Discover Why Ann Arbor is More Than a College Town

Most people consider Ann Arbor to just be a college town, and while the colleges indeed play a significant role, there’s more to “Tree Town” than undergrads. National Geographic named Ann Arbor one of the happiest cities and best places to live in the United States, so read on to find out what makes this town so special and why you should consider a new home in Ann Arbor.


History of Ann Arbor

The story goes that Ann Arbor is named for the wives of the two land speculators who purchased the 640-acre plot of land on the Huron River. True or not, the village’s name was officially registered as “Annarbour” in 1824.

While Ann Arbor lost the bid to become the state capital, the University of Michigan did decide to move from Detroit to the city in the late 1830s. After the university’s arrival, and the advent of the Michigan Central Railroad, Ann Arbor steadily grew until the 1940s. World War II brought a new aircraft manufacturing complex and a population boom.


Living in Ann Arbor

Neighborhood ranking website ranks Ann Arbor as the fourth-best city to live in America. With an urban-suburban feel, “Tree town” lives up to its name with a plan to plant over 1,000 trees every year. The city embraces the outdoors and has a high walkability rating. The Huron River runs directly through the center and is an access point for floating, kayaking, and fishing. Enjoy one of the 159 parks in the city, with miles of trails and forest spaces.


Besides ample green spaces, Ann Arbor is culturally rich. It’s home to one of the longest-running craft fairs in the country, a three-story bookstore, and several local theaters. There’s also a claim the Ann Arbor restaurant scene has more restaurants per person than any other city in the U.S. True or not, there are ample opportunities to try cuisine inspired from around the world and by world-class chefs.


Where housing is concerned, the high student population does trend towards more renters, but plenty of people decide to call Ann Arbor home. Other than housing costs, which does tend above national average, the cost of living in Ann Arbor is near or below the average for the United States, with a total about five percent higher than the national average.


Besides all of the greenery, favorable cost of living and fun spaces to explore, families living in Ann Arbor can also enjoy access to quality education. Beyond higher education opportunities, Ann Arbor’s public school system is highly rated with the city being home to some of the top-ranked high schools in Michigan, according to U.S. News.


Taken together, residents have a lot to love about Ann Arbor.



Ann Arbor Attractions

One of the best things that makes Ann Arbor a great place to live is the abundance of attractions in the city. Here is a list of our top 8 things to do the next time you are in Ann Arbor.


#1- University of Michigan

U of M definitely plays a significant role in Ann Arbor’s growth and its economy. Over 40,000 students each year attend the football powerhouse, which boasts the largest stadium in college football. Gameday is a big deal in Ann Arbor with thousands of fans from across the state streaming in to cheer on the Wolverines.

Besides football, the University also plays a vital role in the feel of Ann Arbor. From student plays and productions to intellectual conversations at local coffee houses, U of M gives Ann Arbor a distinctive college town feel.


#2- Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Beyond the college town experience though, there are still plenty of other Ann Arbor attractions. Take the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, for example. This free attraction with lush gardens and natural areas is open all year. The outdoor botanical gardens include a children’s garden, native landscape, wildflower garden, medicinal garden, and rock garden. The Bonsai and Penjing Garden hosts a world-renowned collection. The conservatory is one of the largest in its architectural style, with three biomes under its glass expanses. Visit the Arboretum to see culturally significant and natural landscapes and see just one of the many attractions that makes Ann Arbor special.


#3- Ann Arbor Street Fairs

A series of July fairs, the annual event showcases unique art, crafts, and clothing. The fairs are broken into the Original Street Art Fair, State Street Art Fair, Summer Art Fair, and South University Art Fair. Street performers wander the crowd while performers entertain from the stage. Food trucks and other vendors are available making the fairs a great place to enjoy time with the family.


#4- Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum

Another great family activity in Ann Arbor is the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum. Here, children learn while engaged with the 250-plus interactive exhibits in science, technology, engineering, and art. Popular exhibits include the Bubble Capsule, Magnets, Climbing Wall, and Michigan Nature exhibits.


#5- Hudson Mills Metropark

For families looking to enjoy the outdoors, the Hudson Mills Metropark, an outdoor park located 12 miles northwest of the city, hosts over 1,500 acres of woodlands, meadows, and wetlands. The grounds are a haven for wildlife and birds, making it popular for outdoor activities like fly fishing, hiking, and biking. It has an 18-hole golf course and disc golf courses in addition to playgrounds, tennis courts, and cross-country skiing trails.


#6-Huron River

Looking for a water adventure in Ann Arbor? Relax along the shores of Huron River from any of the parks spread along the stretch. Cool off in the summer by floating down the river on an inner tube. Launch and recovery sites for tubes and boats are at several locations along the river.


#7- Michigan Museum of Art

Perhaps one of the more sophisticated Ann Arbor attractions is the Michigan Museum of Art. Here, art fans of all ages can marvel at the masterpieces of Picasso and Monet as well as a number of other lesser known but equally skilled artists. One of the largest university art collections, the Michigan Museum of Art holds over 19,000 works from some of the best-known artists in the world.


#8- Kerrytown Market and Shops

The Kerrytown historic district has been meticulously restored with brick streets and vibrant shops. The popular Ann Arbor restaurant Zingerman’s Deli is here, along with the popular Saturday Farmer’s Market. Kerrytown is a must-see for any Ann Arbor visitor or resident.


Proximity to Detroit

While Ann Arbor certainly offers a lot of attractions and perks for local residents, one additional benefit to this proverbial college town is its proximity to Detroit.

Located just 40 miles from the Motor City via M-14 or I-94, Ann Arbor’s proximity to a major city makes it easy to access air travel and other metropolitan amenities, giving residents an opportunity to enjoy both big city and suburban feels.


Choosing to Live in Ann Arbor

There are many reasons you might want to call Ann Arbor home, but, before settling on renting in Ann Arbor, be sure to talk with your local Pulte home builders. While there are always pros and cons to renting vs buying, the amenities and features of a new construction home in Ann Arbor may just be able to support the modern lifestyle that you are seeking while adding appreciation value of a home in a high-demand destination.



Contributed to Your Home blog by Casey McKenna-Monroe

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Published 1.6.21

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