As a lifetime resident of West MI I can say that Grand Rapids has a enough big city without the expense of big cities (or the issues of congestion, lack of privacy, crime). It enjoys many cultural influences such as a rich art culture, music, theater, and of course our beer selections are top end. If you're not a downtown resident there are many suburbs to live in that provide close proximity to GR. There are also many highly rated school districts in the GR area.
The medical infrastructure has also taken off in the past 10 years such that you can confidently find any medical resource you could need. Lastly, there are many great natural areas where you can mountain bike trails, hike, run, swim and even get the ocean feel by visiting Lake Michigan.
The only drawback I can think of is the airport will almost always require a connection to any major destination beyond Detroit/Chicago/Minneapolis/Cleveland. However that is getting better as the years go on.
I would say the biggest downside around GR is making friends if you are not originally from here. You really need to put yourself out there and get involved to meet people with similar interests. People from here can be pretty reserved.
Grand Rapids is one of the easiest cities to get around. That's one of the reasons public transportation is a hard sell here. Just wondering, have you driven around other cities? People from other cities would laugh at this. The bad drivers part is real though, both to slow and to fast, and erratic. Pick a speed and a lane people! Also, lets get more traffic lights with sensors. I hate sitting there waiting for lights with no cross traffic!
As far as the design of the roads and speed limits; Call me a curmudgeon, but I get really pissed when people drive really fast through residential or downtown areas. As annoying as driving 25 mph through the city can be when you are running late, It's one of the things that makes Grand Rapids unique and attractive in Michigan and the Midwest. Compared with other real cities, not suburbs, that I'm familiar with in Michigan (Lansing, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw) and Ohio (Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland), GR is built to a much more pedestrian scale. It reminds me much more of Chicago with dense neighborhoods and two lane streets. Those other cities have huge mostly empty multi laned one way roads slicing right through the neighborhoods and heart of the city, where people drive 50 mph and pedestrians stand no chance. Even if you never set foot on a sidewalk those places feel cold and unwelcoming. Pontiac is the worst. Downtown is totally cut off from the rest of the city by what is essentially a drag strip. Also, ever try crossing Gratiot, Grand River, Michigan Ave or Woodward in Downtown Detroit? Talk about taking your life into your own hands! Lansing and Kalamazoo have tons of streets like this. I would never willingly walk or ride a bike there, or even visit really because it's so foreboding and unattractive. These types of road cut off whole areas of a city and decreases property values. Bigger roads=higher cost to build and maintain. The closest thing GR has to these is Fulton through downtown/Heritage Hill, Michigan Street and Division Avenue, and none of these are really attractive.
If you want to go fast, get on the expressway or drive in the suburbs.
My parents grew up in Grand Rapids (GR) and I grew up near by and went to college in Holland. By brother and many close friends, with kids, live there. So here is the gist of it.
You probably have heard that it's the Bible Belt through that part of southern MI. It is pretty conservative generally, but rapidly becoming more liberal from my view.
I think you would like East Grand Rapids. There are many great ''older'' homes near Reeds Lake, that general district. Pricier but not relative to the Bay Area. Schools in that area are spectacular. Rockford is also nice. Depends on where you might be commuting to if one/both work outside of the home. You might also consider Byron Center. East GR is a really good ''neighborhood'' with coffee to walk to and some trails and parks''. Rockford and Byron Center have a bit of this but further from reaching downtown. 20 mins away are Holland and Zealand which are gorgeous and family friendly as well if you don't have commuting concerns.
Traffic: You'll laugh that you asked. It can get backed up on main drags like 24th Street, 44th Street, and East Beltline but expressways are rarely backed up other than in winter when everything slows down after a snow storm.
Downtown GR has developed a lot in my lifetime. The museums are great and kid-friendly. There are really impressive restaurants. Good parks in general in SW Michigan. And summer at the lakes or beaches is unbeatable. I also have very fond memories of blueberry and strawberry picking near Hudsonville. I took my daughter this past fall and we picked apples at the orchard and had a really wonderful time.
