Michigan is probably known by most of the U.S. for having those big lakes and maybe for Detroit. Really, that doesn’t do the state justice, and the Movoto Real Estate Blog is here to set the record straight. Michigan is an exciting place to be, and we’re not just saying that because we have a very tall Michigan native looking over our shoulder right now.
In fact, there are so many thrilling and lively spots in the state that we can’t pick just one. So instead, we picked 10. We checked out some awesome photos, inspiring videos, compiled the numbers, and got a list of the most exciting places to call home. Those places were:
1. City of Ann Arbor
2. City of East Lansing
3. City of Grand Rapids
4. City of Royal Oak
5. City of Marquette
6. City of Hamtramck
7. City of Kalamazoo
8. City of Wyandotte
9. City of Birmingham
10. City of Detroit
You might be wondering where your hometown ranked if you don’t see it in the top 10. If you’re curious about that, you can scroll to the bottom of this piece and look at our full list of rankings.
You might be asking how we did this, where we got our info, and why certain cities aren’t on here. Your questions will be answered as you read on into our next section. It’ll be quick, we promise—we know you Michigan folk have exciting things to do.
How We Created This Ranking
We first made a list of the most populated places in the state over 20,000 people, which was 56 places. For each of those places, we consulted sources like the U.S. Census (2010) and business listings to collect data for:
- Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
- Live music venues per capita
- Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
- Arts and Entertainment per capita (movie theaters, festivals, galleries, theaters, etc.)
- Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better, because fast food is boring)
- Percentage of restaurants that are not fast food (the higher the better)
- Percentage of young residents ages 18 to 34 (the higher the better)
A few places didn’t have data in those areas, and were thus left out of our rankings. So if your hometown is absent, that might be why.
After we got those numbers, we ranked each place in each category from one to 56, with one being the best. After we had those rankings, we averaged together into one Big Deal Score for each place. The lowest score became our most exciting place.
Why don’t we look a little closer at each place in our top 10 and discuss why these cities deserve to be ranked where they are.
1. Ann Arbor
We talked to a few Michigan natives about this ranking, and all of them kind of nodded their heads when we told them that Ann Arbor ranked first. There were at least three colleges located in the city, the largest of which is the University of Michigan. So this is definitely a college town, and that gave it a big boost as far as the numbers.
The young population rank was third, because nearly half of the population here was between the ages of 18 and 35. The music venue rank was third as well, with highlights such as The Ark and The Blind Pig. The city also had the second best arts and active life on our list, including the very unique Fairy Doors you can walk to see, and a whole lot of non-fast food restaurants to choose from.
Most of that stuff can be credited to a young and party-loving population fueled by college exams, stress, and caffeine.
2. East Lansing
You’re probably going to notice a trend in this list when it comes to what sort of cities topped the rankings. For instance, here we have yet another college town. Home to Michigan State University (which is not the University of Michigan, they will correct you on that), Davenport University, and several other smaller institutions, this place is probably only depressing during finals week.
The young population here was first, with a whopping 72 percent of locals being between 18 and 34 years old. The non-fast food restaurant options ranked first as well and the music venues ranked eighth, which kept this place a head above the rest in the excitement department.
If you’re looking to go out at night, locals will probably point you towards a local pub, like Crunchy’s, where the beer seems to be good but the food is what’s really raved about.
3. Grand Rapids
Can you guess what this place shares in common with the top two? That’s right, this place is all about colleges. There are at least five different colleges that call this city home, including places like Calvin College and Cornerstone University. Because of that, almost a third of the population was aged 18 to 34.
The nightlife scene, ranked sixth, consists of bars like Founders Brewing as well as dance clubs like Diversions. But maybe clubs aren’t your scene, so once a year you can hit the Festival of the Arts to enjoy music, activities, and tons of informative and culture-enriching booths. It’s no wonder the city ranked ninth in the arts category.
4. Royal Oak
Royal Oak may not have ranked first in any single area, but the general rankings here were good. This city was also the first on our list that you really can’t call a college town. Instead, It’s more of a cultured and fascinating place to discover. Between the zoo and the art galleries, Royal Oak is ready to teach you something new.
