Here are 18 things you should know if you're thinking about moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan! With affordable living, great outdoor recreation, a budding art scene, and excellent food and beer options.
It's a fantastic location to call home and work.
Grand Rapids is one of the most affordable cities in the United States, offering big city comforts with small-town charm. With a median home price of $113,600, housing is reasonably priced in Grand Rapids, making it one of the best places to live in Michigan. The capital city also has some of the best jobs available, including Steelcase and Herman Miller, both of which helped earn the moniker "Furniture City" for Grand Rapids. But there’s more to Grand Rapids than just furniture manufacturing! Healthcare network Spectrum Health ranks as not only Grand Rapids' top employer, but also the largest in Western Michigan. Grocery chain Meijer and product maker Amway are headquartered in the area too and rank among the city's top ten employers!
Grand Rapids is turning into a more sustainable city.
Grand Rapids is committed to sustainability, environmental protection, and reducing carbon emissions. Enter "The Rapid": the city's public transportation system that uses hybrid electric buses. The Rapid Central Station goes above and beyond with its very own green roof! Among other strategies, this is helping Grand Rapids achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The city has been working hard for years to build sustainable structures; as a result, it now boasts the world’s first LEED-certified microbrewery, art museum, transit station, school, and church (to name just a few). And more people are taking up cycling thanks to an app that helps newcomers navigate Grand Rapids’ bike paths and explore the city!
Experience all four seasons
In Grand Rapids, you get to experience all four seasons! Winter is a great time to go ice skating or join a broomball league at the Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink. Spring is vibrant in Grand Rapids with the many parks in full bloom. As fall approaches, take advantage of the changing leaves and head to nearby apple orchards and cider mills for some delicious refreshments. Or, go to Fruit Ridge Market for a one-stop shop that has everything from a pumpkin patch to hayrides! And during summer? What better way to spend it than by going to the beach!
Take a Close-by Beach Vacation
You may spend your summer on one of the country's best beaches on Lake Michigan, about an hour south of Grand Rapids! Soak up the rays at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, which is recognized for its brilliant water, white sand beaches, easy parking, and picnic sites (and even the world). While you're there, go on a Saugatuck Dune Ride to see what it's all about! For a more "hidden beach town" feel, try Grand Haven. The sandy Grand Haven City Beach is definitely worth a visit! And while you're at it, take a look around at some of Michigan's famous lighthouses. They line the shoreline of Lake Michigan and are really something to see!
Spend time in the great outdoors!
Without leaving Grand Rapids, you may explore all of nature's beauty! Discover 158 acres of gardens, exotic plants, a waterfall, marshes, animals, and a sculpture park with over 300 works from renowned artists at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. At Blandford Nature Center, a 143-acre wildlife park that also offers active workshops on amphibians and reptiles. Roam the 100 acres of public nature habitat at Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens, which feature trails winding through varied ecosystems. With the assistance of a unique sculpture designed to assist fish migrate though the river rapids, watch fish in the Grand River swim upstream at Fish Ladder Park. Slip through the woods and into a clearing to discover the ruins of an ancient people's settlement. The dig is open only at specific times, but you can witness it first-hand by visiting the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. Alternatively, walk 15 minutes west from downtown to Millennium Park, which features a 1,400-acre park alongside the Grand River. Lookout Park and Ah-Nab-Awen Park are both close to town!
Get a Degree from College
Grand Rapids has several educational institutions for students who wish to enhance their education. Grand Rapids Community College, the state's first of its kind, is a great place to start your academic journey as an architect, culinary arts student, or educator. At Calvin University, one of the top-rated Christian universities in the nation, you may study engineering, business administration and management, or become a registered nurse! Only 20 minutes from Downtown Grand Rapids, at Grand Valley State University, enroll in outstanding programs including education, marketing, and psychology. Or become the next Kendall College of Art & Design artist with nurturing mentors and instructors located conveniently in downtown Ferris State University.
Learn about Grand Rapids' history at Grand Rapids Historical Museum.
