Thinking of moving to Grand Rapids? Here’s what you need to know.
Grand Rapids has hit its stride in the last few years, and the national media has caught on. In 2014 it was named #1 U.S. Travel Destination by Lonely Planet, a Top 14 Destination for Your 2014 Travel Bucket List by Huffington Post, and Best Beer Town by USA Today and 10Best. The low cost of living, good public transportation and community atmosphere round out the lengthy list of attractive qualities for residents.
The more than 1 million inhabitants of the metropolitan area work in a variety of industries, however the area’s heyday in logging and furniture production can still be felt. After WWII, the office furniture sector blossomed and has remained an important part of the economy. The area is also a major producer of automotive parts, industrial machinery, plastics and chemicals. There are two major medical centers in the region. Spectrum Health System has 23,000 employees and 1,300 physicians, many of whom are in Grand Rapids; it’s been ranked among the top hospitals in the country. And St. Mary’s Health Care opened a $42 million cancer center in 2005.
The city, located 30 miles from Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast, is divided into nine neighborhoods. The walkable downtown district sits along the Grand River and is filled with more than 100 restaurants. Heritage Hill, a five-minute walk from downtown, has 1,300 buildings dating to 1844. A little further to the east, Uptown is home to specialty shops and boutiques, while the East Side is a family-friendly suburb. To the north, the Medical Mile and North Quarter feature new residential and retail developments and the city’s largest park. And the West Side has an eclectic mix of the old character of the city and new businesses.
What Do You Do?
Among the 40-plus craft breweries in Grand Rapids are the nationally acclaimed Founders and HopCat breweries. The Food Trail Map is a culinary exploration that includes the restaurants, food vendors and farmers’ market of downtown. The cultural highlight of Grand Rapids is ArtPrize, a 19-day civic project that invites attendees to vote on more than a thousand works at over 100 venues.