There are actually a good number of hotels in the downtown area of Grand Rapids. I always forget the amount of hotels that are available because one stands out among the rest—the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. I know, its title is a mouthful. It opened originally in 1913 as the Pantlind Hotel, but in 1981, it underwent renovations and expansions, adding a glass tower of rooms 29 stories high—an unmistakable structure in the Grand Rapids skyline.
Because of that renovation, the hotel is split in two. “The Pantlind side” is the historic portion of the hotel. These rooms are often small and quirky. Original closets are converted to bathroom sink nooks and large wooden doors are often too short or too skinny. But it’s beautiful and antique and has a lot of character. “The tower side,” the side that faces the river, is where there are more conventional rooms—spacious and modern and planned (as opposed to pieced together).
Since the hotel attempted to smush two different buildings together, it can be rather difficult to navigate at times. The floors of the different sides don’t always match up perfectly, leading to lots of tucked-away staircases and mazes of hallways. I personally think this aspect adds to its charm. I often get lost and stumble upon a new section of the hotel I haven’t seen before.
I live here, so I don’t have much reason to stay in a hotel in my own city. And I definitely don’t have the financial means to stay in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on a regular basis. Even so, it’s still a vital part of my life in Grand Rapids. I spent my first wedding anniversary at this hotel. I got drunk in front of my boss in the Lumber Baron Bar in this hotel. I impressed out-of-town colleagues with brunch at Cygnus on the 27th floor of this hotel.
This hotel, on my levels, seems unapproachable and unattainable, as if it were only for the wealthy and the powerful. But it’s not. It’s there for everyone in Grand Rapids. It stands out among the rest because it’s our hotel. It’s our past and our present. It’s here for us to use and enjoy.
For more information about the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, visit their website.