The city was founded in 1850, and is now split into distinct neighborhoods with a variety of architectural styles, from classic Greek Revival to modern Italianate. Prairie-style architecture made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright can also be found throughout the city. Architectural history buffs can visit the Meyer S. May House, Wright’s most famous home in Grand Rapids. If you're looking to explore some of America's most historic homes, Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids is a great place to start. You can take a self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood and see more than 175 years' worth of architectural history, including mansions belonging to some of the entrepreneurs who helped put Grand Rapids on the map as "Furniture City." If you want to deepen your historical experience in Grand Rapids, Michigan, check out the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. This is where the 38th president grew up and it has many artifacts from American political history.
The LGBTQ community can take pride in its home here.
The LGBTQ scene in Grand Rapids has been steadily growing since 1987, when a group of activists from Western Michigan attended the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights. Since then, the community center that they formed has grown significantly and officially became the Grand Rapids Pride Center in 2016. The Grand Rapids LGBTQ community has long needed a resource center that would help them build and grow their business, improve self-esteem, and feel supported. They wanted to assist the LGBTQ community in Grand Rapids by providing supportive services and awareness. Nowadays, there are LGBT-owned and operated businesses, salons, and enterprises all over the area! Take a stroll down Downtown Grand Rapids' Rainbow Road along Sheldon Ave. Michigan's oldest gay bar, The Apartment Lounge (formerly known as Rock City), is now located downtown. Alternatively, Rumors Night Club is a well-known local favorite with drag shows and a warm atmosphere.
Art and museums are a way of life.
If you're looking to explore Grand Rapids' art scene, the City Art Tour is a great option. You'll get to see more than 5,000 pieces at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the towering 43-foot Alexander Calder sculpture outside City Hall. And if you're a fan of modern art covering contemporary issues, be sure to check out Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts – it's part of Kendall College of Art & Design. But there's more to Grand Rapids than just art! The Grand Rapids Public Museum and its ever-growing collection of relics, displays, and galleries explore natural and scientific history. On the other hand, tour the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives for a Black History Tour that explores the city's civil rights history.
Win $200,000 at ArtPrize.
Every year, Grand Rapids becomes one of the world's largest art festivals with Downtown Grand Rapids transforming into a bustling art scene in October for ArtPrize! With $250,000 in total prize money up for grabs, any artist 18 or older may enter work to be exhibited in galleries, museums, bars, and parks—anywhere within the area that can house an exhibit! The Grand Rapids Art Prize is an international competition that has been held annually since 2010. This year's competition saw the participation of roughly 1,800 artists and 500,000 visitors who used the ArtPrize app to vote for their favorites. The main award winner receives $200,000! Many previous competitions' works may still be seen at museums, galleries, breweries, hotels, and restaurants around Grand Rapids.
There's a Variety of Musics to Listen To
Live music in Grand Rapids is one of the finest activities to do, with over 100 locations! Justin Bieber, Elton John, and Dave Matthews Band are among the large names that have played at Van Andel Arena in the city's downtown. For a more personal Grand Rapids concert experience, go see a show at 20 Monroe Live with a capacity of 2,500 people. The Intersection is the perfect place to discover new, local bands. If you're a fan of classical music, look no further than the Grand Rapids Symphony. They perform more than 400 shows each year at different venues around town—all beautifully orchestrated. And if that's not enough, there's also a Musical Fountain in nearby Grand Haven that plays 25-minute water and light shows set to popular tunes every summer evening!
Downtown has something for everyone.
Downtown Grand Rapids is abuzz with dozens of places to shop, dine, drink, and have fun! DASH, a free transit service that covers the downtown area, makes it easy to get around. Visit the unique Downtown Market, which is open seven days a time with specialty food and beverage stores as well as cooking classes and incubator kitchens for food businesses. Start your day off with a cup of coffee from Madcap Coffee, an award-winning burger at Stella's Lounge, or a drink at The Cottage Bar. If you're feeling full, check out a boat show, comic convention, home and garden expo, or wine festival at DeVos Place on the Grand River.
The Shopping possibilities are countless.
Grand Rapids has several art galleries, gift shops, and boutiques, but that is only the beginning of your shopping adventure in Downtown! Of course, Furniture City offers a plethora of antique shops. Century Antiques is home to one of Western Michigan's largest antique collections. Shopping your way through Uptown Grand Rapids' many clothing stores, spas, salons, and gourmet food merchants will be an enjoyable experience. nLook for furniture or Mid-Century Modern goods at Lost & Found - Treasures of Old & New near downtown. Shop among the numerous fashion outlets in Uptown Grand Rapids, which is also home to spas and salons.
