Perhaps best known as the home of the University of Michigan, and for the maize and blue colors of its nationally recognized football team, the Wolverines, Ann Arbor, Mich., has much more to offer than just a college. Ann Arbor's creative, youthful vibe makes it a great locale for Gen X and Millennial residents, particularly those looking to relocate. Full of appeal for singles, young families and even older residents, there’s something to do no matter what sparks your interest - from the great outdoors to exceptional museums, literary culture, and food and cocktails.
The city is consistently ranked a best place by national media, picking up such designations as being a best place to live, a best place for single women, best destination for food in the Midwest and one of Livability.com's Top 10 Best College Towns. Forbes magazine called Ann Arbor its No. 1 Most Educated City in 2014, and USA Today named it No. 6 among Best Cities for Well-Being.
What you find in Ann Arbor is a city that values family life, education, healthy living and the arts - and so much more. Neighborhoods in Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities combine to make for a fantastic Midwest region, according to Laura Berarducci of the Ann Arbor CVB.
So why move to Ann Arbor? Here are few reasons:
The best schools in the state are in Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities. The first ranked best high school in the state is in nearby Saline, and the highly rated University of Michigan is in town, providing all the educational advantages for younger students, too.
“The city is full of STEAM education opportunities,” Berarducci says. “Those include the Natural History Museum at the University (currently being renovated), the Hands-On Museum and the Leslie Science and Nature Center.”
The city is also full of local history, and the museum culture is growing, especially with the anticipated reopening of the Smithsonian-affliated National Museum of Aviation and Technology at the former Yankee Air Museum.
Those stores range from hot new places like Literati, which offers events and has a locally owned coffee shop on one of its three floors and a typewriter for customers to leave messages on, which they include in their social media, to the West Side Book Shop, specializing in used and rare books. Berarducci says there are also plenty of specialty shops, noting Vault of Midnight, a local comic book emporium. The city’s District Library is also nationally ranked for excellence. If you love books, this is your town.
There are more restaurants in Ann Arborn per resident than any city in the U.S., even more than New York or Chicago. No matter your foodie favorites or price range, you can find spectacular meals in Ann Arbor’s restaurants. Plenty of renowned chefs have places here, notably Chef Alex Young with Zingerman’s Roadhouse and Chef Takashi, whose Slurping Turtle showcasing Japanese-style comfort food is a huge hit.
“People here are always interested in trying new foods and cuisines,” Takashi says.
The art and craft fair has been going on since 1960, and now has three additional art fairs during the course of the year, together attracting some 500,000 visitors annually. The original takes place in mid-July, on Wednesday through Saturday near the university campus. Berarducci says more small art fairs are also appearing in the region, including in Ypsilanti and Dexter nearby, including specialized pop-ups. Additional arts culture includes the presence of actor Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theater in nearby Chelsea, offering live theatrical productions for audiences.
The fresh local food movement has caught on here!
“It’s caught on exponentially in the past five years or so,” Berarducci says, “The Ann Arbor Farmers Market is always an amazing source of local produce, baked goods and value-added products, and now even an artisan marketplace.”
The market was one of the first to adopt the use of the SNAP Bridge card to help make sure fresh produce was readily available to low-income families. In addition, smaller community-based markets have been popping up in recent years to supply particular neighborhoods. The Argus Farm Stop, a new year-round farm stand, also offers a small café for soups and pre-made meals, as well as fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy from Michigan producers.
Libation and Brew Enthusiasts
For the grown-ups, Ann Arbor has embraced boutique spirits and artisan cocktail culture. Among the popular bars making impact with their creative cocktails are the Raven’s Club and The Last Word – now popular destinations for those in the know. If you’re shopping and want the best spirits around, try Morgan & York for fine wines and specialty foods to go with them.
“We don’t have our own distillery yet, though there’s one slated to open later this year,” Berarducci says. “But we do have nine microbreweries right now, and we expect to see more coming very soon.”
Among those is Matt and Rene Greff ‘s innovative Ann Arbor Brewing Company, now in its 20th year, which has not only terrific handcrafted beers and a robust menu, but also a visionary worldview that includes a move towards solar power and additional locations in nearby Ypsilanti and far away Bangalore, India.
“Ann Arbor is extremely forward-thinking when it comes to outdoor lifestyle,” says Berarducci, and indeed, the city has received numerous recognitions for its walkability. “What most people don’t realize is that we have a nationally recognized waterway - the Huron River – that runs right through the city. I kayaked this past weekend; it’s this incredible sanctuary steps from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s this beautiful oasis right in town, perfect for canoeing, kayaking and fishing. We're also a serious urban forest here with hills and parks everywhere.”
If you’d rather take in sports than exercise yourself, there’s the aforementioned Wolverines football team at the nicknamed “Big House” stadium and other UM sports, including basketball, hockey and a great women’s softball team. In its first year is the AFC, a new Midwest amateur soccer league with teams in Lansing, Grand Rapids and other cities, plus nonleague matches.