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Why Grand Forks, ND, is a Best Place to Live

Infrastructure, housing and education are outstanding in this bustling city on the banks of the Red River of the North.

By Emily Handy on December 20, 2022

Urban Stampede Coffee in Grand Forks. Credit Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau
Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau

There’s no way around it — this city is simply grand. Perched along the Red River and bordering Minnesota, Grand Forks, ND, is a beautiful city with so much to offer its residents. 

The city boasts a relaxed and community-focused lifestyle with a low cost of living, attracting families and young professionals alike. With a cost of living significantly below the national average, your buck will go much further here. The city is dubbed the most affordable metro area in North Dakota, and residents spend 15 percent less on utilities on average. 

People enjoy street musicians in Grand Forks, ND.
Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau

Owning a home here is feasible as the median home price in Grand Forks is just $259,000. Prefer to rent? The average rent for a studio apartment is a cool $502 a month. There’s a home for any budget in one of the city’s nine unique neighborhoods. 

In Grand Forks, you’re close to all the amenities and action but can enjoy the slower suburban feel. Sports fans can head to the home of the University of North Dakota’s men’s hockey, the Ralph Engelstad Arena, to cheer on the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The Ralph is a destination in itself and has been called the “Taj Mahal of hockey,” thanks to its luxurious finishings, including leather seats and granite flooring throughout. Also on campus is the state’s official art museum, the North Dakota Museum of Art, where visitors can see a rotating array of displays. 

People enjoy a gallery in Grand Forks, ND.
Greater Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau

Thanks to the presence of the University of North Dakota, the city’s population is youthful and full of energy. As one of the country’s best small college towns, there’s always something to do downtown. The area is teeming with unique restaurants, bars, craft breweries and coffee shops. 

“Entertainment in Grand Forks is limitless,” said Julie Rygg, executive director of Visit Greater Grand Forks. “Major concerts are a regular occurrence along with national championship college hockey, performing arts, comedy shows and live music. It is amazing to live in a community of this size and have so many opportunities to be entertained!”

Turtle River State Park, just 22 miles west of Grand Forks on Highway 2, is situated along a heavily-wooded valley. This 784-acre park is a vivid contrast to the open farmland that dominates eastern North Dakota. The river was named for the mud and snapper turtles once found in abundance in the streams. Today, the entire park is a natural sanctuary harboring an abundance of plant and animal life. The wetland is a haven for birds and migratory waterfowl. The park has 125 modern and primitive campsites, a woodland lodge and group cabins, a mountain bike trail, self-guided nature trails, fishing for rainbow trout and special programs presented in an outdoor amphitheater. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, sledding and more. Images from fall 2017.
Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau

For those who prefer to spend their time outdoors, Grand Forks has all four seasons to enjoy — and residents do, even in the dead of winter. In addition, the popular Greenway Trail System is a massive 2,200 acres full of parks, trails, two golf courses and fishing sites. “The Greenway is one of my absolute favorite parts about Grand Forks,” Rygg said. 

The two Reds (the Red River and the Red Lake River) are perfect for water recreation like kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing in the summer and ice fishing and snowmobiling in the winter. Explore the area’s flatlands and rolling hills on two wheels and take a bike ride on the city’s 57 miles of dedicated biking trails any time of year. Turtle River State Park is ideal for year-round recreational activities, but it especially comes alive in the fall with the leaves turning to bright orange, reds and yellows. 

Grand Forks, ND: Founder David Dvorak and engineer Kaci Lemler run a two person small business, Field of View in Grand Forks, ND. Their aim is to use drone technology to help farmers be more environmentally friendly. They develop drone and camera technology to capture images of crops to show areas of infestation allowing growers to target specific areas where problems on their land exist. (Photo by: Shaul Schwarz)
Shaul Schwarz

The economy in this Red River Valley city is thriving. Grand Forks has some of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, and job opportunities are endless here. Known for having some of the richest soil in the country, the city is an agricultural hub and is a national leader in food production. 

But it has also made a name for itself in the biomedical and technology industries. The presence of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences and its Center for Biomedical Research is a great asset to this pioneering city.

A heavy-hitter in the drone and unmanned aerial systems industries, Grand Forks, is also home to the first UAS pilot undergraduate program in the country as well as its first UAS research and development park. Wherever you work in Grand Forks, commuting is a breeze. 

Families enjoy a block party in Grand Forks, ND.
North Dakota Tourism

Moving to a new city can be daunting, but Grand Forks newcomers feel immediately welcomed and at home here, and the city prides itself on that. The Welcoming Community Roadmap is the city’s comprehensive, 72-point plan designed to help immigrants and new residents feel accepted and fold them seamlessly into the community. Simply put, the people of Grand Forks are some of the friendliest in the world, and new residents should expect to be greeted with a smile. 

With all of this going for it, it is really no surprise that Grand Forks has been ranked the best city to live in North Dakota. This is a city full of opportunity and adventure — no matter the season! 

This article was sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

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