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The Ultimate Guide to Living in Grand Rapids

Downtown Grand Rapids Michigan view from the Grand River

Have you been considering relocating and living in Grand Rapids, Michigan? There are a lot of reasons to choose Grand Rapids as your new home! From world-leading attractions and fabulous food and drinks to famous sports and music events, Grand Rapids is a treasure-trove of delightful experiences. Public transportation is excellent and the area is absolute heaven for home buyers and interior designers. It also has some of the best hiking spots.

We’ll explain all that and more, in this detailed guide.

Heaven for Home Buyers and Interior Designers

‘Furniture city’ has become the nickname of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Why? There are five of the world’s leading furniture companies based here. That means there’s no shortage of inspiration for interior designers from vintage and antique furniture to the latest modern designs. Additionally, homes in Grand Rapids are sought after because they’re large, spacious, and usually located in green, leafy, and safe suburbs. In fact, interest in cities like Grand Rapids has even coined an exciting new term. It’s ‘urban flight’, have you heard of it?

Because of Covid-19 an increasing number of people have been working from home and that has affected the already competitive housing markets. Rising rent in places like Chicago, Seattle and Detroit have been making a move to smaller communities more appealing. Add to that, the mandate that people can work from home in ‘the new normal’ and more professionals are moving to the country or suburbs. While some young professionals might dream of a cabin in the woods, they may soon find that their city lifestyle with Uber Eats a few clicks away and grocery stores on every corner offers convenience they can’t easily give up.

That’s what makes Grand Rapids, Michigan so perfect. In places like Grand Rapids the cost of living is lower, the spaces between the homes is greater and there’s a lot of excellent facilities and attractions. This all appeals to singletons, young couples and growing families.

Michigan has the fastest-growing economy in the USA. It also hosts the headquarters of over 130 internationally renowned businesses and has a thriving job market. Add to that the small-town vibes and beautiful landscape and it’s a winning combination.

World Leading Attractions

john-ball-zoo

Grand Rapids’ activities span the full spectrum from all-season outdoor adventures to cozy, indoor experiences.

Here are a few things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan that we strongly recommend for any visitors, new residents or long-term locals.

Explore Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes is a vacation-worthy spot that has an adorable name and a fantastic reputation with locals. Almost everyone in Michigan has visited this picturesque part of Lake Michigan and laid out a blanket on the soft yellow sand.

Charming coastal villages and folksy farmsteads reflect the rich history of the area and provide a vibrant range of quirky ice cream parlors, independent boutiques, and cool coffee shops.

Have a Splashing Time at Michigan Adventure

Love the lake views but longing to dive in and cool off? Drive down to Michigan Adventure. It’s the biggest water park in Michigan and an amusement park too. The park has seven roller coasters and a range of other unmissable attractions.

If you have kids who love to swim it’s the quintessential summer treat.

Meander Through Marvelous Museums

Michigan is a historic town. So, where better to learn about the rich and intriguing history of Grand Rapids than a series of exciting museum trips. Even better, five of the city’s best museums are within easy walking distance of each other.

Check out the Grand Rapids Public Museum and Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts. It’s a must for any budding artists or art enthusiasts. Grand Rapids Children’s Museum has glorious interactive exhibits that inspire and entertain all ages. The Grand Rapids Art Museum, is a longstanding favorite and The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is a must-see museum for those interested in history.

Zip Line Through John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo has lots of activities for visitors and animal lovers may even be able to feed the animals! On top of activities like camel riding and photography, visitors can also spend some energy navigating the zoo’s kid-friendly obstacle course and riding a zip line!

Have a Laugh at LaughFest

Have you heard of LaughFest? It’s an absolutely amazing ten-day comedy festival that will be sure to put a smile on your face. Every year more than 50,000 ticket holders attend this prestigious comedy event and laugh their heads off. Previous years’ headliners have included Chris Tucker, Jay Leno, and Lily Tomlin.

Fabulous Food and Drinks

founders-brewing

Grand Rapids’ bars are famous and it’s easy to tell why. The Founder’s Taproom is a local institution. It might have a slightly controversial name but their Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale has a cult following and a famously delicious taste.

Ever heard of HopCat? It’s been featured not once, but twice on CraftBeer.com’s list of Great American Beer Bars and is one of the top beer drinking destination bars in the USA.

Grand Rapids’ restaurants are also some of the best in America. Don’t believe us? Believe GQ. Stella Lounge’s giant stuffed burgers were literally named “Best in America” by GQ Magazine in 2012.

Meanwhile, local jewel Sovengard has been putting Scandinavian-inspired farm-to-table dining on the Michigan map since 2016.

Best New Restaurant winner Forty Acres elevates soul food and celebrates African American cuisine.

It has an absolutely gorgeous menu of authentically American southern comfort food that celebrates black culture. The food is unbeatable but the drinks list alone is worth a visit.

If you’re a coffee drinker there’s something for you too! Visit MadCap coffee shop. It’s proudly one of the 21 best coffee shops in the United States. Rumor has it the founder of the coffee store is ranked 3rd best barista in America.

