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The 10 Best Cities in Michigan

Looking to make a move to the Wolverine State? These are the Michigan cities and townships that rank highest in several important factors.

Randy Nelson

Content Manager

116 articles, 53 comments

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We’ve been ranking cities across the country, and even those within single states, in a lot of different ways for a while now on the Movoto Real Estate Blog: nerdiest; worst dressed; most… cowboy. Now we’re going state-by-state answering the question of which city within their borders is actually the best based on the data. Congratulations, Michigan, you’re up first.

We hate drawn-out buildups as much as the next blog, so we’re going to just lay it out: Midland is the best city in Michigan. Boom. It sits atop a top 10 that looks like this:

1. Midland
2. Novi
3. Canton
4. Portage
5. Ann Arbor
6. Grand Blanc
7. Royal Oak
8. East Lansing
9. Farmington Hills
10. Troy
10. West Bloomfield

“Wait,” you say, “that’s 11.” You’re right—and that’s because there was a tie for 10th. But how did these cities even end up in this order in the first place? Well, dear Michiganders—and potential Michiganians—you can read all about that in the ensuing paragraphs.

Michigan’s Metro Supreme

What makes a great city? The same thing that makes a great athlete: fundamentals. In the case of ranking cities in terms of overall best-itude, we settled on the following six criteria to measure:

  • Amenities (shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.)
  • Cost of living (percent above or below state average)
  • Crime (percent above or below state average)
  • Education (student to teacher ratio compared to state average)
  • Employment (income and unemployment compared to state average)
  • Home value (percent above or below state average)

We started with a list of the 50 most populous cities and townships in Michigan, then gave each city a rank from one to 50 in the individual criteria above based on the data, with one being the best possible score. Then, we averaged the criteria together for each city and gave it an overall Big Deal Score. The lower this number was, the higher the city ranked.

Now that you know how we did it, let’s talk about where each of our top 10 best cities in Michigan excelled the most. At the end of this post, you’ll find the full list of 50 cities ranked for your statistical pleasure.

1. Midland

Well, Midlanders, you now have a bigger claim to fame that being the headquarters of Dow Chemical, because you just took the top spot on our list of best cities in Michigan. How’d you manage it? By placing really well in all our categories, of course.

In addition to being chock full of places to shop and things to do, you’re also safe—ranked fifth on our list with a crime rate 53 percent below the Michigan average. In other words, you can tell all those people who claim Michigan is generally unsafe to worry about their own safety; you’re sleeping just fine, thank you. You’re also a good environment for jobs, with a median household income of $48,843 that’s five percent above the state average. Your cost of living helped too; it’s five percent less than Michigan’s average.

The fact that you have neat places like Dow Gardens and the Dow Diamond baseball park only sweeten the deal—we just hope they don’t have a strong chemical smell.

2. Novi

The rest of Michigan might know you as “that place outside of Detroit where people from there go to shop,” but we’re here to tell you, Novi, that you’re more than that. Your home values are really, really good—we’re talking 92 percent higher than the state average. But that’s not all: your median income is also fantastic. It’s $80,151, which is 73 percent higher than the Michigan average. We’re also pretty sure monocles outsell traditional eyeglasses in Novi 5:1.

Of course, you’ve got lots of retail—and other amenities too—and a crime rate that’s 35 percent lower than the state average doesn’t hurt, either. (Nor does the Emagine movie theater with its posh luxury seating sections—nice one, Novi.)

3. Canton

Here’s an interesting fact about Canton, MI: It’s named after the city of Canton in China. Here’s another: Its home values are nearly 91 percent higher than the Michigan average. That’s not surprising (well, at least not as surprising as having a Chinese name) given that it’s so attractive to prospective residents.

Some of that comes from a crime rate that’s 39 percent lower than the state average. Yet more is from an unemployment rate of only 2.5 percent coupled with a median income of $85,444 which is 85 percent higher than the average for Michigan. So, no only can you put more in the bank, but you don’t have to worry as much about needing it to cover expenses if you get laid off.

