This post originally published in 2017.

What Draws Families to Grand Rapids?

After moving to Grand Rapids a couple years ago, I would often hear people say “Grand Rapids is such a great place to raise a family.” My husband and I both grew up in the Midwest and after living out West for five years, we felt a strong pull back to our Midwest roots.

And we are not alone… I meet people who recently moved to Grand Rapids all the time. Many of them, like me, are moving back to be close to their family, while others are simply here for a new job (and the plethora of micro-breweries may have helped).

With many young professionals and growing families moving to Michigan, it is not surprising that Grand Rapids is the fastest growing metro area in the entire state.

So what draws families to GR? Check out what these three women had to say about raising their families in the Grand Rapids area. I hope you enjoy “meeting” these women as much as I did…

Jump to find…
Moving to Grand Rapids Guide
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10 Things to Know Before Moving to GR
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Scout out the Best GR for You
What’s it Like to Move to Grand Rapids?
The Different Grand Rapids Communities

Three Parents Chime in on Why Grand Rapids is Great for Their Family

Meet Danneka

“We love living here! The city is very family-oriented and we feel safe here.”

danneka cooper and family

  1. Tell us about your family.

My family and I currently live in the Grandville area, but we were raised in Grand Rapids near the Ottawa Hills neighborhood. My husband and I graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in 1998. We have two children ages 17 and 11 who attend Grandville Public Schools.

  1. What makes GR a great place to raise a family?

We love living here! The city is very family-oriented and we feel safe here. Our city is expanding and there are more and more things for us to do here. We can ice skate in Rosa Parks Circle or eat at one of our upscale restaurants downtown. Sometimes we can go see a nice show, but we can always find something to do as a family.

  1. What does the perfect Saturday in GR look like for your family?

The perfect Saturday in GR for my family would be going for a nice bike ride on the Kent Trails to start the day off. We like to get dressed and have lunch somewhere downtown.  We love frozen yogurt so we would stop at Sweet Creams  in the Ottawa Hills Neighborhood and enjoy a sweet treat!

Gaslight Village is one of our favorite spots to hang out in the summer, so we would walk around that area and relax at Collins Park (on Reeds Lake) until sunset.  During the winter months, we enjoy the movies a lot! Also, we like to take the kids to the Arcade (Craig’s Cruisers). If we want to get fancy, we can go downtown and stay at the JW Marriot where we can go for a swim as a family and enjoy some good food!

  1. What do you love about where you live?

We live close to everything. There is a walking trail, a nice park, shopping and a ton of restaurants within 5 minutes. Since we live near the expressway, anything else is just 15 to 20 minutes away.

  1. Any advice for a family new to Grand Rapids about life here?

I would say it’s a good idea to become familiar with some of the neighborhoods so that you can see what they have to offer your family.

Some have public swimming pools, some have private ones.  There is always something fun to do downtown. The DeVos Place has something going on all the time. We have ArtPrize that comes around once a year.

Doing a little research on the different areas of town helps with finding a great school for the kids. Our city is growing so much and we love it here.

REALTOR Ready to Help With Your Move

Brooke A. Sines

Grand Allure Home Group – RE/MAX of Grand Rapids

Brooke’s Website

Specializing in communication & negotiation between the buyers/sellers we work with, Grand Allure Home Group focuses on education, reviewing trends, & more for you! Passionate about creating and maintaining solid relationships, Brooke has been told over and over by her clients that it’s her dedication to personalized service that sets her apart from the rest.

Meet Jan

“In the past 15 years or so Grand Rapids has become a ‘destination’ place for many people to visit.”

Jan and Daryl Vriesenga

  1. Tell us about your family.

My husband and I are in our third year of retirement and enjoying it immensely! We have 3 married children and 11 fabulous grandchildren. We are fortunate to have all of them living in the West Michigan area. We live in the Garfield Park neighborhood and have been in the same house for 38 years. My husband was born and raised in Grand Rapids but I was born and raised in the Chicago area. We spent a few years in Florida, but moved back here when we decided to start our family.

  1. What is your favorite thing about living in Grand Rapids?

When I first moved here I thought Grand Rapids was a small town with not a lot going on. In the past 15 years or so Grand Rapids has become a “destination” place for many people to visit.

Downtown growth, great new restaurants and breweries, bike trails, ArtPrize, Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids Symphony, the Civic Theatre, u-pick orchards, etcetera, have made Grand Rapids a great place to live and raise a family, as well as an exciting place  to invite friends and family to visit.

  1. In your opinion, what makes Grand Rapids a great city for families?

The friendliness of the people, family values, access to cultural as well as athletic events/opportunities that are affordable for families, minor league baseball, hockey and basketball teams,  as well as the numerous lakes nearby offer a wide variety of family entertainment.

As grandparents, we particularly like the availability of “Grandparent Passes” we can purchase for visiting John Ball Zoo, Meijer Gardens, as well as the museums – makes it much more affordable to bring our grandkids to as many times as we or they want to.

We also purchase season tickets to the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre – our grandkids  pick the productions they want to see with their cousins and it’s a wonderful activity to do together. Grand Rapids also has many choices for schools – public, parochial, charter and private.

