10 Things to Know Before You Move to Grand Rapids

10 Things before you Move to GRand Rapids Feature Image

What Your Family Should Know Before Moving to GR

Are you considering a move to Grand Rapids? If so, you should know that Grand Rapids is Michigan’s best kept secret.

The best things about living in GR is that we have the convenient big city amenities with the homey small town feel. Navigating to and within downtown is quick and easy and we have a variety of suburbs for every family personality.

Murals Feature image EECO X Ave4Art Sneller
EECO X Ave4Art

Our schools are plentiful and full of amazing teachers and programs. We also boast tons of top notch medical resources. You will find lots of friendly folks here, too.

Kids at Coit Park
Coit Park / Daytona Niles

If the snow is holding you back, have no fear. It’s not as bad as it may seem. With all the right outdoor gear, Michigan will be a winter wonderland for you. We have skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, sledding, ice skating, you name it. I always say, embrace it and enjoy it!

kids sledding at Mulick Park
Mulick Park sledding

I think the best thing about living here is that when winter melts away, we enjoy beautiful springs with parks and flowers galore!

Michigan Spring Blooms flowers feature image
Frederik Meijer Gardens
Tulip Time Field Holland
Tulip Time – Holland

Add in the hazy, lazy days of summer with the sunlight glimmering off the lake and the sounds of the waves hitting the shore – it’s like heaven.

Hoffmaster State Park Lake Michigan Beach Hunt
Hoffmaster State Park

You’d think that epic summers make us rebel against fall but we actually love fall in Michigan. It’s colorful, beautiful and delicious.  We have apple orchards and pumpkin patches to assist in allll the delicious pie-making.

In Michigan, it’s really hard to pick a favorite season.

BIg Red Button boys Grand Rapids Brooks

Get the Inside Scoop about Grand Rapids

1 – Our U-Turn is Called a Michigan Left

Don’t let our “Michigan Left” intimidate you. This is a left turn designed to replace a U-turn or a boulevard turnaround. Study up on the diagram below and you’ll be ready to take on your first Michigan Left in no time.

michigan-left moving to Michigan

2- We Enjoy our Beaches Year Round

We love our beaches and lakeshore time in the summer! We are fortunate to live a mere 35-60 minutes away from miles of gorgeous, sandy beaches.

Hoffmaster State Park Scripps beach

Our West Michigan Beach Guide will help you navigate your family summer beach trips. You’ll have to put Saugatuck’s Oval Beach high on your list because it has won ALL the awards (Condé Nast Traveler‘s Top 25 Shorelines in the World; MTV’s Top 5 Beaches; National Geographic’s Top Two Freshwater Beaches in the US, etc.).

Plus, you can enjoy mouth-watering, delicious fried chicken at The Southerner after spending the day at Oval Beach.

Kirk Park beach feature image

You also should check out Muskegon’s Pere Marquette Beach, Michigan’s only beach to receive the Certified Blue Wave Clean Beach Award by the Clean Beaches Council.

You are moving to Grand Rapids so you probably already plan on enjoying summer fun at the beach.

Tunnel Park girl beach
Tunnel Park

But, did you know that you can also enjoy visits to the beach in the winter? Your family will enjoy seeing floating ice chunks and frozen waves; just be sure to bundle up and bring your camera for some spectacular shots!

Lake Michigan beach in winter Hendrikse


3 – The Weather is Unpredictable

If you are moving to Michigan from a warm-weather state, you may want to start mentally preparing yourself for Michigan winters. (Check out our tips for how to dress for Michigan weather.)

Some years, winter lasts for six months. We’ll have some snow days, and you’ll hear terms like “Lake Effect Snow” and “Snowmageddon.”

michigan weather be like (1)

And then next winter we will get much less snow than normal,  have a few 60 degree days in January, and then we’ll get a blizzard in April.

If nothing else, Michigan weather will teach you to wear layers and check your weather app frequently. (Also: if you move to the U.P. expect winter to span about 3/4 of the year.)

4 – We Have Endless School Options

West Michigan has many school options: public, private, charter, virtual, homeschool and more. Every school utilizes differing methodologies and offers varying things to make their school stand out, some schools even offer a year-round, balanced calendar.

Many of our schools offer unique options like “Zoo School” at John Ball Zoo and Ada Christian School has a 37-acre outdoor education program. Explore your options with the GRKIDS Preschool Guide and Schools Guide.


5- Downtown Streets are Not on a Grid

The city of Grand Rapids was designed around the winding Grand River. This makes for a lovely centerpiece to our downtown, but doesn’t always lend itself to clear driving routes.

