Trending Cities – Sacramento vs. Grand Rapids
Deciding where to live can be one of the most important, and stressful, decisions that a person can make. Your hometown will impact your career, your children’s schools, your circle of friends, your cost of living, and even the taxes you’ll pay. When making these types of decisions, one common trick is to break the decision into small components, then comparing and contrasting the differences and similarities between the two. Think about what you like most, what you like least. Map out what are your “must haves” versus your “wants” to start to get a handle on what is most important to you in a new place. In this article we’ve done just that with two very popular, trending cities among families looking for a new place to live: Sacramento, California (one of the sunniest places on Earth,) versus Grand Rapids, Michigan (one of the snowiest.) Coincidentally, both cities had their charters formally recognized in 1850 – apparently a great year for starting a really good city!
Weather and Climate
Not surprisingly, the area of weather and climate are where these two cities show the greatest difference. Sunny Sacramento gets a daily average of 14 hours and 12 minutes of sunshine in July, with an average of zero inches of snow each winter. The average relative humidity is 66.5, with more humid winters and drier summers, with an average low for January of 38.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Grand Rapids has an average January low temperature of 18.1°F, which is more than a 20 degree difference. The nearby Lake Michigan gives Grand Rapids some maritime weather, including the possibility of heavy lake effect snow. An average of 75.6 inches of snow falls on the city every year, making it one of the snowiest cities in the nation.
Both locations have a wide range of activities and events, although Sacramento hosts more outside programs and festivals, taking advantage of their longer summers and drier days. Interestingly, both cities are well-known for their outdoor art events. Sacramento hosts a monthly Second Saturday Art Walk in the summer highlighting the work of local artists through its downtown district. Grand Rapids is also well-known for its downtown art festival, known as the Art Prize. However, in their case, the event runs for 19 days, features art in a wide variety of “everyday” spaces and celebrates the work of artists from around the world. Both cities also have wonderful zoos that support conservation efforts across the world with special events and programs for families with children. Both zoos feature handcrafted wooden carousels featuring a variety of wild animals, located in a museum in the case of Grand Rapids, and in the zoo for Sacramento.
Sacramento and Grand Rapids both date back to the mid-1800’s and feature a wide array of different historical places and cultural attractions. Sacramento features places like the B.F. Hastings building, built in 1853 and originally serving as both the western end of the Pony Express and an early seat of the California Supreme Court. Whereas Grand Rapids is well-known for its proximity to a variety of old lighthouses that ring Lake Michigan.
If music is of interest to you, neither will disappoint. Sacramento boasts at least seven different companies of orchestras and singing groups that offer a full season of concerts. While Grand Rapids does have a robust Symphony with over 400 performances each year and an all-male glee club and barbershop choirs, it’s probably better known for its live music in one of the many small award-winning breweries of the area.
As two cities founded with and developed by the hands of immigrants, both locations offer a meaningful glimpse into the cultures that came before them. Sacramento does this in part through its annual Film Festivals held every July and featuring premieres of new French and Japanese films as well as replays of classic masterpieces. Grand Rapids, however, pays homage to its Dutch roots, including a Tulip Time festival in May, working wooden shoe factory, and a 250-year-old working Dutch windmill and replica of a 14th-century wayside inn at the Windmill Island Gardens.
Interestingly both California and Michigan are ranked in the top ten of states for growing fruits and vegetables. Sacramento and Grand Rapids are also known for their long-history with “Farm to Fork” dining, with a delicious array of abundantly available locally sourced food in both restaurants and farmer’s markets. Both cities boast an active adult beverage culture, with several world-famous beer companies and micro breweries. If you care about your choices in hot beverages, these cities do present an interesting difference. Sacramento happens to have a vibrant coffee scene, with many well-rated locally owned coffee shops, while Grand Rapids was named “Best Tea” by GQ Magazine in 2012.
Public school systems in Grand Rapids and Sacramento have several differences when examining average spending per student and student to teacher ratios. Grand Rapids spends significantly more per student at $16,410 compared to Sacramento’s $10,020 per student. The student-to-teacher ratio in the public schools is also dramatically different, at 14.2 students per teacher in Grand Rapids and 25.1 students per teacher for Sacramento. However, keep in mind that the quality of education can vary dramatically between districts and even individual schools. Be sure to ask your realtor for more information about the specific schools in your neighborhood of interest.
Economic factors, job growth and cost of living are all important variables to consider when weighing the pros and cons of different places to live. The city of Grand Rapids has an unemployment rate of 4.5%, compared to Sacramento’s rate of 6.2%. The cost of living is dramatically different as well, being 12.8% lower than the national average in Grand Rapids yet 21% higher in the city of Sacramento. Both cities have a vibrant local economy featuring robust tourism options, transportation and agriculture. Grand Rapids has more of a focus on manufacturing whereas Sacramento has a greater focus on higher education and information technologies.
Similar to many major metropolitan areas, Sacramento and Grand Rapid’s violent crime rates are on the higher end. Sacramento’s crime rate is at 7.47 violent crimes per 1,000 residents while Grand Rapids trails behind with 7.3 violent crimes per 1,000 people. The national average is 3.8 violent crimes per 1,000 people. In regard to property crimes and murder rates, Grand Rapids has impressively good rankings considering its metropolitan status. Grand Rapids has a crime rate of 23.96 property crimes per 1,000 people per year, compared to a national average of 26 property crimes per 1,000 people. The city has a particularly low murder rate compared to most major metropolitan areas, with only 0.05 murders per 1,000 residents, equal to the average rate for the nation, including urban and rural locations. However, the crime rates for both cities varies dramatically by neighborhood, so it is important to get information on these topics from your local realtor.
Grand Rapids has a slightly shorter average commute, at 20 minutes, versus Sacramento’s average commute of 24 minutes. Both cities offer thriving public transportation systems, with special services for the disabled and carpooling/park-and-ride lots.
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