I do think it's small-town feel but a lot of things to do. You just need to get used to a bit more strip-malls, cold weather, and churches on every corner. jane.run
You definitely want to stay out of the Grand Rapids Public School district. My kids go to Kenowa Hills Public Schools in the Walker area and I am happy with them. Also, Northview, Rockford, and Sparta are good school districts. Your child will have to be 5 by December first to be enrolled in kindergarten. If you go with Grand Haven/Holland area it will be about a 1/2 hour drive (with good traffic) into Grand Rapids. I don't know anything about GH/Holland school districts.
Hi J.... I used to live in Grand Haven and can tell you that while it does have that nice "small town" feel to it, I too recently relocated to Ada and absolutely love it. The only thing that I really miss from my old area is how much quicker I was able to get to the beach! Grand Rapids is a fun spot and there there is always something to occupy your time with. The Childrens Museum and Frederik Meijer Gardens are great locations for an afternoon of fun with the kids, and there are plenty of spas and gyms for you to enjoy your free time!! It is all within a decent driving time, and depending on where you decide to buy/rent... the bike paths are GREAT! We are either running or biking almost everyday over here on Ada Rd, Cascade and Thornapple River Dr! I do recommend that you enroll your children in East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills, Rockford, or Lowell Public Schools. We are currently in the Forest Hills school district and they are outstanding with the kids. Well, hopefully this will entice your husband enough! Good luck!
Best place in the world to live, It has a little bit of everything. Parks, museums, great annual events, a revitalized downtown, a zoo. a world-class botanical garden and sculpture park, outstanding restaurants, convenient shopping, a fine expressway system, beautiful suburbs, an international airport, several well-known colleges and universities, fine primary and secondary public,charter, and private schools for every taste and style, and more churches per square mile than anyplace in the world. With all this and more Grand Rapids still retains the warm and friendly hometown image and aura. Come join us; with its affordable real estate and available jobs, Grand Rapids, Michigan is the place to be.
Grand Rapids is big enough to have plenty of cultural and community activities going on and still small enough that you can get around without too much traffic. The housing market is hot right now with many places selling the same day they are listed so if you’re looking to buy, be ready. Recommend reading a bit on GRNow.com® - Grand Rapids, MI's local restaurant, event and entertainment guide. for events, the Grand Rapids Subreddit (/r/grandrapids), ExperienceGR and maybe even a few news articles on MLive (you can skip the comments = ) to get a feel for area happenings. Here is a link to the Community Research Institute that shows quite a bit of neighborhood socioeconomic data http://cridata.org/Neighb_GR.aspx. Last, GR has a thriving beer culture throughout town and the surrounding area. So if that is your thing, there is plenty to explore. Think that further detail can be gained with some specifics to your interest, so welcome and enjoy.
Downtown is awesome. Now time to build a large skyscraper with a view deck and restaurants . Also Grand Rapids should have a NFL and NBA team. If Green Bay can GR can too, since it is much bigger.
Grand Rapids is pretty great. Honestly, the biggest struggle will be finding a place to live. Rental housing is pretty hard to come by and the desirable homes for sale will go in a day or two. I went to college here, left for Chicago for a few years, and recently moved back. It's generally really safe, but as with any big city, there is crime. Some places on the south side of town are sketchy, then 1-2 blocks over they're peaceful. I'm not a Christian, but the majority of the people here seem to be. West Michigan has a reputation for being conservative. Plenty of churches to choose from. For meeting new people, I highly recommend joining meetup.com and following groups with similar interests. Oh yes, we're basically the beer capital of the Midwest (if not USA). Founder's is amazing and there a many other breweries right within the city limits. Definitely visit before moving. Best of luck!
Grand Rapids is very safe, fairly clean, has a stronger-than-Michigan-average economy, and is very Christian friendly.
The demographic skews strongly conservative (Mitt Romney type), and the population is largely Christian Reformed.
