20 Pros and Cons of Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan

a tower in Grand Rapids Michigan

Moving to a new city can be a daunting task for anyone, especially if you do not know much about the area. So, we are here to break down the top twenty-one pros and cons of living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

We will discuss the best and worst parts of the city, to paint you a complete picture of what it is like for anyone who is unsure. This article can be used as a reference for anyone interested in moving to the area or even those considering it for a vacation. It is important to know and understand a city especially if it may be your home soon. 

The eleven pros to living in Grand Rapids, Michigan will be covered first followed by the list of ten cons to keep the article consistent and easy to follow along with. Keep reading if you want to find out the good and the bad about Grand Rapids. 

Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Is it a Good or Bad Idea?

Similar to any other city in the United States, Grand Rapids has a list of positives and a list of negatives to consider. Such as the city having a ton of events and attractions, making it the perfect place to stay busy. Or how you do not need to have a car there as most places will be within walking distance. 

However, there are also high crime rates in the city which is something to consider as well. The weather can also be rough during the winter as the city is known for its low temperatures and snowy months. 

Over 200,000 people are living in the city, making it the second-largest city in the state. There are many things to consider when it comes to Grand Rapids, Michigan. So, let’s start breaking it all down. 

The Positives of Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan – Pros

#1 Stable Economy 

The city boasts several job opportunities due to the high number of startup companies that have begun here in recent years. This is why the city can maintain a lower unemployment rate of around 5.6% on average. 

With a lower cost of living than most cities and a median household income of around $60,000, most of the residents are content. It is easy to find well-paying jobs here that can allow you to live comfortably. 

#2 Attractions and Events 

There are a ton of different activities and events that take place here throughout the year. Whether you are interested in visiting different parks or recreational areas for hiking or biking they have you covered. 

A number of nightlife options are available here as well. Including restaurants, clubs, and lounges however, most of them are lower key and local establishments. Or if you enjoy indoor activities there are malls and museums throughout the city as well to offer different activities for the whole family to do. Not to mention the different fairs and festivals held here throughout the year. 

Lake Michigan is also only thirty or so minutes away from the city, enabling families and friends to enjoy water sports and activities in the warmer months.

#3 Good School Districts

The Grand Rapids school district has scores that are above average for the state of Michigan. With a graduation rate of over 75% this school district puts an emphasis on education and getting a degree when possible. Helping them to stay in line with national scales for graduation rates and test scores. 

#4 Average Cost of Living

Going along with the city having a decent economy, they also offer an average cost of living that matches the present lifestyle. Allowing those with a lower-than-average income to still be able to live somewhat comfortably and afford their essentials.

Their overall taxes are also middle of the road, which means that there should be no surprises for anyone or unexpected fees that need to be paid. 

#5 No Car Needed

When it comes to amenities and entertainment, most items are within walking distance in Grand Rapids. Whether you want to visit a museum, go grocery shopping, hang out with friends on the weekend, and more. Most of the activities and everyday items that people do can be easily found and walked to. 

So, if you do not have a car, have no license, or do not want the added expenses of a car you are in luck here especially if you find yourself living downtown. It’s a walking-friendly city with many options available such as a bussing system and rideshare services when it gets colder out.

#6 Unique Food Options

Anyone who enjoys food and trying new items may enjoy Grand Rapids. There is a range of different food options offered here such as wet burritos or Coney dogs which are not only great treats but specialties of the city. 

If you are enjoying the breweries in the Beer City these may be the treats you want to munch on afterward. There are local food stands and restaurants which each offer their food items and twists on fan favorites. This makes it the perfect location for any foodie.

#7 Lower Property Taxes

If you are looking to buy a house here, then you are in luck. The average property tax in Grand Rapids is around 1.7% which is higher than the national average, yet lower than the property tax in Michigan. 

Making it the ideal place to buy a house or apartment, whether it is for yourself or a rental property as the city sees over a million tourists a year. 

#8 Diverse Work Force

No matter what field you work in, there are likely jobs for it. Grand Rapids features industries from automotive, aviation, consumer goods, education, health care, information technology, manufacturing, and more. 

Some of the more well-known companies in the city are Meijer, Grand Valley, State University, and Spectrum Health to name a few. The city is also known for having some of the largest furniture manufacturers like Steelcase and Herman Miller. 

There are ample opportunities in the city for a range of different industries and jobs. It’s no wonder why their unemployment rate is consistently below the national average. 

#9 Beer City

A picture of a glass of beer sitting on a wood coaster with a half orange slice hanging on glass. In the background is a sign titled "Craft Beer."

Home to many bars and breweries, Grand Rapids is known as the Beer City in the United States. It features the Beer City Ale Trail which includes over seventy-five different breweries. This means that there is more craft beer each square mile in Grand Rapids than any other place on Earth.

Making it a fun day activity for friends and family to do together or a great way to celebrate your twenty-first birthday. 

#10 Drinkable Tap Water

Grand Rapids is one of the few cities in Michigan where you can drink tap water. A lot of the state tends to struggle when it comes to providing residents with clean drinking water. However, all of the water here is regularly tested and passed the required standards as outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

While it may seem like a small item to consider, it is important information to know. Especially if you enjoy using reusable water bottles and can not find a refill station nearby. 

