15 Tips for Attending Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Art Prize is one of my favorite art events that takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For 19 days in the fall, Art Prize draws artists from around the world, working in any type of medium, to compete in an independently organized international art competition.

When you visit Art Prize, you are faced with lots of incredible art to view in every direction from public parks to museums. I’m sharing tips to help you get the most out of your first Art Prize experience.

These tips are still helpful even if it’s not your first time at Art Prize, too.

chandelier Art Prize Grand Rapids Downtown Market

This article contains affiliate links.

1. You Need to Plan Ahead for Art Prize

Look online and find out what events will be going on the day you visit.

  • What venues do you plan on visiting?
  • Who are you bringing with you?
  • Do you want to dine out while you’re downtown?

That will also determine how many venues are realistic to visit.

If you have younger kids, you will want to pack snacks and drinks. It’s also a good idea to pick venues that are close to each other.

If you are attending with friends, you might want to pick venues that are also near restaurants and nightlife to hang out at after the venues close.

If you go during the week during the day, the crowds will be lighter. On the weekends, the venues located on the perimeters of town will be less populated.

It’s really helpful if you map out some of the venues that you want to see ahead of time. 

Check out the Art Prize website for an interactive map and information about the artists, art, and venues/ venue hours.

art prize metal disc golf course at John Ball Zoo

2. Research Social Media for the Art Prize Pieces that You Don’t Want to Miss

Search social media with the hashtag #artprize or #artprize23 to discover which pieces are the buzz this year and where they are located.

There were several Art Prize entries that I would have missed out on seeing if I had not checked Instagram and Facebook.

rainbow road Grand Rapids MI

3. Where to Park for Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids is a very accessible city with reasonable rates for parking garages downtown.

You can also use metered parking downtown if you don’t plan on being at one location for a long time.

If you are willing to walk a little you can find free parking off of the main streets.

You can also take advantage of DASH (free downtown area shuttle) and ride The Rapid (public transit).

art installation on Blue Bridge for Art Prize in Grand Rapids MI

4. Check Venue Hours for Art Prize Prior to Arrival

Different venues can have different hours. Make sure that you give yourself enough time in your itinerary to get to venues that are on your “must-see” list.

I would suggest saving the outdoor pieces for times after the indoor venues have closed. There is still a lot of lighting that will allow you to see the pieces at night and it will help maximize what you see.

Amway Grand Hotel

5. Stay in Downtown Grand Rapids if Possible

I have been to Art Prize as a visitor and also as a resident in previous years. I’ve also stayed at the historic Amway Grand Hotel.

This hotel is a staple in Grand Rapids and also a destination. As a guest from out of town, I really loved the central location to all of the action.

art prize entry of whale tale

The hotel hosted entries and was also an extremely short walking distance of all of the larger venues during Art Prize.

I loved being able to explore for a few hours and then have the option to go back to my room to drop off something or to rest before going out again. If I needed an extra layer of clothing it wasn’t a big deal because the hotel was close by.

I also didn’t have to deal with any transportation issues. I walked everywhere from the hotel and didn’t have to worry about finding parking. It also helped me feel more relaxed.

When I visited Art Prize as a former resident I felt more pressure to strategize my parking, eating, and venues. As a hotel guest, I didn’t feel as pressured to have an agenda or timeline. I just went wherever my curiosity took me.

Your other hotel options for downtown are the JW MarriottCourtyard by MarriottHoliday Inn, and CityFlatsHotel.

Save on Your Hotel

You can compare prices and save on your next stay using the interactive map above or use your favorite booking site for hotels or vacation rentals. (,, Expedia, Vrbo)

Art Prize downtown Grand Rapids Michigan

6. If You’re a Resident of the Grand Rapids Area, Don’t Miss Out on Art Prize!

I only lived in town for Art Prize for two years and then I had the opportunity to visit for a few other years.

I drove 5.5 hours from Cincinnati to West Michigan just to see the art and meet the artists who have gathered from all over the world. This is something truly special and unique!

One of my frustrations while living in Grand Rapids was that many residents didn’t even bother to check it out.

Don’t let tourists, crowds, and a little more traffic rob you of something that is helping put Grand Rapids on the map for arts and culture.

This is your opportunity as a resident to be an ambassador to out-of-towners to share why you love your city.

The economic impact from the world’s most attended public art event directly impacts the downtown area businesses in a positive way.

art prize entry on Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids

7. If You Have Limited Time to Visit Art Prize, Go to the Popular Venues.

The popular venues typically have a few pieces that will be in the top 25.

They also have multiple entries which makes it easier to see more entries at one venue if you are short on time.

Another perk is that you don’t have to pay admission for many of the venues that normally charge a fee during Art Prize.

bear art installation at Art Prize in Grand Rapids Michigan

While you’re downtown, I recommend going to the second floor of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and along the river nearby, the Amway Grand Hotel, Devos Place Convention Center, The B.O.B. building and parking lot, the Calder Plaza, the Blue Bridge and near Rosa Parks Circle.

You can see the full list of venues for Art Prize here.

Grand River in  Grand Rapids Michigan

I also recommend taking in a view of the Grand River from one of the bridges while downtown.

Some pieces are more out of the way in the Grand Rapids area at venues you have to be intentional to visit, including Frederik Meijer Gardens.

drinks and food at barrio tacos Grand Rapids MI

8. Enjoy a Meal While You’re Downtown

Grand Rapids offers lots of great dining choices from upscale to casual.

