Discover Michigan Grows Tourist BusinessBy Jane Whitttington on August 8th, 2017 /
Grand Rapidians and Michiganders are proud of their home and welcome the opportunity to share its rich history, inviting attractions, and stunning beauty to others. Now a business in Grand Rapids does just that. Discovering Michigan regularly offers tours of Grand Rapids as well as visits to Traverse City wineries and can provide pre-set tours as well as customized tours for international, national, and local tourists.
Candice Fleszar-Smith, Operations and Communications Manager, says, “We love Michigan and Grand Rapids! Starting in 2014, our founder, Jose Mauro Schwarz, who is originally from Brazil but had moved to Grand Rapids, started hosting friends, both individuals and groups, in his adopted state. Some of these trips went all over Michigan and could last as long as five to ten days. He soon realized that there was a market for shorter trips focusing on either Grand Rapids or the wine country of Traverse City. So this year, we began offering city tours and tours of wineries, and the idea has really taken off.”
She continues, “Right now, we are offering tours focusing on craft breweries, city tours encompassing history and interesting information about Grand Rapids, wine tours, fishing excursions, customized tours for parties and celebrations, and corporate services. For corporate tours, we might host hotel or venue staff, individuals whom businesses would like to hire and bring to Grand Rapids, or clients of realty companies who are thinking of relocating to the city. Our wine tours are one-day trip to Traverse City, and we provide all the transportation. We’ve also hosted tours for employee appreciation and team bonding.”
Discovering Michigan has forged relationships with local brewers, Up-North wineries, and local restaurants and do far more than just shuttle people around from place to place. During their various iterations of beer tours, for instance, visitors talk with brewers, tour the facilities, and test the product. With Grand Rapids’ growing reputation as “beer city”, visitors appreciate the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the best craft beers in the state and, yes, even in the U.S.
The local tours are a way not only to acquaint guests with the city but encourage them to stay a little longer to further explore or to come back again to take advantage of all Grand Rapids has to offer.
Fleszar-Smith says, “We have a lot of ideas for upcoming tours. Right now, we are working on developing a ghost tour, an architectural tour, and an art tour. With Grand Rapids hosting the biggest art competition in the world, ArtPrize, there is so much art here to explore.”
She continues, “Recently, we had a group interested in investigating the Medical Mile, so we developed a tour for them, and another group has asked for a tour of Heritage Hill, so we are working on that as well. We always listen to feedback from our guests, and work on making our tours truly memorable.”
The guides’ expertise and extensive knowledge of local lore often surprises even long-time Grand Rapids residents. Who knew that Al Capone frequented an East Grand Rapids home complete with secret escape tunnels during Prohibition? And how many people for whom Grand Rapids is home know the story of the infamous Frank McKay for whom McKay Towers is named? Visiting the Gerald R. Ford Museum and gravesite gives tour guides opportunities to recount tales of Ford’s youth in Grand Rapids, college years at the University of Michigan as well as his exemplary service to his country.
The business is located in the basement of McKay Towers in what used to be a bank vault, now converted to office space—even the facility has a story!
Currently, Discovering Michigan has five employees, but they are in the process of hiring and training new guides as this Michigan centric business continues to grow.
Whether you are a home-towner or visiting from someplace else, Discovering Michigan offers a chance to make some amazing memories as expert guides show you the sights.