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The Blue Bridge over the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids

18 Things to Know About Living in Grand Rapids

Thinking about moving to Grand Rapids? Filled with amazing restaurants and breweries, plenty of outdoor recreation, and a vibrant art scene, Michigan’s second-largest city is a wonderful place to call home. Here are 18 things to know about living in Grand Rapids!

Find Affordable Living in Grand Rapids

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Not only is Grand Rapids one of the best cities for families thanks to its abundant amenities and small town charm, but it’s also one of the most beautiful and affordable places to live in the country! This Western Michigan city offers a cost of living that is 10% below the national average, with savings on groceries, healthcare, and especially housing. The median sales price for a home is $266,650, while average monthly rent sits around $1,440—meaning you can find plenty of safe, affordable Grand Rapids neighborhoods to choose from.

Browse GR Employment Opportunities

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As one of the best cities for remote work and best places to find a job, it’s no surprise that the Grand Rapids job market is booming. Grow your healthcare career at pharmaceutical company Perrigo or at Corewell Health facilities like Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital—a nationally-ranked hospital for 12 years in a row! Seek employment with top manufacturing employers such as Steelcase and Herman Miller, helping Grand Rapids earn its “Furniture City” nickname. Or find a job with major companies headquartered in GR, including Gordon Food Service or grocery chain Meijer—two of the city’s largest employers.

Further Your Education at Grand Rapids Schools

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You’ll find an abundance of colleges and universities in Grand Rapids! Begin your educational journey in fields like architecture, culinary arts, or child development at Grand Rapids Community College. Study engineering, business administration and management, or become a registered nurse at Calvin University—one of the top-ranked Christian universities in the country! Enroll in programs such as marketing, psychology, and ministry at Cornerstone University, a small Christian college. Hone your artistic abilities with mentors and instructors from Kendall College of Art & Design, a college campus of Ferris State University located in the heart of Downtown Grand Rapids. Or choose from a wide range of degree programs—including education, finance, and biomedical sciences—at Grand Valley State University in nearby Allendale.

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Go Green with a Leader in Sustainability

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As “America’s Greenest City,” Grand Rapids places a strong emphasis on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions. The city is home to the world’s first LEED-certified microbrewery, art museum, transit station, school, church, and more. There have also been various sustainability projects over the years geared towards helping the environment. For instance, Grand Rapids’ Water Resource Recovery Facility manages waste by utilizing its biodigester to capture methane and turn it into renewable natural gas. Additionally, the city’s public transit system, The Rapid, utilizes hybrid electric buses—and the Rapid Central Station even features a green roof!

Experience All Four Seasons

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Grand Rapids’ weather gives you the best the seasons have to offer in the Upper Midwest! Summers are warm and winters are freezing cold, with annual temperatures typically varying between 28 and 72 degrees. Additionally, because of lake-effect snow that can occur in states surrounding the Great Lakes, Grand Rapids receives a yearly snowfall of 64 inches on average. The city’s climate means that residents are able to enjoy all kinds of seasonal outdoor activities! Each fall, take in all the beautiful changing colors and taste the bounty of harvest season with cider and doughnuts at nearby Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery. In winter, go ice skating or watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve at Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink—or go cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing at nearby Cannonsburg Ski Area. Experience spring in full bloom at Grand Rapids’ many beloved parks. Explore 158 acres of outdoor gardens, exotic plants, a waterfall, and a sculpture garden with nearly 300 pieces from internationally renowned artists at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. And in summer, head to the beach!

Take a Day Trip to Nearby Beaches

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You can spend your summer at some of America’s best beaches on Lake Michigan, just about an hour drive from Grand Rapids! Soak up the sun with a picnic on the white sand and a dip in the clear water at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, which is consistently ranked among the best beaches in America (and even the world). Get an adrenaline rush exploring 200-foot-tall sand dunes at Saugatuck Dune Rides. Go surfing and camping at Grand Haven City Beach in Grand Haven, MI. Take in beautiful sunset views on the beach or hike the Dune Overlook Trail at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. And don’t forget to check out Michigan’s famous lighthouses that dot the shoreline of Lake Michigan!

