7 Things to Help you With Your Move to Grand Rapids: Schools, Neighborhoods, Local Lingo, Realtors & More


Thinking About Moving Your Family to Grand Rapids, MI?

If  you’re considering a move to Michigan’s fastest-growing metro area and second-largest city, this handy guide will help you sort out relocation your family to West Michigan. 

Why do people move here?

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 for relocating to Grand Rapids!

If you’re considering a move to Grand Rapids, you’ll want:

This guide will help with all of those goals.

Relocating to Grand Rapids with your family is a big transition, but Grand Rapids Kids is here to help.

Keep reading and get prepped for your big, exciting move!

READ NEXT: 10 Things to Know Before You Move to Grand Rapids »

What’s Life in West MI Like?

Most people relocating to Grand Rapids wonder – What is it like to live in Grand Rapids and West Michigan?

Happily, we can tell you it’s a positive experience.

The strong work ethic paired with a reasonable cost of living and warm, Midwestern charm can’t be beat!

Michigan also has incredible natural 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 snowmen and snowshoeing, to name a few.

Prefer to rough it indoors in winter? Get into the coziness game with these Hygge tips for winter around West Michigan.

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.

Moving Checklist

7 Items to Check Off Your Moving To-Do List

1) Find a Great REALTOR

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) Discover the Community that Fits Your Vibe

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) Scope out Your New School

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) Get in With the Best Docs Around

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) Discover the Great Restaurants

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) Check Out the Date Night Scene

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) Find the Best of Grand Rapids

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…

West Michigan Lingo You’ll Want to Know

It won’t take you long, to notice that West Michigan natives use a lot of acronyms and slang.

Study up and you’ll be interpreting GR lingo in no time (you can thank us later for this crash course).

Inside the Acronyms

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

Inside the Lingo

G-Rap/G-R/ = Grand Rapids

Lake-Effect Snow = ALL the 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.” (It turns into Broadmoor south of 28th Street.)

The Big Lake/The Beach – Lake Michigan

‘Ope! – An amalgamation of sorry and oops, we often say ‘Ope! as a way to be polite and show deference to the other person who we almost bumped into or cut off in line. (You can take this knowledge with you anywhere in the Midwest.)

ArtPrize – Grand Rapid’s bi-annual public art competition, the most attended public art event in the world.

Small Group/Community Group/Life Group – Bible study church group

Knapp’s Corner – 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 street from East Grand Rapids.

Blue Bridge – an iconic pedestrian (blue) bridge, located in the center of downtown GR between Pearl and Fulton. (Fun fact: this use to be a rail bridge!)

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 American artist Alexander Calder. It is located on the large concrete plaza referred to as “Calder Plaza” near City Hall in downtown GR.

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 these community info pages.

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

Pronunciation Pointers

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)

Resources for Things to Do in Grand Rapids

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! 

The website, Facebook page, Instagram account, and newsletter (loaded with local news tidbits and things to do around town) are chock-full of great ideas!

The Indoor Play Guide and 25 Things to do on a Rainy Day in West Michiganfor example, will list the options for your rainy day.

The 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.

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.

Finally, my last tip for you…check the event calendar. It’s a resource you’ll use every week when you’re living in Grand Rapids with kids.

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.

Grand Rapids Summer Things to Do

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