Planners interested in tapping into a “liquid” Midwest meetings destination can head to Grand Rapids, Mich., where, among other fluid opportunities, groups will find river activities, event venues with water views, an exciting lineup of craft breweries and waterborne pursuits at nearby Lake Michigan.
A great place to start is at DeVos Place, the anchor of the city’s meetings infrastructure. This standout Midwest convention center sets the scene for visiting attendees, as it’s situated alongside the Grand River and boasts beautiful water views from many of its meeting spaces.
Among DeVos Place’s function venues are the exhibit hall, with 162,000 square feet of uninterrupted space; a 2,404-seat performing arts theater; the River Overlook Meeting Rooms, which are located on the upper level and are well-suited for breakout sessions; the 40,000-square-foot Steelcase Ballroom; and the Secchia Lobby, which sports terrific views of the Grand River.
Beyond the convention center, there are other local function spaces that also provide picturesque river views, including jdek, one of the dining options at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids.
“It has great reception space for groups,” said Tim Nelson, director of convention services at Experience Grand Rapids. “The jdek provides a great view of the Grand River while attendees sip on cocktails and craft beer.”
Perhaps the most intriguing venues for group functions in Grand Rapids are the Gillett Bridge and the Blue Bridge, historic railroad bridges that were built with two tracks side by side.
“These pedestrian bridges are unique and fun event spaces,” Nelson said. “Groups can enjoy a meal and the views of the skyline and river around them at the same time.”
Bridge events, he added, can be spread out for the length of the bridge and may accommodate up to 1,000 people.
“Groups have incorporated activities such as fly-fishing demonstrations and a duck race,” Nelson said. “And they can also have live entertainment and dancing on the bridges.”
Another popular location for group events is Ah-Nab-Awen Park, which is situated directly across the river from the convention center and main meetings-friendly hotels, including Courtyard by Marriott Grand Rapids Downtown, CityFlatsHotel and Amway Grand Plaza, a Curio Collection by Hilton hotel.
“For a great view of the Grand Rapids skyline, Ah-Nab-Awen Park is another exceptional event venue,” Nelson said. “The park is a large grassy area right alongside the Grand River. It also lies at the end of the Gillett Bridge, so large groups can combine the two areas.”