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Things to Know Before Moving to Grand Rapids

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

Close your eyes and think about Grand Rapids. Or even Michigan in general. Well, maybe don’t close them because then you can’t continue reading, but I digress... 

What are the first words or images that pop into your mind? For you non-Michiganders I would assume the words “snow”, “ice”, “cold”, or “hot chocolate” would arise first. 

But you’d be missing out on all the things that make Grand Rapids great! There is so much more to GR than ice and snow. Oh, you need some proof? How about this:

  • Top 8 up and coming city as rated by Thrillist

  • #7 fastest growing economy in the US by Forbes

  • #2 safest city in America (Farmers Insurance)

  • And something for all the “I-saw-her-in-concert-before-she-was-cool crowd” the #28 ranked Hipster city in the entire world by MoveHub

The list could go on but I’m sure you know how to use Google. So, instead, I’ll give it a little local flair. Here are some things to know before moving to Grand Rapids. I’ll split them up into three digestible categories: food & drink, the housing market, and the great outdoors.


There is a lot of beer.

Over 40 breweries and brewpubs just in the downtown area. We were voted Best Beer Scene and Best Beer Town by the USAToday’s readers in 2019 and have consistently ranked near the top of everyone’s list as Beer City USA. There is always a great brewery or pub within a stone's throw away. If you are a beer connoisseur, I’m sure you’ve heard of Founders, but try some lesser-known pubs (to non-tourists) such as Harmony Hall, Brass Ring Brewery, Mitten Brewing, or Graydon’s Crossing. Besides beer, there are plenty of places to dance, chill, and drink the night away. Try Ionia Street (lots of college bars), Bridge Street (great restaurants and bars), or Wealthy Street (hipster!) for other options.

Burgeoning restaurant scene.

Michigan has the second most diverse agricultural footprint in the United States. Because of this, there are a plethora of farm-to-table and locally sourced restaurants all over the West Michigan area. As a top producer in cherries, blackberries, potatoes, and more, West Michigan always has something in a season for you to try. Terra GR in Eastown, Bistro Bella Vita right downtown, and The Old Goat in Alger Heights are dynamite options for farm-to-table eating. If pub-fare is more your style, go to the Cottage Bar downtown. It is the oldest operating pub in GR and they have a very home-y atmosphere as well as some AMAZING burgers.

One word: ArtPrize

The biannual celebration of all things art and culture is the pride of Grand Rapids. Started in 2009, this city-wide festival attracts artists from around the globe. Here are some stats from ArtPrize 2017:

  • 1,346 artist entries

  • 175 venues

  • 522,000+ visitors to Grand Rapids

Sadly, the 2020 ArtPrize was canceled because of COVID-19, but it will be back stronger than ever. It was definitely missed, it is hard to explain the energy downtown gets when ArtPrize is up and running. 


It is pretty competitive.

Redfin ranked 2 GR neighborhoods in the top 6 of its “Most Competitive Market Analysis” in 2019. It can often take several different offers before you will have a bid accepted. Sound rough? It’s not so bad, there are many homes for sale that the next one is always right around the corner.

There is something for everyone.

The neighborhoods and houses are diverse. Want a vibrant community to live in with friends after college? Try Eastown. Want a place to buy your first home with your partner? Try Alger Heights or Creston. Worked your whole life for a prime piece of lakefront property and a bigger house? East Grand Rapids is calling your name. Are the suburbs more your style? We got plenty of those in Rockford, Grandville, Walker, and Ada just to name a few. Last little bit….Forbes rated GR the #1 place to raise a family in 2015! So, it is definitely a long term place to live with great parks, schools, and community programs.


Lake Michigan

Ever seen a lake so big, you can’t see the other side? As the fifth-largest lake in the world, Lake Michigan is sure to bring a smile to your face and the crystal clear waters will bring you back again and again. While you are exploring West Michigan’s abundant coastline, you’ll definitely want to pop over to the many coastal towns such as Saugatuck, Grand Haven, and Ludington. Quick pro-tip, most beaches are VERY busy on the weekend in the summer…so get there early. 

Fun fact: Lake Michigan is the largest lake in the world that is solely located in one country.

Skiing and snowboarding paradise

If you thought summer was fun, then you’ll love winter. With plenty of ski hills within a day's drive up US-131, you are never too far from a great time on the mountain. A local favorite Boyne Mountain has a day in February where you can buy 6 lift tickets for the price of 1. It gets pretty packed on the mountain but the deal is definitely too good to pass up. Bonus: the towns around them are absolutely adorable and well worth visiting in the summer as well as the winter.

Hiking, watersports, and the Grand River.

Grand Rapidians love to be outside. There are countless hiking trails and plenty of inland lakes to try your hand at waterskiing, wakeboarding, or tubing. When I say there are many lakes…I am not joking because, in Michigan, you are never more than 6 miles from a lake! Grand Rapids is cut in half by the majestic Grand River, which creates many stunning dining views from the Amway Grand Hotel, the JW Marriott, and more. 

That’s all there is to it! I could probably go on and on but that wouldn’t be a blog post….it’d be a book. 

Whether you are moving to Grand Rapids, have just moved here, or have lived here your entire life, I hope this helps you explore my favorite city!

Learn how you can get a free home estimate or market analysis HERE.


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