Within a 20-minute drive of the city center, check out Rivertown Crossings and Woodland Mall, both of which are located in West Michigan's river valley! Visit Gaslight Village near East Grand Rapids to enjoy one of the city's more distinctive shopping experiences. Alternatively, get fresh fruit and vegetables along with local crafts and pottery at the Fulton Street Farmers Market, which is the oldest (and largest!) of nearby farmers markets. It's just one among the many rewards you'll receive from Indiana because it grows the second-largest variety of produce in the country!
The Whole Family Can Enjoy It
Grand Rapids is a wonderful place to call home for families. There are plenty of things to do in Grand Rapids for children, too! The Grand Rapids Children's Museum, which offers more than 15 exhibits on topics such as dinosaurs, bubbles, and construction alongside a full calendar of art lessons, story parties, magic shows, and more! For over a century now, Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery has welcomed visitors every fall who come to pick apples or buy baked goods. There's plenty to do for a family looking for adventure in Grand Rapids. Visit John Ball Zoo, which is home to over 1,800 animals and has an aquarium, aviary, and several interactive animal exhibits. If you're feeling more adventurous, take on TreeRunner Adventure Park with ziplines and aerial obstacle courses suspended in the trees. For some less intense fun, explore Grand Rapids' 100 miles of paved biking trails or take a leisurely ride on the Ice Cream Tour!
Get Your Game On - All Year Round
Feeling sporty? No matter your game, Grand Rapids has the professional teams you want to see! From October through April, catch the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) take the ice at Van Andel Arena. The Detroit Pistons affiliate team, the Minor League Basketball Association's Grand Rapids Drive (NBA G League), play in Michigan during winter as well! Cheer on the Grand Rapids FC (USL) as they play soccer at Houseman Field in Midtown during the warmer summer months. Enjoy baseball in West Michigan later this fall, when you watch a Whitecaps (MiLB) game. If you're searching for a new kind of thrill, check out a Grand Raggidy Roller Derby bout!
The River Bank Run is a race held every year.
The Amway River Bank Run is a downtown Grand Rapids tradition that attracts runners from all over the world each year. The country's biggest 25k road race, the event sends runners down city streets, parks, and sections of the Grand River. A 10k, 5k Community Walk, non-competitive Amway Junior, and world's only 25k hand cycle and wheelchair racing divisions are available for everyone to participate in!
Experience Culinary Heaven in Michigan
Foodies from all around the world flock to Grand Rapids for its diversity of cuisine and exceptional chefs. Take a “Bite Seeing” culinary tour along the Food Trail! Dine on a hearty lasagna and tiramisu for dessert at Amore Trattoria Italiana. At Blue Dog Tavern, tuck into Poutine Tots and a cold beer. Butcher's Union serves up steak with a whiskey drinker in mind. Do you have a discerning palette? Explore the world of cuisine with Dutch fruit donuts, Indonesian Lumpia, or Vietnamese Banh Mi at Roam By San Chez Bistro. Do you want to try creative tacos and Mexican beverages? Luna is the place to go for Mango, Paloma, and Spicy margaritas as well as Tacos ranging from Carne Asada to Sweet Potato & Black Bean. If you enjoy old-fashioned charm, grab Yesterday's famous hot dog in Eastown, which was famously seen in American Pie.
Drink Up, Beery City!
Grand Rapids is widely-renowned for its exemplary beer scene, containing over 80 breweries! Immerse yourself in the Ale Trail and become a part of the experience by becoming a Brewsader. You can't visit Grand Rapids without stopping at Founders Brewing’s Grand Rapids Taphouse. They're famous for their KBS beer, but they also excel in other varieties such as All-Day IPA and Nitro Oatmeal Stout. Or, if you're looking for something with an old-world feel to it , craft beer is definitely your scene! Head to Brewery Vivant, a brewpub in a 1915-era funeral home that has been transformed into an elegant restaurant, for classic European and Belgian beers alongside a daily menu of local ingredients. For some great brewery experiences in Grand Rapids, try Puerto Rican food and experimental brews like Crystal Sesh or Into the Fray at CityBuilt Brewing. Try The Mitten Brewing Company's baseball-themed beer and pizza, or Atwater Brewery's tropical POG-O-LICIOUS IPA or Purple Gang Pilsner.
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