A Local’s Guide to the Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids, MI

Looking for an inside scoop on Grand Rapid’s famous Blue Bridge?

I’ve got your back.

Over the years, I’ve brought countless visitors to this iconic Grand Rapids landmark. Combine that with living in Grand Rapids for most of my life, and I’ve picked up lots of fun history and insider’s tips about our bridge. In this post, I’m sharing all that with you!

What is the Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids?

grand rapids blue bridge

The Blue Bridge is an iconic pedestrian bridge in the heart of Grand Rapids. The landmark piece of infrastructure spans the Grand River. The stunning, distinctive blue color and central location make it a must-see destination if you’re visiting the city.

The best  way to explore any city is on foot. And the Blue Bridge, which connects the Grand Rapids riverwalk on the east and GVSU’s Eberhard Center and the Grand Rapids Public Museum on the west, is a stroll worth making.

The bridge is lovely during the day, and it’s resplendent at night time. Colorful LED lighting was installed on the bridge in 2013, and the Blue Bridge can now be illuminated in a kaleidoscope of colors.

Put simply: the Blue Bridge is part of Grand Rapids’ DNA.

On the 4th of July, it’s one of the best spots (along with Ah-Nab-Awan park) for enjoying the city’s fireworks display. The fireworks are launched just north of the Blue Bridge, over the river. You’ll have a front-row seat for the grand finale if you manage to snag a spot on the Blue Bridge.

If you’re checking-out Grand Rapids during ArtPrize, which runs in late September, the bridge is often a venue for art installations. The winning piece of artwork in 2021, an audio installation called Before You Go, was displayed on the Blue Bridge. The artists, Christian Reichle and Monica Pritchard, took home a cool $50,000 in winnings.

History of the Bridge

The bridge has been rebuilt three times, and the current bridge has stood since 1892. The Blue Bridge was initially used as a railroad bridge and was called the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Bridge (calling it the Blue Bridge is so much snappier). The bridge was used by trains that traveled between Muskegon and Mackinaw City.

In the 1980s, the bridge’s railroad days were behind her. The “span” of the bridge was restored to make it suitable for foot traffic. It was also in the 1980s that the bridge was painted its signature blue hue.

In 2013, the bridge underwent restoration. The paint color was voted on by the local community, and blue was the overwhelming selection. Ultra-bright and energy-efficient LED lighting was added to the bridge in 2013, as well.

Local’s guide to visiting the Blue Bridge

visiting blue bridge grand rapids

How you’ll get to the Blue Bridge depends on where you’re staying.

If you’re visiting the city and staying at the Amway Grand Plaza, JW Mariott Hotel, the Finnley Hotel, or another downtown hotel, the Blue Bridge is a quick and pleasant walk away.

If you’re visiting the hotel from the suburbs, you can use a ride-sharing app and get dropped off within a short distance of the bridge.

Got wheels? Great. There is metered street parking throughout Grand Rapids. Meter fees and enforcement times vary – expect to pay a nominal fee on weekdays during working hours. Check the enforcement hours at whatever meter you park at to make sure you don’t get slapped with a pesky parking ticket.

If you can’t find an open parking meter, try a nearby parking ramp. The Riverfront Plaza ramp at 55 Campau Avenue NW is .09 miles from the Blue Bridge. The Louis-Campau ramp, located at 43 Monroe Avenue NW, is .1 mile away.

Miscellaneous FAQs about the Bridge

blue bridge

Got questions? I’ve got answers. Let’s cover some of the most common questions about the Blue Bridge.

Where is the Blue Bridge?

The Blue Bridge is located near the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. It spans the entire length of the Grand River, connecting Front Avenue on the western side to Campau Avenue on the eastern side.

Here’s a map to show you the bridge’s exact location:

Can you drive on the Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids?

No. The Blue Bridge is for pedestrian use only and is not accessible by car.

When was the Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids built?

The current Blue Bridge was built in 1892. Previous iterations of the Bridge were constructed in 1868 and 1874, which was destroyed during “the great log jam” of 1883 (dibs on the great log jam as a band name).

What type of design is the Blue Bridge?

The Blue Bridge is a “truss” bridge, one of Michigan’s longest truss bridges. Truss bridges are prized by engineers, as the series of triangular trusses are strong, elegant, and economical (much like our readers).