Famous for Sports and Music

Grand Rapids, Michigan is a great place for sports enthusiasts because there’s no shortage of games to watch and sports to play. GVSU may be a Division II team but they’re still an exceptional team and have had the most wins in NCAA history.

The Lakers football program is elite and fans of GVSU are proud of their home team. You can catch a home match at Grand Valley State University.

Love hockey? The Grand Rapids Griffins are in the American Hockey League (AHL) and season tickets are very sought after!

For those who want to be a champion themselves, the Meijer State Games offers people in Michigan a chance to compete in more than a dozen venues. Becoming a Meijer State Games of Michigan Champion results in an amateur athlete leaving with a gold medal. It could be a precursor to a career at the Olympics!

Winter Sports

Well-known as one of the snowiest cities in the USA, there’s no shortage of the cold white stuff. So, whether you love ice hockey, skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiles there’s something for everyone.

Running

Love to go for a run? Every year the largest 25K run in the whole of America takes place in Grand Rapids. The famous Riverbank Run has 22,000 participants every year. You could be one of them.

Cycling

If running isn’t your style, how about hopping on your bike? With over 120 miles of biking trails, Grand Rapids is one of the very few cities that are cyclist-friendly. In fact, Bicycling.com has ranked it in the nation’s 50 top bike-friendly cities.

Music

Finally, if music is more exciting than sports, you’ll love The Grand Rapids Jazz Festival. Better still, it’s free. That’s right, the annual Jazz Festival is a free-of-charge two-day long event. Rosa Parks Circle lights up with the vibrant sound of Jazz and attracts tens of thousands of enthusiastic music lovers every year.

Public Transportation Is Excellent

The United States, overall, does not have a world renowned reputation for good public transportation. However, Grand Rapids bucks that trend. It’s got one of the USA’s best public transit systems. The Rapid is easy to ride through the city. You can learn more about the routes on the dedicated website, www.ridetherapid.org. The downtown transportation services are also listed. Dash (The Downtown Area Shuttle) runs two continuous routes, stopping every eight minutes. It’s free and requires no tickets or passes. It stops at some of the most popular spots in Grand Rapids including: Rosa Parks Circle where the Jazz Festival is hosted, Grand Rapids Art Museum, The Downtown Market, Van Andel Arena, and the Ionia Entertainment District.

The Best Hiking Spots

cascade -peace-park

One of the best pastimes for those who relocate to Grand Rapids is hiking because the surrounding areas are so beautiful and there are so many exciting places to visit.

All The Seasons in Aman Park

Aman Park is beautiful throughout the seasons. In Spring the fragrant flowers and lush plant life is stunning. Those lush green leaves take over even more throughout the summer and by autumn the fall colors are romantic and vivid. Then, in winter you can enjoy the snow making the entire park look like a wonderful old-timey holiday card. Located seven miles outside of Grand Rapids to the west, the park is a thriving woodland that sprawls over 339 acres. The complex interconnected trails enable visitors to choose a route that suits their interests and fitness level. You can also observe a lot of natural wildlife including birds, insects, and other animals.

Nip to Knapp Valley Forest

Knapp Valley Forest is close to the city which is probably one of the main reasons it is such a popular place to hike. However, the forest has a lot more to offer than just convenience. It’s over 87 acres of secluded, ancient woodland and perfect for those days when you just need to get out there and enjoy the fresh air.

Call In at Crahen Valley Park

Crahen Valley Park is an exciting place for those of us who love hiking and biking. Grab your mountain bike and head northeast and you’ll soon find the hills of Crahen Valley Park. The trail here slopes down into Crahen Valley and includes a range of natural features.

Do you love ravines, creeks, and prairies? Want to spot springtime frogs in the valley’s bonds or photograph butterflies? You’ll love it here as much as we do. There are future plans for snowboarding hills, paved bike trails, and more and we cannot wait!

Clear Your Mind at Cascade Peace Park

Cascade Peace Park’s name might conjure images of waterfalls and meditative reflection and there’s every reason that it should. When you arrive at the park you might be greeted with a large boulder on which is inscribed a quote by Wendell Berry: “The Peace of Wild Things.” From there, you can explore nearly 200 acres of woodland trails stretching four miles and meandering through meadows, dense, wild glades, and gorgeous views of the glimmering river that stretches below.

Enjoy a Leisurely Stroll at Lepard Nature Reserve

Lepard Nature Preserve might look like someone’s misspelled the name of the big cat, but they haven’t. It’s not Leopard, it’s Lepard and it’s a small park which is south of the East Beltline. It’s good to wear mosquito repellent in summer and be careful about slippery slopes in winter. After working up a sweat on the trails, why not reward yourself with a well-earned cold, local craft beer? You can enjoy one at the EB Coffee and Pub or Railtown Brewing Company that are both a short drive or taxi ride away.

