Between concerts, plays, restaurants, festivals, classes, markets and much, much more, there’s absolutely no shortage of life to live in West Michigan. In today’s day and age, there’s no reason to ever be bored here. We were able to find 50 fun, fascinating, unique things to do in 2019, and that’s before the year even began. New events, restaurants and oddities are sure to pop up, so even once you’ve used the ideas ahead to add to your 2019 bucket list, don’t forget to keep an eye out year-round.
Grand Rapids, Various dates
Sometimes, brunch alone isn’t enough to put pep in your step. But when you toss in a drag show with some of the best queens in West Michigan, it’s hard not to get ready to party. If you’ve ever wanted to go to a drag show but wished you could sit down and enjoy a meal and mimosa the whole time, this is the show for you. The troupe performs most Sundays, at various restaurants around town.
Kalamazoo Chili Cook-Off
Jan. 26, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
For 14 years now, Kalamazoo has kept warm with this free chili cook-off. Just about every business in the area gets in on the fun, with dozens of restaurants, cafes and more offering chili samples. Start by picking up your commemorative tasting spoons and then travel from bowl to bowl with the Holly Jolly Chili Trolley. It’s a great excuse to explore the city while filling up on beans and broth.
Take a Cooking Class
435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
242 W. Western Ave., Muskegon
In today’s world, it’s great for your health — both mental and physical — to slow down and spend some time with a home-cooked meal. Whether you’re useless in the kitchen or just want to pick up a new skill, cooking classes are where it’s at. Downtown Market in Grand Rapids and Kitchen 242 in Muskegon are both here to up your game, with classes like D.I.Y. Thai and Cooking With Craft Beer at the Downtown Market, or Gnocchi Like a Pro and Cast Iron Cooking at Kitchen 242. Bonus: It makes for a great date.
Kalamazoo Restaurant Week
Feb. 26-March 3
Whether you live in Grand Rapids, Muskegon or Holland, you need to check out Kalamazoo’s food scene. The updated classics of Principle, the experimentation of Old Dog Tavern and the world-traveling cuisine of Food Dance are all on full display in Restaurant Week, the perfect opportunity to make a day of the ’Zoo. While you’re in town, you might as well stop at iconic breweries like Bell’s, Arcadia and Tibbs.
Onesie Bar Crawl
206 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Jan. 12, 4-midnight, $10-25
Grab your coziest onesie and get to bar hopping. The onesie bar crawl makes partying in the middle of Michigan winter a breeze. Hosted by Crawl With Us, the event gets you free cover at all partner venues and two free drinks, plus access to professional photographers, a onesie contest and prizes. After all the hopping’s over, be sure to stick around for the afterparty.
Feb. 15-March 15
Us West Michigan folk love any reason to celebrate and drink beer. Lucky for us, Grand Rapids decided to dedicate a full month to it. Events include Cool Brews, Hot Eats — in which restaurants put beer in the spotlight — local hotel deals, restaurant specials, KBS Week, exclusive Brewsader Passport discounts and so much more. It all centers around the main event, the Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark.
Winter Beer Festival
Fifth Third Ballpark
4500 W. River Dr. NE, Comstock Park
Even as the explosive enthusiasm for craft beer simmers down, brewers continue to push out some of the best, boldest, most creative beers they’ve ever made. A pretty good IPA isn’t going to cut it anymore, which means gatherings like the Winter Beer Festival are upping their game every year. With more than 1,000 different craft beers to choose from, you’ll never be wanting for options. Bundle up, gather around the fire pits and celebrate winter the way you were meant to: with a beer in hand.
Lakeshore Beer Tour
From Saugatuck to Muskegon
Eventually you get tired of lying on the beach and it’s time to go grab a drink. Luckily, the West Michigan lakeshore offers ample opportunities to do so. One great summer (or anytime, really) day can just be driving from Saugatuck Brewing up to Grand Armory and Odd Side Ales in Grand Haven, then to Pigeon Hill and Unruly Brewing in Muskegon. If you’re feeling really adventurous, keep heading north for Fetch Brewing in Whitehall and Jamesport Brewing in Ludington, or head down south to any of the killer spots in South Haven and St. Joseph.
3201 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids
Feb. 16, 7 p.m., $25
The Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog has been making music for more than 10 years now, but in many ways, the musical endeavor still feels brand new. The band is all about making music the members love with their friends and having a good time, and that mentality keeps it fresh and rooted in the purpose of their craft. Calvin College invites you to join in on the fun at their headlining show, with special guest The Nude Party.
