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Old 09-19-2021, 02:42 PM
 
11 posts, read 11,792 times
Reputation: 21

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Hello everyone! We are a family of four currently living in Chicago (in an urban neighborhood near U of C) and hoping to relocate somewhere a bit more family-friendly to settle and raise our children. We've really loved what we've seen about Ann Arbor so far and would be wondering if we'd be a good fit for the area. We're doing tons of our own research but are also reaching out as far and wide as possible for information, and any thoughts would be so much appreciated!

Some stuff about us:

--We're a couple in our early 30s with two young children (daughter, 3, and son, 9 months).
--We are both remote workers -- my husband is a software engineer (also finishing up his PhD at U of Chicago) and I have a remote research position (flexible hours while staying home with our kids). Combined, our income is about ~140k.
--We're both originally from Southern California; our parents live in San Diego & LA, but we fell in love with the Great Lakes and would be happy to remain in this area if possible. We're fine with Midwestern winters -- we've lived in Chicago for almost a decade and it hasn't fazed us.
--We are looking for an area that is great for kids of all ages -- enough of that "leafy suburb/kids playing in the cul-de-sac" vibe for young children to thrive and be safe, but enough cultural amenities and activities so that preteens and teenagers won't get bored. We're hoping for a welcoming, open community where we and the kids can make friends.
--We prefer an active, vibrant community with lots of family-friendly cultural activities-- book fairs, outdoor concerts, farmer's markets, that kind of thing. My husband and I enjoy some nightlife (symphony orchestra, fun restaurants, etc.) but primarily just love to do a variety of things with our kids.
--We are big on year-round outdoor living, and would do best where people are fairly active year round. My husband enjoys deer hunting and we both love fishing, hiking, sailing, and mushroom foraging (we used to do a lot of hiking, rock climbing and kayaking, but since the kids came along that hasn't happened as much!). I really enjoy herbal medicine and wildcrafting, and we're both avid gardeners.
--Politically/socially, we have a mix of "crunchy" and conservative views. We come from progressive backgrounds and are big walking/biking enthusiasts, drink raw milk and try to support local farms, but we're also socially conservative -- pro-life, family values, pro-2nd-Amendment, etc. We're not very in-your-face about our views though -- we're pretty openminded and can get along with all kinds of people.
--We are Catholic and prefer traditional Latin Masses -- it looks like A2 and Detroit both have some great parishes!

Some questions we have:

--Is Ann Arbor a city that's welcoming to outsiders and easy to make friends in, or is it better to have established "roots" in that area? What about SE Michigan in general? We have concerns about fitting in, especially since we are of SoCal extraction.
--Is it a social dealbreaker that we have some conservative views?
--How is Detroit for day trips, nightlife etc?
--What are some of you guys' favorite family activities in the area?
--What types of outdoor recreation are available? Is it a good place to be active and explore nature? What about in the winter?
--Are there lots of publicly-accessible interest-based clubs around, such as knitting groups, mom groups, gardening swap clubs, etc?
--How walkable/bikable is the city in general? How much independence could, say, a young teenager who isn't quite driving-ready enjoy?

Thank you all so much!!!!
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Old 09-20-2021, 11:33 AM
 
Location: Central Mass
3,885 posts, read 3,996,502 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tardigrade1 View Post
--We are Catholic and prefer traditional Latin Masses -- it looks like A2 and Detroit both have some great parishes!
My family has been burried in one of three Catholic cemetaries for the last 150 years, so it's there. There's a bigger Lutheran group, but there were a lot of Irish Catholics that moved to Ann Arbor in the 1850s!

Quote:
--Is Ann Arbor a city that's welcoming to outsiders and easy to make friends in, or is it better to have established "roots" in that area? What about SE Michigan in general? We have concerns about fitting in, especially since we are of SoCal extraction.
That I can't help with.

Quote:
--Is it a social dealbreaker that we have some conservative views?
Depends on how conservative. Ann Arbor is the most liberal part of the state. Fiscal conservatism will go a lot further than social conservatism. The Hash Bash has been going on since 1972 - before legalization pot possession in Ann Arbor was a $50 civil ticket, not even a misdemeanor.

Quote:
--How is Detroit for day trips, nightlife etc?
Depends. It's a 40 minute drive to the arenas/Fox theatre/etc. if that's your thing. Back in the old days, you had to go to Pine Knob or the Palace for concerts and that takes over an hour to get to from Ann Arbor.
Besides the DIA and Henry Ford Museum and pro sports, there's not much you really need to go into Detroit suburbs for. Ann Arbor is culturally richer than the city.

Quote:
--What are some of you guys' favorite family activities in the area?
--What types of outdoor recreation are available? Is it a good place to be active and explore nature? What about in the winter?
The Huron River goes through town. There are a few city parks along the river, but the best are the metroparks in Dexter.
Waterloo and Pinckney rec areas are west northwest of town and have lots of outdoor activities, summer and winter. I grew up going to Half Moon Lake all the time, but Silver Lake is much more popular.
Mt Brighton is a ski landfill in Brighton, 15 minutes north.

Quote:
--How walkable/bikable is the city in general? How much independence could, say, a young teenager who isn't quite driving-ready enjoy?
Easily the most bikeable and walkable part of the state.
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Old 09-20-2021, 12:24 PM
 
Location: Ann Arbor MI
2,203 posts, read 1,932,863 times
Reputation: 3117
Quote:
--Is Ann Arbor a city that's welcoming to outsiders and easy to make friends in, or is it better to have established "roots" in that area? What about SE Michigan in general? We have concerns about fitting in, especially since we are of SoCal extraction.
Fitting in shouldn't be a problem. Ann Arbor is a bit of a transient town as people come for a few years and move on after a stint at the University. In other words "roots" are not that important there is turnover in the population.


Quote:
--Is it a social dealbreaker that we have some conservative views?
I would say absolutely not. There are numerous people in this town who are not far left. Very few are far right but plenty of folks have moderate political leanings.

For disclosure I moved to Ann Arbor in 1984 from Ypsilanti. To be fair my 37 years have all been spent on the SE side of town away from the campus area and downtown.

The city is actively adding bike lanes and the city bus system is pretty reasonable.
In fact many would argue the city isn't just pro bike and pro pedestrian it is anti car.
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Old 09-20-2021, 02:32 PM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
12,330 posts, read 20,722,230 times
Reputation: 15196
I'd also have a look at Grand Rapids, which has a hipster/centrist vibe that might be a good fit for you in the Kent County parts (I still think the Ottawa County burbs are pretty Dutch Calvinist tribal) where you get the fun and trendy brewpub scene, minor league sports with affordable tickets, easy Lake Michigan access, farmers markets and apple orchard season, a reasonably good mass transit plan in the city proper and some inner ring suburban areas, a cultural scene that punches above its weight for an area that size, and good local park access while not being far from where 'Up North' begins.

The down side is winter gloominess even by Chicago standards- you don't really see the sun much from October to March- and lots of lake effect snow.
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Old 09-20-2021, 07:49 PM
 
29 posts, read 21,800 times
Reputation: 46
you might enjoy saline, a small town outside of Ann Arbor but just a ten to fifteen minute drive into the city, or dexter or Chelsea, which have more of a mix of political views. in Ann Arbor, you are definitely going to find the those leafy streets with kids riding bikes to neighborhood schools, but you will also find liberal signs in every other front yard, not sure how you feel about that, if you go to latin masses, are you Latinx - you might find all of these towns are very very white, not just a lack of diversity but lack of cultural differences in many regards. This is a sweeping generalization, of course, but culturally everyone seems to be christian, protestant, methodist settled more of this area, there's only two cathedrals as far as I know, but tons of other contemporary churches you might find interesting. I know some Jewish families have left due to lack of Jewish culture and resources, again, that's a generalization. for outdoor recreation you might be driving up north a lot, I agree with previous poster to also check out Grand Rapids, but it does sound like you would fit in in Ann Arbor if you did want to give it a shot considering how easy going you sound.
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Old 09-20-2021, 09:35 PM
 
1,632 posts, read 1,959,382 times
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What about Grand Rapids?
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Old 09-21-2021, 01:41 PM
 
11 posts, read 11,792 times
Reputation: 21
Thanks, this is all very helpful!

