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The City Adventures of Jacob and Madeline

City Adventures of Jacob and Madeline

Jacob and Madeline Schulz explored Downtown Grand Rapids and the Uptown neighborhood during their 2012 summer vacation. They were “free range” -- without parents -- traveling by foot, bike and bus. They live in the Heritage Hill neighborhood. Their dad owns/operates Cherry Deli in East Hills, and their mom is the City Planner. Jacob and Madeline are familiar with urban living. Their parents faced a dilemma this summer. Their “tweens," ages 12 and 10 respectively, were getting too old for summer care and they had been there/done that with nannies. After great debate, the decision was made to let them create adventures of their own choosing and discover what Grand Rapids had to offer. The following is an account of their thoughts about the experience.

Our parents let us explore the city this summer. It is not hard for kids to navigate Downtown, even though it may seem like a big place. It is very well organized. There are a lot of great places to eat and shop. It is also fun to watch all of the different kinds of people. We were given some spending money so that we could do things. Here is a list of places to go and what you can expect:

  • Big-O’s - their pizza is delicious and reasonably priced; the service is excellent and family-friendly. We learned how to order off of a menu and to tip our server.
  • Central District Cyclery - if you need to get your bike fixed, go see Nate Phelps.
  • Ryerson Library - the staff is really nice and the books are awesome.
  • Kilwin’s - high-quality treats that are good for a party or a special occasion.
  • Biggby Coffee - conveniently located near to Rosa Parks Circle.
  • Schuler’s Books - we like this store, but not a good selection of Judy Blume books.
  • Grand Central Market - if you need a little snack, this is a good place to go.
  • Cottage Bar - excellent burgers and service was okay.
  • Wealthy Bakery - the pastries are amazing, you can share a danish.
  • Art of the Table - excellent cheeses. A little pricey, but it is high-quality stuff.
  • Cherry Deli - very good, free (for us), and awesome butternut squash!
  • Cherry Park - lots of people go there. It has good swings because they are in the shade.
  • Rosa Parks Circle - a major hangout for people eating lunch and playing music.
  • Fulton Street Farmer’s Market - go on the weekdays because it isn’t as busy as the weekend.
  • Healthy Market on Jefferson - the guy who sells honey sticks is there sometimes.
Some of our general observations:
  • Bike Parking - more bike racks are needed in Downtown. It was very hard to find places to park your bike.
  • Walk the skywalks - some are air-conditioned, some aren’t, and the walkways by the Amway smell like lemons.
  • Ride the Rapid - it is a cheap and good experience, bus locations are convenient, Rapid Central Station has friendly staff.
  • Bike ride from Heritage Hill to Downtown - it is fun riding down the hills, but not so much fun riding back up.
People may not think that kids can go by themselves to venture around Downtown and in city neighborhoods, but it is a good experience. We learned a lot of important things. Here are some lessons we can share:
  • Watch your money because it goes fast. Make your decisions carefully about how you are going to spend your money; don’t buy things that you don’t need.
  • People are nice and want to help you.
  • Meet your parents for lunch so they will pick up the check.
  • Don’t text and ride your bike at the same time because you will crash.
  • Decide what you want to do during the day before you go out so you don’t end up just sitting around.
  • If your parents aren’t with you, you will feel more responsible and grown-up.
  • Use your manners and people will treat you with respect.
In our family, we have talked a lot about how some parents might think that our mom and dad were crazy for letting us explore the city by ourselves. We think that it is important to share some thoughts about this. If we had to talk to those parents that ask whether this is a good idea, we would say:
  • Trust your kids - give them a chance to do the right thing.
  • Let your kids try new things. It is a good experience to have a little bit of freedom.
  • Your kids can use their knowledge about what you can do Downtown later in life.
  • Let your kids go out to do interesting activities instead of being stuck in the house.
Our summer was really fun. We are hoping to be able to explore more of Downtown and our neighborhood in the future. Grand Rapids is a great place to live!
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