First settled in 1826 in an area of Indian tribes, missionaries and fur traders, Grand Rapids was incorporated as a city on April 2, 1850.
A major regional lumbering center, Grand Rapids became known as the foremost center for premium US furniture manufacturing during the last half of the 19th century, and nicknamed "Furniture City." It was later the site for one of the first regularly scheduled US passenger routes, with flights from Grand Rapids to Detroit/Dearborn, beginning July 31, 1926.
The Grand Rapids Symphony, one of America’s leading regional orchestras, was founded in 1930 and presents more than 400 performances a year. Venues include the DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Avenue NW.
The Festival of the Arts takes place in Vandenberg Plaza the first weekend of June each year, with food, art, music, dance, poetry, film, and more. Alexander Calder's abstract sculpture, La Grande Vitesse is also in this public square.
West Michigan Pride of recent years took place in Riverside Park on the NW side. See plans for the next scheduled dates, at their website.
The Grand Rapids Film Festival is scheduled for May 2013.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport, a few miles southeast of Grand Rapids, in Cascade Township, has connections to major US cities and Toronto Canada. City bus number 17 service between the airport and downtown costs $1.50. See Rapid/airport for schedules.
The Rapid provides a variety of public transportation services for the Grand Rapids metro area and beyond.
Media and resources
The Rapidian is a "hyperlocal news source" about general life in Grand Rapids from local residents. The Grand River Renegades line-dancing social group that gets together Sunday evenings at Rumors has an informative website on gay goings-on. The East Town neighborhood business association has a website on what's happening there.
Grand Rapids is a liberal enclave within a otherwise conservative part of Michigan. As in most such areas, gay people of all kinds tend to stick together and find more in commong than in large cities where every group has their own turf. Bars here welcome a wide range of ages, 18 years-old (to enter, not to drink) to much older people, both men and women, all mixing together. The gay bars are in the downtown area within a couple of blocks from the intersection of Fulton Street and Division Avenue.
The Eastown neighborhood is Grand Rapid's hippest district for the general population, with an eclectic sprinkling of specialty shops, galleries, restaurants, coffee houses, entertainment venues, and other businesses.
The Apartment Lounge (33 Sheldon NE), men's pub and lounge of 38 years, booth seating, daily drink specials, occasional shows.
Diversions (10 Fountain NW), nightly 18-plus video and karaoke bar, dance club, bear nights, special party nights.
Pub 43 (43 Division Ave South), local gay tavern just up the street from Rumors, food, videos, pool tables.
Rumors (69 Division Ave. South), downtown gay bar and dance club; Wednesday male strippers; Sunday country line dancing 6-9pm followed by female impersonator shows.
In Douglas on Lake Michigan, about 40 minutes drive from Grand Rapids Dunes Resort (333 Blue Star Hwy) the Midwest's largest gay and lesbian resort, has 81 rooms and individual cottages on 20 acres; a night club with dancing, karaoke, male dancers; swimming pool and restaurant. It's mostly men, but women-friendly, just a few minutes drive from two lakeside sandy beaches.
Diplomat Health Club (2324 Division Ave South), basic no-frills men's bathhouse with work-out area.
For Restaurant listings, plus links and locations of the above bars, see our map & listings section.
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