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Best Places to Live in Michigan

Whether you’re looking for a rural retreat or big city life, you’ll find it in the Great Lakes State.

Michigan is surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes: Superior, Erie, Huron and Michigan. (Poor little Lake Ontario got left out of the Michigan party.) The lakes divide Michigan into two land masses: the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula.

Since the Lower Peninsula looks like a mitten, Michiganders sometimes hold out their hand and point to places as a substitute for a Michigan map. So, if you look near the base of Michigan’s thumb, you’ll see Detroit—Michigan’s largest city and home to America’s automobile industry. The thumb also touches Canada. (Michigan shares a 721-mile border with Ontario.)

Michigan has all four seasons, though winters can be brutal in some places—we’re talking snow by the foot. But since the state is surrounded by water, you’re never far from a beach, fishing or other outdoor activities.

But before you pack your bags, here’s a list of the nine best places to live in Michigan.

Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is like that cool cousin you never knew you had in the Midwest. It’s a hidden gem in southwestern Michigan. Whether you love art, craft beer, nature, great food, outdoor sports—or all of the above—you’ll find it in Grand Rapids.

The city’s namesake, the Grand River, runs through downtown, but you won’t see any rapids because flood walls now calm the river.

Grand Rapid’s biggest employers include Meijer, a regional chain retailer that’s based in the city, and Spectrum Health, a large health care provider.

Grand Rapids has more breweries than you can shake a pint glass at, but if beer isn’t your thing, you’ll find plenty of local restaurants, from farm-to-table to international cuisine.

ArtPrize, one of the world’s most visited public art events, is held every fall in Grand Rapids, just in time to enjoy the fall colors. And speaking of seasons, Grand Rapids has outdoor activities for every season: boating on the river, hiking at Aman Park, and skiing at nearby Cannonsburg Ski Area.

Grand Rapids also ranks as a best place for retirees because of its lower cost of living and access to health care. 

Metro Area Population*: 196,9041

Median Household Income: $65,6602

Average Monthly Rent: $1,4373

Median Home Price: $399,9004

Average Annual Rainfall: 39 inches5

*Each data point refers to the city itself except when called out as metro. Metro numbers include the city and the surrounding urban and suburban areas.

 

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Holland

Holland is a quaint little town about 45 minutes from Grand Rapids along the shores of Lake Michigan. The city has five public beaches where you can relax, swim or boat. Oval Beach is known for its beautiful sand dunes.

Voted one of America’s Prettiest Towns by Forbes Magazine, Holland is known for its "Big Red" lighthouse, which was built in 1870 along the Holland Channel.

Staying true to its Dutch roots, Holland’s Windmill Island Gardens is home to the only authentic, operating windmill in the United States. How cool is that? Downtown Holland has cobblestone sidewalks and over 100 shops, breweries and restaurants. In the spring, the city bursts with color during the annual Tulip Time Festival.

Holland’s top employers include the Bank of Scotland and Haworth International, an office furniture manufacturer.

Metro Area Population*: 34,0676

Median Household Income: $63,8537

Average Monthly Rent: $1,4138

Median Home Price: $433,4509

Average Annual Rainfall: 35 inches10

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is a little bit of everything: a college town, a foodie’s paradise, a tech hub, and a city with a vibrant arts and music scene. The Ann Arbor Art Fair in the city’s walkable downtown is one of the largest in the nation. You’ll also finds lots of local restaurants downtown—including Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, home of the five-patty quint burger.

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Located in southeast Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Ann Arbor (sometimes called A2 by residents) is home to the University of Michigan Wolverines. The university also is the city’s biggest employer.

And there’s no lack of outdoor activities—with parks, hiking trails and the Huron River. All this makes Ann Arbor one of the best cities in the country to retire.

Metro Area Population*: 119,87111

Median Household Income: $78,74012

Average Monthly Rent: $1,98013

Median Home Price: $499,13914

Average Annual Rainfall: 39 inches15

Traverse City

Located in northern Michigan, Traverse City is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to freshwater beaches, high bluffs overlooking crystal clear Lake Michigan, and miles of hiking trails. And things don’t slow down in winter, because Traverse City also has several ski resorts.

Traverse City is known as the Cherry Capital of the World, and every summer, the city hosts the eight-day National Cherry Festival with over 100 events for people of all ages. More than 500,000 people attend the Cherry Festival each year.

But cherries aren’t all Traverse City has to offer. It also produces world-class grapes—and is home to 40 wineries. And when residents aren’t eating or celebrating cherries, many work in the health care and education industries.

