This summer has been a busy one for the Almeida Family! Both of Anderson’s brothers and their wives (Will & Sara and Wes & Kylene)…

This summer has been a busy one for the Almeida Family! Both of Anderson’s brothers and their wives (Will & Sara and Wes & Kylene) had babies! Within a week of each other! And that gave us a great excuse for a long-overdue trip to Grand Rapids to meet our new nephews, Gracian and Fierce. We love visiting the Michigan Almeidas! It’s usually a whirlwind of talking about what we want to see and do, then making plans about what we want to see and do, then changing those plans, then deciding we don’t really know what we want to do, then doing something completely different from what we planned. And that’s just how we decide where to go for breakfast!!! Then we start over and do it all again. Ha! Does that sounds crazy and exhausting? It is. In the best way!

Anderson’s dad also came into town to see all four of his grandsons, so that was an extra treat. He fits right in with the craziness and goes with the flow. We even got to celebrate his birthday together! I think the best part of the trip, for all of us, was holding and squeezing and kissing the babies. They are the sweetest little guys! I almost felt a little baby fever coming on. Almost.

Anderson and I love downtown Grand Rapids. Actually, we love downtown anywhere, but Grand Rapids is definitely a favorite. Forbes call it “One of the 10 Best Downtowns in the U.S.A.” It’s a fun little city and always reminds me of the kind of place Jacksonville hopes to be someday. It’s so encouraging to see a city that said, “We’re going to transform downtown to an area where people want to hang out, live, and work.” And then they did it! There’s an energizing buzz to the area. And every time we visit I’m amazed by how many more old building have been renovated and restored. I can totally see Jacksonville being like GR in 10-20 years!

We couldn’t decide where to stay this time. So after much deliberation and a process similar to the one I mentioned above, we decided to stay in the heart of downtown at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. That way we could soak in as much of the downtown vibe as possible. We love hanging out in urban areas, so the Amway Grand was the perfect spot for us. The property is gorgeous! It was originally built in 1913 as the Pantlind hotel and feels like a step back in time from the moment you pull up to the majestic old building. We stayed in a corner room that overlooked the Grand River, so we spent a lot of time enjoying the view! We also took advantage of the indoor pool (and hot tub!) with the whole family and even drug ourselves to the workout room. Well, one of us did! Thanks for a great stay, Amway Grand team! We will definitely be back!

I kept asking to go to Robinette’s Apple Orchard, mainly for some apple donuts, so we all went one afternoon. I love the apple orchards, because they’re so different from the citrus orchards here. They just feel like fall! (Even though it was almost 90 degrees the day we went!) Another highlight was the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. It’s an indoor/outdoor space that features restaurants, bakeries, a meat market, and even a green house. It reminded me of Chelsea Market in NYC!

Michigan is beautiful in the fall, but this time we found out it’s pretty great in the summertime too! And the people are always so nice. I’ve always thought southerns had the hospitality market cornered, then I met a bunch of Michiganders and realized we actually have a lot to learn!

Thanks for a great time, Almeidas! We can’t wait to come back!

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