By and large, this was a good year for Nightlife & Activities incumbents. A majority of last year’s first place winners remain in their thrones, so let’s look at the exceptions.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park had quite the come-up, taking the lead for both First Date Spot and Tourist Attraction, which is quite the feat considering that ArtPrize (which was bumped to second place) brings in more than 500,000 visitors. The gardens have continued to grow every year, though, between the Ai Weiwei exhibition and the new Japanese Garden, complete with a Jenny Holzer collaboration.
Going back to that First Date Spot, we have not one but two ties this year, with Grand Rapids’ very own delicious tapas eatery San Chez tying for first, and Founders tying with Grand Haven Beach for third. We’ve got a wide range of experiences here.
Meanwhile, Rockwell/Republic climbed into second. We’re not sure exactly what it is, but the downtown New American/Asian gastropub seems to be on the rise lately. Maybe it’s the wide variety of atmospheres offered by the restaurant’s multiple seating areas; maybe it’s the excellent food ranging from very affordable to lavish; or maybe it’s the ever-improving cocktail menu. Who knows!
For the Dive Bar category, Anchor Bar rocketed into first place, unseating Mulligan’s. I can’t help but feel this is in large part due to the recent gentrification — er, I mean… development, of Bridge Street. Regardless, it’s a well-deserved win. Anchor is friendly and cheap, while still boasting an impressive whiskey menu and cool interior.
As much as we love to compare to last year, we also like doing something new. This year we added a few categories here and there, including Dog Parks. In first place? Grand Ravines Dog Park out in Jenison. I’m sure the fact the park is free is a big draw, and the new washing station and public restrooms don’t hurt. It’s hard to beat 20 acres of walking trails and two large off-leash areas for the price of $0. Still, Shaggy Pines deserves its second-place spot as well, with swimming ponds, a doggy mountain and even a coffee bar.
We’ll let you take it from here.