A Guide for Relocating Your Family to West Michigan
Thinking About Moving Your Family to Grand Rapids, MI?
Considering a move to Michigan’s fastest-growing metro area and second largest city? Maybe you have family here or maybe you grew up in West Michigan. Perhaps, you’re a fan of craft beer and living in Beer City USA seems irresistible. Maybe you’re simply drawn to Midwest family values or the low cost of living found in West Michigan. There are many reasons to relocate your family here!
If you’re considering a move to Grand Rapids, you probably find yourself searching for a top-notch realtors, researching school options, checking out various neighborhoods and the overall vibe of the city.
Relocating your family is a big transition, but Grand Rapids Kids is here to help. We created this guide to help inform your decisions on where to move, the best places to dine with kids, where to find good childcare and more. Keep reading and get prepped for your big, exciting move!
What’s it Like to Live Here?
The strong work ethic paired with a reasonable cost of living and warm, Midwestern charm cannot be beat!
Michigan also has incredible beauty to be found across the state. The sparkling Lake Michigan beaches, white sand dunes and hiking trails provide endless outdoor fun in the summer.
On the other hand, our lake effect snow provides loads of winter fun–sledding, skiing, building snow men and snowshoeing, to name a few. (We recommend to always conclude your outdoor adventures with hot cocoa and snuggles under warm, fuzzy blankets while you thaw out.)
You’ll love the variety our four seasons have to offer! Native Michiganders will warn you, though, to dress in layers. You never know how the weather might change in one day’s time. Check out the articles linked below to learn more helpful tips.
- 10 Things to Know Before You Move to Grand Rapids
- Why Grand Rapids is Great for Families
- 4 Things to Know Before Buying a House in Grand Rapids
7 Items we can Help you Check off your Moving To-Do List
1- Before you move, you’ll need to find a great Realtor. Check out our preferred partner realtors HERE and give one of them a call to get your moving plans rolling.
2- As you start house hunting, check out our Community Pages to learn more about all the specific areas you could opt to live within greater Grand Rapids. Whether you are looking for a small town vibe, a neighborhood city, trying to find your dream farmhouse or looking for a place north or west of Grand Rapids, our detailed community pages will help inform your decision.
3- We know figuring out child care, preschool, and where to send your big kids to school are high on your priority list, too. Be sure to read our Child Care, Preschool and Schools Guide for lots of practical, helpful information.
4- Once you’ve moved, you’ll want to quickly find quality health care providers for your family. You can find the “cream of the crop” in our annual, reader-voted Top Health Care Providers Guide, which covers the top-voted providers from pediatricians to dentists to OB/GYNs and more!
5- While you’re unpacking and your kitchen is in shambles, you’ll probably want to eat out. Be sure to bookmark our list of where kids eat FREE or cheap around GR. We also have a reader-voted guide on the best, most kid-friendly breweries around town.
6- Dining out with kids can be fun, but we all love a nice date night out once in a while. Check out our babysitter resource guide to help you line up some trusty sitters. You can also draw some fun ideas from our 101 date night ideas or our list of the top date night restaurants in GR.
7- Last but not least, you will definitely want to read through our Grandtastic Awards guide. A reader-recommended list of all the BEST places for families around greater Grand Rapids. This guide will point you to the best places to eat, dine, play, learn and shop with your family.
Now that we covered all the all-important basics, keep reading for other helpful information and resources to ease your transition to Grand Rapids…
Decoding Grand Rapids Lingo
It won’t take you long, to notice that West Michigan natives use a lot of acronyms and slang. If you’re new to town you may be confused when you hear, “I’m going to JBZ tomorrow with my CRC mom group.” Study up and you’ll be interpreting GR lingo in no time (you can thank us later for this crash course).
- CRC = Christian Reformed Church
- EGR = East Grand Rapids
- FMG = Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (also called Meijer Gardens)
- GR = Grand Rapids
- GRAM = Grand Rapid’s Art Museum
- GRCM = Grand Rapid’s Children’s Museum
- JBZ = John Ball Zoo
- U.P. = Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
- The BOB = The “Big Old Buildling” in downtown that houses multiple restaurants, bars and a comedy club
- G-Rap/GRAR/GRap = Grand Rapids
- Lake-Effect Snow = Expect TONS of snow during the winter, thanks to being on the eastern bank of Lake Michigan. Residents of Holland and south to Allegan get even more snow than Grand Rapids.
