than 16 murals, sculptures, and other art installations in the area around the institute. The Other World exhibit attempts to show a future worth fighting for, reinforcing aspirations for human advancement through an exploration of what fills people with hope.

This museum is part of Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design. Whereabouts: the Influence of Place and Space will include a variety of art installations in the Ferris Building’s main floor hallway, lobby, and main floor display cases. UICA hosts a variety of events, including docent-led tours, performance art, artist receptions, and gallery talks. Kids and adults can make their own artwork, and more extensive art classes about sculpting, fashion designing, illustration, photography, graphic design, architecture, painting, printmaking, and interior design will be available.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum lets you take virtual tours. You can learn about President Ford’s childhood, his years in Congress, his time living in Grand Rapids, as well as his Vice Presidency and Presidency — all from home. You can also take virtual tours of the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office.

At the museum, you’ll find a full-size replica of the Oval Office, an interactive Cabinet Room, a Watergate gallery, a 1976 Bicentennial display, and part of the Berlin Wall. You can also learn more about Betty Ford, the First Lady. Many exhibits change often, and past exhibits include The Continual Struggle and Canine Warriors. The Continual Struggle contained 23 works of art by Brian Washington that celebrate black history. Canine Warriors showcased the devoted service dogs that have aided disabled citizens, and it featured artwork by master craftsman James Mellick.

Luncheons, book readings, and holiday events take place regularly at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum. You can check their online calendar for details, and event spaces are available. Visually impaired visitors can ask in advance for an interpretive guide, and intern and volunteer programs are available.

At these great museums, you and your kids can have fun and learn more about Grand Rapids. These are some of our favorites here at Goodman Acker P.C. What are your favorite Grand Rapids museums? Did we miss any places that you enjoy? If so, let us know so we can add your top picks to our list.

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