West side is the best side. It's not just a catchy saying. The west side of Grand Rapids has a lot of places worthy of spending a couple hours. It's home to some of GR's finest parks, museums, restaurants, and the one and only John Ball Zoo! Pump up your tires, strap on your helmet & enjoy some noteworthy locations west of the Grand River. As with most of our downtown tours, this one starts/ ends at the Eberhard Center.
This ride is action packed right from the start. The first 3/4 of a mile follow the picturesque riverwalk and take you around the Grand Rapids museum carousel, through Ah-Nab-Awen Park and past the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Ride through this section on the right day and you could find yourself at one of the many community concerts, festivals or movie nights hosted in this park each year.
As you continue north, just as you ride under I-196 you arrive at the iconic Fish Ladder Park. The fish ladder is a special structure on the west bank that allows the salmon to step their way around the low-head damn when they migrate in spring and late summer.
Leonard street contains a stretch of iconic food and shopping. Typical chain stores aside, some of the stand outs are Captain Bizzaro's Treasure World, the Mitten Brewing (some of the best pizza in GR), Long Road Distillery (also has great food), Wenger's bowling, & Freewheeler's Bike Shop. This particular couple of blocks doesn't have bike lanes and Leonard street can be BUSY. While we don't normally advocate riding on the sidewalk, if you're not comfortable "taking the lane", this would be a place to consider cautiously taking to the sidewalk until the turn at Seward.
Bridge street is pub central but don't let that fool you. You'll find some great menus at places like the Knickerbocker, Sovengard & others. If you're feeling somewhat peckish at this point in the ride, pop into the Bridge Street Market on your way by & grab a locally made pastry, deli fresh sandwich, coffee or the like at this full neighborhood grocery store.
Some low-key riding for the next few minutes will lead you to one of the last big attractions before returning to the start. Just past Fulton street you'll head west for a block and find yourself staring at John Ball Zoo! It doesn't have to be on this ride, but be sure to visit sometime and feed the budgies, watch the grizzlies bathe, ride a camel, marvel at how enormous tigers really are, pet some farm animals, & maybe even ride the zip line.