Dr. Dog. Courtesy Photo
Walk the Beat Pedal Party
Third Coast Recording Company
1447 Washington Ave., Grand Haven
Jan. 12, 6 p.m., free
It’s no secret that the right guitar pedal can unlock tones that melt faces and blow minds. If you’re looking to trade out some gear or just want to enjoy a performance by notable local guitarists, then the Walk the Beat Pedal Party is for you. Hosted by Third Coast Recording Company and Cusack Music, the free event includes pedal demonstrations and a gear swap so you can learn a few new tricks and grab that pedal you’ve been keeping your eye on.
Gregory Alan Isakov
Fountain Street Church
24 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids
Jan. 26, 7 p.m., $33
Spend the evening serenaded by some of the indie folk world’s most predominant artists, Gregory Alan Isakov and special guest Good Old War, while surrounded by the stained glass architecture of Fountain Street Church. Gregory Alan Isakov has been creating tear-worthy tunes since 2005, and his latest album, Evening Machines, is nothing short of another masterpiece. Joined by Good Old War, a group encapsulated by harmonies this night should be an unforgettable musical experience.
Be A Rose presents: Women Everywhere
68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m., $10
Empowering women with female-fronted bands and providing feminine hygiene resources is exactly what Women Everywhere is all about. The face behind the concert is Be A Rose, a Grand Rapid-based nonprofit supporting women who experience times without access to menstrual products, a.k.a. period poverty. Be A Rose encourages monetary and hygiene product donations at the show, and you can find out exactly what to bring on the website.
Electric Light Orchestra
Van Andel Arena
130 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids
July 23, 8 p.m.
This ambitious, Beatles-esque, massive, futuristic pop, classical mega band is making its way to Grand Rapids again. This amazing event will span more than 40 years of Jeff Lynne’s career with critically acclaimed and chart-topping hits. Their epic live shows are something you don’t want to miss.
Creston Vibes Open Sessions
1504 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Every other Sunday
Dust off your stack of poems and have a dose of liquid courage before hopping onstage at Creston Vibes Open Sessions at Creston Brewery. The bi-monthly open-mic series has a theme for each session. These events, which are as vibrant as the Creston Neighborhood, feature lyrical poetry, musical, acoustic and comedy acts.
Concerts Under the Stars
Grand Rapids Public Museum
272 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids
With the ability for pretty much infinite variety in visuals, the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s planetarium makes for a magical, spectral stage. Thanks to spiffy modern technology, artists are able to shift the mind-blowing visuals in real-time with the music. All kinds of bands have taken the stage, from psychedelic and atmospheric to acoustic, electronica and shoegaze. Check the museum’s website for this season’s lineup, including Fiona Dickinson, Pink Sky, Bronze Wolf and more.
20 Monroe Live
11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Feb. 2, 7 p.m., $20+
There’s no more fitting way to celebrate 20 Monroe Live’s birthday than with a homegrown, nationally famous act like the Verve Pipe. The band’s success goes all the way back to 1996, when the hit single The Freshmen reached number one on the charts. Since then, the group has earned a reputation for amazing live performances, full of energy and powerful rock.
January Indie Flea
Wealthy Street Theatre
1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
Jan. 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., free
Indie Flea is more than just a cool handmade market hosted on the first Saturday of every month at the Wealthy Theatre. Alongside local vendors and live music, the monthly event is committed to a social and environmental policy that is nearly zero waste and is driven to create a better tomorrow with the businesses of today. Tickets to Indie Flea are free, and you can grab yours online. While you’re at it, visit The Vendor Exchange’s website to submit your business or music to get involved.
Vintage Street Market
435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
First Sunday of every month, May to September
Sunday in the summer is best spent with coffee in hand, perusing antiques and collectibles at the Vintage Street Market. This event is the only monthly vintage market in Grand Rapids. Whether you’re looking for the perfect vintage dress, a beautiful mid-century dining chair or a reclaimed item to call your own, the Vintage Street Market is where you’ll find it. Every month, the market changes with new vendors from across the Midwest.
West Michigan Women’s Expo
303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Welcome to the ultimate Girls’ Night Out. Obviously, not all women are the same, but with more than 350 exhibits, the Women’s Expo is sure to have your interests covered. From fashion and beauty to fitness, food, home decor, finance, education and much more, the expo covers just about every part of your life. You can shop, get health screenings, taste some food, watch speaking seminars and cooking presentations, and win some prizes, all in one place.