4. Portage

What’s your fascination with the word “zoo,” Portage? Seriously, you’re right next door to Kalamazoo, and you’re home to an Air Zoo. That’s not what got you into our top 10, though. (This isn’t a ranking of zoo-related places, after all.) Nope, that would be the fact that you’re highly ranked for amenities, education, and home value.

For that last one, your housing is valued at 15 percent above the state average—your median income is also solid at $55,936, which is 1 percent above the state average. If there’s one area you could work on, it’d be crime; your crime rate is 34 percent higher than Michigan’s average. Are those sirens we hear?

5. Ann Arbor

The home of the University of Michigan also turns out to be a good place to call home—and especially to own a home. That’s because property values there are 78 percent above the state average.

As for everything else we looked at, Ann Arbor did quite well too. Education and amenities are good, crime is slightly below the state average, and the cost of living is a mere 7.6 percent above average for Michigan. (We imagine life inside any of the city’s tiny, fascinating fairy doors is probably a lot cheaper.)

6. Grand Blanc

Hey, Grand Blanc, it’s okay that your biggest claim to fame in recent years has been that you’re the home town of Tate from “American Horror Story”, because you’re a really solid place to live. You’re above or below average in all the right places.

Cases in point: Your crime rate is 15 percent below the state average, but your home value is 26 percent above. The only thing you could be doing better is attracting more amenities. You know, for when Even Peters, who played Tate, comes home to spend his millions. (Maybe he’ll buy everyone scoops at Ziggy’s Ice Cream—we hear it’s pretty good!)

7. Royal Oak

We have to say that being the setting for the sitcom classic “Home Improvement” is a bit of a step up from Grand Blanc’s TV-related claim to fame. We also have to wonder if this fact has anything to do with why home values in Royal Oak are 31 percent higher than the state average.

We figured Royal Oak would’ve placed higher in terms of amenities with attractions like the Detroit Zoo located there, but it’s still pretty good. So’s a crime rate that’s 29 percent below the average for the rest of the state. We’re not sure if that number includes incidents relating to escaped zoo residents, though.

8. East Lansing

The third college town on our list, East Lansing is home to Michigan State University. But we’re not ranking college towns here; we’ll save that for another day.

East Lansing’s cost of living is in line with the state average, while its median household income is actually lower at $31,167 and its home value is 41 percent higher at $189,800. Honestly, we actually expected more out of the hometown of Google cofounder Larry Page. Like, maybe free Google Glass for everyone?

9. Farmington Hills

Located about 30 minutes northwest of Detroit—and right next to No. 2 Novi—Farmington Hills is what you’d describe as “affluent.” As a result, the cost of living is 31 percent higher than the state average, while home values are a whopping 76 percent above.

Crime, on the other hand, is 38 percent lower than the average for Michigan. See, sounds pretty affluent. What all that money doesn’t get you, though, is as many amenities as in other parts of the Great Lakes State. (Although having a place called Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum that’s full of cool/creepy coin-operated contraptions helps in our book.)

10. Troy and West Bloomfield Township

The final town towns on our list actually managed to tie—something we don’t get around here too often. But, when the data speaks, we listen. While both cities received the same Big Deal Score and both placed 10th, there are some notable differences between them in terms of what makes them such good places to live.

Troy, on the one hand, is better in terms of cost of living at 34 percent above the state average; West Bloomfield’s is a whopping 78 percent above. On the other hand, West Bloomfield has a much better crime rate at 56 below the Michigan average; Troy is still quite safe at 18 percent below. Both towns have about the same in terms of school quality, available amenities, and employment prospects.

Michigan, My Michigan

So, Michiganers, there you have it. We hope we’ve helped to settle some arguments—although we suspect that we might have just added fuel to the fire. Good thing you’ve got that big lake, eh?

The 10 Best Cities in Michigan

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posted on: October 16, 2013
218,681 views, 39 comments

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39 Comments

  1. Andrew

    You need to change the picture for Midland. That picture is actually Midland Road IN the city of Bay City.

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Andrew

      Thanks for the heads up. The original picture was labeled as Midland, MI by the flickr user who we got it from. However, the City of Midland has since provided us with a much better picture.

