Few would dispute the claim that Ann Arbor, with its population of 113,200, is one of the most interesting cities in the state—if not the country. Home to the well-reputed University of Michigan , part of the Big Ten Conference, it transcends the typical college-town atmosphere with its unique blend of large-city verve and small-town friendliness.
Located about 40 miles west of Detroit , Ann Arbor is now a regional research center as well as the suburb of choice for Detroit intelligentsia. Popular with all demographic groups, the city has been awarded the title “quintessentially cool college town” by Seventeen, rated the second most “Woman Friendly City in America” by Ladies Home Journal, and ranked #27 on Money magazine’s 2008 list of the “best places to live” in America.
The media continues to heap accolades on Ann Arbor, in part because of its appealing blend of big city vitality and small-town Midwestern friendliness. This is Michigan, after all. While there’s plenty of typical college-town angst, folks are genuinely helpful when you ask for directions and are always ready to recommend a favorite restaurant.
Ann Arbor is dominated by the well-known university, which occupies most of the area just east of downtown. Historic U of M, founded in 1817, is one of the nation’s great public institutions, with a long reputation for excellence in academics and athletics. The university is proud of its statistics, including having the largest pre-law and pre-med programs in the country; graduates that include eight NASA astronauts, one president, numerous actors and filmmakers, and several Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winners; and a diverse student body that represents all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries.
Reaching Ann Arbor is a snap. Both Amtrak (800/872-7245, www.amtrak.com ) and Greyhound (800/231-2222, www.greyhound.com ) serve the city. In addition, you can fly into the Detroit Metropolitan–Wayne County Airport (DTW) (734/247-7678 or 800/642-1978, www.metroairport.com ), rent a vehicle from one of seven national car rental agencies, and head west on I-94 to Ann Arbor. Of course, most travelers probably reach Ann Arbor by car, whether headed from Flint on U.S. 23 or from Jackson  on I-94.
Ann Arbor is a walking town. Those who don’t have cars (and the majority of the students) use foot power or zip around town on bikes or in-line skates. There’s a reliable public bus system, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (734/973-6500, www.theride.org ), which delivers passengers around the main campus as well as farther afield. If you’ve brought your car, watch for the easy-access parking garages spread throughout the city. There’s also plenty of parking on the street, but beware that the city has very thorough parking enforcement officers. Bring plenty of change.