Residents lean decidedly to the left in this friendly college town where the yogi on the next mat might just be the CEO of a tech start-up, a prize-winning pickle entrepreneur or a tenured engineering professor. In a city that takes the top spot in our People category, you never know who you’ll meet—but you know it’ll be interesting.
A quarter of Ann Arbor residents work at the University of Michigan, an intellectual powerhouse that helps earn this smartest small city our #1 ranking for Educational Attainment and #23 for Foreign-born Residents, the two subcategories of our People pillar.
They’re drawn to higher education, and Ann Arbor ranks #4 for Universities. With smart graduates who tend to stick around, U-M can also take credit for Ann Arbor’s burgeoning tech sector, including companies like Duo Security (recently acquired by Cisco for $2.35 billion) and the headquarters of global software company LLamasoft.
On fall weekends, Ann Arbor’s population doubles as football fans pour into the massive stadium that locals call the Big House. But Ann Arbor isn’t all about the gridiron. Even though the calendar revolves around the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor truly shines when the students go home for the summer, and locals and visitors alike head outdoors to enjoy the city’s wealth of parks, abundant sidewalk eateries and busy festival calendar.
The University of Michigan Museum of Art makes routine showings on best-of lists, while the recently reimagined Museum of Natural History is a must-see for dinosaur buffs. Come sunset, downtown’s sophisticated restaurant scene heats up while intimate concerts take place at The Ark and art films are screened at the historic Michigan or State theaters (the latter recently reopened after a multi-year rehab).
Ann Arbor does pretty well in our Parks & Outdoors category (#38), not surprising when you take into account that locals affectionately call their city “Tree Town.” Ann Arbor’s leafy neighborhoods are dotted with more than 150 parks, which draw locals outside all summer. Families appreciate the excellent public schools, while foodies flock to Zingerman’s world-famous delicatessen and gourmet foods emporium, or the year-round Farmers Market, which celebrates 100 years in 2019.