Connect with Nature

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With over 75 parks scattered throughout the city, there are plenty of outdoor activities for Grand Rapids’ residents to enjoy. Wander along the hiking trails or take interactive classes on wildlife like owls and reptiles at Blandford Nature Center. Explore over 100 acres of native plants, natural habitats, and trails at Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens. Watch fish in the Grand River jump the “ladder” as they migrate though the river rapids at Fish Ladder Park. Go paddle boarding, play a game of sand volleyball, and much more at Millennium Park, one of the largest urban parks in the nation. Visit the nature trails, ride your bike, play a round of disc golf, and kayak on the water at Riverside Park. Or stay close to Downtown Grand Rapids and see the great outdoors at Lookout Park, Grand River Edges Trail, and Ah-Nab-Awen Park.

Learn About Grand Rapids’ History

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Founded in 1850, the city is now split into distinct neighborhoods with plenty of classic and modern architectural styles like Greek Revival, Italianate, and the Prairie style made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright. Architectural history buffs can visit the Meyer May House, Wright’s most famous home in Grand Rapids. You can also take a self-guided walking tour of Heritage Hill to witness more than 175 years’ worth of historic architecture—including the former mansions of the entrepreneurs who helped Grand Rapids earn its “Furniture City” moniker. Or check out a piece of American political history at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum, right in the heart of the city where the 38th president grew up.

Feel At Home with LGBTQ Pride

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The thriving LGBTQ scene in Grand Rapids dates back to a group of activists from Western Michigan who attended the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights in October of 1987. The group formed a community center that grew over time and officially became the Grand Rapids Pride Center in 2016. Their goal was to empower the Grand Rapids LGBTQ community through supportive services and awareness. Now, LGBTQ-owned and operated shops, salons, and businesses are available throughout the metro! Take a walk on Sheldon Ave’s “Rainbow Road” street mural in Downtown Grand Rapids. Visit Michigan’s oldest gay bar, The Apartment Lounge, which moved downtown in 1988. Or head over to Rumors Night Club, a local favorite known for its drag shows and welcoming atmosphere.

Check Out GR’s Fine Arts & Museums

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With galleries, art museums, murals, and performance venues scattered throughout the city, Grand Rapids has plenty for art lovers to discover. Explore the city’s 100+ murals—featured on buildings, streets, and retaining walls. Participate in performing arts classes or attend musicals and plays at one of the oldest and largest community theaters in the nation, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. See over 6,000 works of art, plus exhibits such as Animal Allegories and Underneath Everything: Humility and Grandeur in Contemporary Ceramics at Grand Rapids Art Museum. Take a photo in front of the towering 43-foot Alexander Calder sculpture outside City Hall. Catch shows like Disney’s Aladdin, Les Misérables, and To Kill a Mockingbird at Broadway Grand Rapids. Learn all about Black History and civil rights when you visit the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives. And dig into natural and scientific history at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Discover Even More Art at ArtPrize

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Art doesn’t just exist in GR’s many museums and galleries. Every fall season, Downtown Grand Rapids transforms into one of the largest art festivals in the world for ArtPrize! With $200,000 of total prize money given out, any artist 18 or older can submit work to be displayed in galleries, museums, bars, and parks—any space within the district that can house an exhibit. The festival has brought in as many as 950 artists and one million attendees in a single year. Patrons can vote for their favorite pieces through the ArtPrize app, and the grand prize winner takes home $125,000! Many works from past competitions can still be found at breweries, hotels, restaurants, and other venues around Grand Rapids.

Hear All Kinds of Live Music

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With over 100 venues, live music in Grand Rapids is one of the top things to do! See big-name acts like The 1975, the Jonas Brothers, and Lindsey Stirling at Van Andel Arena. For a more intimate GR concert experience, watch local artists perform at the 2,500-seat GLC Live at 20 Monroe. Check out the best local and up-and-coming bands at The Intersection. Looking for classical music? Attend one of 400 Grand Rapids Symphony shows each year at venues around town, from DeVos Performance Hall to churches and the St. Cecilia Music Center.

Discover a Downtown for Everyone

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Downtown Grand Rapids is bustling with dozens of spots for shopping, dining, drinking, and entertainment! Plus, it’s easy to get around the downtown area thanks to DASH, a free transit system. Explore the unique Grand Rapids Downtown Market—open seven days a week—featuring specialty food and drink shops, cooking classes, and incubator kitchens for food startups. Enjoy your morning cup of Joe at Madcap Coffee, an award-winning burger at Stella’s Lounge, or a drink at The Cottage Bar, a cozy throwback open since 1927. Or if your stomach and shopping bags are full, check out a boat show, comic convention, home and garden expo, or wine festival at DeVos Place on the Grand River.

