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21 reasons why this just may be the best Grand Rapids spring ever

Butterflies at the Meijer Gardens.

Drinking and dining in the sun, outdoor concerts, spring runs, so much art, and more. This is shaping up to be the best spring in Grand Rapids yet.
Finally, spring has sprung. Grand Rapidians can shake off the winter doldrums and head outdoors to enjoy some warm—albeit breezy and sometimes tempestuous—weather. To kick off your spring right, check out the events below. With everything from art and theatre to running, food and cider competitions, Grand Rapids pays homage to this season of renewal. Because who said April was the cruelest month?

Art.Downtown
400 Artists, 30-plus destinations, three trolleys, one night. With free transportation from Grand Rapids Trolley to all of the major exhibition areas (Heartside, Kendall College of Art & Design and DeVos Place) of this expansive art show, you'll have no reason to miss this annual event. An extension of the Avenue from the Arts corridor on Division South, hundreds of local artists will exhibit and perform in galleries, businesses and studio spaces around town on April 9 from 12-9pm. If you’re new to the event, here’s a handy guide detailing how to get the most out of Art.Downtown, including what’s kid-friendly, what to eat while you’re there and more. Keep up to date on Art.Downtown happenings by following @AveForTheArtsGR on Twitter (join the conversation by using the hashtag #ArtDowntown), and connect with the event on Facebook.

Jewish Theatre Grand Rapids presents ‘For This Moment Alone’
Add to your spring cultural experience by catching this dramatic, post-WWII production by an award-winning West Michigan theatre company. Immerse yourself in a surprising plot involving family ties, obligation and good deeds from April 7 to 17.

Spring runs
Since you're definitely keeping up with your new year's resolution to stay fit, you should have no problem signing up for a handful of these races. Don't worry, even after a few too many craft beers, you've still got this. For GR classics, check out the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5k on April 17, the Fifth Third River Bank Run on May 14 or the Grand Rapids Triathlon on June 12. For something a tad more laid back with an entertaining twist, check out the Color Vibe 5k on May 21 or Beat the Grandma 5k on June 18.

Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition
The "largest and most respected cider judging in North America," this West Michigan event invites both professionals and amateur cider makers to the Downtown Courtyard by Marriot April 22-24. While registration has passed, you can still volunteer as a judge or a steward at the drool-worthy event.

Opera Grand Rapids presents 'Romeo and Juliet'
What a perfect introduction to spring romance. After you've gotten a full dose of fresh spring air, head back indoors to Opera Grand Rapids for this Shakespearean classic. Check it out at DeVos Performance Hall on Friday, April 29 or Saturday, April 30 at 7:30pm.

Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are [still] Blooming
There's still time to catch this ethereal attraction running through April 30. Despite a stiff breeze and wildly fluctuating spring temperatures, head inside to Frederik Meijer Gardens for a comfortably warm and tropical tour (85 degrees and 70 percent humidity) that will make you forget you missed out on a Florida trip this spring break. After checking out 50 species of over 7,000 butterflies, you'll be glad you didn't miss it.

Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science
Food nerds will drool over this opportunity to see Food Network Star Alton Brown in the flesh. Host of the popular show Good Eats and a score of other Food shows, Brown combines science, comedy and culinary magic in this family-friendly program. Catch it at DeVos Performance Hall on May 4. If you're lucky, you may even wind up serving as one of Brown's randomly selected volunteers.

Festival of the Arts
The original Grand Rapids art festival, this jam-packed weekend has been running since 1969 with the goal to make arts accessible to all. With dozens of food vendors, a bevy of live musical performances and a variety of art activities for all ages, Festival of the Arts has something for everyone. The festival's performances stretch from Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5.

The deck at Rockwells.Outdoor drinking & dining
Finally, Grand Rapidians can shed their parkas and grab drinks and a bite outside. Soak in the sun with a drink in hand at Founders Brewing Co., Fulton Street Pub & Grill, Graydon's Crossing (check out the Bloody's and Brunch on Sundays), Logan's Alley (which has a Saturday Tator Tot morning special for early drinkers), Grove, Terra GR, Rockwell/Republic (roof seating!), HopCat, Brewery Vivant, Elk Brewing, Harmony Brewing, and The Winchester. At Taqueria San Jose, there’s plenty of outdoors space to enjoy the spring and get your fill of some of the best tacos in West Michigan. In the mood for something with a view? At Six One Six, you can toast to spring while overlooking the Grand River, and Rose’s on Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids is a perfect place to watch the sun set on a warm spring day. More in the mood for seafood? Maru Sushi & Grill has patio seating where you can stuff yourself with hibachi eats and salmon rolls. For more options, check out this list of restaurants and bars that offer outdoor dining.

We're all screaming for ice cream
OK…so this may be jumping the gun a tad, but whoever claims that they don't count those first days of spring sunshine as an excuse to eat ice cream are lying. With many mom and pop stores waiting until Memorial Day (May 30) as a season opener, others start serving soft serve chocolate vanilla twists and Snickers flurries much earlier. Check out local favorites like The Cone Shoppe on Michigan Street in Midtown, Frosty Boy in Creston, Jersey Junction on Croswell in East Grand Rapids, and Kilwin’s Chocolates & Ice Cream on Monroe Center downtown. Chasing after an organic frozen treat? Check out Love's Ice Cream in the Downtown Market. If you’re up for hitting the road, Muskegon’s Coney Land, Grand Haven’s Sweet Temptations and Grandville’s Tippy Cow are worth the trip.