Kalamazoo Shopping Spree
Okay, “spree” might be a strong word here, but our point is that Kalamazoo is chock full of local stores of all kinds selling one-of-a-kind gifts, clothes and accessories. You’ll find tea and vintage treasures at Diversitea, manly gifts at Damn Handsome Grooming Co., Kalamazoo-centric T-shirts and trinkets at The Spirit of Kalamazoo, and much, much more.
Mountainfilm on Tour: Saugatuck
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St., Saugatuck
March 22-23, 9 p.m., $12-$55
Breathe in mountain-fresh air without having to leave the Midwest at Mountainfilm on Tour. The documentary film festival showcases stories about environmental, cultural and societal issues of today. Mountainfilm is not limited to just a movie, though. The event spreads across three venues, has six screenings of 40 films, live music, art galleries and more with the mission to inspire others to create a better, healthier and more sustainable world.
Traverse City Chocolate Festival
City Opera House
106 E. Front St., Traverse City
April 7, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., $10-20
Traverse City is home to Michigan’s largest chocolate festival. Hosted in the beautiful historic City Opera House, the event features a variety of exhibitors and numerous chocolatey treats. Chocoholics can enjoy chocolate tasting, chocolate-inspired art, books and shopping. The festival is also a fundraiser for the Northwest Food Coalition.
Grand Haven Art Festival
Washington Ave., Grand Haven
June 29-30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free
Washington Avenue is transformed into one large exhibit with nearly 100 artists for the Grand Haven Art Festival. Paintings, fiber, glass, jewelry, wood, clay, photography — it’s all there. This free outdoor event pulls in visitors from Grand Rapids, Chicago, Detroit and more. Soak in the creativity and get the chance to purchase unique art directly from the artists.
Grand Haven Art Festival. Courtesy Photo
133 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Jan. 12, 1 p.m.-1 a.m., $25
One Wheatland Music Festival just isn’t enough, which is why Winter Wheat is back once again for its 10th year. The folk, Americana and roots festival brings more than a dozen bands to The Intersection, with a main stage for the heavier sounds and an acoustic stage for the lighter fare. Acts like the Journeymen, Boot Strap Boys and Fauxgrass make ample use of all kinds of strings, whether they’re on an electric guitar or a violin.
Grand Rapids Ballet
341 Ellsworth Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
April 12-14, 7:30 p.m., $52
Unexpected angles, strong female characters and new, original work characterize Extremely Close, the Grand Rapids Ballet’s spring season showcase. You’ll see three shows, Extremely Close by Hubbard Street Chicago’s internationally renowned resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, Ibsen’s House by Val Caniparoli, and an original composition by the GR Ballet’s artistic director, James Sofranko.
St. Cecilia Music Center
24 Ransom Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
June 14-15, 7:30 p.m., $55
La Traviata is the true story of a Parisian courtesan that inspired the films Camille, Pretty Woman and Moulin Rouge. Considered one of the greatest operas of all time, the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi retells the heart-wrenching story of Marie Duplessis. The production features Metropolitan Opera star soprano Elizabeth Caballero as well as tenor Zach Borichevsky.
Or Does It Explode?
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
2 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids
Feb. 15, 5:30-9 p.m., $5
This exhibit puts the spotlight on the documentation of refugees and forced migration, giving faces to the statistics we hear about in the news. The multimedia group show primarily focuses on portraits of refugees and migrants in an effort to bring awareness to the millions affected. Opening night of the exhibit will offer a cash bar, docent-led tours and light refreshments.
David Wiesner & The Art of Wordless Storytelling
Grand Rapids Art Museum
101 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids
Oct. 26, 2019-Jan. 12, 2020
Join the Grand Rapids Art Museum in celebrating the work of David Wiesner. For three decades, Wiesner has captivated audiences with his books, some that tell stories without using any words at all. The exhibit features 70 original watercolors from some of his most famous books, as well as Wiesner’s earliest work while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Lions & Rabbits
1264 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Jan. 29, 7-9 p.m.
If you’re looking for a new hobby, West Michigan has plenty of places and events to learn from experienced masters of the craft. With Insect Embroidery, you’ll learn five basic embroidery stitches in a beginner’s crash-course taught by Dayna Walton of Solstice Handmade. The focus is on insects, with inspiration from books and field guides, but you’re free to bring your own project as well.