Soak Up Some Great Views At Grand River Park

To the south west of Grand Rapids you’ll find the Grand River Park. Across the three miles of trails it offers there are a series of riverside paths that provide glorious views of the blossoming wetland flowers. When you go deeper into the park there are hills from which you can see the trails below and the seasonal foliage.

Explore Gorgeous Creeks and Falls at Grand Ravines Park

Grand Ravines Park is famous, as it’s name would suggest, for dramatic drops. You’ll need to be strong to take on the long, steep hills of this park but the reward is a series of exciting ravines that fall a hundred or more feet. After a heavy rainstorm the usual creeks and brooks converge into stunning cascades that are very Instagram worthy. Paved trails that are suitable for wheelchair users, a dog run, a kayak launch and a 70-foot high suspension bridge make this a must-visit park for the whole family.

Prove Yourself at Provin Hiking Trails

Provin Hiking Trails are challenging and good for experienced hikers. They’re sandy in a way that will slow you down but they’re great exercise for people who want a challenge.

Robinette’s Apple House is famously next to the park and offers a delicious refreshing reward of either cider or wine for those who are brave enough to attempt the trails.

Would you prove yourself at Provin?

See How Nice the North Country Trail Is

North Country Trail is a backpacker’s delight. It is the longest trail in the USA and it travels through Grand Rapids. The North Country National Scenic Trail is over 4,600 miles long in total. More than twice as long as the Appalachian. In this area, the trail runs through Rogue River, Lowell, Middleville, and Barry State Game Areas and quite a few of the parks that have made Michigan famous.

Saunter Through Seldman Park

Seidman Park isn’t just popular with hikers. It’s popular with superstitious people seeking out the legend of ‘Ada Witch’, a ghost that locals believe frequents this wetland forest. There are some paved trails and even a boardwalk pathway but most of this park’s trails are muddy tracks that reach through Honey Creek, a babbling brook that surges through the south section of the park. The north of the park is hilly and lush. Overall, the park spans over 434 acres. Did the witch thing scare you off? Maybe take a friend along.

Get Active at Yankee Springs State Recreation Area

If you’re just looking for somewhere to have fun and get active, how about Yankee Springs State Recreation Area? It’s one of the most popular parks in the area and for good reason. It’s only 5,200 acres in size but it packs a lot into its small but perfectly formed footprint. Whatever you love, camping, fishing, skiing, horseback riding, there’s something for everyone. A long stretch of the shore of Gun Lake is included in the park’s map along with some other stunning vistas.

Visit the Wildlife at Eastmanville Bayou

Eastmanville Bayou is where the Grand River and the city meet and merge into a series of brackish water lakes that are wonderfully packed with wildlife. If you want to go animal spotting, you can see bluegill, heron, and turtles in the Bayou.

It’s reminiscent of southern Louisiana, but right here in Michigan in spring and summer. In winter the ice gets thick enough to hike on and the scenery is beautiful but be careful not to slip and remember to bring some hand warmers.

Hike Along Hemlock Crossing

Hemlock Crossing has a spooky name but that doesn’t suit this place at all. Imagine sandy, almost beach-like dunes that rise out of the lake like shoulders of sleepy mermaids and the Pigeon River winding through the park like wires until it slows to patches of ancient swampland. The trails are scenic and marked well. For those thirsting for knowledge, the Nature Education Center is a must visit and it’s open all year. If you feel like hiking in the winter months they even offer snowshoe rental.

Refresh Yourself at Rosy Mound Natural Area

Australia famously has a Gold Coast, but if you hear people saying that in Michigan they are referring to the golden shores of Lake Michigan by its local nickname. Here, the Gold Coast means a beautiful sandy beach that is close to Rosy Mound and within walking distance via a one-mile-long trail. It might seem a short stroll at first. However, anyone who has been slowed down by plodding through sand dunes knows that a mile on sand is not the same as a mile on a boardwalk, so don’t be fooled.

It might take a while to reach the fabled Gold Coast of Lake Michigan but it’s well worth it. We can only assume that Rosy Mound takes its name from the color of the sunset bobbing into Lake Michigan, because it is a wondrous sight.

Pick Through 13 Miles of Trails at Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Saugatuck Dunes State Park is the final must-see natural wonder on our list of hiking trails but by no means the least charming. It feels the most remote with thirteen miles of trails plus more if you also take on the lake shore. Did you know that a famous Michigan ghost town lies beneath the sand?

If you make it to Saugatuck you might see some of the historical guide markers that tell you a story that’s legendary in the area. There was once a bustling waterfront, with busy sawmills, hotels, general stores and a wildcat bank. When the timber trade in the area was depleted, the people drifted away and nature reclaimed the site.

Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan

So to summarize, there are so many reasons to consider living in Grand Rapids. Whether you love comedy, sports, hiking or delicious foods and drinks there’s something for everyone. If you are considering moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan, we think you should!

We’re Big Lake Movers. An affordable, licensed, and insured movers serving Grand Rapids, Holland, and Kalamazoo Michigan. We’re ready to help you relocate.

Contact us today to get a free detailed moving quote!

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