Metro Area Population*: 15,26316

Median Household Income: $64,03317

Average Monthly Rent: $1,94518

Median Home Price: $495,00019

Average Annual Rainfall: 39 inches20

Marquette

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is truly God’s country. You might not have the best cell service in some places, but the views are definitely worth it.

Marquette is the biggest city in the Upper Peninsula—at a whopping 20,000 and change. Nestled along the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette has plenty of hiking, biking and water sports when it’s warm—and snowmobiling and skiing in the winter. Presque Isle Park is a forested peninsula that offers amazing views of Lake Superior.

As home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette has college town vibes, with lots of things to do on weekends. The university also is one of the city’s largest employers.

The historic downtown is a great place to get a bite to eat and a beer at one of several breweries (Blackrocks Brewery is a local favorite).

Metro Area Population*: 20,56121

Median Household Income: $47,17922

Average Monthly Rent: $1,40623

Median Home Price: $296,72524

Average Annual Rainfall: 30 inches25

Lansing

Lansing is right in the palm of the Michigan hand map. As the capital of Michigan, Lansing is home to the State Capitol Building, which has an impressive cast-iron dome. Incidentally, state government is Lansing’s biggest employer—followed closely by Michigan State University.26

Lansing isn’t close to a Great Lake, but it has lots of land activities—like Potter Park Zoo (with 500-plus animals) and the Michigan History Museum. Old Town Lansing, a trendy part of downtown Lansing, is great for a stroll to check out boutiques and local restaurants.

Metro Area Population*: 112,96327

Median Household Income: $48,96228

Average Monthly Rent: $1,12129

Median Home Price: $249,90030

Average Annual Rainfall: 33 inches31

Okemos

Okemos offers suburban living just a short trip from the big city (it’s about 10 miles from Lansing). Named after Chief John Okemos of the Chippewa Tribe, Okemos is part of the Lansing-East Lansing metro area.

Okemos is close to the Michigan State University campus, and its public school system is rated among the best in the state.32 So if you’re looking for a job, you’ll find lots in the education field.

The city has plenty of parks and outdoor activities. Harris Nature Center, with its 200 acres of forests and meadows along the Red Cedar River, is a great spot to learn about wildlife and hike. The Meridian Historical Village is another must-see, with its collection of restored 19th century buildings.

Metro Area Population*: 25,17933

Median Household Income: $83,01934

Average Monthly Rent: $1,30435

Median Home Price: $472,72536

Average Annual Rainfall: 33 inches37

Rochester Hills

If you want a family-friendly city, look no further than Rochester Hills with its top-notch schools, golf courses and beautiful parks. Rochester Hills is a suburb of Detroit, so if you want to head to the city, it’s about a 30-minute drive. Because of this, many Rochester Hills residents work in the automotive industry.

Your cares will melt away as you walk on the boardwalk along the Clinton River at Innovation Hills Park. And when it’s time for some retail therapy, check out The Village of Rochester Hills, an outdoor shopping and dining destination set up like a little downtown.

Metro Area Population*: 75,94738

Median Household Income: $107,13739

Average Monthly Rent: $1,54940

Median Home Price: $648,53941

Average Annual Rainfall: 35 inches42

Troy

With Troy, you get the best of both worlds: suburban living and easy access to a big city. Troy is about 20 miles north of Detroit, and it’s family-friendly with low crime and highly rated public schools. Many people who live in Troy work in some part of the automotive industry.

Troy has lots of restaurants, coffee shops and parks. The Stage Nature Center is a picture-perfect place to go for a hike. And if you like to shop while you hike, the Somerset Collection mall has just about every store imaginable across its three levels.

Metro Area Population*: 87,18243

Median Household Income: $109,44444

Average Monthly Rent: $1,55545

Median Home Price: $475,62746

Average Annual Rainfall: 35 inches47

Ready to Move to Michigan?

If you’re ready to pack up and head north to Michigan, finding a local real estate agent is a must.

Why? Because an agent who really knows the area will help you find the right house and keep things moving smoothly even if you’re out of state.

For a fast and easy way to find top-notch Michigan agents, try our RamseyTrusted program. The real estate pros we recommend will serve you with excellence and make sure you wind up in a home that’s a good fit for you and your family.

Connect with a RamseyTrusted agent today.

 

Next Steps

  • Decide where you want to live next.
  • Interview at least three local agents.
  • Choose which one’s right for you and start your moving journey.
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