359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo
Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers is an incredible modern dance company that shows exactly what the artform should aspire to down in Kalamazoo. While the company’s fascinating shows are year-round, the Regional Alternative Dance festival is where it kicks into high-gear, bringing in hundreds of dancers from around the world to perform the most bold, experimental dance you’ve ever seen.
13351 West M-96, Augusta
Barn Theatre is consistently one of the most well-reviewed theaters Revue visits. Considering the cast members they’re able to pull in — such as Robert Newman, who’s been on Guiding Light, Criminal Minds and Amazing Spider-Man 2 — this should be no surprise. Keep an eye out for the 2019 season, which is sure to be full of amazing comedies, musicals and dramas, as always.
80s vs 90s
HOME at The B.O.B.
20 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
March 9, 9 p.m., free
The ’80s feel like last year, and the ’90s could’ve been yesterday. But in all reality, you’ll never be able to enter your neighborhood Blockbuster or receive an AOL CD again, so it’s time to kick back into nostalgia and revisit the trends of our childhoods that are still within reach. Grab a drink and jam out to the biggest hits of the ’80s and ’90s in downtown Grand Rapids at the B.O.B., singing all the words to radio tunes you thought you left behind with your spiral perms and buffalo shoes.
Get Sad Vol. 2
447 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
Feb. 14, 9 p.m.-2 a.m.
Despite the name, Get Sad is actually all about having the time of your life. If you grew up in the era of Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, this is the party for you. Ignore your utter lack of a Valentine’s date by donning your blackest clothes and diving deep into nostalgia. Plus, whether you’re looking for a similar experience on the shore or just want to double-dip, you can head to Eyeliner For All at Our Brewing Company in Holland the next night.
Murder Mystery Dinner
The Henderson Castle
100 Monroe St., Kalamazoo
Jan. 19, 6-9 p.m., $87
The Henderson Castle is full of history, romance and curiosities, the perfect place for a murder mystery to unfold. Its monthly events offer the perfect opportunity to dress up, have an amazing dinner and find out who exactly killed whom — it could even be you! In January, you’ll be heading to the Eight Ball, an infamous night club in the basement of Lou’s Pool Hall, circa 1923.
1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
We can all agree that today’s new movies aren’t all exactly the most original — sometimes you just have to go back to the classics. That’s what Wealthy Theatre does best with its Meanwhile Movie series, showcasing cult classics, indie hits and seasonal favorites. Whether you’re into comedies, dramas or horror flicks, the lineup is stacked. January’s movies include Beetlejuice, Wayne’s World, Akira and The Dark Crystal.
Alger Heights Halloween 5K
Alger Heights Neighborhood
There’s no better way to start a night of binge-eating Snickers than to run (or walk) a 5K or 10K through one of Grand Rapids’ most gorgeous neighborhoods. The annual races take place on Halloween, with the route circling the Alger and Eastern intersection. Bonus: Afterward, you can grab a drink or a bite to eat at The Old Goat or Brass Ring Brewing while you’re in the Heights.
Detroit Oddities & Curiosities Expo
Suburban Collection Showplace
46100 Grand River Ave., Novi
Aug. 3, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m., $10
Starting with just two cities in 2017 and now expanding to 16 cities, this traveling expo is for lovers of the strange and unusual. Local and national vendors feature taxidermy, wet and dry preserved specimens, antiques, jewelry crafted from bones, skulls, insects, and many more bizarre and unusual items. The expo will hold sideshow performances and live human suspension throughout the day.
Pajama Pet Party
14345 Bagley St., West Olive
Jan. 18, 5:30 p.m., $15-$30
Between a date night for you and a PJ party for the kiddos, it couldn’t get any better … until it does. This isn’t just any pajama jam — this party includes pets. Hosted by Harbor Humane Society, the monthly event includes pizza, pets to play with and a movie, so you can drop your kids off and relax knowing they’re cuddling with cute animals over snacks, films and friends. Discounts are available for siblings, so you can take the saved cash to get dinner and dessert while you’re out on the town.
9275 Adams St., Zeeland
Are you a grown adult who loves baby animals? Of course you are. Right around April, you need to head to the Critter Barn in Zeeland to welcome all the new baby animals. This is my favorite part about the end of winter. Forget the sunshine and green grass — I’m here for the baby ducks, bunnies, goats and cows. The Critter Barn is a donation-based farm that is typically filled with families. But if you can get in around midday, you’ll enjoy an hour of petting an assortment of barn animals in an open-air environment that really celebrates the arrival of spring. Make the Critter Barn a stop on your way out to Holland or Saugatuck for a day filled with window-shopping and beer drinking.