Downtown Grand Rapids Blue Bridge Hunt

Some of the city follows a grid system, while other routes wind around the river. Check your route before you head out because many streets dead end and then pick up again later. Some streets run at angles and others meander and may even intersect major streets several times.

6- We Are Serious About Beer and Coffee

Grand Rapids is known for its plentiful, top-notch breweries. Check out our family-friendly breweries if you’re heading out with kids in tow. Founders, Brewery Vivant, New Holland, Perrin and Elk Brewing Co are just a few that we head to in droves.

Kid friendly breweries around Grand Rapids

We also have many high end coffee offerings – check out some of our local favorites. Many of these coffee houses not only source their beans wholesale, but they also roast their own coffee. Madcap even offers training to baristas wanting to learn their trade.

Madcap Downtown Market boys Brooks


7 – We Celebrate Artists Through ArtPrize and Murals

Have you heard about ArtPrize, the “most-attended public art event on the planet?” This radically open public art event descends upon GR each fall. Now on a biennial schedule, ArtPrize will host the gigantic city-wide art competition and a more localized art event on alternating years.

Oscillation Gillett Bridge ArtPrize10

Families love ArtPrize and we have all the details on heading downtown to ArtPrize with your family. Be sure to wear walking shoes and know that you won’t be able to see it all in one day.

And you won’t have to wait until fall to enjoy the art scene in GR. Take on the GR Mural Crawl and be amazed by the large scale art that our city has for you!

Central District Cyclery Mural by Chaltry Creston
Creston Neighborhood

8 – Our Farmers Grow the Best Produce and Meat

If you enjoy eating fresh, local fare, you’ll love all our many farmer’s market options in West Michigan. Living close to fertile farm country, Michiganders enjoy the delicious, fresh produce like corn, apples, berries and much more.

You can even find local produce year-round at the indoor Downtown Market. This 130,000 square foot culinary marketplace is full of various vendors and delightful restaurants. Grand Rapids’ local farmer’s markets will help your family enjoy the tastiest and freshest produce around!

Fulton Street Farmers market roof covered

9 – Grand Rapids is Green and Clean

Have you heard how eco-friendly Grand Rapids is? Expedia named GR as one of America’s Greenest Cities,” which is unsurprising based on all the recognition we’ve received for sustainability achievements. Grand Rapids is a leader for mid-sized US cities, with hundreds of LEED Certified buildings (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and other notable efforts.

GR has also received awards for an innovative recycling program that has successfully reduced waste and increased recycling efforts across the city. Organicycle is a curbside composting program for city residents as well.

Allergy Friendly Places for Kids Grand Rapids Downtown Market

10 – We Have a Serious Dutch Influence

Michigan natives know how to finish this cheeky phrase: “if you ain’t Dutch…” (“you ain’t much!”). This area was settled by many Dutch immigrants, and the heritage is still going strong. If you are not familiar with Dutch culture, here are a few things you’ll want to know before moving to West Michigan.

  1. Dinner is often called “supper.”
  2. Some folks are still serious about taking a “day of rest” on Sundays, so may find some businesses are closed and things slow down (generally).
  3. You’ll meet lots of people with last names like DeJonge (pronounced De-Young) and VandenBosch.
  4. Dutch treats are a serious thing. You’ll find people hold strong opinions about their favorite Windmill cookies and can debate about which Dutch candy store is the best. Come Christmas, you may hear talk of Sinterklaas Day and treats like homemade banket (pronounced Bahn-KET) and chocolate letters.
  5. Tulip Time is an annual festival in Holland where you can learn all about Dutch heritage and buy your own pair of wooden Dutch shoes.

Pin this image for future reference!

10 Thing to Know Before Moving to Grand Rapids tall

5 thoughts on “10 Things to Know Before You Move to Grand Rapids”

  1. considering taking a position at Grand Valley State University– from NYC metro area and very liberal democrats from culturally diverse family. will we HATE living in Grand Rapids?

    1. You’ll find a wide variety of people in Grand Rapids. If you get involved in activities and causes that are important to you, you will likely find lifelong friends and love it here. Choosing where you will live is probably a big factor in this situation. Perhaps rent for a bit before buying anything so you can get an idea of what different areas in West Michigan are like.

  2. Hello! I’m looking into moving to Grand Rapids from Metro Detroit. I would love to be able to live somewhere where I can walk to get groceries, coffee, or a night out without having to worry about safely driving home. How realistic is it to be able to live downtown? Is it super costly?

  3. How friendly is Grand Rapids for retirees like me? I currently live in Colorado, but am thinking of moving back to Michigan where I lived for 15 years = Detroit area. I would need a single-family home with a nice fenced yard for my fur kids (3 dogs)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *