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JohnBom

Madison vs. Ann Arbor

11 posts in this topic

Hey all,

I am looking for some opinion from folks who spent some time at both places. I got fully funded acceptances from both. I am pretty much thrilled with the academic caliber and the research match at both. I think it is a good idea to investigate living quality at each in order to help me decide. Obviously, I plan to visit, but I doubt that I will get a fair sense of what it is like living there after three days.

If you could choose, where would you go?

Thanks for your wise insights.

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Hi! Congratulations on being accepted at two great schools! Although I've never been to Madison, I've done all my undergraduate (in sociology) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I think this is a wonderful town, but my 4 years here are more than enough for me. Ann Arbor is all about the University of Michigan, heck, I think the state of Michigan is all about the University. The town and the school blend together very well, especially downtown Ann Arbor, but outside of downtown you really need a car to go places, even grocery shopping. There are concerts and cultural offerings pretty often but I think you need to find a way to find out about them. Campus and downtown are beautiful, especially in the warmer months, and during that time you will see people everywhere outside, eating at restaurants with tables on the sidewalks, reading under trees, playing sports, etc. But the winter months are frozen hell, although I am sure in Madison they are not much different. Also on the negative side, rent here is ridiculous! I pay $1,350 a month for an old 2 bedroom/1bath apartment on campus. Rent off campus is cheaper, but you need a car or public transportation to get to campus. I 'd say you can get a pretty good feel of what Ann Arbor is like in a 3 day visit (I did), I think the biggest difference between the two is that Madison is a bigger city, while at least compared to where I come from, Ann Arbor feels like a small town. If you are looking to become a football fan though, go to Wisconsin lol

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Agreed about Ann Arbor. Currently living here and love it but everything the person said above is true. Still, I'm an advocate for it because of the summer, restaurants, and overall cuteness. I don't have a car so getting around can be a pain but I bike everywhere anyway (sometimes hard to do in winter, which sadly lasts a long time here). BUT I've been to Madison a few times and I have to tell you -- the fact that Madison is all along a lake really, really sells it to me. It's just absolutely beautiful and it makes you want to live there -- really. Too bad, if you visit now you really won't get a good sense of the lake.

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You can definitely find places for cheaper than that in Ann Arbor. The place I stayed at 2 years ago was ~$900 a month for 2 bdrm/1bath within a mile of campus. Also, imean, if you're feeling too suffocated by the University you should hit up the bars in Ypsilanti.

It's also worth pointing out that if you do have a car at Michigan, you also have access to everything Detroit has to offer. Four professional sports teams, lots of theater/broadway performances (second largest theater district in the country behind Broadway), Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Science Center, Eastern Market is the largest historic public market district in the country, casinos, tons of music venues, and a whole bunch of awesome yearly events I could list off. Closest thing Madison has is Chicago, and that's at least two and a half hours away (not even taking traffic into consideration).

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Hi!

I just wanted to add a little weight to the Madison side. I think I have a pretty good perspective on both places- I have been living in Madison for a year and a half and I grew up in Michigan (near Lansing) and though I went to school at MSU (which admittedly colors my perception of Ann Arbor, but to be fair, I didn't really want to like Madison all that well either), I spent a lot of time in Ann Arbor and have/had a lot of friends who still live there. That said, I think Madison is the hands down choice in terms of quality of living. Don't get me wrong, I like Ann Arbor, there are great and fun things to do (ABC, Ashley's and Zingerman's will always be favorites of mine) but Madison just beats it on all fronts.

First, Madison is just a gorgeous city. It's hard to appreciate it during the winter, but once spring and summer come it's amazing. The city is sandwiched between 2 lakes and there are so many beautiful places to go for a run, long bike ride, or just sit outside and have a beer (especially the Memorial Union Terrace) that it's really mind boggling. You really don't ever need a car- the city is unbelievably bike friendly and in the winter, you can always walk/take the bus if you prefer. Also, There is a surprisingly good restaurant scene for the size of the city, and there is always something to do. The people are friendly and down to earth (I doubt you'll ever hear anyone in Madison calling the UW the 'Harvard of the Midwest'). Additionally, the city's economy has weathered the recession pretty well. It seems like that's a strange thing to think about, but it is nice to not have the spectre of the dying auto industry hanging so close overhead. Moreover, Madison may not be as close to Detroit as Ann Arbor is, but Milwaukee is only an 1-1.5 hours away by car and Chicago is not much more (2 or 2.5 hrs) if you ever need to get some big city back in your blood. The live music scene in Madison is pretty OK (the high noon and the Barrymore get some pretty great acts going through) but anyone you'd ever want to see ever will likely go through Milwaukee or definitely Chicago, so you won't miss out on anything by living here.