If you want to eat at a location that is in a more populated area, pick a less popular time to eat. If you go a little farther off the beaten path you won’t have a problem getting a table.

There are also other great restaurants a few miles away from downtown. One of our favorite areas to eat at when we lived in Grand Rapids was in Eastown. Electric Cheetah, Brewery Vivant, Yesterdog, Wolfgang’s, and The Winchester are just a few of the places that you can’t go wrong at.

Barrio Taco in Grand Rapids Michigan

Restaurants in Downtown Grand Rapids

During my previous trips to Art Prize, I’ve also eaten at a few locations closer to downtown.

  • Barrio Taco
  • “The Flying Dutchman” (1/2 Pound Hand-Pressed Patty graced with Sweet Dill Relish, Roasted Garlic Mayo, and Melted Gouda Cheese. LTO) at The Grand Wood Lounge.
  • A burger and fabulous peanut butter and chocolate malt from Choo Choo Grill.
  • Pad Thai at Bangkok Taste Cuisine
  • “The Queso Jalapeno”(Hot stuffed burger with house-made spicy queso dip & pickled jalapenos) at Stella’s Lounge that was voted best burger in America by GQ magazine in 2012.

I was very happy with all of my meals. I chose to eat at the more casual price range but the food was still great and several of the restaurants offered great ambiance as well. The Grand Woods Lounge has nice outdoor seating and Stella’s was packed with a fun environment with art and arcade games.

Breweries in Downtown Grand Rapids

If you love craft beer you definitely need to go to Founder’s, Grand Rapids Brewing Company in downtown or Brewery Vivant in East Grand Rapids.

Hop Cat (has a great variety of drinks) and Bar Divanin are also great options downtown as well.

artist at Art Prize downtown Grand Rapids Michigan

9. Talk to the Locals and Art Prize Volunteers

They will help steer you in the right direction as you navigate downtown and they have great meal suggestions as well.

metal disc golf for Art Prize in Grand Rapids MI

10. You Can Make Art Prize Fun for Kids

You can make Art Prize more fun for kids by involving them in the experience.

GrKids has a great scavenger hunt that you can incorporate into your visit.

elephant Art Prize entry Grand Rapids Michigan

Use their scavenger hunt to make your Art Prize trip an adventure. It’s great for kids to be exposed to the arts and culture.

train display at Art Prize

Art Prize is a great way to open your child’s eyes to being more imaginative and tapping into their creative side.

artist at Art Prize downtown Grand Rapids Michigan 1

11. Talk to the Art Prize Artists

During Art Prize, you have an opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Take a few moments and ask the artists about their piece of art.

Many times the stories of the WHY behind their piece will inspire you and make you appreciate their work and their method even more.

Nedra McDaniel at Art Prize in Grand Rapids

12. Wear Extremely Comfortable Shoes

You will be putting in some mileage if you try to see as much as possible downtown. I know from experience that you need function over fashion sometimes and I’ve had the blisters to prove it.

My Bionica sandals and Addidas tennis shoes are my favorites for travel because they are comfortable and can handle miles of walking with ease.

Art Prize entry Grand Rapids Michigan

13. Vote- You Can’t Complain About Who Wins if You Didn’t Bother to Vote.

I understand that public voting for art is a bit controversial because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think that it’s extremely hard to compare art pieces with various mediums because art is subjective.

How do you compare a piece of contemporary art to a sculpture made of wood… or a drawing on a bed sheet made with Sharpie markers?

It’s a challenge for me to pick a favorite single artist because each of the ArtPrize entries and perspectives from different artists are so unique.

Make your voice known to help support the artist who created it if there is a piece that you feel is really worthy of receiving the prize money in the top spot.

With a public vote in the ArtPrize competition, you can directly impact which artist wins the grand prize with life-changing prize money.

You can find out more about voting at Art Prize here.

scenic picture Art Prize entry in Grand Rapids

14. Take Lots of Pictures and Videos During Art Prize!

Sometimes it’s easier to show it than explain it.

Help out-of-town guests by sharing your Art Prize experience by sharing your favorite entries online on social media on your Facebook page, Instagram, or TikTok.

butterfly Art Prize entry Grand Rapids Michigan

Many of the art installations create great photo ops too.

art prize entry at Devos Hall

15. Take A Closer Look

Take a few moments and read about the artist, their statement for the piece, and what medium they used.

Make sure that you also look at the piece up close for another perspective.

Art Prize entry Grand Rapids Michigan

Many times you will notice intricate details that you may have overlooked at first glance.

Art Prize is an experience that is for a short period of time. Make the most of it and make memories.

Art Prize entry Grand Rapids Michigan 1

When is Art Prize in Grand Rapids?

Art Prize is Sept 14 – Oct 01, 2023.

Art Prize takes place toward the last few weeks in September through early October.

sculpture Art Prize entry Grand Rapids Michigan

More Information on Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Art Prize is making a comeback after taking a few years off and I hope that you still find a way to see it for yourself.

Art Prize is definitely still road trip-worthy! You’ll also want to come back in the winter for the World of Winter Festival.

You can find out more at the ArtPrize website. 

15 Tips for Attending Art Prize for the First Time

2 thoughts on “15 Tips for Attending Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan”

Leave a Comment