Ann Arbor is relatively small, but it packs a punch. College towns are beloved for a reason, and millennials should find this one especially appealing: Thriving arts and food scenes, great healthcare thanks to the University of Michigan’s hospitals, strong schools, a highly educated population, a booming business sector, and more make this a great choice for any twenty- or thirtysomething.
With almost 116,000 residents, Ann Arbor is one of the smaller places on this list—but it tends to mix the best parts of small town and big city. For instance, it has the second lowest crime rate on this list—its violent crime rate is 2.04 per 1000 people, while the U.S. median is 3.8. And in the city’s 28.7 square miles, there are 54 parks for locals to enjoy.
Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is a college town—in fact, it’s in the top 5 best college towns in America (and has been there three times before). But further, it’s also a top contender for best cities for new college grads—meaning Ann Arbor is just a young town all-around. In fact, it has the second highest percentage of school-age kids of the 10 cities. So the culture there is geared both towards millennials and their children—a win/win all around.
In fact, Ann Arbor dominates the list in terms of the number of kids’ books in circulation. There are five public libraries and three million children’s books. And this seeming emphasis on learning is certainly reflected in the adults, too—because Ann Arbor has the most educated population on the list, with 97.9 percent of adults having graduated high school and 71 percent having a bachelor’s degree.
Naturally, all these factors tend to lend to a thriving business climate, and in fact Ann Arbor has just been listed in the top 10 best cities for entrepreneurs. Between 2011 and 2015, businesses grew 13 percent, while the number of jobs grew by 12 percent, fueled in part by the city’s economic development department, Ann Arbor SPARK, the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
But if creating your own business or joining a startup isn’t your cup of tea, there are still plenty of established businesses you can work for. The University of Michigan alone employs more than 30,000 people, and other major employers span the technology, health services, and biotechnology industries, as well as companies like General Motors, JSTOR, and Weather Underground.
And if you’re worried about the finer (and fun-er) things in life, well, Ann Arbor continues to deliver. The city has the most independent bookstores and restaurants per capita in the entire US; the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair has been an annual event since 1960, and now brings in 500,000 or so people a year; locals are embracing microbreweries and artisan cocktails, leading to Ann Arbor being the third on the list for recent bar attendance; and there are plenty of sports teams to root for, including the Michigan Wolverines.
Of course, college towns aren’t for all--so if Ann Arbor isn’t quite your thing, #4 might be more for you--especially if you want affordability and easy access to the great outdoors.