The bottom line is that great experiences are a combination of things.  Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore describe this as the “sweet spot,” in their book: The Experience Economy.  Truly great experiences have elements of what they describe as the 4 realms: Entertainment, Educational, Escapist & Esthetic.

Ann Arbor has them ALL.

The Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI - Photo by S. Sheridan

One of the iconic symbols for Entertainment in Ann Arbor is the Michigan Theater.  It opened in 1928 and operated as a movie theater until 1979 when it was threatened with demolition.  It was saved and fully restored to its original 1920’s grandeur by a huge community effort.  It has operated for the last 30 years as a not-for-profit and today serves as a center for cinema and the performing arts.  It is the jewel in a community with dozens of entertainment venues running the spectrum from Hill Auditorium and the Power Center to The Ark and The Blind Pig.

The University of Michigan is the most obvious symbol of Education.  It was founded in 1817 as one of the first public universities in the nation. By 1866, the University of Michigan became the largest university in the country with 1205 enrolled students.  It hasn’t slowed down and will welcome back 42,000 students this fall.

Burton Tower, University of Michigan - Photo by S. Sheridan

Although U of M is the educational elephant in the community, Ann Arbor is the home to Cleary University, Concordia University and Washtenaw Community College.  It is also home to dozens of less formal educational experiences from the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum and Cobblestone Farm to the Leslie Science Center and the Matthaei Gardens.

Great places create and support experiences that provide great Entertainment and great Education.  They are also Escapist and Esthetic.  More on these last two tomorrow.

What are the great places in your community that are Entertaining or Educational?