If you are a strongly conservative Republican Christian, this is the city for you. If you're only 'conservative' by contrast to Californians, you might find it jarring here.
If you're Christian, I don't think you'll have a problem finding new friends, but expect religion to be a dominant topic here. Also - the community on top of being very conservative is very Dutch, and proud. West Michigan as a whole tends to have a ton of the 'penny pinching' types.
As to housing: do you have a job lined up here? If so, and you could afford $1550/month on it, there's virtually nothing here you couldn't afford. A decent single family home in the suburbs rents for $1000+, but there are few rentals in the $1500 range that any normal couple would rent.
If you're not moving with a job lined up, I would recommend networking heavily in so much as you can. We've noticed throughout our young careers (the wife and I are 28/26) that the better jobs tend to go to those with large church-based friend groups. Not being the religious types ourselves, we generally have less connections, and hear about jobs later, etc.
The Christian Reformed Church really is the single greatest system in which to participate here, from a business sense. Take that for what you will.
Feel free to PM any other questions!
And yes, our beer selection is quite excellent.
Wow, I haven't been to Grand Rapids in years and years, but I did live there for several years in the early 80's. I know, what do I know? Well, for one, East Grand Rapids is a beautiful neighborhood and is the ''ritzier'' end of town -- Gerald Ford's home, for instance, is in that part of town. My mother, who lived in G.R. for years, and still lives near there (in Holland), would probably have a LOT to say about what parts of G.R. are better for families. My mom will be here in a few days for a visit and I'll have her give some input.
All in all, G.R. was NOT a ''small town'' when I lived there back in the day (e.g. not like Berkeley, Alameda or Albany, for instance), and it has grown a lot since then. Neighborhoods are distinctly divided demographically. The city is very segregated -- at least it was. Still, the city has a lot to offer and is much more subdued than what we are used to here in the Bay Area. hezmodo
I grew up in East Grand Rapids, and it is a wonderful place to raise a family. A small city completely surrounded by G.R., it has it's own schools (excellent!), lake and pools, library, police, etc. My parents sold their home 12 years ago, so I no longer go back there and do not know how the present economy in Michigan has effected it (but I bet the houses are cheap compared to California prices!) The homes are beautiful with large yards and wonderful neighbors where kids can ride their bicycles forever on the sidewalks (very flat!) EGR reminds me a little of Piedmont where you get the best of a small city with all the advantages of the big city. Good luck!
We lived in East Grand Rapids before moving to California. East Grand Rapids has fantastic schools and just the house type you want. Our 3000 square foot home there had copper out going plumbing! The yards are spacious and so green once the snow melts. The floor plan was absolutely perfect and I miss that home. The winters were mild. Our friends there were terrific and we still keep in touch with them. The restaurants are fabulous, a lot of Tappas! There was a wonderful restaurant by the big lake in East Grand Rapids and lots of others. There is a terrific children's museum! Good choice! an East Grand Rapids fan!!
You can be assured that you are moving to a wonderful area. Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas has so much to offer you and your family. I do understand the overwhelming number of issues and concerns involved in such a move, not to mention the emotions you must be going through. I work in the relocation department of the 2nd largest real estate company in Michigan and we specialize in helping families like yours. The best part is our service is free. We will take you on a tour of the communities you may have an interest in (that includes the Grand Rapids area and Holland and Grand Haven), arrange a visit to schools in those areas, set up an appointment with the principal (if that interests you) and, if appropriate at this time, show you homes. If you are not in the market for a home at this time, we can help you find a rental property (house or apartment) that will meet your needs. Again, this is a service that is offered to you at no charge. I'm not sure if your husband was offered a relocation package with his company, our company is a preferred provider with most relocation companies and we would love to service you through them. Whatever your needs, we would love to help you. Feel free to email me and I can get a package out to you tomorrow with any information you might need about our area.
The best to you and your family of 4 little ones. I know the next few months will be busy. I moved to Grand Rapids with 4 children under 7 so I can relate.