What it’s Like to Live in These Grand Rapids Suburbs and Neighborhoods

Living in Grand Rapids Neighborhoods & Grand Rapids Suburbs

There’s the city and then there’s the broader region that claims this name.

Locals don’t say “Metro Grand Rapids” when referring to the area outside of the city limits. You’re more likely to hear “Greater Grand Rapids” or “West Michigan.”

You’re also probably not going to hear about the suburbs of Grand Rapids very often. Rather, common lingo includes talking about the town or city you’re from, or a person might say they live “on the lakeshore” if they’re in Holland, Grand Haven, or Muskegon.

City of Grand Rapids & GR Neighborhoods

The city of Grand Rapids is divided into quadrants: NE, NW, SE, SW and downtown.

Each area has its own flair. Architecture depends primarily on when that part of town was developed and can vary widely from one neighborhood to the next. (And often even from one street to the next!)

The core of Grand Rapids has seen rapid growth and redevelopment since the opening of VanAndel Arena in 1998 — and the city shows no sign of slowing.

Grand Rapids may be a small city on paper, but its cultural scene is booming, thanks to events like ArtPrize and the many museums in the city.

Foodies are surprised when they find the great number of local eateries hidden along our streets, and it’s even better when they discover they are living in Beer City, USA.

City of Grand Rapids & Neighborhoods

East of the City of Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids has over 30 neighborhoods, all with a vibe of their own. Not all neighborhoods are well-defined; in recent years, there’s been an effort to build neighborhood awareness and build a sense of community in each locale.

Several well-known Grand Rapids neighborhoods include Heritage Hill, Creston, Eastown, Ottawa Hills, Ken-O-sha, Garfield Park, and Alger Heights.

Whichever neighborhood you choose, chances are you’ve found a kid-friendly community with lots to do for families within walking distance.

The Blue Bridge is a Grand Rapids, MI icon

School Districts:
» Grand Rapids Public Schools

Known for:
» Foodies: Food trucksbreweriescoffee
» ArtPrize, Murals & Festivals
» Downtown and neighborhood walkability
» Museums
» Lots of city parkssplash pads & pools

Why people love to live here:

The calm hum of each neighborhood lends to a chill and lovely space to call home. 

This ‘small city with a big city vibe‘ draws people to live in Grand Rapids city limits.

Families love the walkability and easy access to these perks and fun things to do.

You should know: 

When people talk about Grand Rapids, many imagine the downtown area.

But the actual city of Grand Rapids spans as far as Frederik Meijer Gardens to the East,  just shy of Horrocks Farmers Market to the south, the tip of Millennium Park to the West, and just below the Whitecaps Stadium to the north.

Grand Rapids Suburbs

Towns, cities, and suburbs surrounding Grand Rapids also have a flavor of their own. Some communities are primarily agricultural like Caledonia; others, like Grand Haven, are situated on Lake Michigan and are a mecca for beach life (and tourism).

No place is perfect, but we think that you will find the perfect place to raise your family in one of Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods or surrounding communities.

East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills, Ada & Cascade

East of the City of Grand Rapids

With nearby Reeds Lake, Thornapple River, and fun small downtown districts (like Gaslight and downtown Ada Village), it’s no wonder people love living in these family-friendly, east of Grand Rapids suburbs.

Plus, East Grand Rapids public is a 2021 National Blue Ribbon Award-winning school.

grand rapids summer activities - walk around reeds lake
Locals love to spend the day at Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids, MI

Why people love to live here:

– These east suburbs are a great mix of urban, suburban, and rural vibes.

– Stellar Schools. East GR is continually ranked in the top 20 in the state and Forest Hills Public Schools also routinely is rated as a high-achieving school district.

– Reeds Lake is a huge draw in East Grand Rapids. EGR has a very walkable, shoppable downtown.
– These communities are close to the airport, and a short drive to downtown Grand Rapids, as well as the 28th Street corridor.

You should know: 

– In East Grand Rapids, you pay a premium for property taxes, but you get cool perks like roadside leaf cleanup and plowed sidewalks in the winter.
– Covering about 68 square miles, including rural back roads, Forest Hills Schools is known to have more snow days than other area schools.

West of Grand Rapids: Jenison, Hudsonville & Grandville

Residents love the quiet, family-friendly communities west of Grand Rapids.

Beautiful farmland abounds in Jamestown, Allendale and Hudsonville, yet there you will also find Grand Valley State University and shopping galore at RiverTown Crossings Mall.

You can also find a 2016 National Blue Ribbon Award-winning school in Hudsonville.

Why people love to live here: Jension, Hudsonville, and Grandville are very family friendly.

They have great schools, established neighborhoods, and dozens of parks. 

Grandville has a bustling shopping and restaurant corridor near RiverTown Crossings Mall.

You should know:  Jenison schools offers a Spanish Immersion program which is a big draw for families across West Michigan.

These west Grand Rapids suburbs host fun festivals and holiday celebrations year-round.

School Districts:
» Jenison Public Schools
» Grandville Public Schools
»  Hudsonville Public Schools

Known for:
» Annual Slip n’ Slide event at Rosewood Park
» Grand Ravines
» RiverTown Crossings Shopping Mall
» Hudsonville Fair
» Post Family Farm

Terra Square in Hudsonville, MI, is a popular place for festivals

Northeast Grand Rapids: Rockford, Belmont, and Cedar Springs

The quiet communities northeast of Grand Rapids provide a small town feel with close access to forests, lakes and golf courses, while still only being a short drive away from all the attractions in downtown Grand Rapids.

