Looking for one of the best hotels in Grand Rapids, MI The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel may be just what you’re looking for.
I had spent the last 12 hours in transit. First a red-eye flight from Portland, Oregon, then a Greyhound to Grand Rapids from Chicago. I traveled by light rail, plane, bus, and my own feet by the time I stood in front of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, looking straight up in awe.
The hotel is the epitome of grand, with architecture that dates back to the early 1900s, a singular American flag waving in the wind to beckon visitors into its doors. As soon as I stepped inside, it felt as if I had been transported back to the age of The Great Gatsby.
There were multiple bars as I walked through the lobby, with patrons sipping from their cocktails of choice. Three grand chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, weighing 4,000 pounds each, looked down on me. There was a domed ceiling covered in hand-applied gold leaf – that’s more than 7,000 square feet! In fact, it’s the largest gold leaf installation in the United States.
The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel ended up being one of the classiest hotels I’ve stayed at in my travels thus far, and what made it even better was the fact that it has such a rich history. I could still easily see remnants of the grandeur from decades past with my recent visit.
As soon as you walk into the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, you see sparkling chandeliers above you and lavish interior decorating. If you turn to your left, you’ll see the familiar Starbucks symbol. This represented exactly how I felt about the ambiance: elegant in every sense of the word, with modern-day conveniences thrown in.
The Starbucks may come off as a little out of place next to the rest of the interior, but I liked the fact that they had everything you could possibly need inside of the hotel.
And the lobby doesn’t stop there. There are thousands of seasonal plants, flowers, and trees that are maintained in the lobby throughout the year to give a semi-green house feel to the place. It’s a living, breathing indoor garden that is made even more beautiful by its ornate surroundings.
The ambiance was upper class, but also gave off a feeling of relaxation and an appreciation for the slower aspects of life. As soon as I stepped into the Grand Amway Plaza Hotel, I was ready to unwind and forget about the long journey it took to get there.
My room was located in the historic wing of the hotel and I loved how plushy and colorful it was. There were accents of pink and green and two firm beds at the far end of the room.
The room itself was average in size for modern hotel standards, but I’m sure back in the 1900s, when these rooms were first created, they were seen as overly large.
I absolutely adored the funky carpet as well.
The only downside to the room was the fact that there was no view, it looked out over a concrete roof and the other rooms across from me. From talking to locals who have stayed at the hotel, it’s apparently uncommon to get a room without a view of at least the city or the river. That was just the luck of the draw for me.
I’ve heard the rooms with views looking out over the Grand River are stunning – so if you’re booking into this hotel, that would be the area I’d recommend requesting to stay as a guest.
As much as there was going for the design and architecture of the hotel, there were just as many amenities offered. I did tell you it was slightly overwhelming with the amount of options you have with your stay, right?
There’s a spa (for an additional fee), fitness center, pool, 24-hour in-room dining, nightly turndown service, 24-hour business center, full service concierge, safety deposit boxes, and complimentary coffee in the rooms – one of my favorite features that a hotel can offer!
I didn’t have a car while I was in town, but it’s paid parking only, whether you self-park or use valet. The free Wi-Fi (at least in my room) was pretty dismal. There were times that it stopped working completely, and when it did work, it was very slow.
This was a hard one for me as a guest since I work completely from my computer, so I couldn’t do much work while I was in my room for the night. I’m not sure if this was because I was in the historic part of the hotel, where perhaps the Wi-Fi is slower than the modern side, or if the Wi-Fi is simply poor throughout the building.
I found the little interaction that I did have with the staff to be, for the most part, helpful and welcoming. The only time I didn’t feel that way was at check-in. To be fair, I probably looked like a train wreck after little to no sleep in over 30 hours and my lengthy travels to get to that check-in desk, but I came away feeling a bit of disdain from the man who helped me.
He seemed reluctant to come talk to me to check me in, and it didn’t help that he continued to have an air of apathy about him with the few words he said to me. It was the first time I’ve been to a hotel and the person who checked me in didn’t say a word of welcome.
Regardless, I try to not let one negative experience set the tone for the rest of my time at a place, and I’m glad I didn’t allow that in the case of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The women who I talked to at check out were some of the nicest people I met in Grand Rapids, and even gave me recommendations for a local coffee shop I could stop in at on my way to the bus station.
