Drive through southwest Michigan on any summer weekend - really any weekend - and you'll see a lot of cars with Illinois license plates. Cities like New Buffalo, right on the Indiana border and less than an hour from Chicago, have long been meccas for weary Chicagoans looking for getaways.

The Chicago influence across the Lake Michigan shoreline towns of West Michigan has steadily grown north. New Buffalo to St Joe. St Joe to South Haven. South Haven to Saugatuck. Saugatuck to Holland. Holland to Grand Haven.

And now Muskegon locals are noticing more Chicagoans are moving there, nearly midway up the Mitten and now a faraway drive from Chicago.

What explains in? The question came up on the Muskegon subreddit of Reddit recently with the OP asking,

Why are people moving from Chicago to Muskegon?
I am doing research and I ran into this data point. I am wondering if the people from Chicago buying a 2nd home or with telecommuting for work Muskegon is a cheaper solution.

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Muskegonites who are former Chicagoans were quick to chime in and their thoughtful explanations are worth a longer quotation:

Muskegon is close to Grand Rapids so access to airport, larger city. Holland is 30 mins away, can train into Chicago. Offers lot of conveniences, it’s affordable, it’s on Lake Michigan.

From Chicago and moved out to Muskegon. Did a lot of trips up on this side to rent cabins along lake Michigan’s west side, near grand haven, and it was a gem. After everything hit the fan during covid, we were able relocate and found Muskegon to be super affordable. The same house in Muskegon would have cost double anywhere else, plus you get the beautiful fresh water lake, and an oasis of natural beauty along the lake side.

I'm from Chicagoland and moved to Muskegon about 6yrs ago, but I relocated so not a second home. My reasoning was I love west Michigan and at the time houses were super affordable in Muskegon at the time, so it was a no brainer. I hear from people around here that Muskegon has a local stigma of being trashy or dangerous to a lot of the residents from surrounding towns. Being from Chicagoland (Aurora/Joliet area) Muskegon's social and economic problems are relatively tame in comparison

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Despite being roughly 170 miles from Chicagoland, those Illinois cars appear to be bypassing the further south West Michigan communities more and more.

So should you suddenly notice your neighbors cheering for the Bears in the fall and White Sox in the summer, you'll know why.

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