Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a sophisticated college town known for the distinguished University of Michigan. Its population grows by 50,000 when school is in session. Besides typical college town finds, you also have great outdoor venues, visually stunning gardens, world-class museums, and fun markets to explore as you learn more about this Midwest favorite.
What to See and Do
The University of Michigan has a magnificent campus, with buildings scattered throughout the walkable downtown. Pay attention and hear the University of Michigan’s tower, a 53-bell carillon, chime every quarter-hour. Of course, one of the biggest draws is “The Big House,” Michigan’s beloved football stadium, which holds nearly 110,000 guests.
The museums on campus are free to visit, including the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. This heavy hitter is full of stellar exhibits, a butterfly garden, and a planetarium.
Stroll through Nichols Arcade, a 1918 covered shopping district (National Register of Historic Places) in downtown Ann Arbor. It affords great photo-ops and window-shopping opportunities.
In Kerrytown, the Ann Arbor Farmers Market is a year-round attraction, featuring locally-made and sourced products, art, flowers, and pastries. Beside it sits the Kerrytown Market & Shops, a spectacular indoor space for buying groceries and exploring locally-owned businesses, including yarn, spices, oils, and vinegar, amongst others.
Two great outdoor attractions are the Matthaei Botanical Gardens (namely the peony garden) and Nichol’s Arboretum. Both places are excellent for hiking, walking, birdwatching, and biking. The flower and tree game is strong, plus you’ll have fantastic views of Ann Arbor from the conservatory.
Ann Arbor pays tribute to former 38th US President Gerard R. Ford at his namesake Presidential Library, found on the north campus of the University of Michigan. The library is temporarily closed due to COVID.
Eat and Drink in Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor’s righteous food scene is an attractive offering, even if only in town for 24 hours. TopCat, a favorite local eatery, has a killer happy hour, with $3 fries covered in a luscious cheese sauce and $7 burgers. Seriously, how can you pass up $10 for a meal of this quality and quantity? The drink specials and 100+ tap beers are impressive, as well.
One of Ann Arbor’s hotspots is Mani Osteria and Bar, where wood-fired pizzas and upscale salads draw a considerable crowd daily and nightly.
I think that Ann Arbor’s most famous foodie address is Zingerman’s Deli, named one among the highest ten delicatessens in the country on countless lists. The Reuben is the star of the Zingerman’s Deli menu and one you will be okay with the long lines and wait to sink your teeth into. It is that good!
Finish off any meal with a tasty treat from Michigan Creamery (Michigan made ice cream). Wolverine Tracks, Coffee Mocha Chip, and Michigan Pot Hole were the flavors that caught my attention. Or, skip ice cream altogether and enjoy one of the best beer towns in Michigan. A visit to Jolly Pumpkin Brewery for a seasonal brew is a must!
Where to Stay in Ann Arbor
Anytime a city offers a Graduate hotel brand, I will try my best to stay there. The Graduate Ann Arbor is among Ann Arbor’s most stylish and cozy hotels, with a lobby that resembles a prestigious library. I was so glad to stay there and enjoy the comfy rooms with dark walls, subtle plaid fabrics, and TV stands that mimic a card catalog, playing into the library theme.
My favorite part of the Graduate Hotel was the lobby’s 40-foot long or so communal table, perfect for working or enjoying the warm sunlight from the enormous windows. The walls of the Graduate Hotel are lined with impressive commissioned murals and manifestos; great conversation starters. It is also pet-friendly, and they offer complimentary bike rentals, a perfect way to explore Ann Arbor.
Even if you only have 24 hours to spend in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you’re in for a real treat. This city with a loyal following and friendly locals not only delivers a great meal and craft beer but abundant outdoor attractions, free museum admissions, and world-class sports. Enjoy your time there. Go Blue!
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