Simply put, because it’s the best. But don’t take our word for it—US News and World Report named Grand Rapids #19 on its “100 Best Places to Live in the US” for its “healthy job market, affordable housing, and outdoor recreational activities.” Whether you’re in search of a beach, a craft brew, unique cuisine or the world’s biggest art competition, Grand Rapids and West Michigan have something for everyone.
Grand Rapids was named as the best city to raise a family by Forbes magazine, beating out other larger and better-known metro areas. The magazine cited the city’s excellent schools, easy commute and low cost of living as key reasons why Grand Rapids topped the list. Not only that, but Midwestern friendliness can be epitomized by the attitudes of those living in Grand Rapids.
Families make up a large part of the area’s population. In fact, almost a third of the households in Grand Rapids have children under the age of 18. Perhaps because of this, there is no shortage of activities and events for families and children to enjoy, including the Children’s Gardens at Frederick Meijer Gardens, or the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.
The city also is one of the best places to retire, thanks in part to its affordability and plethora of free or low cost entertainment options and sporting events, according to AARP.
Grand Rapids was named one of America’s 100 smartest cities by Forbes through a study released by Lumosity. West Michigan offers a variety of different K-12 schooling options, including some of the best public schools in the country, as well as leading private, parochial and charter schools. With unique schooling opportunities including the West Michigan Aviation Academy and CA Frost Environmental Academy, your children can explore their interests and pursue their dreams.
Higher education also is easily accessible through one of the 15 colleges and universities located in the metro area, including state universities, private colleges and a community college. Grand Valley State University, considered one of the most affordable colleges in Michigan, has a campus in downtown Grand Rapids, with its main campus only 20 minutes away. Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine—and its new research facility—is located near VAI on a section of Michigan Street commonly known as the “Medical Mile.”
With 54 languages spoke in the city and students from 55 different countries, Grand Rapids is a dynamic city filled with diverse people and points of view.
The city’s history is embedded with the culture of Odawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi Native American tribes, and the Grand Valley American Indian Lodge still hosts traditional Powwows every Labor Day weekend.
Celebrations of Hispanic and Latino culture include the Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival and the Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival. Organizations such as the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce work hard to advocate for the local Hispanic and Latin American population.
Grand Rapids is also home to people from numerous Asian Countries, particularly Vietnam, Korea, China and India. Cultural organizations such as Asian Center, Chinese Association of West Michigan, West Michigan Asian American Association and West Michigan Filipino-American Association have contributed to sharing the unique cultures represented by this wide-ranging group.
According to the 2010 census, one out of every five Grand Rapids residents is an African American, and one in every seven area businesses is owned by an African American. Popular community festivals include Soul of the City and Taste of Soul.
With a host of restaurants, cafes and bistros, there’s no shortage of unique food to try. Whether you’re looking for haute cuisine, or a burger bursting with local ingredients and flavor Grand Rapids has an option for every palate.
Grand Rapids wasn’t named Beer City USA for nothing. There are 60+ craft breweries within an hour of downtown Grand Rapids, and they have something for everyone, from bourbon-barrel-aged beers to hoppy IPAs. It’s not just the number either—several of the city’s brewpubs have been named to global best lists. The city was named one of the 10 best vacation cities for beer lovers by TheStreet.com.
West Michigan is the perfect place for anyone interested in enjoying the outdoors. Between the beaches, parks and trails, there are options for everyone to explore or enjoy.
The city lies only 30 miles from the Gold Coast—a 300-mile stretch of Lake Michigan coastline dotted with wineries, farms and other unique day destinations. North on this coastline lives The Sleeping Bear Dunes, named Good Morning America’s “Most Beautiful Place in America.” Let’s not forget the beach itself, which is perfect for a relaxing afternoon or even catching some waves on the world’s fifth-largest lake.
Of course, you don’t have to make a trip to Lake Michigan to explore the outdoors. Millennium Park, one of the largest urban parks in the nation, has 1,400 acres to explore, including six miles of frontage to the Grand River. The park includes a beach and splash pad, as well as nearly 18 miles of trail to explore.
If you’re interested in being more active, there are a variety of award-winning golf courses and skiing options available to you, as well as the White Pine Trail, which stretches 93.5 from Cadillac in Northern Michigan to Comstock Park, just north of Grand Rapids.
West Michigan is also home to minor league baseball and hockey teams, hosts the largest 25K race in the country, and holds the #3 spot for fun and recreation by the Places Rated Almanac.
Grand Rapids is home to ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition, which draws in more than 500,000 visitors and transforms the city’s buildings and open spaces into a massive art gallery for 19 days each fall. During the rest of the year, there is a full host of other cultural touchstones including the Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and the Grand Rapids Ballet—Michigan’s only professional ballet company.
Love to travel? Not only is Grand Rapids a destination in and of itself, but it also has one of the best airports in the world as the gateway to the rest of the globe. For 2013, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) was ranked among the top five airports of its size in the world by the Airports Council International (ACI). The decision was made based on passengers’ views on 34 indicators, such as security, customer service, cleanliness and concessions.
GRR offers more than 120 nonstop flights every day to 23 popular destinations, including Orlando, New York, Washington D.C. and Las Vegas. Using GRR instead of a big city airport means saving time, money and a few headaches.
Not interested in flying? Grand Rapids is only a few hours away from a variety of destinations via road or rail. Detroit and Traverse City are both just a two-hour drive away. Driving to Chicago takes just three hours, or you can ride Amtrak from its station in downtown Grand Rapids.