The cost of living is probably a shade less than in Ann Arbor. You can overpay for some of the condos downtown, but it's easy to find a really great place really close to the downtown/campus area for around 900-1100 for a 2 bedroom place. If you're looking around, I would recommend looking near East Johnson St, or Williamson St. (on the east side, near some really cool independent bars/restaurants or in the Vilas neighborhood (super close to campus, tons of grad students). In my own grad search, I've been trying to estimate cost of living by the price of a good pint of microbrew. Around here it's about 4 bucks a pint for something good quality and local (definitely goes lower, can go a touch higher). Which leads me to another point- the Madison area has a ton of micro breweries, and some of them are really, really good.

There are downsides of course- Madison is a little colder than Mid-Michigan in the winter (especially in December) and though Madison has plenty to do, it's not a major city. Also, Madison's not a very racially diverse city. From my time here I get the sense that the minority communities in Madison are not nearly as large nor as visibly present as I have seen in other cities. I think that has been the one thing that struck me as a bit strange. So, if that is something that would be important to you, it's worth bearing in mind.

All in all though, I think between the two, I would choose Madison every time. The weather and the geography just get me every time, Madison is just unbelievable in the summer. (Did I mention it's much much sunnier here than in Michigan?) Anyway, good luck deciding. Since you are picking between 2 really great places, you can't go wrong either way!

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Thanks for all that valuable advice. I am leaning slightly towards Madison now. One thing that's on my mind that nobody has discussed is food. I love eating out and cooking. I've been living in a much less attractive midwestern town for past five years and this hobby of mine has certainly suffered. Which one do you think offers greater options when it comes to feeding yourself?

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I can answer that. I'm just wrapping up four years of living in Madison, and I know I'm going to miss it so much. If you like to eat out, the food here will blow your mind. There is probably every style of cuisine represented here, from the lowly bratwurst to fois gras. Italian, Chinese, French, Irish, Tibetan, Indian, Middle-Eastern, American, German, Mexican, Vietnamese/Laotian, Brazilian, barbecue...I'm just describing a single street and the one block area surrounding it! If you want, I can recommend a list of restaurants that will cater to whatever you're looking for.

As for cooking, that all depends on your own skills, but there are definitely places to get the ingredients. A grocery store just opened up that's central to campus and has a butcher and fresh veggies, and when the world thaws, the Capitol Square is home to a very, very large Farmer's Market that offers meats, flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables, and baked goods.

Overall, I think Madison's got an offering that rivals most major cities. You can check this site out to find out the huge list of restaurants, complete with reviews: http://www.madisonatoz.com/

Anything else you want to know?

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I can answer that. I'm just wrapping up four years of living in Madison, and I know I'm going to miss it so much. If you like to eat out, the food here will blow your mind. There is probably every style of cuisine represented here, from the lowly bratwurst to fois gras. Italian, Chinese, French, Irish, Tibetan, Indian, Middle-Eastern, American, German, Mexican, Vietnamese/Laotian, Brazilian, barbecue...I'm just describing a single street and the one block area surrounding it! If you want, I can recommend a list of restaurants that will cater to whatever you're looking for.

As for cooking, that all depends on your own skills, but there are definitely places to get the ingredients. A grocery store just opened up that's central to campus and has a butcher and fresh veggies, and when the world thaws, the Capitol Square is home to a very, very large Farmer's Market that offers meats, flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables, and baked goods.

Overall, I think Madison's got an offering that rivals most major cities. You can check this site out to find out the huge list of restaurants, complete with reviews: http://www.madisonatoz.com/

Anything else you want to know?

Very true. Madison does have a great restaurant scene for its size, it's really astoundingly diverse and deep.

Also, here's a shameless plug for my friend Pat (who is one of Madison's superlatively talented chefs). The event mentioned in the article is a great example of the types of food-centered events that are going on in Madison all the time.

http://www.madisondining.com/spotlight-on-chef-patrick-mccormick-of-the-tornado-steakhouse/

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Very true. Madison does have a great restaurant scene for its size, it's really astoundingly diverse and deep.

Also, here's a shameless plug for my friend Pat (who is one of Madison's superlatively talented chefs). The event mentioned in the article is a great example of the types of food-centered events that are going on in Madison all the time.

http://www.madisondi...ado-steakhouse/

what's the music scene like in madison?

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Very true. Madison does have a great restaurant scene for its size, it's really astoundingly diverse and deep.

Also, here's a shameless plug for my friend Pat (who is one of Madison's superlatively talented chefs). The event mentioned in the article is a great example of the types of food-centered events that are going on in Madison all the time.

http://www.madisondi...ado-steakhouse/

Dude, Tornado is great!

As for the music scene, it's pretty good; if you want to find it, you can, it's really all there. There's a really good blues group based in Madison, and it seems Wilco might be moving to Madison. And of course, you can't beat the Hardest Working Band in America - the University of Wisconsin Marching Band! (Shameless plug)

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