Home Moving City Guides 11 Things to Know About Living in Ann Arbor

11 Things to Know About Living in Ann Arbor


By Vince Mancuso, Storage.com

Though it’s known mostly as a college town because it hosts the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is so much more! Tree Town, as it’s nicknamed, offers its residents jobs in growing industries, unique local history, and arts of all kinds. If you’re moving to Ann Arbor for school, work, or just new opportunities, here are a few things you can look forward to!


Ann Arbor, MI
Photo by Jeff Wilcox

Livability.com ranks Ann Arbor (often called “A-Squared” by locals) among its Best Places to Live for a number of reasons. The city is credited for its diverse economy with strong growth in the technology and health care industries. In fact, roughly 127,000 jobs were added in health care between November 2014 and February 2015. Beyond employment, Ann Arbor has plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities with the Huron River and more than 150 parks. It’s even rated among Bicycling’s Top Bike-Friendly Cities. Of course, the city has also committed to renewing and developing its downtown area, which includes new high-rise apartments for recent college grads and young families. All in all, it’s a hot place to be right now.


University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
Photo by University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment

There’s no doubt University of Michigan has a strong impact on Ann Arbor. Founded in 1817, the university now brings in more than 43,000 undergraduate, graduate, and international students. In addition to being a nationally-recognized, public-funded research university, University of Michigan’s programs consistently rank among U.S. News & World Reports top ten programs, including its Health Care Management and Social Work. And don’t forget the famous alumni: President Gerald Ford, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, American playwright and essayist Arthur Miller, and actress Lucy Liu.

Attend the University of Michigan? Learn more about college storage to make trips home for the summer a breeze.


Michigan Stadium
Photo by Adam Glanzman

You can’t talk about University of Michigan without mentioning The Big House. With a seating capacity of 109,901, Michigan Stadium is not only the largest college stadium in the United States, it’s the third largest stadium in the world and ranks among the nation’s loudest stadiums with a recorded decibel level of 110—about as loud as a power saw a few feet away from your ears. While Michigan Stadium is primarily used for football, The Big House hosted a sold-out crowd of 109,318 spectators for the Manchester United and Real Madrid soccer match on August 2, 2014, making it the highest-attended soccer match in U.S. history.


JFK at University of Michigan
Photo by University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library is located in Ann Arbor, making it one of only 11 cities to have the honor of hosting a presidential library. Additionally, President Ford requested in his will for his body to be flown over both the University of Michigan and Michigan Stadium, where he played football during his time as a student. Other presidents made University of Michigan a pedestal to announce major movements and changes they would make during their time as presidents, too, including President Lyndon B. Johnson revealing his Great Society initiative during a 1964 commencement address and President John F. Kennedy describing a plan for what we know now as the Peace Corps during a 2 a.m. speech he gave at the Union.


Sculptures of Ann Arbor
Photo by Joe Ross

Newcomers will quickly learn that Ann Arbor is an artistic city in more ways than one. For instance, you can’t miss Richard Wolk’s Bookstore Mural on the side of a building at 300 South State Street. This iconic image depicts the likes of Woody Allen, Edgar Allan Poe, and Franz Kafka. You can also visit Endover (commonly known as The Cube) on University of Michigan’s campus, a sculpture nearly identical to the Alamo cube in New York City. For those who prefer a more hands-on arts approach, be sure to visit one of the four award-winning Ann Arbor Arts Fairs, which date back to 1960. And if you don’t want to wait for the fairs, you can always check out The Rock on Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street in George Washington Park. Originally a way to celebrate George Washington’s 200th birthday, The Rock has become more or less a free public art project with college students, neighbors, and even nursery school children painting the limestone.


Michigan Theater Pipe Organ
Photo by Andypiper

You have to check out the Ann Arbor Film Festival at the Michigan Theater, located just east of the University of Michigan campus. As one of the few Academy Award qualifying festivals in the U.S., it’s one of the oldest festivals of its kind, dating back to 1963. From its start, this festival has attracted famous and influential figures such as George Luca, Yoko Ono, and Andy Warhol. While you’re at the festival, be sure to check out Michigan Theater’s Barton Opus 245 pipe organ. It’s one of the few theater organs still sitting in its original location, and it’s still played before most film screenings.


Urban Fairy Door in Ann Arbor, MI
Photo by Cindy Funk

Call it public art or fantasy made real, but urban fairy doors have gathered a near-cult following in Ann Arbor and surrounding communities. The first one appeared outside of Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea in April 2005, and it’s believed to have been built by Jonathan B. Writer, children’s book author and creator of urban-fairies.com. Children and adults leave toys, candies, and other gifts at the door for the fairy occupants. Be sure to check out the website for a list and map of eight official fairy doors, as well as the goblin door, which is left off the map to avoid any jealous goblin interactions!


FestiFools in Ann Arbor
Photo by Dinesh Cyanam

Ann Arbor plays host to two foolishly fun events: FestiFools and FoolMoon. FestiFools has been a local tradition since its inaugural display in 2007 and is composed of gigantic papier-mâché puppets made by community members and Michigan students. Thousands of spectators join in to see the bizarre and wild creations each year on this Sunday event. The FoolMoon show takes place two days before FestiFools. This nighttime parade consists of handmade sculptures that are illuminated and carried by teams of merrymakers. The night also includes moonlit treats, performances, and film showings up until midnight.


Kempf House in Ann Arbor
Photo by Joffre Essley

If you love history but could do without a museum, Ann Arbor is the place to be. Tree Town is included in a self-guided tour app for your smartphone (Also, the app doesn’t require cellular data, so you can roam the town without driving up data charges). While the app does include local hot spots, it marks ten historic buildings, including the First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, Kempf House, and Rackham Graduate School on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus. While not on the app, Ann Arbor also has 18 historic houses still standing from when it was a village in 1837 that you’ll definitely want to check out.


Nickels Arcade in Ann Arbor
Photo by vincelaconte

If you’re looking to combine history with retail, look no further than Nickels Arcade. Located between Maynard and State streets just west of the University of Michigan campus, this glass-roofed shopping district is a historic location on its own, being only a few years short of that century mark. You can even visit three of its original tenants: eclectic gift shop Caravan, fine men’s apparel retailer Van Boven, and Arcade Barbers, which has been styling hair since 1917.


Songbird Cafe Latte
Photo provided by SONGBiRD Cafe

Ann Arbor has a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. Locals enjoy the SONGBiRD Cafe off the intersection of Plymouth and Nixon roads. You can try the sweet and savory Turkey Pistachio sandwich or enjoy any of their brunch options. Plus, with its cozy feel and specialty latte menu, you can hang out with friends or catch up on a good book. Residents also enjoy Macheko Grill in nearby Ypsilanti. Having just opened in February 2015, this Korean BBQ restaurant has attracted patrons with a tasty menu that can be cooked right at your table or prepared for takeout. Be sure to try their soy-sauce seasoned gyochon chicken, the most popular Korean fried chicken.

What would you add to our list about living in Ann Arbor?

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If you’re relocating to Ann Arbor and need storage space to help with the transition, view Storage.com’s directory of storage units in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

All images have either been provided by a listed organization or are licensed under the Creative Commons

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