How Safe Is Grand Rapids for Travel?

Grand Rapids, United States
Safety Index:
73

You’ll find a lot of things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but you won’t find one very particular thing – rapids.

The city got its name from a series of rapids that once filled the river but have since gone quiet after dams were installed on the Grand River.

Grand Rapids has been known for many industries over the years, from a furniture-making focal point to a retail headquarters.

As time passed, those industries faded away, and now the medical community makes up the largest employee base.

This is also the hometown of President Gerald Ford, and you’ll find several attractions with his name on them.

The city is known for its vibrant beer and craft beverage scene, receiving several national awards and recognitions.

A Beer City Ale Trail helps tourists sample brews from up to 40 breweries.

Winters can be brutal in Grand Rapids, with three months having a temperature average at or below freezing.

While this might slow some cities down, Grand Rapids still stays vibrant into the winter months.

People generally describe a location in Michigan as where it would be located on a hand.

If you look at the outline of the state, it looks somewhat like a hand, with the thumb on the east side.

By that account, Grand Rapids is located on the knuckle below the pinkie and less than an hour from Lake Michigan to the west.

Warnings & Dangers in Grand Rapids

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

There's a medium risk here with high crime rates that keep growing. It's certainly not too dangerous to visit, but it's just not a quaint city of 200,000 people. It does have a bit of an edge to it.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

The Rapid is the public bus system with more than two dozen routes to get around town. Rental cars are plentiful, and taxis or rideshares are readily available. The Rapid got new government funding for updates, and the website has a list of travel safety advice. There's low risk with any option, but always have good situational awareness when using public transportation.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

There's a medium risk here, with 66 pickpockets and purse snatchings reported in 2020. Robbery rates are going up, which means if a criminal can't get your stuff by manipulation, they might try by force. Limit what you bring with you to the bare essentials, and don't carry a large, dangling purse.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH

Winter storms are the biggest risk here, with harsh driving conditions possible. While the locals are used to this, a traveler might be caught by surprise. During spring, the severe thunderstorm and tornado risk rises, and that runs through early winter. Flooding is also a concern.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : HIGH

The robbery risk is 20% higher than the national average and rising. While it's not an issue that should scare you off the streets, it's smart to watch where you walk and avoid alleys or sidestreets, opting for major roadways and more crowded areas.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

There's a low risk here in a smaller city without major hard targets nearby. Detroit would be the top city of concern for terror attacks in Michigan.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

The majority of scams here target locals, like utility scams and people pretending to be officers and demanding money. To avoid rental scams, never wire money to secure a reservation and make sure the landlord can show proof of a rental permit.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

By the numbers, men are actually more likely to be a victim of a violent crime in Grand Rapids. Women should use basic security steps, like not walking around at night and traveling in groups as much as possible. There's the same medium risk for women as there is for men.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report shows Grand Rapids meets or exceeds all requirements at the state and federal levels. No violations were reported. The only time you should be concerned about water quality is during or after flooding.

Safest Places to Visit in Grand Rapids

Experiencegr.com is the official tourism website for the city, so use this as a starting point to do additional research.

You can also look into a Culture Pass on this site, which offers discounts on some of the most popular places to visit. A three-day culture pass is just $24.

There are things to do in Grand Rapids during each season, and the tourism site breaks down the different seasonal options.

Here I’m going to cover things that would be good to see through the bulk of the year.

Beer lovers can download the Beer City Brewsade app to get information about all of the breweries, wineries, and distilleries available for tours and the top bars serving locally produced drinks.

Hotel packages are available specifically designed for beer lovers.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is a perfect stop to learn about the president, his accomplishments, and challenges during his tenure.

Different events are held throughout the year, so look at the schedule before you go.

The John Ball Zoo is a typical metro area zoo surrounded by a large park.

There are 10 sections of the zoo open with animals from all over the world.

The zoo closes in late November and opens again closer to spring.

The zoo has a hipline, sky ropes course, and camel rides.

There’s a newly added gem mining section too.

Treerunner Park is an airborne adventure park with zip lines, rope courses, tightwire walks, and an earthquake bridge.

Various difficulty levels are available to accommodate any fitness or fear level.

You can score great deals on tickets by going on certain days of the week or later in the day.

Check out the website for the latest deals.

Lookout Park is a great place to see the skyline of Grand Rapids.

While there’s not much else to do there outside of a traditional park, you can get some great Instagram moments or family photos with the city behind you.

If you are going at night, keep your doors locked when you are outside the car and don’t go alone.

Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park mixes human art and natural wonders into one great location.

Horticulture exhibits change throughout the year, and in the warmer months, there are performances at the pavilion.

The sculpture garden is globally known and contains more than 200 sculptures.

Places to Avoid in Grand Rapids

The areas just north, south, and west of downtown can be more dangerous.