Encounter Fun for the Whole Family

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There are plenty of fun things to do in Grand Rapids for the entire family! Let your kids roam the construction zone, learn about dinosaurs, and participate in a slew of art classes, magic shows, and more at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. For fun fall activities like a pumpkin patch, corn maze, hayrides, apple picking, and more, head to Fruit Ridge Hayrides. See more than 2,000 animals or have a behind-the-scenes interactive animal experience at John Ball Zoo. Attend the World of Winter Festival—one of the largest winter festivals in the Midwest—for beautiful ice-sculpture installations, live music, fire-spinning ice skaters, human Hungry Hungry Hippos, and much more. Head to a three-day-long festival full of food, art, dance, and music at Festival of The Arts. Or peruse local produce, crafts, pottery, and more at the Fulton Street Farmers Market, the oldest and largest of GR’s farmers markets.

Cheer On Your Favorite Sports Teams

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Sports fans will love living in GR! Though Michigan’s major league teams are all based out of Detroit, Grand Rapids is home to several professional teams of its own. During the winter months, watch the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL), an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, hit the ice rink at Van Andel Arena. Or come to the arena during basketball season to see the Grand Rapids Gold (NBA G League)—affiliated with the Denver Nuggets—dribble down the court. Enjoy America’s greatest pastime and root for the West Michigan Whitecaps (MiLB), a Detroit Tigers affiliate, as they hit home runs at LMCU Ballpark. And if you’re searching for a different kind of thrill, catch a Grand Raggidy Roller Derby (WFTDA) bout!

Race at the River Bank Run

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Every year, runners from all over the world flock to Downtown GR to compete in the Amway River Bank Run! This competition has been occurring since 1978 and is the country’s largest 25k road race, sending runners through downtown streets, parks, and stretches of the Grand River. People of all ages, skill levels, and capabilities can take part, with a shorter 5k and 10k race, 5k Community Walk, the non-competitive Amway Junior, and the world’s only 25k hand cycle and wheelchair racing divisions!

Savor Endless Food Options

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Grand Rapids is one of best foodie cities in America, thanks to its incredible restaurants and chefs. Try over 100 whiskeys and dishes like the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, Wagyu Sirloin, and Smoked Ribeye Sandwich at Butcher’s Union. Share the Chorizo Queso Tots, order the J-Dawg Burger, and sip on a Blackberry Marg at Blue Dog Tavern. For nostalgic vintage vibes, grab some of “the best doggone good hot dogs” in the city at Yesterdog in Eastown—famously featured in American Pie. Enjoy Southern Nashville-style food inside an ex-gas station with options like the Traditional Fried Chicken Sandwich with a side of Pimento Mac & Cheese at Hancock Grand Rapids. Order the Cerdo and Al Pastor Tacos while sipping on Prickly Pear Margaritas at Luna—one of the best Mexican restaurants in Grand Rapids! Experience a date night with beautiful city views and try the Iberíco Chuletero or Pescado Al Horno—with the Árbol De Caramelo for dessert—at MDRD inside the Amway Grand Plaza. Or attend incredible food festivals and events—like Restaurant Week Grand Rapids, Food Truck Fridays, and the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival.

Grab a Pint in Beer City

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With more than 80 breweries in Grand Rapids, it’s no wonder this Michigan city was crowned champion of America’s best beer scenes! Enjoy craft beers like the Breakfast Stout, Solid Gold, and Centennial IPA at Founders Brewing Co. Try traditional European and Belgian beers like the Farm Hand and Rapid IPA at Brewery Vivant. Head a couple blocks west of Downtown for brewed artisan ales like the Aquamarine Dream, Calabaza Blanca, and Paradise Found at Jolly Pumpkin Grand Rapids. Try beers expertly paired with gourmet pizzas at baseball-themed The Mitten Brewing Co. Snag a pint of Rainbow Universe, Rapid River IIPA, and OPE! at Grand Rapids Brewing Co., the longest-operating brewery in GR. Experience the tropical Whango or Purple Gang Pilsner from Atwater Brewery. Snack on Puerto Rican food while sipping experimental beers like Elegant Elephant and Honor Amongst Thieves at CityBuilt Brewing. Or if you want to enjoy all that Beer City, USA has to offer, you can follow the Ale Trail and become a Brewsader along the way!


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About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.