The Meijer Gardens: A Mix of Art and Nature in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Chances are if you are from the west coast like I am, Meijer will be an unfamiliar beast. It's a supercenter akin to Wal-Mart or Target but with a better grocery store than either. The regional chain opened its first stores in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I spent my Christmas holiday with family. 

But I'm not really here to talk about the Meijer supercenter chain because I've only been in one maybe twice and it's not really an experience that warrants much attention in a blog post, but what I do want to go on about here are the Meijer Gardens. 

The Meijer Gardens opened its 125-acre sculpture park and gardens in 1995. The facility features Michigan's largest tropical conservatory, five indoor gardens, and numerous outdoor plant and sculpture gardens. The garden receives over 650,000 visitors each year and is one of the top tourist destinations in the area. 

When we went, there was a holiday around the world exhibit. This is when they put Christmas trees up and decorate them to be representative of an entire country or region. I get terrible flashbacks to the Ronald Reagan Library when I see these types of exhibits. Once I got past this part of the garden, and into the indoor themed gardens, I was a much happier camper. 

I like plants. Plants don't try to talk to me, ask me questions, give me funny looks, or threaten to kill me and then ask me for money. Plants have interesting textures, shapes, and colors that I like to spend a lot of my free time manipulating in various photo editing programs. Plants are my jam. 

The succulent garden was my first stop out of the Christmas Small World hallway of screaming children. The spines are soothing, don't you think?

I like these fuzzy guys. 

Cotton balls of anger. 

Succulent draping. 

The variety of succulents astounds me: little blobs, towering and rounded, humanoid, round with huge spikes, and all of them drought resistant. I would grow succulents but I am an expert at killing all plants. 

From the succulent garden, I moved into the Railroad garden which was almost as packed with screaming children as the elementary school representation of culture hallway of yule log terror was except the railroad garden is way cooler and more fun. A toy train runs through the garden and around miniature landmark buildings made out of various plant materials and barks. They're so detailed and imaginative. 

The detail and color variation in those shingles. I hope one day I will have a home with such fine shingles. 

Those awnings. 

This was one of my favorites. The fungus. 

I want an artichoke tower. 

In addition to the succulent and railroad gardens are the tropical conservatory, the Victorian gardens, and the carnivorous plants. 

This is not a plant; this is a light display. 

I am looking forward to my return trip to Grand Rapids in June so I can see the gardens in their full summertime glory. The outside gardens during the winter were beautiful especially the frozen pond at the Japanese garden. I would like to be able to spend more time exploring the sculpture garden in better weather.