Friday, May 14, 2010

CASTing About for Food and Things to do in Grand Rapids

I got a message from some folks I know who are attending CAST asking about places to stay and places to eat. That got me thinking, and then typing...

Right out the gate - Traffic Warning! I-196 – the interstate highway that runs East-West through Grand Rapids has major construction going on and is CLOSED in fairly vital parts of downtown Grand Rapids. All the regular downtown traffic is being re-routed down Fulton Street and Michigan Street – the original E-W thoroughfares in the city. This will certainly hinder any driving you wish to do to get to downtown GR or anything on the West side of the city.

Having said that – there are some pretty cool things to do when you’re not CASTing…

Sunday, August 1 – Music Session - 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

The location alternates between two spots within a block of each other in downtown Grand Rapids. I believe that August 1 will be at McFadden’s Restaurant, 58 Ionia SW. If I’m wrong, the session is at Tavern on the Square, located at 100 Ionia SW . Generally the music is Irish Traditional, with a smattering of Scottish, Cape Breton, Bluegrass and Old Timey, depending on who is there. Experience level of players tends to range from beginner to reasonably advanced and is open to anyone to play or listen. Both locations have drink specials – McFadden’s carries the Guinness/Smithwicks/Harp line-up with domestic beers as well. The Tavern has a nice selection of micro- and artisan beers, including some locally produced, along with food specials for Sunday night.

Every Day the week of CAST

The Frederic Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a short drive up the road from the Prince Conference Center. Through September, they are hosting an exhibit of the work of Dale Chihuly, an artist who works in glass. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement. The exhibit is astounding. More information on the Gardens and the show can be had at their website. They are open until 9:00 PM Mondays and Tuesdays and until 5:00 PM other days.

Wednesday night

A local “collection” (chain is such a wrong term for them) of restaurants runs a special called “Wine Down Wednesday” where all wine from their “glass lists” is half off their regular price. Although owned and operated by the same group, each establishment has their own specialties and really, really commendable items. The nearest installment is The Blue Water Grill. They are a very short drive from the Prince Conference Center and is easily accessible from, well, the whole city. The largest establishment is downtown – The B.O.B. (Big Old Building) – that houses several individual eateries (and drinkeries.)

Other Non-Chain Eateries

One of my favorites is a neighborhood place on the West side of the city, a short distance from Michigan Street (which turns into Bridge Street when you cross the Grand River on, well, a bridge.) Salvatore’s has some very respectable pizza (my favorite is the “Taste of G.R.”) and a variety of typical “Italian” offerings based on the family’s recipes from Sicily. Not a fancy place, but reasonable prices and comfortable environment.

Where to stay?

Beats me - I can’t tell you the best places – I live in a house in the city! However! There are a bunch of hotels, some major name brands, some less so, within 15 or 20 minutes from the Prince Conference Center. There is a Country Inn & Suites that is fairly new a short distance from the Conference Center. About the same distance, and close to a couple of shopping malls, is a Residence Inn. Right in the same area is a Ramada Inn, although this is in a renovated, former Holiday Inn, so not a terribly new hotel. There is also a Staybridge Suites and a Fairfield Inn in the same general area. Those are the ones that are pretty much the closest to the conference location.

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