Whether you prefer tiny villages or bustling metropolises, there’s something here in the Great Lakes State to strike your fancy. After all, our state houses towns and cities of all sizes — from Suttons Bay to Detroit, there’s a delightful spot here for everyone. While Michigan has its fair share of genuine small towns, some of our cities are charming enough to give off true small town vibes. Here are nine of our favorites.
1. Ann Arbor
With a population of over 120,000 residents, Ann Arbor is certainly no small town -- but you might just forget these statistics as soon as you arrive. The city’s delightful downtown area is rich with local business and friendly faces, and many "townies" have lived in the area for decades. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a quaint, tiny community (that just happens to be overflowing with Michigan alumni!).
This West Michigan gem is often thought of as a small town, but its population actually tops 30,000. For a mid-sized city, though, Holland couldn’t feel more like a delightful little community -- as you stroll down 8th Street, you’ll see friends and family members mingling among the town’s favorite longtime businesses. With its beautiful beaches and annual Tulip Time Festival, Holland is a lovely place to explore.
There’s a certain warmth that emanates from Kalamazoo, which boasts a population of over 75,000 full-time residents. The town is rich in tradition, arts, culture, and education, which only add to its small town feel. Stroll along the Kalamazoo River and prepare to be greeted by plenty of friendly locals.
As the Upper Peninsula’s largest city, Marquette houses over 20,000 residents. But don’t let this relatively large population fool you: this area has a small-town vibe through and through. Maybe it’s the blistering cold winters that bring people together or the delightful downtown area, but you’ll find it tough to believe that Marquette is technically classified as a city during your time here.
5. Grand Rapids
As of 2016, Grand Rapids housed just under 200,000 people -- making it the second largest city in Michigan. But those who live in Grand Rapids can attest to the fact that it often feels more like a small town. Its downtown area is overflowing with special events and traditions that bring residents together, and you’ll almost certainly run into familiar faces during a night out at Founders Brewing Company.
6. Rochester Hills
With a population of approximately 73,000, Rochester Hills is no small town. But you’ll appreciate the tight-knit nature of this community, which sits just 40 minutes from Detroit by car. Enjoy a leisurely walk at Stony Creek Metropark before grabbing a bite to eat at the Downtown Cafe. What’s not to love?
7. Traverse City
As soon as you arrive in Traverse City, you’ll feel like family. This Northern Michigan gem houses upwards of 15,000 permanent residents, but it manages to retain the atmosphere of a truly tiny town. With charming local movie theatres, plenty of quaint eateries, and an annual Cherry Festival that brings residents together, there’s a fantastically friendly vibe to be found here.
8. East Lansing
There’s something about a college town that seems to bring people together, and East Lansing is no exception. This community houses Michigan State University, and its population sits at 48,000. You don’t have to be a student to run into familiar faces throughout town, and the area’s plethora of locally owned bookstores, cafes, eateries, and more make it a fantastic place to call home.
9. Bay City
Situated on Lake Huron’s beautiful Saginaw Bay, Bay City houses over 33,000 people -- and while it certainly doesn’t qualify as a tiny town, its atmosphere suggests otherwise. As you stroll along the riverfront, you’ll appreciate a peaceful vibe and plenty of friendly faces. Stop in for a meal at Old City Hall and mingle with locals as you explore this fantastic city with an undeniable small town feel.
Tell us, Michiganders: are there any other cities in the Great Lakes State that give off the vibes of a true small town? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.
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