  1. What does the perfect Saturday in GR look like for your family?

Saturdays now look very similar to Saturdays when our own children were growing up – filled with sporting events! Back then we had 3 children to follow whereas now, 9 of our 11 grandkids are involved in a variety of sports all year round. We love attending as many as we can when we are around!

After the games, depending on the season, there are always plenty of things to choose from – biking one of the bike trails, visiting ArtPrize in the fall, and since our son-in-law is part of Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill with his dad, apple picking, donut eating and cider drinking at the orchard is a popular destination for our family in the fall.

Our grandkids all ski so some afternoons in the winter months are spent watching them at Cannonsburg Ski area.  We love being active and try to take advantage of the variety of activities and events happening in our city throughout the year.

  1. What do you love about where you live?

We loved our neighborhood when we purchased our home and we still love it today. We’ve been blessed with great neighbors from the beginning and still are today! Our children attended Seymour Christian School, where my husband was teaching at the time, they biked up to “the Heights” to go to Modern Pharmacy, the library, grocery store, Southern Little League and Garfield Park.

Some of the business’ in Alger Heights struggled for awhile, but it’s been exciting to watch its rebirth the last few years.  Ken’s Grocery Store, Real Food Cafe, The Old Goat Restaurant, Reinspired Treasures, have made the shopping district an exciting place to visit – it keeps getting better and better. To see so many people once again walking the neighborhood with so many places to go is inspiring!

  1. Any advice for a family new to Grand Rapids about life here?

Get to know your neighbors, join a club or group with people who share your interests, make new friends, find a church that meets your needs, and explore what Grand Rapids has to offer!

REALTOR Ready to Help With Your Move

Janet Romanowski

Romanowski Homes- Greenridge Realty

Janet’s Website

Janet Romanowski and her expert real estate team believe that success in real estate comes in many forms. As a top performer within the brokerage, as well as being credited with negotiating the largest residential sale in the history of West Michigan, we find the most satisfaction not in our proven sales record, but in the relationships we continue to develop with our clients.

Meet Mel

“Grand Rapids has a big city appeal with restaurants, museums and cultural events with a small town feel.”
Photo Credit: Alison Kae Photography

Photo Credit: Alison Kae Photography

  1. Tell us about your family.

Amir and I both grew up in Metro-Detroit and came to the west side to attend GVSU. We have lived all over Grand Rapids: from downtown condos to our current house in Ottawa Hills, on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. Our son Kaden is almost 3 and we have a Newfoundland name Marla. Our love for the city was immediate, and it has grown and evolved with each stage of our life. 

  1. What is your favorite thing about living in Grand Rapids?

Grand Rapids has a big city appeal with restaurants, museums and cultural events with a small town feel. We can head downtown for a concert or ride our bikes to one of the nearby districts for lunch. Watching the city grow and engage residents in new ways has been really fun.

  1. In your opinion, what makes Grand Rapids a great city for families?

Grand Rapids has so much to offer for people of every age. Days can be spent exploring museums, the farmer’s markets, Meijer Gardens, the library or enjoying time on the water. With each season, there are new events to look forward to. A number of the annual events often have a variety of activities for families to do as well. The city is safe and people are always friendly. We love going to the many parks and libraries to meet new friends!

  1. What does the perfect Saturday in GR look like for your family?

In our house, we have french toast Saturdays. So, a perfect Saturday would start with that! Afterwards we would go to the Children’s Museum, especially if they have the dinosaur exhibit going on. Kaden is obsessed with dinosaurs!

Afterwards, we would head to Brewery Vivant for lunch. They have a cute play house and sandbox for the kids, so lunch is enjoyable for everyone! Following lunch we would go for a bike ride or play at the park across the street from our house before nap time.

In the evening, we would head walk over to our neighbors for BBQ over some local beer or to Spoonlickers for some ice cream!
  1. What do you love about where you live?
Ottawa Hills is a special nook in Grand Rapids. The streets are lined with older homes that have such character and huge trees that make you forget you are in the city. The playgrounds at GR Christian and MLK are a walk away and you are short drive/bike ride from so many of the spots that Amir and I have grown to love.
  1. Any advice for a family new to Grand Rapids about life here?

My pieces of advice for new families moving in are: buy memberships to the museums and zoo! You make your money back after a couple visits and they are great ways to get your kids involved in the city.

Secondly, utilize our libraries!  Beside for the incredible books, they have so many activities to engage people of all ages. Kaden goes to storytime a couple times a week and he absolutely loves it!

REALTOR Ready to Help With Your Move

Amanda DeLong

Evermark Realty

Amanda’s Website

At Evermark Realty, we strive to make lasting impression in the life of every client we serve. We are passionate about forming relationships with our clients, serving them with the highest level of integrity and professionalism, and providing them with a first class real estate experience from our initial meeting to the closing table (and beyond!).

Learn More About Moving to Grand Rapids

Why do YOU love GR?

Leave us a comment below and let us know why your family loves Grand Rapids!

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Why Grand Rapids is Great for Families