First and foremost this is an American college town. The University of Michigan moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in 1839, and students make up over 30% of the population today. Many others work for the University, shaping the whole local economy. In civil-rights movement days and during the time of protests against the Vietnam War this city became a major focal point for organizing and a center of the counterculture. SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) convened it's first meetings here, and in 1974, Kathy Kozachenko won her city-council race to became America's first openly-homosexual public official.
Today the economy is also supported by high technology companies attracted by research and development at the University, and the high level of education of graduates who remain in the area. The university has attracted a significant number of foreign-born people too, bringing an international accent to life in Ann Arbor. "A2" as it's sometimes called, is also known as "Tree Town" for streets filled with greenery, and for the 157 municipal parks within 25 square miles.
Museums of art, archaeology, natural history and sciences are among campus attractions; and theater groups, ballet companies, art galleries, and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra are associated with the University. Ranking first among US cities for the number of booksellers and books sold per capita population, the city is also where Borders Books began doing business.
The Ann Arbor Art Fairs, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Hash Bash (for reform of marijuana laws) are some major annual events here. The UM Wolverines, one of the Big Ten Conference football teams, plays at Michigan Stadium -- the world's largest American football stadium. Besides hosting the Film Festival the Michigan Theater screens all the best films in town, throughout the year.
Gay social life is focused, if anywhere in particular, under the light-festooned trees at Braun Court. Side by side, Aut Bar and Common Language Bookstore between them provide a morning-to-night resource center, a relaxed hangout for a variety of people, and casual food and drinks provider for many tastes. Every Friday Pride Night at Club Necto is the regular gay dance night in town. Pride events, big in the 70's, are sporatic and low-key these days, but since gay people can be open and accepted in most any social environment, there's less cause for activism, or need for alternative comfort zones. For other staples of gay life, the nightclubs and bathhouses of greater Detroit are a short drive away.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport is the area's international airport, about 25 miles (40 km) east of the city. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority ("The Ride") provides public bus service to and from DTW Airport to stations in the Ann Arbor Area. For the Blake Transit Center, 390 S. Fifth Avenue, the fare is $12 (August 2015). See their website for more info, and to buy your ticket in advance.
Amtrak has bus connections from Ann Arbor to East Lansing and Toledo Ohio, for rail passengers going to major destinations from these cities.
AATA, aka "The Ride" has a fleet of hybrid electric buses serving Ann Arbor and nearby Ypsilanti. Cash fares are $1.50.
Media & resources
PrideSource from Detroit's Between the Lines gay magazine has information on Ann Arbor too.
Visit Ann Arbor is an online source for accommodations, dining options, events and things to do around the area.
The M Spectrum Center at Michigan Union room 3200 is the campus gay student facility with workstation, lounge and library.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Ann Arbor listings pages.
Ashley's (338 S State St), pub/restaurant, chili, burgers, fries; scotch whiskies and 60 beers, including ales, wheat beers, lagers and stouts.
Aut Bar (315 Braun Court), laid-back gay bar and restaurant, Mexican menu, inexpensive drinks, Saturday and Sunday brunch, tree-shaded patio for warmer days.
Blind Pig (208 S 1st St), mostly straight dance club, live bands, wide range of music - rock, punk, metal, techno, industrial, reggae, blues to swing.
Circus (210 S 1st St), mostly straight, 3-level, 4-bar dance club complex, music videos, TV sports, pool tables, live bands, karaoke.
Club Necto (516 E Liberty St), 2-level college student 18-plus dance club, gay on Pride Fridays with special events and guest performers.
Heidelberg (215 North Main St), Bavarian restaurant and rathskeller, upstairs dance club, live bands.
The Ark (316 South Main St), live acoustic music club, among best anywhere; wide range of roots, folk, American traditional.
Common Language Bookstore (317 Braun Court), gay/lesbian/general books, CDs/DVDs, textbooks, next to Aut Bar.
See Detroit for our coverage of the big gay nightlife scene in that nearby city.