- S-Curve – An S-shaped part of the 131 freeway running through downtown Grand Rapids (that can often be car accident prone).
- The Beltline – M-44, a state trunkline highway, is named “East Beltline” or is often just called “The Beltline”
- The Big Lake – Lake Michigan
- ArtPrize – Grand Rapid’s annual public art competition, the most attended public art event in the world.
- Small Group/Community Group/Life Group – Bible study church group
- The New Mall – RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville, newer than Woodland Mall (but opened in 1999)
- The Eggs & Bacon – the breakfast-themed play area for kids at Woodland Mall
- Knapp Corner/Knapp’s Crossing – shopping area with a movie theater and restaurants off of East Beltline
- Medical Mile – a designated area within the city that has medical-related development in the Hillside District of GR, bordering both sides of Michigan Street
- East – East Grand Rapids or East Grand Rapids schools (e.g. “She’s a senior at East”). Do not confuse this with Eastown, an artsy Grand Rapids neighborhood just down the road from East Grand Rapids.
- Blue Bridge – an iconic pedestrian (blue) bridge, located in the center of downtown GR between Pearl and Fulton
- Up North – Michiganders love to get away “Up North,” but there is no exact definition of what constitutes northern Michigan. “Up North” generally refers to anywhere farther north of where you are located, but still in the Lower Peninusla of Michigan
- Yooper– Someone who lives in the Upper Peninsula
- Troll – Someone who lives south of the Mackinac Bridge
- The Calder – “La Grande Vitesse” is a public sculpture created by Alexander Calder, an American artist. It is located on the large concrete plaza referred to as “Calder Plaza” near City Hall in downtown GR.
- The Weatherball – The WZZM 13 Weatherball is a large steel structure, which gives visual weather information based on the color of the weatherball. There is also a well-known Weatherball song that goes, “Weatherball red, warmer weather ahead. Weatherball blue, cooler weather in view. Weatherball green, no change foreseen. Colors blinking bright? Rain or snow in sight.“
- Michigan U/Michigan Left – A “Michigan Left” is a design which replaces a left turn with a U-turn and is also called a median U-turn crossover or boulevard turnaround
- Neighborhood/Community Names – Grand Rapids transplants may get confused about all the little neighborhood names around town like “Heritage Hill” and “Eastown,” that aren’t actual cities, but just neighborhoods. Find out about the various communities around GR through our community info pages.
How to Pronounce It?
- Dutch Names: DeJonge (De-Young), Meijer (My-er), Kuyper (Ky-per), De Boer (Dee-Bore)
- Places in Michigan: Mackinac (Mack-in-awe), Charlotte (Shar-Lot), Dowagiac (Doe-wah-jak), Ypsilanti (Ip-sill-ann-tee) and Sault Ste. Marie (Soo-Saint-Marie)
Must-Read Resources for Parents
Imagine this… It’s a rainy day and you’re new to town. You and your kids are going a bit stir crazy. What do you do? Where do you go?
These are the kinds of questions that grkids.com can answer for you! Our website, Facebook page and Pinterest boards are chock-full of great ideas! The Indoor Play Guide and 25 Things to do in a Rainy Day in West Michigan, for example, will hook you up with options on where to spend that rainy day. The grkids Visitor’s Guide to Grand Rapids with kids is a great way to familiarize yourself with downtown GR. If you’re looking to spend a fun afternoon downtown with kids, be sure to check out these ideas.
For age-specific tips, you’ll want to read our New Parent’s Guide or our Preschooler’s or Kindergartener’s Guide to Grand Rapids. If you’re looking for Parenting Groups or you want a list of Parenting Classes & Resources in West Michigan, we’ve covered that information, too.
A “Must-Do” for Grand Rapids Parents
My last few tips for your are…check our event calendar often and sign up for our amazingly helpful eNewsletters! Sign up HERE to receive our Weekend Planner email in your inbox each Tuesday morning–this is a resource all West Michigan parents are sure to love. You’ll receive TONS of great parenting ideas, our top picks for events each week, along with helpful parenting articles and more. (Plus, if you happen to be expecting or have a little one in their first year of life, you will definitely LOVE our Grand Rapids Baby email series).
WELCOME TO GRAND RAPIDS! We can’t wait to have you join us in this great city.
Visit us on Facebook and send us a message to introduce yourself. We can’t wait to meet you soon!