    • brian in response to Andrew

      I agree Amenities, b.s. so much more can be added to midland for the youth, and so much has been over ruled. Old people get off the road, midlands average citizen speed limit is 5 below the posted speed limit lol.

  2. j

    Where is Grosse Pointe?

  3. Victoria

    Midland is a college town as well. Home of Northwood University. Should’ve gotten this fact straight- east Lansing is the THIRD college town on the list.

  4. Steve

    Wait, how do Midland and Saginaw both earn perfect scores in “shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.”? A year ago, Midland was all abuzz about the brand new Olive Garden coming to town. If a small shopping mall and a handful of chain restaurants are all it takes to earn a “1″ for amenities, it just goes to show how far behind Michigan is from the rest of the country.

    And Midland is not a college town. Be real.

    • A in response to Steve

      I see Steve and J have not been to Midland in quite sometime, in particular downtown where there are several local restaurants, businesses, the ball diamond, and a newly opened brewery. As for amenities, they are too numerous to list here. Rather than concoct bitter, untruths about Midland, I suggest you visit. The conspiracy theories regarding crime are truly inventive. I can understand these lists bring out emotional and competitive responses. But, Michiganders, we should be encouraging and putting our best face forward to the nation. Celebrate this great state and our great cities. Let us not be defined by the failure of a once great city. Let’s show the nation and the world that there is more here than bitter folks and boarded up buildings.
      Midland is a wonderful, safe community with strong schools and a high standard of living. A great place to raise a family and a well-deserved number one.

      • J in response to A

        Actually, I just moved OUT of Midland in May. Please do not assume I have not been there in quite some time. Please do not try to cover your crime up. My mother lives in a very nice neighborhood, and the house across the street from her has had the drug dogs and special tactics there numerous times during the past 6 months. Yet where was the report in the news? I rest my case.

      • Steve in response to A

        I live in Midland. I like it fine. It’s affordable, it’s safe, and there’s no traffic. The Main Street area is nice, even though it’s very small. But a perfect score for amenities is insane.

      • Ad in response to A

        A, you are clearly from Midland. NO town with a shopping mall that hosts TARGET as an ANCHOR should be considered a good place to shop. Most of the international food in the area is not authentic and having a few local breweries does not make a place a good place to live. I suggest you visit a larger metropolitan area before you assume that Midland has it all.

        • A in response to Ad

          AD, I’m amused by your comment. You have mischaracterized my words profusely and claim I made statements that I simply did not. I haven’t lived in Midland in close to a decade. In fact, I have been living abroad in large international cities for the past 10 years. But, this is a list of the best cities to live in. Not the best cities to visit. Not the best tourist traps. It’s the best cities to live in. And Midland is a great, small city. I never once mentioned the mall in my comments though the suburbs of Detroit are close enough and offer a variety of shopping destinations. (Some even made the list.) Nor did I say Midland “had it all”. J’s bizarre neighbor aside, Midland has solid schools, low crime rate, and it’s a great place to raise children. I enjoy coming home to visit. It’s a nice switch for the hustle and bustle I constantly endure elsewhere. Forgive a person for wanting the best for their hometown and their home state.

  5. J

    I agree, Steve! Midland just can’t compare and is only the #1 because of how much money Dow sunk into those places. Midland is th most cliquey, let’s cover all of the bad stuff up town I have EVER lived in. What about all of the heroin deaths, the schools that were closed, and I mean an Olive Garden?! Come ON! They have the worst food ever. Eat in a real Italian restaurant and then tell me Olive Garden is the best thing on earth.

    Let’s look at the rate of teen pregnancies for Midland and Dow High, the amount of substance abuse that goes on in this city. The murders and drug busts we don’t hear about because MDN covers it up. Midland has no reason to be on his list. Highly disappointing.

  6. Anon

    weresmith woolever funeral home gets most of their business from opiate overdoses now. at least that’s what they told me at my friends funeral… there has been a recent explosion in the number of police in midland, and they are calling it safe? with “plenty of things to do?” Perhaps they mean plenty of illicit street drugs to do.