We've heard lots of good things about GR, namely that it's a great place to raise kids, has a great sense of community etc. We're strongly considering it also. At first blush, it seems like A2 may have more religious/educational options for us which is why we focused on it, but GR is also on our list for sure! The location also looks great. Is the outdoor recreation (sports, berry picking, beaches etc) considerably better in/around GR than A2?

My husband would definitely be interested in Saline, Dexter or Chelsea, probably even more than A2 proper, but I might be a little nervous about how we'd fit in. I've anecdotally heard that newcomers find it somewhat harder to make friends in the smaller towns around A2, and if we don't belong to a church in the area -- chances are we'd be commuting to church in A2 or Detroit due to our Latin Mass preference -- I'm wondering if it may be a bit hard to network? Might anyone have experience relocating to one of these towns as a transplant, particularly an out-of-state transplant? Ethnically we're both from blue-collar Irish/English backgrounds, although we've lived most of our lives in larger cities/college towns and are pretty adaptable. My husband was raised Protestant also (his family is from the rural South).

Incidentally, by Latin Mass I mean Extraordinary Form, not necessarily a Hispanic/Latino parish (though we don't mind those either)! Hence why we've had our eye on the areas in/around Detroit -- it has a ton of options in that regard, moreso than the rest of the state from what it seems. I'm guessing we could adapt well to either GR or A2, though (lawn signs aside ;D) and would appreciate their amenities.

Thank you all again so much, we're really appreciating the information and help!
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Old 09-21-2021, 01:49 PM
 
11 posts, read 11,792 times
Reputation: 21
Also, incidentally, we don't really mind cannabis, tattoos, any of that stuff (it's not "us," but we can coexist with it fine) -- our conservatism is more of the "family values"/pro-life/pro-small-business variety.
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Old 09-21-2021, 02:44 PM
 
Location: Central Mass
3,885 posts, read 3,996,502 times
Reputation: 4410
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tardigrade1 View Post
My husband would definitely be interested in Saline, Dexter or Chelsea, probably even more than A2 proper, but I might be a little nervous about how we'd fit in. I've anecdotally heard that newcomers find it somewhat harder to make friends in the smaller towns around A2, and if we don't belong to a church in the area -- chances are we'd be commuting to church in A2 or Detroit due to our Latin Mass preference -- I'm wondering if it may be a bit hard to network? Might anyone have experience relocating to one of these towns as a transplant, particularly an out-of-state transplant? Ethnically we're both from blue-collar Irish/English backgrounds, although we've lived most of our lives in larger cities/college towns and are pretty adaptable. My husband was raised Protestant also (his family is from the rural South).

Incidentally, by Latin Mass I mean Extraordinary Form, not necessarily a Hispanic/Latino parish (though we don't mind those either)!
As for Dexter, in the last 30 years the population grew from 1400 to 5000. Almost everyone there is a newcomer. Open land and old farms that I ran cross country through is now housing developments. It's still the smallest of the three towns.
However, there is a Catholic church in town, St. Josephs. My grandma's funeral was in Latin. My dad was beat by nuns in the old Catholic elementary school, but that hasn't existed since the 60s.

Chelsea grew from 3700 to 5800 over the same time - it's biggest growth was in the 50s when it his 3700 in 1960 and stayed there till 90. St Mary's catholic church was built in the 60s and it's a weird building - obviously influenced by Saarinen. In the 80s and 90s, they had very good trick-or-treating and the Chelsea Fair had carnival rides and ended with 4th of July fireworks.

Saline has always been the biggest town, and it's barely grown this century, going from 8000 to 8800. It's also the richest (barely, we're splitting hairs) and whitest (again barely, all three are over 93% white). There's another catholic church there too, but I don't know anything about it.

Your more apt to run into a Vietnamese catholic church in Washtenaw county than a Hispanic one though.
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Old 09-21-2021, 04:57 PM
 
1,977 posts, read 2,870,995 times
Reputation: 2261
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tardigrade1 View Post
Hello everyone! We are a family of four currently living in Chicago (in an urban neighborhood near U of C) and hoping to relocate somewhere a bit more family-friendly to settle and raise our children. We've really loved what we've seen about Ann Arbor so far and would be wondering if we'd be a good fit for the area. We're doing tons of our own research but are also reaching out as far and wide as possible for information, and any thoughts would be so much appreciated!