The population density ranked ninth, and the young population ranked 11th, so this was still a pretty youthful and tightly packed place, even without the college draw. Nightlife may be lacking a little here, as it ranked 18th for that criteria, but with places like Five15 Media Mojo and More, who cares? They have Drag Queen Bingo for crying out loud.
Although this city was small, it packed a pretty powerful punch in the way of excitement. The arts ranked third, the music venues ranked fifth, and the nightlife was second. Even the young population ranking was fourth with a little less than half the population being between 18 and 34.
If you said that this had to be another college town, you’re right on the money. Marquette is home to Northern Michigan University, which helps explain all those nifty stats. And for those opting out of the college fast food lifestyle, there are awesome spots like Jean Kay’s Pasties & Subs for a bit of alternative dining.
Pronounced ham-tram-ick according to a native Michigander, this city knocked a lot of bigger places back on their heels in the stats department. Though it was little, this city ranked first in population density, nightlife per capita, and music venues per capita.
It’s also worth mentioning that this place is incredibly diverse, and a melting pot of cultures tends to be pretty exciting just by the variety it brings. That variety includes Polish festivals, culture festivals, and much more.
With a name like that, this place kind of has to be awesome on principle. Plus with not one but two colleges in the city, Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, thrills are pretty much a guaranteed.
More than 40 percent of the population was between 18 and 34 years old, and both the nightlife and music venues per capita ranked fourth. With places like Bell’s Eccentric Cafe around, that score is pretty understandable.
However, Kalamazoo isn’t just a college scene. There were also plenty of art galleries and theater shows for the more cultured folks looking to have a good time, and the active life ranking was eighth for that criteria. No matter who you are, this place has you covered.
Out of all the places on this list, Wyandotte was really the only one that got any raised eyebrows among locals. At only 25,883 people, this was definitely a smaller sized place, and it’s not even a college town. But if you look strictly at the numbers, this city has a lot to offer.
The nightlife per capita ranked fifth, and there were very few blase fast food restaurants. In fact, the non-fast food ranking for this place was eighth due to fantastic eateries like Sportsman’s Pizzeria.
On top of that, there were just a ton of festivals in this city, including a heritage events series that has about seven events per year, even in the winter. If you know where to look in this city, there’s always something fun happening.
Our Michigan source also tells us that this place also is home to a ton of “downriver social gatherings.” We don’t know what that means, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if he’s right or not.
This was by far the tiniest place on our top 10 at merely 20,103 residents, but don’t let the size fool you. For starters, this small city had the first place active life ranking as well as the first place art ranking.
One thing that brought this small place into the top 10 was that it’s a great little shopping city. There’s plenty to buy, lots of eating options, and some rather high-brow galleries to peruse.
There were also over 20 different parks to visit for those who like to have fun in the sun. It’s expensive there, but that’s because it’s a very wealthy community and attracts the more affluent sort. If you’re still not convinced that there’s fun to be had in Birmingham, stop in for a drink at Edisons sometimes and you might just change your mind.
Come on, you knew we couldn’t get out of the top 10 without giving Detroit a little love, right?
Sure, the city has its problems, but it also offers a wealth of things to do and see that you can’t get anyplace else on Earth. The sports teams are top notch for those that want something to cheer for, and you have to admit that Datsyuk does look awfully good with that cup above his head (next year, Wings fans). If you can’t find something to do here, you’re obviously not looking hard enough.
Some of you might be a little miffed about Detroit not being higher on the list, but let us assure you that we do love Motor City. The issue was mostly that this place was pretty huge. Most of our scores were per capita, so it didn’t stand up to the high number of party places in smaller cities like East Lansing or Kalamazoo.
Detroit did have surprisingly few boring fast food places, and had a fifth ranked population density. Throw in there the 10th ranked music venues, and you still have a place that absolutely deserves to be in the top 10.
The Greatest Excitement In The Great Lakes
Doing the research for this, it became pretty apparent that Michigan knows how to party. And we mean really party. Whether it’s the bar scene, the theater, rock concerts, or even just dining some place fancy, this state has it together.
There may be a lot of other awesome places that we just couldn’t fit on this list, but these top 10 were pretty exciting. We honestly doubt we could keep up! So party on, Michigan. We’ll be over here, in the corner of the country, watching with jealousy, awe, and exhaustion.