Seriously? Another Top 10 list? Aren’t there enough already? One could argue that there are more than enough, and someone else could argue that there are never enough lists. Everyone seems to recycle the usual hits: expanding job market, brewery explosion, proximity to Lake Michigan, schools, family, community, some reference to Artprize, and many other buzzwords that look great as bullet points.
We certainly recognize the existing lists, and wanted to forge our own path in that regard, so with that in mind, here is a rather different approach to the countless reasons that we love Grand Rapids, and why we think anyone could enjoy living in this area.
Arguably one of the most significant and well-known features of the city of Grand Rapids has to do with its namesake - the Grand River, which flows directly through the center. Over time, the waterway degraded and dams fell into disrepair, reducing the effective rapids and allowing for stagnant flow characteristics. Currently (see what we did there?), a committee is undertaking a complete restoration of not only the Grand River itself, but also the parks and trail systems that line the banks, with a target completion date of 2025. With this initiative, existing public spaces on the river could eventually become access points for kayakers and boaters, improving the already-impressive tourism boom, as well as providing sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits.
Big news in the local food shopping arena is the new urban grocery store Meijer recently opened under the name of Bridge Street Market. With almost 40,000 square feet - much smaller than Meijer’s signature department stores - the new market at the corner of Bridge and Seward was unveiled earlier this fall to positive reviews.
Coincidental with the smaller footprint are smaller-sized grocery carts, and quite often lower prices than the larger Meijer stores - for the same item. It’s not often that an urban boutique-style grocery market offers better deals than a larger department store.
Notable features include a storefront, overlooking Bridge Street, that will have a complete row of garage doors that can be opened during warmer weather for fresh air to circulate, also allowing produce and other product to be merchandised out on the sidewalk for added visibility and convenience. On the inside is a locally owned coffee shop by Mayan Buzz Cafe.
Certainly, most locals are aware of the plentiful amount of breweries in the Grand Rapids area, leading to a variety of clever suds-related nicknames, but special mention needs to go to a little place called Founders. Here, in our humble town, resides what was named the world’s 3rd best brewery in 2013, and also home to two of the planet’s top 10 beers. Even actor Mark-Paul Gosselar is a self-professed fan, although we will refrain from any “Saved By The” references. If you’ve never been, even if you’re just visiting, and considering making our city your home, you may just be persuaded by a visit to Founders, which also offers delicious handcrafted sandwiches and more.
Wait, hear us out on this one. It’s no secret that Michigan has some long winters. We aren’t going to try and convince you that you’ll always see spring arriving in March, when spring is supposed to arrive. However, there are so many fantastic things to see and do when the weather outside is snowy! Our coffee shops are busier than ever, holiday lights line the streets, the Rosa Park Circle skating rink is hopping, and sledding hills all around the area are hardly ever empty. Indoor activities like concerts, movies and other events are in full swing, and it’s hard to beat sitting around the fireplace at night with some hot chocolate during a blizzard. It’s a part of our culture!
We are truly a city of year-round outdoor fun! In Grand Rapids, you are never more than a few miles from a body of water, which is why our fishing and water sports are hard to beat. On top of that, you can explore the Blandford Nature Center, Frederik Meijer Gardens, and numerous other preserves and parks, which are all very child friendly. Nearby there is Paddle GR, Riverside Park, various smaller lake beaches, and of course Cannonsburg Ski Area, which not only provides powdery slopes in winter, but zip lines, trails, and paintball tournaments. It’s a struggle to be bored around here!
Cost of Living
Of course, there are less expensive places in the country to live, but anyone coming from, say, Chicago might find it a pleasant surprise how affordable it can be to make Grand Rapids your home. Housing has been on the rise a bit lately, but overall West Michigan remains a very attractive prospect for those looking to transition here.
Building off the cost of living is the unique aura of the Grand Rapids area: that of a small-town feel with big-city amenities. While anyone moving from a small town might feel that this is indeed a big city, it’s quite warm and inviting compared to a REALLY big city, and once you learn your way around, it all becomes second nature. With the unique eating spots, coffee shops, the vibrant downtown life, and friendly suburbs, there is something for everyone to love.
Did we mention winter already? All jokes aside, and there are quite a few, we’ve grown to appreciate having four seasons to transition into throughout the year. Summers are sometimes hot and can be humid, but a quick dash to the nearest body of water (or swimming pool) cures that in short order. By the time fall comes around, we are sorry to see summer go, but then the allure of hoodies, bonfires, and pumpkin pie is right around the corner. Winter sees peppermint sticks and all kinds of holiday lights, and then spring brings relief and - finally - coatless weather.
Not all of us are runners, but for those of you who enjoy a good marathon, this is the home of the country's largest 25K road race, with more than 21,000 participants from around the world. Grand Rapids has a nearly-unlimited amount of roads and tracks to train on, and the Run itself attracts an enormous crowd. Runners, on your marks!
Are we getting all sappy? Answer: generally not until spring, when the maple trees hook us up with some ridiculously awesome syrup. In all seriousness though, the pride and joy we experience as citizens of Grand Rapids (and its surrounding neighborhoods) is something we don’t take for granted, and every day we are discovering new reasons to truly enjoy living here. We certainly wouldn’t make blog posts like this if we didn’t honestly believe in what we were saying, so we hope you’ll visit, and consider taking up residence here in the near future!