#11 Consistently Ranked 

Year after year, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan is ranked as one of the 125 Best Places to Live in the United States by the US News & World Report. Typically, the city falls within the top twenty-five cities on the list, with it reaching thirteenth place one year.

This report factors in crime rates, employment opportunities, weather conditions, activities, and more to ensure that their list is as accurate as possible. They also ask current residents about the city, so even those who live there seem to agree.

The Negatives of Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan – Cons

#12 Intense Seasons

A picture of Rosa Parks downtown Grand Rapids in the winter. Lots of Christmas lights on the trees and snow covered ground. People skating on the ice rink.

If you are not a fan of the snow, Grand Rapids may not be the city for you. Year after year they experience cold, long, and at times harsh winters. Snow activities such as ice fishing, snowboarding, skiing, and more are quite popular here for those exact reasons.

Summer is another intense season for the city, as it tends to experience hot and humid weather during those months. It seems to switch from one extreme to another in this city making the weather quite unpredictable from day-to-day.

#13 Rain & Flooding

While there is no need to worry about natural disasters happening regularly here, flooding does occur frequently. The city receives close to forty inches of rainfall each year, which can cause nearby creeks and rivers to overflow. As well streets and commercial areas can experience flooding if the rain cannot properly runoff or drain into the ground. 

Rivers in the area can reach water heights of twenty-two feet when full. Melting snow can also cause areas to flood depending on how quickly it melts and the terrain of the land. Items such as tornados and intense rainfall are things to keep an eye out for as well.

#14 Crime Rates

Statistics show that Grand Rapids experiences crime rates above the national and Michigan average. When you compare this cities rates to a national scale it is still quite safe. However, once compared to other cities in Michigan alone, it ranks second for crime rates. 

The most popular types of crimes that occur seem to be property crimes and violent crimes. So, investing in a security system or guard dog may not be a bad option. 

#15 High Rent

Thanks to an average cost of living and stable economy over half of the city’s residents can own their own homes. However, the other forty percent or so of residents who do not own their own homes tend to experience higher rental prices. It can cost someone between $700 to $800 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. 

While these prices are on the steeper side, some areas are known to offer more affordable prices. They just require more time and research to find since they are in such high demand. 

#16 Non-Grid Based Streets

If you do drive you may have some difficulties navigating around the city, specifically downtown. Since the city was built around the Grand River not everything especially roads make complete sense. 

Half of the roads follow a typical grid system allowing you to get around and easily navigate the city. However other streets go around the river and have dead ends to them. It can be difficult to reach your final destination if you do not know the city well or look up directions ahead of time.

#17 Lack of Diversity 

Each census has shown a lack of diversity when it comes to cultures and ethnicities in Grand Rapids. Over half of the population identifies as being White with no Hispanic association. In turn, there are not many different types of cuisines or cultural experiences offered in the city.

So, if you are a foodie who enjoys different cuisine and cultures then Grand Rapids, Michigan may not be the city for you when it comes to food.

#18 Dense Population

As expected from the second largest city in Michigan with a population of nearly 200,000 people, there are population issues. Between the attractions, job opportunities, companies located in the city, and more there is a decent number of people living here. 

This means that houses tend to be closer together, restaurants and bars tend to be busy, and there are more people per capita. So, if you are looking to have a spacious backyard the inner city or downtown area would not be ideal, especially for families who want more space.

#19 Tourism

While tourism is a big plus for local businesses it can be a major con for everyday residents. Between the different festivals, events, and having Lake Michigan so close by there are always tourists around. 

This means that locals must deal with busier traffic, longer wait times at restaurants, beaches, and rivers being packed with people, and more. So, while tourism helps boost the local economy it can also be a hindrance to the locals who live there year-round. It can be a bit bothersome to have to wait longer for your food or to find a good space at the beach because tourists are everywhere.

#20 Left-Hand Turns

While it may seem crazy to some, those who live in Grand Rapids, Michigan execute U-turns differently than other people do. They first turn to the right before making a U-turn in the opposite direction. Which is completely normal for the area and happens throughout the state as well.

It may not be a deal-breaker for most and it is certainly something you can easily get used to, but it can cause some confusion for those who are new to the area and do not understand what’s happening. 

Final Thoughts on Grand Rapids, Michigan

When it comes to economic stability and having steady work Grand Rapids is the place to be. With low unemployment rates and versatility in their job market, it is relatively easy to find a job that can allow you to live comfortably in the city. 

There are always events and activities available, whether it’s visiting local breweries or trying a wet burrito for the first time. The city has its unique twists and opportunities for people to enjoy. 

If you are uncomfortable driving when needed or prefer having your own space to enjoy when needed, then Grand Rapids may not be the best fit for you. Between streets that do not follow a grid pattern and left-hand turns driving downtown may be a hassle for some. Or overpopulation may be an issue for families who enjoy having more space in general.

Overall, Grand Rapids, Michigan has a ton of pros and cons that may encourage someone to want to live there or avoid it altogether. It comes down to everyone’s personal preference and what needs they have.  

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