  7. Nancy

    Have lived in Midland for 25 years–wouldn’t want to move away from the sense of community that we have. It was a great place to raise kids-safe, good schools, lots to do. Community theater is wonderful-the Center for the Arts is an amazing facility for a town of this size. So, while I enjoy visiting Traverse City, Ann Arbor and other places around the state, it is always great to come home to Midland.

  8. Kathy

    Leelanau has the highest life expectancy. Maybe it’s because we have the most shoreline in the state, with beautiful beaches and vistas, peace and tranquility, small town living and friendly people. Most schools get no state funding because were out-of-formula due to high property values. We have Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, voted the most beautiful place in America. Traverse City is just down the pike, with Northwestern Michigan College and Munson Medical Center. Keep your big cities and shopping.

  9. Sam

    What about the UP?!

  10. L

    Did Dow Pay to have Midland ranked number 1. I lived there for two years and disliked every minute of my time there. It is not a great place to raise a family. There is no diversity or culture in the town and everyone knows everyone elses business. Plus it is sad when the most exciting thing to happen in the town is when the Panera and Olive Garden open.

  11. Craig

    I know you can’t please everyone, but a township is not a city. A city is a highly defined thing. Simply “tieing” Holland and Holland township at #14, for example, means all you are doing is using ‘area wide” statistics. the amenities are VERY different in each area.

  12. Madison

    I’ve lived in Midland for the past 20 years, and I can tell you straight up it should not have made #1. How can a city that scored a one in amenities gets the top slot??. Everything mentioned above about the excitement for Olive Garden is true. The downtown area is sad and pathetic. Sure there’s a small brewery now, but ahem….SHOPPING???? The poor excuse for mall surrounded by chain restaurants is not shopping.
    The crime is low, the area is white bread. There are jobs, if you work for Dow, who gives money for so many things but not without putting their name on it!
    I suppose it’s an okay place to raise a family, but if you are single and/or childless, forget about diverse culture, the arts (real art) fine dining or good concerts. If we want that, we go Traverse, Grand Rapids or even the Detroit area. Yes, I said Detroit.
    I don’t think the nimrods that assembled this list did their research whatsoever.

    • J in response to Madison

      I agree, completely! If you are a blue collar family in Midland, forget it. We left because things had been steadily slowing down with my husband’s job. Forget about getting into Dow as a trades person in Midland. It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know. As is such in a small town. Culture?! Forget it. Diverse people, yes. I would not say Midland has any sense of being culturally stimulating. As someone who grew up in a metropolis, I can tell you I would go to Detroit for performances before setting foot in MFCTA.

  13. Randy Babble

    Article is very misleading. You would have thought Granholm was still at the helm with her hidden agenda – haha. Midland although a nice place really doesn’t hold a candle to some of those mentioned. What about communities like Petoskey, TC, Eastown, Milford, Brighton, etc. Too bad cause I was really excited to read more into why and how they determined such.

  14. Paul

    Not a single city in the Upper Peninsula….Not ONE?

  15. Monica

    Most of you are forgetting that it is the combination of these categories that gave Midland the number one rating. It is fair based on the method used. For a town this size, we have many amenities. Many of the complaints I see really just think categories should be weighted differently and that is a matter of taste.

  16. Evelyn

    Interesting but missing a lot of cites.

  17. CF

    Midland is a great city to live in and I give those behind it a lot of credit for the amount of money being invested downtown.
    It is the one city I have ever lived in that I have felt completely safe walking around at night.Yes there are drug users, pregnant teenagers and a little bit of conspiracy, allegedly! Granted, I sometimes wonder if a portion of the money being pumped in the amenities came at the expense of the closed down schools and those employed by them. Where Midland falls short in culture and modesty make up for health and safety. For those using the addiction,pregnancy, conspiracy logic should be aware that Midland might have these flaws but they have these issues at a rate much, much less than the average in the state.
    When it comes to cities in Michigan to move to (because that IS what this is list is about people) Midland is well deserving of the crown and I enjoy the beaches of Ludington and experiencing the colors of Fall in Grand Traverse but I guess nothing beats home.

  18. Lindsay Bertram

    I’d say one of the lower crime, great family values, much to offer, high employment rated places is Mackinac Island. And all those plus for Traverse City!