Why people love to live here: Rockford, Belmont, and Cedar Springs residents love their close-knit communities and friendly neighbors.

They can take full advantage of outdoor living with easy access to Rogue River, Cannonsburg, and dozens of parks and trails.

You should know:  The Rockford Dam overlook is an iconic part of Rockford, and hooks up to the White Pine Trail.

Belmont gives you easy access to both Rockford and Grand Rapids, but with lower property taxes. 

In Cedar Springs, you’ve got the edge on getting “up north” on weekends before the highway is packed.

School Districts:
» Rockford Public Schools
» Cedar Springs Public Schools

Known for:
» Rockford Dam
» Rogue River Park
» Cannonsburg Ski Area
» Versluis Lake
» Deer Tracks Junction

The Rockford Dam is an iconic part of Rockford, MI

Southeast Grand Rapids: Kentwood and Caledonia

Southeast of Grand Rapids is bustling with development.

Residents love their Chick-Fil-A and quick access to the city from M-6, while still appreciating a quieter, more rural pace of life.

Why people love to live here: Points go to Kentwood for diversity. Schools and neighborhoods celebrate many cultures and family types, and residents love that.

It’s also a very affordable area, with housing options ranging from rentals to condos to homes.

Caledonia locals love that they’ve found a modern-day small town.

This tight-knit community has the quiet vibes of yesteryear, coupled with modern updates and community hot spots.

You should know:  Kentwood is huge with an unusual shape — it’s not just the Woodland Mall area.

Caledonia is really into parades and celebrations like Harvest Festival, Memorial Day, Christmas, and 4th of July.

Kids love to play on the monster-themed play area at Woodland Mall in Kentwood, MI

Southwest Grand Rapids: Byron Center and Wyoming

Southwest of Grand Rapids you will find charming, farming communities with quaint downtown areas and an appealing, low-cost of living.

Not to mention Byron Center is home to a 2016 National Blue Ribbon Award-winning school!

Why people love to live here: Residents love the quiet, chill vibes.

They love the smaller town feel, proximity to downtown and rural areas, as well as friendly neighbors.

Residents are active in their community, with school and local events well attended.

You should know:  If you’re a travel lover, Wyoming is a great spot to live because you have quick access to just about any highway leading into West Michigan and beyond.

Byron Center is a fast growing suburb of Grand Rapids, with homes and schools in high demand

Frog Hollow Playground in Byron Center, MI, is fully accessible

Northwest Grand Rapids: Walker, Sparta & Comstock Park

Northwest Grand Rapids suburbs boast options for rural living with wide-open spaces, but with ample shopping and dining options on the Alpine Ave corridor.

Plus, big fun abounds at LMCU Ballpark and Berlin Raceway.

Why people love to live here: Northwest Grand Rapids residents love their small towns with their close proximity to downtown.

There is lots of wildlife, the epic Millennium Park, Blandford Nature Center and festivals galore.

You should know:  Walker is comprised of four neighborhood areas: Alpine, Northwest, Standale and South Walker. 

Springtime flooding is common for residents living near the east side of Comstock Park (where Grand River runs).

Sparta is home to a vineyard and brewpub, Stoney Ridge Vineyards.

Root for the West Michigan Whitecaps at LMCU Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI

Lowell & Alto

Further East of the City of Grand Rapids

Lowell residents enjoy river access to both the Grand and Flat Rivers, as well as the headquarters of the North Country Trail. This rural community features an active and vibrant downtown with many parades and festivals throughout the year. Alto is home to the famous Ice Cream Caboose and Boulder Ridge Wildlife park.

Lowell Flat River Grill Patio
Riverwalk in Downtown Lowell

School Districts:
» Lowell Public Schools

Known for:

Why people love to live here:

You should know: 

Lakeshore: Holland, Zeeland, Muskegon & Grand Haven

Holland, Grand Haven, Zeeland, and Muskegon constantly lure GR residents to the waters of Lake Michigan all summer long, but it’s the residents of these fair towns that experience piers, lighthouses and incredible sunsets all year long.

Bonus: You’ll find a 2016 National Blue Ribbon Award-winning school in Grand Haven.

Why people love to live here: You get Lake Michigan life and city amenities in one.

Grand Haven is THE beach town of Lake Michigan. Residents and visitors alike can’t get enough of Grand Haven’s sandy shores, ice cream shops, and its two lighthouses. 

Muskegon is for lake lovers who need equal proximity to “Up North” and the big city of Grand Rapids. Muskegon life is all about the water, outdoors and adventure.

You should know:  As you can guess from the name, Holland has Dutch heritage, and they’re proud of it! In addition to their annual world-renowned Tulip Time festival, visitors and residents alike enjoy Windmill Island gardens, as well as Nelis’ Dutch Village. 

Being a beach town, expect lots of Grand Haven visitors in the summer.

Muskegon is changing from a sleeper town to a hot spot for families. As housing prices climb in the Grand Rapids metro area, Muskegon is an affordable option (for now).

best lake michigan beaches - grand haven state park
Grand Haven State Park in Grand Haven, MI, is a popular summer destination

More to Explore

1 thought on “What it’s Like to Live in These Grand Rapids Suburbs and Neighborhoods”

  1. I’m loving this blog post! As a resident of Grand Rapids myself, it’s great to see some in-depth information on the different suburbs and neighborhoods in the area. I completely agree with the post about the uniqueness of each neighborhood and how they all have their own personalities. It’s always great to hear about other people’s experiences living in the area, and I’m looking forward to exploring some of these neighborhoods more!

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