Active outdoor recreation became more popular as the city became more urbanized and as more workers were found indoors in factories, shops, and offices. Improvement of scenic boulevards was coupled with the creation of the city park system. In 1900 the city held only Felch Park and Hanover Square. The City Park Commission, formed in 1905, acquired nearly 145 acres of land in the following fourteen years. The nucleus of the park and boulevard system was formed with the establishment of Riverside Park, Island Park, West Park, Burns Park, Glen Drive, Long Shore Drive, and Allmendinger Park. A notable instance of city-university cooperation was the creation of a large park on the east side of town--now called the Arboretum--through the joint development of land given to the University by Dr. and Mrs. Walter Nichols and adjoining land bought by the city.
The Huron River, the focal point of many scenic drives, also provided more active recreation. Relaxed and romantic, boating and canoeing had long been popular. But swimming was appealing, especially to the children during Ann Arbor's hot and humid summers. In 1914 the first municipal swimming beach was built by the city, and in 1917 the Huron Farm Company improved the beach and built a bath house. Golfing became the rage. In 1900, the first local golf club was organized. The Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club played on a course southeast of Ferry Field and Ann Arborites took the interurban to the Washtenaw Country Club between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
The impetus toward organized sports and athletics was hastened by the success of University teams. Fielding Yost came to Michigan in 1901 and built the nationally famous "point-a-minute" teams of 1901-1905--teams which won 55 games, lost one, and tied one. His first team at Michigan was undefeated and held the opponents scoreless. Amid national excitement, it went on to the first Rose Bowl game in January 1902 and defeated Stanford 49 to 0. Football became the fall mania for both University and city fans. Over 17,000 fans jammed into the last game held in old Regents Field in 1905. New athletic facilities on Ferry Field were necessary to accommodate the crowds which were running close to 20,000 persons by 1915.
Music, both popular and classical, was frequently heard in Ann Arbor. Townfolk hummed the song hits of the day, "Sweet Adeline," "Shine on Harvest Moon," and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and whistled "Alexander's Rag Time Band." The University Musical Society offered concerts which were supplemented by recitals of the St. Thomas Conservatory, the Kempf Studios, and church choirs. Hill Auditorium, replacing cramped and uncomfortable University Hall, opened in 1913, and offered comfortable listening to 4,000.
Theater, like music, had a long tradition in Ann Arbor. Audiences, accustomed to the best in professional stage entertainment, were momentarily disconcerted when the Athens Theatre closed between 1904 and 1908. In the interim, vaudeville became a staple entertainment. By 1907, the new Bijou Theatre was showing three performances a day including five vaudeville acts, two polyscope numbers, and an illustrated song. The Majestic Theatre, a converted roller skating rink, also presented vaudeville.
The vitality of vaudeville was threatened by the flickering lights of Thomas Edison's kinetoscope. Motion pictures, short and silent, were at first regarded as novelties but proved to have enormous popular appeal. "Movies" were used initially as features between vaudeville acts at the Star, Bijou, and Majestic theaters. In 1906 and 1907, promoters built the Theatorium, the Casino, and the People's Popular Family Theatre to show movies exclusively. Popular taste rapidly turned to Pearl White in "The Perils of Pauline," to slapstick comedians like the Keystone Cops, and to westerns starring Tom Mix and William S. Hart. The Orpheum, the Temple, the Arcade, the Columbia, the Rae, and the Wuerth Arcade theaters rushed into business to satisfy public demand.