  19. adam

    50 most populated cities..almost all of which are in southern michigan

  20. John

    What about Plymouth or Northville?

  21. Tony

    This was an obvious flawed, subjective attempt by individuals who wish to promote Midland for their own personal gain. Anyone with half a brain who’s traveled the state of MI knows that Midland can’t begin to compare/compete with Ann Arbor, as just one example. There is no broad, scientific evidence to back up this pathetic article. It is entirely subjective.

  22. Peggy

    Midland is “Pleasantville”. Need I say more?

  23. L. Cirivello

    This list is nuts. West and Northern Michigan are completely absent yet have wonderful shopping, unique restaurants, natural beauty, arts and fine quality of life. Where is Traverse City? Harbor Springs? South Haven? Grand Rapids? Saugatuck/Douglas? Anyone who judges Michigan’s “nest” by this list will be sorely disappointed.

  24. brian

    This article is bad and you should feel bad.

  25. Ben

    I grew up in Grand Blanc yet am still surprised to see it at #6. How is Flint on this list? I echo other people’s comments in where is Grand Rapids and Traverse City? Yet, even other towns in Southeast Michigan are forgotten such as Fenton, Brighton, etc.

  26. ethel newberry

    I think that the person who wrote this article mus have come from Timbucktoo, and never even saw a map of Michigan, let alone know what Michigan is about.

  27. Michigan resident

    Ugh. I lived in midland for 12 years and sure there are nice things about it like the overall safety and the schools are good. I could walk around outside at night and not worry about getting shot or anything. But I could not move away soon enough and since leaving I would NEVER, ever move back there. Ever. You couldn’t pay me enough to.

    Living somewhere now that has businesses, shopping, lots and lots of stuff, and lots to do, just justifies my feelings I always had about how unbelievably boring and dull midland was. I can go out and do stuff now, not having to drive to a different city to! It’s so inconvenient to have to commute to go shopping etc. You can say midland is “booming” with business and things to do all you want. But if you honestly believe that’s true then you must be from BFE. I go visit because my family is there still and yes they have added an Olive Garden etc. big whoop. What normal place doesn’t? But after one day visiting Im always itching to get back here to a city that has substance and lots of things to do. And I had to laugh at the person who said midland is a college town bc of northwood lmao that’s such a joke.

    Maybe an Amish person would find midland fun or exciting. But a regular person- I don’t think so!!

  28. Amanda

    I have lived in Midland for nearly 20 years and can agree that it is a great place to raise a family. We have great opportunities for kids of all ages. The nature preschool is great, we have all sorts of sports centers: hockey, tennis, soccer, softball, and gymnastics just to name a few. Almost all the kids programs have scholarships available so everyone can play. We have great music and art programs for kids. We have Northwood University and branches of Davenport, MSU, and CMU. There are 72 parks, mostly free. There is a skate park, BMX bike park, dog walking park, etc. For a family it is a great place. Nearly crime free. The job market is so/so, as is most of Michigan. There are plenty of jobs in health care and customer service (restaurant/cashier, etc.). We do have entertainment, but places like Ann Arbor and Detroit definitely outshine Midland. We have a number of restaurants, but again we cannot compete with even our closest neighbors, Saginaw and Bay City.

  29. Jessi

    you forgot to mention that Midland is the best at covering up anything that could make the news and make Midland look bad..LOTS of Heroin and other hard drugs goin around and LOTS of overdoses that never make the news…

  30. kate

    I’ve lived in midland almost my whole life, and I can tell you that I love it. Ya sure there’s like NO shopping, but its safe,clean, and good if you have a family. Yes I know other citys have better resturants and shopping, but I love midland. ( and yes I have lived in the sagnaw/bay city area. Personaly, I think mount plesant should be first. But then again I don’t know the crime rate, but I love its water park/hotel.

  31. Bill

    There’s a reason overdoses dont make the news. Its not a cover up. Reporters listen to scanner traffic. Often the 911 tone out are lacking details. Unresponsive person, or PI(personal injury) is not enough to report a overdose. Also that information is confidental. Stop being negative nancys. Midland has its share of crime but its not a big cover up on anyones part.

 

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