Winterfest Cardboard Sled Race
Mulligan's Hollow Ski Bowl
600 Y Dr., Grand Haven
Jan. 26, free
If you hate the snow, this event might change your mind. The Winterfest Cardboard Sled Race presents you with an opportunity to design and build a sled out of corrugated cardboard and test it down the Mulligan Hollow Ski Bowl. Prizes will be awarded to those with the snazziest design and best team spirit, so bring your artsiest friends, your family and that neighbor with the sweet tool shed to join in on the winter fun.
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park
8313 Pratt Lake Ave. SE, Alto
May 1-Oct. 21, $14
Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park is a unique animal viewing and interacting experience. Located on 80 acres, the park houses a diverse collection of exotic animals, birds and reptiles. Last year welcomed the birth of Toskey, the park’s baby giraffe, as well as Baby Animal Days and a daily bird show. This year, the park is adding even more animals and a new building. Stay tuned.
Blandford Nature Center
1715 Hillburn Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Not everyone knows that Blandford Nature Center is more than just beautiful trails and rescued animals — the newly renovated center also features all kinds of events throughout the year. Whether you want to learn how to make kombucha or use a forge, Blandford is at the ready. Other events center around birding, henna, snowshoeing, butterflies and much more. No matter the season, it’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature.
TreeRunner Adventure Park
2121 Celebration Dr. NE, Grand Rapids
Seeing the forest from the trees gives you a whole new perspective. At TreeRunner, you’ll be climbing, crawling, swinging and zipping through the branches. It’s a test of balance, dexterity and bravery, but more than all that, it’s just a dang good time. Tucked away in the woods behind Celebration! Cinema North, this is the perfect nature getaway for those looking to stick close to home.
Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
462 N. Scenic Dr., Muskegon
The Winter Sports Complex is a veritable winter wonderland, offering just about every seasonal activity you can imagine. Ice skating? Of course they have that, and through the woods, too! Luge? Yup, and it’s one of only a handful in America. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, it’s all here. Grab some hot chocolate and make the most of a very special season.
2035 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids
There are escape rooms all over West Michigan now, and honestly, it’s hard to go wrong. Working together with your friends to solve dozens of mini-mysteries and piece together a larger story is a guaranteed great time, and you’re probably better at it than you think. Locked 460 is just one stellar experience, coming in with top-notch themes, affordable prices and a helpful staff, who help give you clues via TV monitor.
Great Lakes Glow Golf
3494 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Mini-golf finally got its glow-up. At Great Lakes Glow Golf, you can putt year-round in the safety of a psychedelic, blacklight-filled room. Neon fish, bears and wolves set the stage for this trippy course. Hot tip: wear your light-colored clothing to shine like a star in the night sky. Also be sure to check out the free-play arcade up front!
Free Pinball Day
The Pyramid Scheme
68 Commerce Dr. SW, Grand Rapids
First Sunday of the month
Probably the most frustrating part about pinball is stepping up to a new machine, realizing you have no idea what’s going on and that you’re not likely to find out until you run out of quarters. Free Pinball Day removes all monetary obstacles so you can spend as long as you need getting to know every bumper, ramp and flipper of the venue’s 24 machines. Then, next time you’re at the Scheme for a show, you can easily impress all your friends.
Weird Al Yankovic: The Strings Attached Tour
DeVos Performance Hall
303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
July 26, 8 p.m.
“Weird Al” is back on tour with his most elaborate and high-energy shows to date. The best-selling comedy recording artist is playing all of his hits with an original band featuring costumes, props, a video wall, and for the first time ever, background singers and a full symphony orchestra. It’s going to be large, loud and impressive — a big swing back from his 2018 tour, where he played deep cuts in intimate venues.
With the state of today’s world, it’s good to set aside some time just for laughter. LaughFest brings some of the world’s funniest comedians to Grand Rapids, such as Brian Regan, Ali Wong, Ed Asner and many more. It’s only the best of the best, so you can walk into any show and leave with a healthy dose of the best medicine. Also check out the National Showcase, Best of the Midwest, Clean Comedy Showcase and more.
1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
Do you remember turning on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and being ecstatic when the perfect lineup of comedians was on? That’s what it’s like to see Pop Scholars, a local improv group that’s been saying “yes, and” to each other for 10 years. Their rapport is strong and their humor is incredibly funny, always relevant, cleverly surprising and scarcely dirty. You can catch their shows throughout the year, often at Wealthy Theatre.