Grand Rapids vs Detroit | Where would you rather live?

Grand Rapids vs Detroit? Are you curious about the differences in living in Grand Rapids, Michigan versus Detroit, Michigan? Well, we’re going to break down the two most iconic cities in the state of Michigan, Grand Rapids and Detroit. 

Location and Populations

Grand Rapids and Detroit are the two largest cities in Michigan. Detroit is actually three times larger than Grand Rapids in both land size and population. Detroit is roughly 600,000 people, whereas the city of Grand Rapids is roughly 200,000 people. Now, obviously, both have larger metropolitan areas, but those are the populations of the cities themselves.

Grand Rapids is in West Michigan and roughly three hours north of Chicago. We’re 30 minutes east of the Lakeshore, with a vibrant community, and the Grand River flowing right through the downtown area. Detroit is roughly two and a half hours east of Grand Rapids on the other side of the state in southeast Michigan, surrounded by water, nestled into this great lake region by Lake Huron, lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, and the Detroit River running through. Also important to note is that Detroit is one of the gateways to Canada from the state of Michigan.

Businesses in Detroit vs Grand Rapids

What are these communities known for from a business perspective? Obviously, Detroit is certainly known as the motor city capital of the world. For over a century, the likes of Ford and General Motors have taken over the city and been a massive part of that community. As of late, right downtown Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage has made a huge presence, but Detroit is really the auto capital of the world.

Moving over to Grand Rapids, you have what is often referred to as the furniture capital of the world. Grand Rapids has always been known as a manufacturing furniture community with Steelcase and Herman Miller. So much of the office furniture in any office space likely comes from West Michigan. Also, Grand Rapids has a thriving healthcare community with Corewell Health and many other medical facilities in the area. Those are only some of the bigger businesses in both Detroit and Grand Rapids and what the businesses are known for in these communities. We did a podcast episode on big employers in West Michigan if you’re looking for some more Grand Rapids companies.

Recreational Opportunities in Grand Rapids vs Detroit

Moving into some recreational activities in these two cities, we have to touch on the fact that Grand Rapids is known actually as Beer City, USA. Grand Rapids has more microbreweries and breweries per capita than any other place in the world. If you want to walk around downtown, you can hop into any one of the many breweries and grab a beer. Grand Rapids also has a thriving art scene with Frederik Meijer Gardens, an amazing sculpture park, and ArtPrize happening every fall that brings millions of people into the community. There are also many parks and recreational outdoor activities to do in West Michigan, even being this close to the Lakeshore.

When it comes to Detroit, you’ll find an amazing sports scene. If we’re talking recreational activities, when you think of Detroit, you’re probably going to think of all of the sports teams in Detroit. You can go catch a Red Wings game, a Pistons game, a Lions game, or a Tigers game. With Grand Rapids, you’ll find a lot of arts and entertainment, whereas Detroit is going to be a little bit more of that sports and entertainment.

Cost of Living between the two cities

When we start thinking about the cost of living in both communities, statistics tell us that Grand Rapids is actually a more affordable place to live as far as housing, transportation, food, groceries, etc. Grand Rapids has always had a good balance of affordable cost of living. Over the years, Detroit has been known for having this resurgence in the downtown community, which has made it a little bit more expensive than the Grand Rapids community, but it’s fairly close. The cost of living in both communities is going to be very similar with Grand Rapids being a little bit more affordable than Detroit.

Educational Opportunities

As we talk schools, over the last couple of years, Detroit has made great strides in its educational offerings with its traditional schools and charter schools. Grand Rapids has always been known for having very solid schools from both a public and a private side. There are many options, but as with anything when researching both communities, you want to dig deep into what school options might make the most sense for you and your family, but there are certainly going to be great options in both communities.

Housing in Grand Rapids vs Detroit

Last but not least, we can’t fail to mention housing options in Grand Rapids versus Detroit. As far as Detroit goes, we’ve seen the redevelopment of a lot of the historical buildings so there are going to be options for housing in some amazing buildings that have been renovated in the downtown area. There’s also a lot of new development that’s been taking place in the city of Detroit leading to plenty of options as far as historical, unique condos, and still plenty of single-family housing.

In Grand Rapids, you will find a really good mix of housing from single-family to downtown condos. There’s the historical Heritage Hill community with many of these single-family homes boasting a ton of character and built in the late 1800s or early 1900s. If you want to be right in the downtown district, there are plenty of options for condo living, including some loft-style condos, the old furniture warehouses, and some of the newer, luxurious, condo developments like River House, for example. As you can see, there are plenty of housing options in both communities to fit your lifestyle and needs.

In the end, whether you’re drawn toward the innovative spirit of Grand Rapids or the revitalized energy of Detroit, both cities have a lot to offer. If you have any questions or are considering a move to the greater Grand Rapids area, certainly connect with our team and we’re happy to show you around the city that we call home.