Beer & boogie: The Pyramid Scheme’s five-year anniversary
The Pyramid Scheme is celebrating five years of filling our city with an almost endless supply of dance-worthy nights with a stellar two-day lineup, including Heavier Than Air Flying Machines, Lady Ace Boogie, Man at Arms, and the Coffin Problem on April 22 and Shiner, Mutoid Man and Child Bite on April 23. Go here to purchase tickets — and then get ready to let loose!

Celebrate the West Michigan Design Week
From April 9-16, meet designers, take engaging workshops, go on fascinating architectural tours, and more, for this event that highlights the deep-rooted, and ever-growing, design culture in our community. To find out more, go here.

The annual tour of Heritage Hill homes
Normally, if you want to get a glimpse of Heritage Hill’s gorgeous and historic homes, you have to gawk from the outside (which is still pretty darn fun). But, come May 21 and May 22, you’ll get a chance to explore eight private houses and two historic buildings as part of the 47th annual Heritage Hill Tour. The tour is a celebration of the Heritage Hill neighborhood, which includes 1,300 homes from the 19th and early 20th centuries that boast an array of stunning architectural and decorating styles, as well as incredible urban gardens. Advance tickets for the tour are $15; go here to purchase them online, or find out more information about buying them elsewhere here. Tickets purchased the weekend of the tour will be $20. More general information can be found here.

Outdoor concerts at Meijer Gardens
While this is billed a summer event, the annual series of outdoors concerts kicks off in early June, so we had to include it! The fifth annual season has some seriously high profile names attached to it, including The Monkees, Of Monsters and Men, The Decemberists, and Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals. Tickets sales for the first concert (The Monkees) will be open to the public at 9am on May 14. Bring a picnic dinner (or buy hot dogs, deli sandwiches and more there) and a blanket, and you’re set. For those who’d like to sip a beer or glass of wine during the concert, you’re welcome to do so, but you’ll need to purchase it on site. For more information, go here.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start! Maurice Sendak Exhibition at GRAM
The Grand Rapids Art Museum will open its “Maurice Sendak: Where the Wild Things Are” exhibition on April 9, and the celebration of the artist, illustrator and author who has inspired generations of children (and adults!) will continue through May 22. The exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Where the Wild Things Are” with original drawings, prints, posters, and more. As part of the museum’s wild rumpus, families will have many an opportunity to fete one of the greatest children’s authors of the 20th century, including with a parent and child workshop, a scavenger hunt, a pajama party, and more. For more information, go here.

Robots and Earth Explorers at the Grand Rapids Public Museum
Spring can bring plenty of rainy days, which can mean some seriously stir-crazy kids (and parents). Get out of the house and explore the exhibits at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, including the new Robot Zoo (which includes larger-than-life sized animated robots, including a chameleon, rhinoceros and a giant squid with 18-foot tentacles) and the upcoming Earth Explorers, which opens in May and, as the museum says, is “organized around Earth’s spectacular eco-zones” and “brings the unparalleled adventures of National Geographic to life.”

Sabor Latino: The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan's inaugural gala
The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, which supports more than 175,000 residents throughout our area with everything from adult education programs to translation services, will throw its inaugural gala, Sabor Latino, on May 12 at the Bridgewater Place in downtown Grand Rapids. The gala will savor the cuisine, wine and music of Latin America, as well as honor the center's successes. All of the proceeds from the event will help to support the programs at the Hispanic Center. To purchase tickets, please go here, and to learn more about the center, you can go here.
Tulips, tulips and more tulips!
Gather the family together and head to the week-long Tulip Time Festival in Holland, a nationally renowned celebration of Dutch culture that features parades, an arts and crafts fair, tulip trolley tours, a carnival, a Dutch market, live music and dance, and more. The festival runs from May 7-14. For more information, including a schedule of events and information about tickets, you can go here.

Bottoms up! Raise a glass to spring
In a city with as much amazing beer as Grand Rapids, there's always room to explore our land of breweries — no matter how much of a hops connoisseur you are. Don your sneakers and head for Grand Rapids Beer Tours' walking escapade of some of the city's big name breweries, including Founders and HopCat, and learn about the history of Beer City on April 30. Or, on April 23, head for a Southern Lakeshore tour of Saugatuck Brewing Company, New Holland Brewing Company, Our Brewing Company and White Flame Brewery. The beer tour company is always offering new adventures, which you can check out here.

Get your iambic pentameter on: 'The Tempest' at Dog Story Theater
Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company will present William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" at Dog Story Theater on April 15-17 and April 22-24. Thought by many to be the final play of Shakespeare's writing career, "The Tempest" follows the powerful wizard Prospero, who was banished to an island 12 years prior to the beginning of the play. Populated by magical creatures, young lovers, royal conspirators, and ridiculous clowns, Pigeon Creek's production will feature live music and audience interaction for what is sure to be an energetic performance. To purchase tickets, you can go here, and for more information about Pigeon Creek, please go here.

Nerd out with The Nerdaissance
Nic Cage-based comedy? Comedic fanfiction? Original works of comedic fantasy, adventure and sci-fi? You're gonna find it all in performances from The Nerdaissance, a new comedy troupe in Grand Rapids that's launching a series of events at the Ambrosia Theater on May 20 with "An Evening of Comedic Fanfiction." Other performances will be held on June 17 ("An Evening of Comedic Fantasy and Adventure") and July 15 ("Cage Fight: An Evening of Nicholas Cage Fanfiction"), as well as additional performances into the summer. For more information about the first event on May 20, please go here. You can also check out The Nerdaissance on Facebook and YouTube.

What else is on your must-do list this spring? Let us know in the comments below!
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