Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park consists of both indoor and outdoor facilities, housing everything from plants, gardens, ponds, waterfalls, sculptures, nature trails, temporary exhibits, annual events, and even concerts in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The permanent sculpture collection features nearly 300 works, with the greatest concentration included in the outdoor, 30-acre sculpture park. A 2015 expansion added an 8-acre Japanese garden to the outdoor grounds, and the popularity of the park exploded. With 158 acres to explore at Meijer Gardens in total, it can be easy to accidentally miss or overlook something incredible, so we’ve compiled this list to help you on your visit.
These are the 10 best things to see at Meijer Gardens in 2022:
1. Carnivorous Plant House
Home to meat-eating plants of all shapes and sizes from all around the world, the Kenneth E. Nelson Carnivorous Plant House is the only publicly displayed, exclusively carnivorous, plant collection located within the United States. Some of its notable residents include Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, sundews, and butterworts. I especially love this Meijer Gardens collection because it reminds me of Jurassic Park. When you first approach the plant house, it looks so eerie, wild, and foreboding from the outside.
2. Cabin Creek by Deborah Butterfield
Cabin Creek was originally constructed with found materials using primarily wood. Once the image of the horse was formed, each wooden piece was taken apart and individually translated into bronze before being reassembled and patinated. The title of the sculpture represents the location where Deborah Butterfield acquired the materials for this work. Through focusing on the form of the mare in such a way, the artist hopes to showcase the spirit and intelligence of the horse, since they are so rarely depicted in art in such a way.
3. The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden
The 8-acre Meijer Japanese Garden is absolutely the most beautiful place in the entire park. It features a Zen-style rock garden, bonsai garden, Japanese maples, cherry blossoms, elegant bridges, ponds, waterfalls, fountains, giant Buddha, various sculptures of its own, and even an authentic Japanese tea house.
4. Iron Tree by Ai Weiwei
This is, by far, my favorite sculpture at Frederik Meijer Gardens. From a distance, it fools you into thinking it is just a tree. When you approach, however, you can quickly see that it is formed by large steel bolts and artificial limbs pieced together at sometimes awkward angles. The sculpture makes no attempt to hide these pieces of construction. They are an intentional part of the design–a statement about diversity and culture–representing a conglomeration of communities around the world being brought together to become as one. Ai Weiwei is both artist and activist, regularly exploring the concepts of human rights, freedom of speech, and examination of culture through his primary works. Iron Tree is his largest outdoor sculpture, spanning over 22 feet wide and 22 feet tall, with 99 solid cast pieces formed from tree elements gathered in southern China.
5. Neuron by Roxy Paine
Consisting of approximately 3,500 hand-constructed, stainless steel rods and cylindrical industrial piping, Roxy Paine’s Neuron was designed to inspire thoughts about nature as well as industry and artistic processes. It’s a derivative of his critically acclaimed Dendroid series and simultaneously evokes imagery of both a neuron and the root ball of a tree.
It reminds me of a ball of electricity or some type of super power you’d find in an X-Men or Marvel movie. It’s beautiful, and it’s by far one of my favorite sculptures at Meijer Gardens. It also makes a great place to stop and pose for pictures at the gardens.
6. American Horse by Nina Akamu
Inspired by the late 15th century sketches that Leonardo da Vinci created for the Duke of Milan, the American Horse of Meijer Gardens was created in the 1990s by famed animaliere Nina Akamu. It stands 24 feet tall, 28 feet long, 8 feet wide, and weighs 15 tons. Two casts were made, and the sister sculpture of Leonardo’s Horse was flown to Milan, Italy, where it now rests in San Siro Hippodrome Cultural Park.
7. I, you, she or he… by Jaume Plensa
Constructed in 2006 of stainless steel and stone, I, you, she or he was created to get people talking. Three seated figures face each other and are left empty inside, with an outside shell formed of stainless steel letters. Their faces are intentionally left unfinished in order to convey universality, and the artist’s intention is to represent an ongoing, silent conversation.
8. Aria by Alexander Liberman
One of the tallest and most vibrant sculptures at the park, Alexander Liberman’s Aria, which in music terminology refers to an elaborate melody sung by one voice, stands over 42 feet tall, and the shape of its interlocking elements suggests a music staff, notes, and interwoven sounds that together represent a unified voice. When viewed from the neighboring waterfall at Meijer Gardens, it creates a tranquil picture of one of the most unique places you can visit in the gardens.
9. Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming Exhibition
Every March and April, over 7,000 tropical butterflies–belonging to 60 different species from all around the world–fly freely in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. This annual showcase is the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the country, so you definitely don’t want to miss it! If you have any children, make sure to also stop by the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden to participate in the butterfly-themed activities that they offer in conjunction with the conservatory. Both the butterfly exhibit and the children’s garden are included with your general Meijer Gardens admission.
If you’re unable to attend in March or April to see the butterflies, you’ll still want to explore inside the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, even without them. At five stories tall and 15,000 square feet in size, it’s the largest tropical conservatory in Michigan and houses over 500 species of plants from five continents. Even without the butterflies, its lush vegetation, tumbling waterfalls, tranquil streams, and pretty bridges cutting through towering greenery make it one of the most beautiful places you’ll experience in Meijer Gardens.
10. Meijer Gardens Christmas and Holiday Traditions
Presented in nearly 50 unique displays and events, the University of Michigan Health-West: Christmas & Holiday Traditions exhibit showcases more than 300,000 lights, winter plantings, Christmas trees, cultural displays, rooftop reindeer, Dickens carolers, and the annual Railway Garden, complete with model trains, handmade miniature buildings, and horticultural surroundings. It runs from the end of November through the beginning of January every year at Meijer Gardens, and you won’t want to miss it!
Meijer Gardens Map
Is Meijer Gardens Open in Winter?
Yes! Meijer Gardens is open during winter. Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is open 362 days a year. They are closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Where is Meijer Gardens Located?
You can find Meijer Gardens at the following address:
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
1000 East Beltline Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
You can purchase tickets on their own website here. We hope you love your visit as much as we did!