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Things You Should Know Before Moving to Grand Rapids, MI

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Located on the Grand River and 25 miles from Lake Michigan, living on the water is a obviously a way of life for locals here.

Being so close to one of the Great Lakes, Grand Rapids is a gorgeous area to settle down in, with business, education and recreation readily available to family members of all ages. Born and raised in the region, U.S. President Gerald Ford fared well in the community, leaving town to later become one of the most powerful leaders in the free world.

With so much history to tell and future to embark on, the Michigan town, located in Kent County, could be the perfect place for you and your family. Take a moment to read this guide and see if Grand Rapids is the region you would like to call home.

Grand Rapids Climate

With sudden lake effect snowstorms, winters call for boats, hats, gloves and shovels, with up to 75-inches of snow falling annually. On the contrary, summer heat waves call for swim suits and lawn sprinklers, with temperatures recorded as high as 108 degrees. However, the summer usually averages 11 days a year that exceed 90 degrees and winter averages 9 days a year that drop below zero.

Mild autumn and spring seasons average around 45 degrees in March and November and a low of 26 to 32 degrees in the same months. With 38-inches of rainfall during 145 days of the year, locals keep an umbrella close so they remain dry during their travels. If you relocate to the region, seasonal changes in your new town can cause slight sickness if you are not properly clothed or covered when it is cold and rainy. Make sure to have all of your weather gear ready to wear at any moment.

Grand Rapids Neighborhoods

With Heritage Hill, one of the biggest historic districts in the nation, making up Grand Rapids neighborhoods, locals tout pastime provincial beauty with age old edifices that date back to 1848. Unlike the quiet and quaint historic neighborhood, downtown Grand Rapids boasts a more active and diverse zone.

From affordable apartments to luxurious lofts, locals in the city center hang around contemporary commercial and residential properties built close together. With so much business in the area, residents live, work and school downtown, creating a constant hustle and bustle within the borders.

Other neighborhoods that lay within the 44 square mile town are Alger Heights, East Hills, Fuller Avenue, John Ball Park, Millbrook, Oakdale and West Grand. Along with dozens of other subdivisions, Grand Rapids has become a region of diversity and distinction that sets it apart from other Michigan towns.

Registering Your Car

The Michigan Division of Motor Vehicles is your one stop shop for a new license, registration and tags. To transfer your driver's license, you will need proof of identity and residence, your Social Security card, valid Michigan auto insurance, and you will have to pass both a vision test and knowledge test.

To transfer your registration, you will need proof of state auto insurance, proof of identification and your car's title. The average fee for a license is $25 and the cost of registration and plates can run $20 and up depending on whether or not you choose special tags.

Grand Rapids Schools

Grand Rapid Public Schools is diverse to say the least. Representing 70 different countries and speaking 49 different languages, the 17,000 student population includes children of all ages and cultures. With 1,400 educators in the system, there is a strong student to teacher ratio, with each child receiving an excellent one on one education.

With more than two dozen elementary and K-8 sites and 7 high schools, the system is made up of many different buildings placed all around Grand Rapids, making it convenient for many students to walk to school. Like public schools, there are many private schools in the district with one of the nation's oldest institutions at Catholic Central High School.

After senior year, local students can attend any one of the area's four-year colleges, including Cornerstone University, Calvin College and Aquinas College. If young adults or older adults are looking for a two-year education, Grand Rapids Community College is conveniently close.

Grand Rapids Employment

Spectrum Health is the largest employer in West Michigan. More than 16,000 employees frequent the Grand Rapids facility daily, with 1,500 physicians treating thousands of patients a year. Along with healthcare, the furniture, automobile and manufacturing industry employs locals.

Some top employers in the area include Amway, Bissell, Highlight Industries, Wolverine World Wide and Schuler Books & Music. But one of the biggest businesses that creates jobs is the Christian literature publishing giant Zondervan. While so many residents make their living inside, many locals bring home the bacon by working the fields.

So close to Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids produces prime for the picking fruit, including peaches, apples and blueberries. Though the area has a 8.8 percent unemployment rate, there are plenty of jobs available for new residents who are looking to relocate. The best way to land a new career in the city is by checking out the local classifieds and contacting area staffing agencies.

Living Costs in the City

Reporting a $49,126 median family income and $81,275 median home price, CNN Money stats show a 4.35 percent state income tax rate. After you balance all the numbers, the Grand Rapids cost of living averages 5.6 percent less than the state and 10.4 percent less than the nation.

As noted, if you secure a job in the Lake Michigan area, you are sure to come out ahead in your monthly bills, even saving money if you are frugal. To make sure you start off with a savings account when you first move to the city, create a moving budget that will help you manage your money during the transition to your new town.

Grand Rapids Moving Resources

Moving and storage companies are ready and willing to help you with your move to Grand Rapids, whether you're moving from out of state or from another county in Michigan. Make sure you get estimates from multiple moving services before you commit to hiring any (at least three estimates). Check back to our guides for tips on how to choose your moving service wisely with important questions to ask, differentiating between types of estimates, and mistakes to avoid. Visit the following pages at to get quotes for the following services:

Grand Rapids Transportation

Many major highways make it easy for motorists to move around the metropolis. I-196 and I-296 are two of the most popular roadways and U.S. 131, the downtown business loop, is also highly frequented. If you live far from Grand Rapids and decide to relocate to the region, look into the different ways to ship your automobile in an effort to save mileage on your car.

If you prefer letting someone else drive you around then you will ride the Rapid, the Interurban Transit Partnership public transportation agency that serves Grand Rapid. With so many routes and reasonable fairs, you can get where ever you need to go in the city for a low cost. If you need to go a further distance, it will cost you more when you fly out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport. However, the local landing strip makes it convenient to fly from Michigan to all other areas in the world.

Culture & Contemporary Life

With so much water, Conde Nast Traveler named the Lake Michigan shoreline one of the 25 best in the world. Needless to say, the ranking draws thousands of visitors and residents alike to the area. Water sports are popular among locals, who love to enjoy their time in one of the Great Lakes. With a number of popular performance venues, seeing top singing artists and Broadway productions is one of the finer things to do.

When locals feel like having less formal fun, they let it all hang out when they attend a single A baseball game to cheer the West Michigan Whitecaps on. For hockey, locals root for the Grand Rapids Griffins at the famous Van Andel Arena. And if residents feel like sweating themselves, many run the Grand Rapids Marathon, held downtown each year in October. One of the best ways to connect with the local culture if you move to the region is to get to know the neighbors and ask them about the area activities they enjoy. Hosting a move-in party is a great way to meet your neighbors, who may very well turn out to friends for life.

Grand Rapids Relocation Tips

  • The Grand Rapid Press
    Find out about the area by reading the local newspaper online. The source can tell you so much about the area from legislation you need to know to community-wide events you and your family can attend.


  • Experience Grand Rapids
    Visit the Michigan metropolis and check it out for yourself. Plan a long weekend and frequent area attractions along with local businesses and schools.


  • Kent County
    Find out about the larger region Grand Rapids resides in. There is no better way to find out about the town than by knowing what goes on directly outside its borders.

Staff Writer  Posted by Staff Writer on May 13, 2013

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