Your weekend guide: March 22-24

Spanish brunch at MDRD. Photo courtesy of AHC Hospitality.

Check out the new attractions at The John Ball Zoo

Photo courtesy of West Michigan Tourist Association/John Ball Zoo.

The John Ball Zoo opens its doors on March 22 for its 133rd season, presenting conservation-focused activities and new animal additions including the arrival of Zuhura (Zoo-hoo-ra), a 10-year-old chimpanzee, and four endangered Chacoan peccaries Chuh-co-an peck-aries). Other newcomers include San Clemente Island goats and the return of Amur tiger Titan for breeding purposes. 

“We are very excited to welcome the community back to the Zoo for the 2024 season,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo. “We hope families can create lasting memories and learn about conservation during their visit and engage with our new Zoo residents and events. There is so much to look forward to this year.”

A novel Wild Explorer VR experience allows guests to interact with gorillas in their natural habitat and various events, such as the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival and RendeZoo, promise entertainment throughout the year.

 The Zoo operates from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on opening day and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays,
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekends in March. Online ticket reservations are encouraged.

Culinary speed dating
The Grand Rapids Downtown Market Education Foundation, GROW, MSU Extension, and Start Garden will host Culinary Conversations: Food Business Bootcamp on Saturday, March 23, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. This will be the largest “Culinary Conversations” event to date and attendance is free for all local food professionals.

Culinary conversations at Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Courtesy photo.

This full day of learning will put guests in a room with experts from various fields who will share their knowledge in “speed dating” style.

The event will wrap up with a Food Industry Networking happy hour. Guests are invited to connect, debrief, and ask additional questions.

RSVP for the Food Business Bootcamp through the Culinary Conversations MeetUp page by visiting

Support a cause through laughter (and with tacos)

The Comedy Project courtesy photo.

Get ready for a night of laughs and good vibes at the second annual Comedy for A Cause fundraiser. Attendees will be supporting Enriched Living, an organization that provides care for adults with disabilities in West Michigan. Included in the price of a ticket is a delicious dinner from Condado Tacos Bridge Street and hilarious entertainment featuring local celeb comedian Brianna Blackburn and the talented improv team of The Comedy Project. Don’t miss out on the chance to win fantastic raffle baskets from local businesses, and enjoy drinks from the full cash bar. Laugh, make new friends, and support a great cause! For more information, click here.

Sunday brunch with stunning views
The Amway Grand Plaza has announced that starting March 24 it will be serving Spanish-inspired Sunday brunch at its chic rooftop restaurant, MDRD. (Hint: You can just call it “Madrid.”) The brunch features an à la carte menu with contemporary Spanish flavors, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Spanish brunch at MDRD. Photo courtesy of AHC Hospitality.

Curated by new executive chef Erika Brigham, the menu showcases MDRD’s inventive approach to Spanish cuisine, featuring delights such as churro bites, Spanish omelet, and a unique paella rice waffle with spicy pan-fried chicken. Specialty cocktails and mocktails, including an espresso martini and blood orange mimosa with cava rosé, complement the vibrant brunch experience. With stunning views of the Grand Rapids cityscape from the hotel’s 27th floor, MDRD offers an unparalleled brunch experience just in time for Easter!

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