The Best of Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor's Best Restaurants, Stores, Services and More


Welcome to the Best of Ann Arbor! This site attempts to answer the question: “What’s The Best (Whatever) In Ann Arbor”

Within these pages, you will find recommendations for the best stores, products and services that Tree Town can offer. Feel free to chime in on any category with a recommendation of your own. Or suggest a new category to the Editor using the contact form.

The most important thing, however, is to remain positive. negative reviews will be deleted. We’re going to let a lack of reviews speak loudly.

To find recommendations of interest, use the search box, or browse through the categories.

As always, do your due diligence before following up on any of these recommendations. They are guidelines offered by readers, not the endorsements of this site.

About Ann Arbor

Located in South eastern Michigan, Ann Arbor is the state’s seventh largest city, with a population of 114,024, according to 2000 census data. It’s the home of the University of Michigan, and 32% of the city’s population are students. The University employs 38,000, including 7,500 in the medical center. Outside of the University, the city’s employment centers on high technology, thanks to companies drawn to the area by the University’s graduates and research and development money.

Ann Arbor’s strange name comes from the names of the spouses of the two founders, and the abundance of area trees. To this name, Ann Arbor is known as “Tree Town.”

Ann Arbor was founded in 1824 by John Allen and Elisha Rumsey. The town plat was  registered on May 25, 1824 as Annarbour. it became the seat of Washtenaw County in 1827, and was incorporated as a village in 1833.

Forty acres of land set aside in the area initially were offered to the State of Michigan as the future location of the state capital. Lansing won that prize, but Ann Arbor received the University of Michigan in 1837 as a consolation. Two years later, the Michigan Central Railroad established a hub in the village. Ann Arbor was charted as a city in 1851.

Ann Arbor has long been at the front of the national news. Presidential candidate John Kennedy first spoke of his Peace Corps plan in 1960 at the University (a marker still commemorates the spot); President Lyndon Johnson revealed his plans for the Great Society at the 1964 commencement. In the 1960s and 1970s, the University and City were hubs of activism for the Civil Rights and Vietnam war movements. The first major meetings of the national left-wing campus group Students for a Democratic Society took place in Ann Arbor in 1960; in 1965, the city was home to the first U.S. teach-in against the  Vietnam War.

These liberal influences clashed with the more conservative municipal politics during the early and mid-1970s when three members of the Human Rights Party (HRP) won city council seats on the strength of the student vote. Alongside these liberal and left-wing efforts, a small group of conservative institutions were born in Ann Arbor. These include Word of God(established in 1967), a charismatic inter-denominational movement of national scope; and the Thomas Moore law Center (established in 1999), a leading religious-conservative advocacy group.

Ann Arbor consistently ranks in the “top places to live” lists published by various mainstream media outlets every year. In 2008, it was ranked 27th out of 100 “America’s best small cities.” The city’s cultural diversity is truly world-class, thanks to the University and international research and development facilities.

In a state derided for its stagnant economy, Ann Arbor has always been an oasis of entrepreneurs and innovators.  Dominos Pizza was founded in Ann Arbor in 1960. Borders Books was begun by the Borders brothers in 1971. World Famous Zingermann’s Deli is located downtown, and the city also is home to many other innovative corporations, including Flint Ink, Arbor Networks, Arbortext, JSTOR, MediaSpan, ProQuest, All Media Guide, Weather Underground and Zattoo. Internet 2 and the Merit network also are located here. Google’s Adwords moved to Ann Arbor in 2007, thanks to the influence of Larry Page, Google Founder and University of Michigan graduate.

Many Ann Arbor cultural attractions and events are sponsored by the University of Michigan. Several performing arts groups and facilities are on the university’s campus, as are museums dedicated to art, archaeology, and natural history and sciences. Regional and local performing arts groups not associated with the university include the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre; the Arbor Opera Theater; the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra; the Ann Arbor Ballet Theater; the Ann Arbor Civic Ballet (established in 1954 as Michigan’s first chartered ballet company) the Performance Network Theatre, which operates a downtown theater and frequently offers new or nontraditional plays.

The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum located in a renovated and expanded historic downtown fire station, contains more than 250 interactive exhibits featuring science and technology. Multiple art galleries exist in the city, notably in the downtown area and around the University of Michigan campus. Aside from a large restaurant scene in the Main Street, South State Street, and South University Avenue areas, Ann Arbor ranks first among U.S. cities in the number of booksellers and books sold per capita. The  Ann Arbor District Library maintains four branch outlets in addition to its main downtown building; in 2008 a new branch building replaced the branch located in Plymouth Mall. This new branch is called the Traverwood Branch, and opened on June 30, 2008. The city is also home to the Gerald Ford Presidential Library.

Several annual events – many of them centered on performing and visual arts – draw visitors to Ann Arbor. One such event is the Ann Arbor Street Fairs, a set of four concurrent juried fairs held on downtown streets, which began in 1960. Scheduled on Wednesday through Saturday in the third week of July, the fairs draw upward of half a million visitors. Another is the Ann Arbor Film Festival, held during the third week of March, which receives more than 2,500 submissions annually from more than 40 countries and serves as one of a handful of Academy Award–qualifying festivals in the United States. One event that is not related to visual and performing arts is Hash Bash, held on the first Saturday of April, ostensibly in support of the reform of marijuana laws.

Ann Arbor has a major scene for college sports, notably at the University of Michigan, a member of the Big Ten Conference Several well-known college sports facilities exist in the city, including Michigan Stadium, with a  106,201 seating capacity.  The stadium is colloquially known as “The Big House.” Crisler Arena and Yost Arena play host to the school’s basketball and ice hockey teams, respectively. Concordia University, a member of the NAIA also fields sports teams. 

A person from Ann Arbor is called an “Ann Arborite”, and many long-time residents call themselves “townies”. The city itself is often called (“A-squared”) or A2 (“A two”), and, less commonly, Tree Town. Some occasionally refer to Ann Arbor as The People’s Republic of Ann Arbor or 25 square miles surrounded by reality.

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