The guests at the hotel were mainly middle-aged and elderly, although there were a handful of young professionals and 20-somethings here and there. Some guests appeared to be on their honeymoon, some were friendly, others were haughty, but all things considered, it was a mixed bag of different personalities.
The Amway Grand Plaza represented a different clientele than I’m used to seeing every day, but it also represented a place that is beloved, historic, and one of the most famous hotels and landmarks in town. The people watching only made it that much better.
Eateries & Bars
As I mentioned, there is everything you could ever want within the hotel. I don’t think I managed to see all of the different shops, eateries, and bars during my stay, there was such an abundance of them and the hotel itself is massive.
What I did see was the Starbucks, a convenience store near the check-in, boutique shops, a flower shop, and multiple bars & restaurants. I didn’t have a chance to eat or drink at any of the bars or restaurants in the hotel with my short stay, but there are plenty to choose from. There’s The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, GP Sports, Lumber Baron Bar, Garden Court Lounge, and the one I heard so many great things about – Cygnus27.
Cygnus27 is at the top of the Glass Tower in the hotel and apparently gives you one of the best views in Grand Rapids, looking out over the river and city. I wanted to go up to grab a cocktail my last night at the hotel, but they were closed that night. Next time I’m in town, I’ll make an effort to stop by – I’m a sucker for great city views.
The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel first started as The Sweet’s Hotel. In the early 1900s, it was bought by J. Boyd Pantlind and reopened in 1916 as the popular Pantlind Hotel that would thrive for decades. By 1925, it was considered one of the top 10 finest hotels in America.
In 1979, The Amway Corporation acquired the hotel and refurbished it to still reflect it’s historical elegance. In 1983, the the Glass Tower and modern guest rooms were added on next to the original historical wing of the hotel.
The historic wing includes the lobby, the green elevators, as well as numerous guest rooms. When you first walk in, you’ll see a tiered fountain with a pineapple spigot – this is because the pineapple was a common symbol for hospitality in the USA before the 1920s.
There are many antiques and interior design from multiple decades ago if you choose to walk around and get lost in the hotel, which I would recommend you do! From the early 1900s there has been a lot of thought put into every single piece of art, furniture, naming of the ballrooms, and architecture – it’s only waiting to be discovered.
If you’re into history, they have a really cool self-guided history guide that you can download from their website, and walk around the hotel with to truly get an idea of the layered memories that exist at the Amway Grand. You can find it here.
The ambiance and ultimate grandeur of the hotel was a huge plus for me. As much as I’ve traveled, I haven’t stayed in very many historic accommodations, and you could feel the history resonating off this hotel. I also adored the interior design of both the lobby and my colorful room in the historic wing. Not to mention, the old school green elevators and still-working mailbox in the lobby were a definite treat.
The location was the perfect spot in town. The hotel was right in the center of everything and walkable to many attractions around the city – including a few of the craft breweries and many museums!
Furthermore, the amount of choices you had in the hotel for eating, drinking, or simply people watching were boundless. It would be hard to find yourself bored at a place like this, and just randomly walking around the hotel was a feast for the eyes in terms of the creativity and thought that has been put into it.
And lastly, FREE COFFEE in the rooms, need I say more?
Some of the amenities, such as the parking, cost an additional fee, which is always a bummer when you’re paying a high price for a room. There was also no complimentary breakfast in the morning, which can be a nice treat for hotels to offer for their guests sometimes.
In addition, the Wi-FI was just not up to par with what I would hope for in an accommodation, but I can also understand why it would be poor quality if it’s a historic building.
Overall, I very much enjoyed my time at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. It’s not exactly a clientele I fit into all the time as a traveler, but I’m glad I was able to stay in the most famous and historic hotel in the city.
There were both pros and cons to my stay, but I had more positive experiences than I had negative and I came away with a memorable time in a place that has such an intriguing history.
I would recommend the hotel for young professionals and middle-aged and elderly couples. Although if you’re into staying at historic hotels and want to experience one of the grandest representations of that in Michigan, I would say definitely splurge on a stay at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
If I were heading to Grand Rapids for a special occasion, wedding, or for a glam filled girls trip, this would be the place I would stay.
Have you stayed in a historic hotel before? Would you stay at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel?
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