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6 Best Places to Live in Michigan, 2021

By: Susan Finch
August 13, 2021

Michigan’s location along four of the five Great Lakes split the state into an Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. The state boasts a long history with the automobile industry, agriculture, and education against a mix of urban skyscrapers and lush greenspace. No matter where you live in Michigan, you're just 85 miles from a Great Lake and the second-largest coastline in the country.

Not sure where to start? We found the best places to live in Michigan for your next move.

1. Detroit

  • Population: 670,031
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $927
  • Median Household Income: $30,894
  • Walk Score: 53
  • Transit Score: 39
  • Bike Score: 55

Detroit, Michigan, was founded in 1701 by a French fur trader that built a fort on the river and named it Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit. It was later renamed Detroit, which means "strait" in French. Detroit's location has been a desirable hub for its proximity on the Detroit River and four major straits that connect the Great Lakes to the Saint Lawrence Seaway. It's also the largest US city along the United States-Canada border.

Detroit is the birthplace of the automotive industry and still produces more cars and trucks than any other state. General Motors, Ford, and Stellaris North America all hold headquarters in Metro Detroit. Despite holding the title as the "Richest City in the World" during the 1950s, Detroit's auto industry declined, and the city’s unemployment rate is still higher than the rest of the country.

Wages are also often lower in Detroit, but so is the cost of living, which could make city living worth it. Living in Detroit could be a desirable spot for remote workers, creatives, students, and anyone looking to live in the best neighborhoods in Detroit with reasonable rents.

Detroit's roots in Motown Music give it a unique beat and history, welcoming locals and newcomers. The Motown Museum is a must-see, and there are plenty of pubs and clubs with live music. Several 20th-century auto barons founded the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Fox Theatre features Broadway-caliber shows.

Despite its reputation for urban grit, Detroit also offers some spectacular outdoor space and views. The Detroit Riverfront welcomes steamboats and ocean liners traveling to Canada and Windsor. For an outdoor snack, the Eastern Market offers local, farm-fresh produce with baked goods and treats. Belle Isle Park is situated between Canada and the US with stunning gardens, beaches, lagoons, and a nature center with views of our neighbors to the north.

2. Grand Rapids

  • Population: 201,013
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,231
  • Median Household Income: $50,103
  • Walk Score: 57
  • Transit Score: 40
  • Bike Score: 53

Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in Michigan next to Detroit. The area's earliest settlers were Native Americans who built earthen mounds, some of which are still intact today. A fur-trading post was established in 1806 by French-Canadian settlers and grew into a small village. When Gypsum manufacturing was established in 1841, it shipped out plaster around the world. As Grand Rapids flourished as a lumbering center in the 19th century, it became known as “Furniture City.”

Grand Rapids is celebrated as a cornerstone of the furniture manufacturing industry and attracts millennials and college grads looking for new jobs. Some of the world's leading office furniture companies are headquartered in Grand Rapids. Aside from the furniture industry, Grand Rapids also offers employment in healthcare, grocery, consumer goods, technology, automotive, and education.

Families also settle into Grand Rapids for the highly-regarded public schools and quiet vibe. College students have their choice of higher education at Grand Valley State University, Calvin University, and Aquinas College.

The establishment of a brewery in the mid-1800s solidified Grand Rapids as "Beer City," with breweries peppering the metro area. Locals still have access to local brews and pubs. Downtown Grand Rapids is also home to shopping, restaurants, and cultural stops like the Grand Rapids Art Museum with local artists and rotating exhibits.

Michigan is awash in forest, greenspace, and trails, and the Grand Rapids metro area is no exception. The Blandford Nature Center features 264 acres of nature and six miles of trails and paths. Locals also have their choice of golf courses, fishing streams, rivers, biking, and hiking. It's easy to see why Grand Rapids is among the most popular fishing cities in the country. Locals fish along the Grand River, and there are even nearby beaches along Lake Michigan's shorelines.

3. Warren

  • Population: 133,943
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,016
  • Median Household Income: $122,300
  • Walk Score: 43
  • Bike Score: 46

Warren, Michigan, was once a tiny village that was incorporated in 1893. It maintained a rural and quiet vibe until the area was linked to the Detroit metropolis by streetcar and rail in 1904. By 1957, the area expanded and consolidated the village and township together.

Warren's slogan, "Small Town Lifestyle, Big City Commerce," draws Millenials and families looking for opportunities in a laid-back neighborhood. The area embraces its tight-knit community and community sports programs. Major employers around Warren include General Motors Technical Center and US Army technical and research facilities. Detroit is also just 15 miles away for more job opportunities and urban amenities.

Warren isn't plentiful with urban amenities or attractions but does offer worthwhile stops. The stately Ford House features a lakeside property with tours, gardens, classes, and waterfront dining. The nearby Detroit Zoo features North America's most significant polar bear habitats, home to arctic foxes, interactive exhibits, and a pedestrian tunnel taking visitors next to swimming polar bears and to an ice cave.