Some stuff about us:

--We're a couple in our early 30s with two young children (daughter, 3, and son, 9 months).
--We are both remote workers -- my husband is a software engineer (also finishing up his PhD at U of Chicago) and I have a remote research position (flexible hours while staying home with our kids). Combined, our income is about ~140k.
--We're both originally from Southern California; our parents live in San Diego & LA, but we fell in love with the Great Lakes and would be happy to remain in this area if possible. We're fine with Midwestern winters -- we've lived in Chicago for almost a decade and it hasn't fazed us.
--We are looking for an area that is great for kids of all ages -- enough of that "leafy suburb/kids playing in the cul-de-sac" vibe for young children to thrive and be safe, but enough cultural amenities and activities so that preteens and teenagers won't get bored. We're hoping for a welcoming, open community where we and the kids can make friends.
--We prefer an active, vibrant community with lots of family-friendly cultural activities-- book fairs, outdoor concerts, farmer's markets, that kind of thing. My husband and I enjoy some nightlife (symphony orchestra, fun restaurants, etc.) but primarily just love to do a variety of things with our kids.
--We are big on year-round outdoor living, and would do best where people are fairly active year round. My husband enjoys deer hunting and we both love fishing, hiking, sailing, and mushroom foraging (we used to do a lot of hiking, rock climbing and kayaking, but since the kids came along that hasn't happened as much!). I really enjoy herbal medicine and wildcrafting, and we're both avid gardeners.
--Politically/socially, we have a mix of "crunchy" and conservative views. We come from progressive backgrounds and are big walking/biking enthusiasts, drink raw milk and try to support local farms, but we're also socially conservative -- pro-life, family values, pro-2nd-Amendment, etc. We're not very in-your-face about our views though -- we're pretty openminded and can get along with all kinds of people.
--We are Catholic and prefer traditional Latin Masses -- it looks like A2 and Detroit both have some great parishes!

Some questions we have:

--Is Ann Arbor a city that's welcoming to outsiders and easy to make friends in, or is it better to have established "roots" in that area? What about SE Michigan in general? We have concerns about fitting in, especially since we are of SoCal extraction.
--Is it a social dealbreaker that we have some conservative views?
--How is Detroit for day trips, nightlife etc?
--What are some of you guys' favorite family activities in the area?
--What types of outdoor recreation are available? Is it a good place to be active and explore nature? What about in the winter?
--Are there lots of publicly-accessible interest-based clubs around, such as knitting groups, mom groups, gardening swap clubs, etc?
--How walkable/bikable is the city in general? How much independence could, say, a young teenager who isn't quite driving-ready enjoy?

Thank you all so much!!!!
You never explained in your post why you want to leave Chicagoland? If you provide that, folks on here might be able to help you even more.

Ann Arbor has a great sense of community and has fantastic amenities for a smaller city, especially the dining and brewery scene. The schools are top-notch, and the schools of the 'name-brand' suburb areas of Washtenaw county - Saline, Dexter, and Chelsea, are also excellent. The area has some really nice recreational assets from the Border-to-Border Bike trail to the many parks along the Huron River, as well as a few MetroParks and large State Parks to the west/northwest. Also, the town to the east, Ypsilanti, has some really cool things to check out as well. I say take the plunge, especially if you are used to our gloomy, cold Midwestern winters! (Ann Arbor is the most expensive area in Michigan to live, however)

Quote:
Originally Posted by scorpio516 View Post
Besides the DIA and Henry Ford Museum and pro sports, there's not much you really need to go into Detroit suburbs for. Ann Arbor is culturally richer than the city.
Even at downtown's lowest point, Detroit had more to offer culturally than Ann Arbor.

You are speaking from antiquated knowledge, as you have not lived in SE Michigan in many years. Between the Riverfront, downtown, midtown/Cultural Center, Eastern Market, Corktown, Mexicantown, the Dequindre Cut, Belle Isle, etc, etc, the central core of the city has more to offer than Ann Arbor.

The only reason to come to Detroit area is for the DIA, Greenfield Village/Henry Ford Museum and pro sports? You missed the Broadway plays, the opera, the major comedians/musicians/live performances, the zoo, the aquarium, the country's best Middle Eastern cuisine, the Museum of African-American History, the Holocaust Memorial Center, the Somerset Mall, the many annual events (pre-coronavirus), and much more.
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