While the crime rate here isn’t overwhelming, you should still stick to major roads and highways and avoid cutting through neighborhoods. Stay east of the river as much as possible.

If you find a hotel in East Grand Rapids, that’s a different city and is much safer than Grand Rapids.

It will mean a longer commute to the city to see the tourist attractions.

Avoid the website visitgrandrapids.com because that’s the website for Grand Rapids in Minnesota.

You want to look at ExperienceGR.com to get information about Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Grand Rapids

  1. Sign up for emergency alerts through the Grand Rapids Nixle system. You’ll get information as soon as the local media outlets do and have a better grasp on weather, accidents, and crimes happening in the area.
  2. Text GRANDRAPIDS to 888777 to enroll in safety and weather notifications throughout Grand Rapids. This will give you important information during your trip, and you can simply type STOP to remove yourself from the list when you leave.
  3. The police department has an up-to-date crime map on its website. The interactive map allows you to review different locations and search for specific crimes during a preferred time range. It’s the best way to see current crime trends in Grand Rapids.
  4. See police sirens but aren’t sure why? On the police department website’s front page, there’s a box for “Incident Status Monitor.” Here you can see all the calls police are responding to at that time.
  5. If you are enjoying the nightlife, bars close at 2:00 am here. It’s smart to avoid the exiting crowd by leaving 30 minutes earlier. The large crowds pouring into the streets can sometimes lead to crime, so getting out of there a little early will be much safer.
  6. Fishing licenses are required for everyone, and non-residents can pay $10 a day for one. There are also combo licenses for fishing and hunting, but be sure to check the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for all the rules.
  7. Look at the city website for the Winter Preparedness Guide. There are parking rules that change when snow falls and all kinds of other safety information a tourist should know. You can download this guide, so it’s always handy.
  8. Since this is Brew City, there’s a lot of alcohol consumption. This also means an increase in drunk driving reports and accidents. You can avoid the risk by using The Rapid or rideshares as a designated driver. Even if you don’t feel buzzed, you can still be above the legal limit and end up in jail. Especially on weekends, you won’t be able to see a judge until Monday, so you’ll be stuck behind bars.
  9. Download the GR City mobile app, and you’ll have a direct line of connection to all city departments. You can also report nuisances like potholes or broken street lights. The city promises to fill all potholes within 30 days, so even if you don’t reap the benefits of your reporting, you’re still helping keep the community safe.
  10. If you are renting a car, avoid a Kia or Hyundai, as there has been a rash of those vehicles getting stolen. West Grand Rapids is the biggest neighborhood being impacted. While no car is safe from being stolen, the Kia and Hyundai brands are targeted after a social media trend showed how easy it is to steal these cars. At one point in the summer of 2022, five cars a day were being stolen in Grand Rapids.

So... How Safe Is Grand Rapids Really?

Looking at the crime data from 2022, the rates of homicides, aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and theft are all above the national average since the first of the year – and there are still three more months in 2022 as of this publication.

Grand Rapids is facing what a lot of cities are – rising violent crime rates and no clear way to stop the problem.

Most violent crimes are among gang members, drug dealers/users, or illegal gun incidents.

There’s not a rash of random acts of violence against tourists, but there’s always the concern of collateral damage.

The Neighborhood Activation Project is a new program started to help reduce crime and increase community involvement in underserved communities of color.

This could lead to lower crime rates in the long run.

Stay out of the local neighborhoods, especially on the south and southwest sides of town, and use all the basic tourism safety techniques you know.

How Does Grand Rapids Compare?

CitySafety Index
Grand Rapids73
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82

Useful Information

  • Visas - A U.S. Travel or Work Visa OR a Visa Waiver is required to enter the country, and you'll need a passport too. The Visa process can take months, so start planning early. You will need your Visa at the airport. Don't pack it in checked baggage.
  • Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and if you insist on bringing cash, carry as little as necessary. Most purchases can be made with a credit card, which offers better fraud protection anyway.
  • Weather - With four full seasons here, you'll need the typical winter gear from November through March, and during the summer, you can bring short sleeves and shorts, but grab a hoodie or two for cooler nights or mornings. You'll also want bug spray and sunscreen in the warmer months.
  • Airports - Gerald R. Ford International Airport is about 20 minutes from downtown. That's really your only option unless you want to drive two and a half hours to Detroit.
  • Travel Insurance - Travel insurance comes in many forms to protect your flights, baggage, health, and rental car. Be sure you know how blizzards and ice storms would impact your travel insurance.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Grand Rapids Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -5° C
Feb -4° C
Mar 2° C
Apr 8° C
May 15° C
Jun 20° C
Jul 22° C
Aug 21° C
Sep 17° C
Oct 11° C
Nov 5° C
Dec -2° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
-1161421262827231682
Low
°C
-9-8-3281416151151-5
High
°F
303443577079828173614636
Low
°F
161827364657615952413423

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