Grand Rapids has long been considered one of the best places to live in the Great Lakes region, and for good reason. It's big enough to provide rich cultural experiences yet small enough to provide a sense of community. There are many reasons to move to Grand Rapids, but here are our six favorite reasons Grand Rapids is a great place to live.
All the reasons to love Grand Rapids
When most people think of Grand Rapids, they don't think of gorgeous beaches. The truth is Grand Rapids is just about 25 miles from the shores of Lake Michigan. Unlike the French Riviera or South Florida, the coast of Lake Michigan is practically in your backyard.
in nearby Saugatuck is considered one of the premier beaches in the United States. Its white sand and clear waters have won acclaim from numerous travel writers. It’s a popular spot for both young people and families.
is one of the most overlooked beaches in the world. Travel + Leisure Magazine proclaimed this Lake Michigan spot as one of the best secret beaches. This small beach town has a 2.5-mile harbor front boardwalk with a quaint old-time Michigan feel. Being just a 40-minute drive from Grand Rapids, Grand Haven is sure to offer a wonderful summer getaway.
P.J. Hoffmaster State Park
Just a little further north of Grand Haven is the P.J. Hoffmaster State Park
. This park holds an impressive three miles of shoreline, making it a great spot for jogging or long walks. Nearby is the Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center, which has a stairway that provides stunning views. Campsites are available for longer stays.
Photo courtesy of Michigan Beachtowns
is one of the more secluded beaches on Lake Michigan — in part due to its limited free parking. It’s located in a small town of the same name and provides some of the most beautiful sunsets you'll find in the state. Despite its seclusion, it’s about a 45-minute drive from Grand Rapids.
Plenty of green space
Grand Rapids offers plenty of green space in the city and for nature walks. The city ranks 23rd in the nation in providing the most green space per capita. This is partly due to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, a community organization that works to beautify the city.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Currently, Grand Rapids has over 18,000 sq feet of green space, with the crown jewel being Millennium Park
on the southwest side of the city. Millennium Park offers 1,400 acres of outdoor activities, including trails, playgrounds, and boat rentals.
Blandford Nature Center
Photo courtesy of O. Christine
If you’re looking for something more nature-oriented, the Blandford Nature Center
is an excellent place to learn about local wildlife and flora. The nature center only costs $3 to visit and is full of fun trails to explore.
Provin Trails Park
offers interconnected loops throughout a pine forest. It’s a nice escape from the city and is excellent for jogging, biking, and cross-country skiing in the winter. The park covers 46 acres of forested area, making it a perfect location for bird watching. It’s located on the north side of town, just off 4 Mile Road.
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Photo courtesy of Daily Advent
The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
act as the city's de facto botanic gardens. Here you will discover some of the most beautiful gardens in the city. The center routinely holds gardening classes led by botanical experts.
In addition to beautiful landscaping, the center holds a 30-acre sculpture park. The sculpture park is considered one of the most comprehensive collections in the world, receiving recognition from Art Newspaper.
Arts & culture
Grand Rapids is bustling with arts and culture. Every other fall, the city hosts the ArtPrize contest, which brings in countless new pieces and sculptures at each event. After the contest, many of the pieces can be found throughout the city's museums.
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Often referred to as GRAM, this art museum
was initially founded in 1910. GRAM routinely has special events, making it a popular cultural destination year-round. Its unique building was redesigned in 2002. It became the world's first Leed Gold Certified art museum during its construction due to its attention to eco-consciousness. You can find over 20,000 square feet of gallery space inside the building.
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA)
prides itself on displaying innovative art along with a series of events throughout the year. The institute focuses on contemporary art that is both local and international. It recently moved into a new downtown location on Pearl Street.
Grand Rapids Public Museum
The Grand Rapids Public Museum
is a mix of science and history. It’s located in a beautiful downtown location right on the banks of the Grand River. It holds over 250,000 artifacts and specimens that tell the story of Western Michigan.
One of America's greenest cities
Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids continues to transform into one of America's greenest cities. The city has the ambition to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and has made major changes to accomplish that goal.
This initiative includes the "Battle of the Buildings
" challenge, which encourages energy-efficient building practices. Battle of the Buildings was so successful that it became a statewide challenge. Since its inception, the challenge has removed 137 metric tons of pollution and saved $14 million in energy costs.
Grand Rapids also strives to become a bicycle-friendly city. While Grand Rapids currently ranks in the middle in terms of bike-friendly cities, initiatives have been taken to improve infrastructure for cyclists. This includes self-guided bike tours
that take riders through all of the best trails and paths in the city.
Grand Rapids also has decent public transportation, given its size. The public transportation system is called "The Rapid
" and is being revamped to be even more eco-friendly. The city is starting to commission hybrid buses to reduce pollution and promote sustainability. The Rapid Central Station even has a green roof.
Grand Rapids downtown is chock-full of coffee houses, bistros, and independent storefronts. Best of all, it's all connected with DASH, the free public transit system. While it is difficult to choose the best downtown stores, here are a few popular spots:
Madcap Coffee Company
Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor News
The Madcap Coffee Company
is a trendy coffee house founded in 2008 by friends Trevor and Ryan, who wanted to bring world-class coffee to Grand Rapids.
While you can enjoy a handcrafted beverage al fresco style, MadCap's real claim to fame is their packaged coffee beans. The owners work directly with coffee farmers across the world, ensuring that all beans are ethically sourced and of the highest quality.
The Downtown Market
offers a little bit of everything for everyone. It's part flea market, part farmers market, and a battleground for aspiring chefs. The market is open year-round and has additional outdoor vendors during the warmer months. It’s the place to be if you want to discover the next hot culinary trend or pick up one-of-a-kind artisanal jewelry.
Located on the east side of Grand Rapids, Gaslight Village
provides upscale shopping and spa options. The shopping district gets its name from the gas-powered streetlamps that used to illuminate the streets.
Today, the shopping district houses both recognizable and independent storefronts. Gaslight Village is very walkable, making it easy to window shop and enjoy the atmosphere.
is arguably Grand Rapids' best independent upscale restaurant. Located in the downtown area just off of Fulton Street, Divani specializes in globally-inspired cuisine. They have impressive accolades from countless food critiques, including being named one of the best wine bars in Michigan. Its rustic bar makes it a perfect location to enjoy happy hour, and its Australian lamb shank is out of this world.
Enjoy all four seasons
The climate of Grand Rapids allows you to enjoy all four seasons. Winters allow residents to ice skate at the Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink and enjoy minor league hockey games. Springs are full of blooming flowers and the arrival of outdoor concerts and festivals. Summer allows you to explore all the hidden beaches along the Lake Michigan coast.
But perhaps the best season of all is fall. Grand Rapids is well known for having stunning tree foliage as leaves start to become golden brown. The autumn season is also the ideal time to visit numerous apple orchids and sip on locally-sourced hot cider
. Not to mention the famous ArtPrize contest and Oktoberfest. If you are new to northern climates, don't forget to do some fall home maintenance
to keep your energy bills low.
Ready to enjoy all Grand Rapids has to offer?
If you’re ready to move to this wonderful city, contact Cheryl Grant today to find your dream house. Cheryl and her team of dedicated Grand Rapids real estate agents
have served home buyers and sellers for over 15 years. From Rockford to Lakeshore, Cheryl can help you find a property that's perfect for you.
*Header photo courtesy of Linked