50 Grand Rapids

PopulationMetro: 1,059,113
A cool urbanism runs through this Michigan city’s deep sense of place.

Sure, it gets cold in Grand Rapids, which ranks a dismal #47 for Weather, but that doesn’t keep residents of Michigan’s laid-back second city from living all four seasons outdoors.

That might mean paddling along the state’s longest river, taking in ArtPrize (the annual international art competition, with $200,000 at stake), sampling brews at the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival—or simply enjoying life in the growing city that retains its small town feel.

Locals insist that you can’t miss the stunning Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, a sprawling complex of botanical treasures accented by the work of international artists. But that’s not the only celebration of creativity in this cultured city. Architecture buffs will want to schedule a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House, and the enormous Alexander Calder statue outside City Hall can also be found on the city’s official logo.

CITY PERFORMANCE
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Place 41
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Product 6
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Programming 4
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People 29
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Prosperity 30
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Promotion 3

Once the office furniture capital of America, the Grand Rapids metro is still home to Steelcase and Henry Miller, but its diversified economy also relies on healthcare, education and a growing tech sector. The region hosts four Fortune 500s, along with Amway and regional grocery chain Meijer, the origins of family fortunes that fund much of the city’s philanthropic endeavors. Beer is also a growing sector, with hometown Founders regularly named one of the nation’s best craft breweries.

Grand Rapids is clean, friendly and safe (with a stellar #6 ranking Crime), making it a prime spot to raise a family. Kids can romp through some 1,200 acres of parks, as their parents enjoy the option of cycling to work along one of the city’s many trails, even if it’s just for Active Commute Week, which sees residents ditching their cars for bikes, kayaks and other human-powered modes.