Locals reconnect with nature at the 37-acre Red Oaks Nature Center and outdoor nature programs. A 1.3-mile paved trail offers hiking, biking, and strolls along with native plants and foliage. To bring the outdoors in during cold winter months, families spend the afternoon at the Warren Community Centre Indoor Waterpark with slides, plunge pools, and an on-site gym.

4. Sterling Heights

  • Population: 132,438
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,072
  • Median Household Income: $187,600
  • Walk Score: 32
  • Bike Score: 40

Until the 1950s, Sterling Heights was an agricultural town focused on growing rhubarb and other crops sold around Detroit. Over the decades, it attracted many immigrants from European origins and displaced Iraqis during the US-Iraq War. The city was finally incorporated in 1968 and grew into a Detroit suburb. Sterling Heights is the second-largest suburb in Detroit and it ranks as the fourth-largest city in Michigan.

Sterling Heights is also ranked as one of the safest cities in Michigan, attracting families looking for quality schools, as well as millennials growing their careers. Top employers around Sterling Heights include automotive assembly and manufacturing, defense manufacturing, and automotive plastics, among other industries.

Locals make the 36-mile drive into Detroit for cultural stops and urban amenities. But a handful of attractions around Sterling Heights include the GM Heritage Center, which showcases the vehicles of the GM Heritage Collection and artifacts representing the automobile company. The Sterling Heights Nature Center features a 900-gallon aquarium with fish found in local lakes and rivers, reptiles, amphibians, and a nature walk in an adjoining park for a nature-inspired stop.

5. Lansing

  • Population: 118,210
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $912
  • Median Household Income: $41,674
  • Walk Score: 43
  • Transit Score: 34
  • Bike Score: 59

Lansing is the capital city of Michigan and boasts a historic state capitol building dating back to the 1870s. A British fur trader and his team discovered the area in 1790 while canoeing the Grand River. By 1847, the settlement site had 20 people, and the previous capital was set to move from Detroit to a safer, more central location.

Lansing is the birthplace of the Oldsmobile and Michigan automotive industry, which continues to employ locals. Other significant industries include government, education, insurance, and healthcare. Government attracts state workers to Lansing and recent grads looking to grow their careers. Michigan State University and private higher-education institutions offer opportunities to explore opportunities.

For a tour of Lansing's history and government, the Michigan State Capitol opens its doors to over 115,000 people a year. The Michigan History Museum, MSU Museum, and Lansing Art & Gallery also offer a mix of cultural and historical exhibits.

Like much of Michigan, outdoor stops in Lansing are gems in the city. The intimate, 20-acre Potter Park Zoo is home to 500 animals, including endangered species, situated within a more extensive 80-acre park. The Fenner Nature Center features interactive programs, trails, and wildlife. The W.J. Beal Botanical Garden features a large 19th-century educational garden and a scenic lake and park attracting visitors to Lake Lansing.

6. Ann Arbor

  • Population: 119,980
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,823
  • Median Household Income: $65,745
  • Walk Score: 50
  • Transit Score: 48
  • Bike Score: 69

Ann Arbor, Michigan was founded in 1825 by land speculators and named for their wives, who were both called Ann. After vying for a shot at housing the state capital and losing their bid, the city became home to the historic University of Michigan in 1837. The arrival of the Michigan Central Railroad also attracted settlers to the area and saw an explosion in growth and new immigration. During the 1960s and 1970s, the city became an integral location for liberal politics and activism with a countercultural vibe.

Ann Arbor welcomes Millenials with open arms and ranks high for family-friendliness and quality schools. Research and development, data security, IT and software platforms, and artificial intelligence development are all key industries and markets in the city. College students attend the University of Michigan, which is known for its research programs.

The historical and cultural attractions in Ann Arbor are framed in tree-lined streets. The University of Magician's campus offers tours, fine museums, and facilities with surrounding shops and eateries. Ann Arbor is also a college football town with its crowning University of Michigan Stadium, nicknamed "The Big House." The oversized stadium is among the biggest in the US and third-largest in the world.

For a cultural stop, the University of Michigan of Art is among the finest university museums in the US and boasts a unique collection of Asian art. The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History shows off the latest scientific research, exhibits, and dinosaur displays.

Locals reconnect with nature at the 300-acre Matthaei Botanical Gardens, which showcases outdoor displays, nature trails, and formal gardens with a conservatory. The Nichols Arboretum is filled with paths and picking spots for a lazy afternoon reprieve.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to In Michigan?

Michigan is filled with natural beauty, urban amenities, and plenty of cultural stops. Whether you want to live in the heart of Detroit in a high-rise condo or an idyllic suburb in a quiet apartment, you can find what you're looking for in the Wolverine State. Ready to make a move to Michigan? Sign up for Apartment list to find the best places to live in Michigan.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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