Gnome has moved away from the let-the-user-customize-it approach, since Unity is built from Gnome it also encompasses this new ideal.
You can run an older version of Ubuntu such as 10.10 which was the final release of Ubuntu to utilize the old style gnome (Gnome2.32), but beware the repos have been moved so you will need to reconfigure you apt list to install software from the Ubuntu repos. This release isn't supported anymore, so it no longer receives bug fixes or security updates, and therefore is not an advised option.
You can install a different desktop environment like KDE, or XFCE. I prefer KDE myself but XFCE has a fairly Gnome2 like appearance so it may be more to your liking. If you want to try these you can install them from apt or you can download Kubuntu or Xubuntu which are the official ubuntu projects that utilize those desktop environments rather than Unity.
You can install a different desktop environment that is branched from the Gnome project such as MATE which is built from the Gnome2 code. I found Mate had some serious bugs, but all projects do in the beginning, it may since have improved, and has quite a fan base. There are also some others like Cinnamon to consider.
You can give Unity a try, maybe you'll like it? I don't.