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Your Ultimate Guide to Chelsea, Michigan

Things to do in Chelsea, Michigan

Located just 15 minutes from Ann Arbor, Chelsea is a thriving community with agricultural roots and a vibrant arts scene. Both of these characteristics drive the family-friendly culture that has blossomed in the community. From world-class dining and theatre to local festivals and seasonal concerts, there’s something everyone can enjoy every month of the year. And because it’s tucked between more than 30,000 acres of state land, it’s an outdoor paradise too!

To learn more, watch the video below. Then, keep reading to explore some of the town’s best local businesses, events and attractions!




The Essential Eateries


The Common Grill

112 S Main St | Facebook

This downtown Chelsea restaurant is known around the state and even as far as the James Beard House in New York City where self-taught chef Craig Common was invited to prepare a dinner for their members and guests. For more than 25 years, Craig and his team have been serving innovative new American cuisine with a seafood-forward menu and outstanding service. Preview that menu here and get ready for an unforgettable meal.


Zou Zou’s Cafe & Coffee Bar

101 N Main St | Facebook

Zou Zou's Cafe Chelsea, Michigan

Famous for fresh crepes and live entertainment, Zou Zou’s in downtown Chelsea is a breakfast, lunch and dinner destination. Swing by for a grab and go breakfast or lunch during the week then come back every weekend to enjoy live music from local musicians. On Thursday, they open the mic to any solo acts, bands, storytellers, poets and comics who want to share their skills!


Smokehouse 52  

125 S Main St | Facebook

Phil and Jenn Tolliver opened Smokehouse 52 in downtown Chelsea in February of 2013 and it’s been a beloved neighborhood eatery ever since. Phil’s passion for BBQ began when he was a child growing up on a hog farm in Stockbridge. Now, that passion translates into the most delicious and authentic BBQ in the region — all accented by authentic wood-fired pits, barn beams and great bourbon!


Cleary’s Pub

113 S Main St | Facebook

This family-run pub operates with a strong community focus, offering up a fun atmosphere, a full bar and a food menu that will keep you coming back again and again. Preview the menu here then swing by during the weekend to enjoy live music. And don’t miss the House-made Crab Stuffed Mushrooms!


Mike’s Deli

114 W Middle St | Facebook

This legendary deli in Downtown Chelsea serves up a regular menu of long-time favorites alongside daily specials that always impress. Handmade and fresh every day, you can enjoy hearty sandwiches, savory soups, salads and, our favorite, freshly baked cookies!


Thompson’s Pizza

20700 W Old US Hwy 12 | Facebook

This hometown pizzeria has won several local awards for their classic pies and creative recipes. Offered alongside craft beer and other traditional bar foods, we recommend ordering one of the best pizzas in the region and you’ll soon find out why this is a family favorite!



Things to Do


The Purple Rose Theatre Company

Purple Rose Theatre Company Chelsea, Michigan

Famous across the state for the educational opportunities offered and stand out shows throughout the year, The Purple Rose was founded in 1991 by Chelsea native and critically-acclaimed actor Jeff Daniels. The building that houses the company’s Garage Theatre was once a used car and bus garage owned by Daniels’ grandfather. Now, the facility has developed into one of the best places for theatre production in the region! Click here to see the schedule of current and upcoming shows.



This self-guided walking tour takes you past 12 different sculptures throughout downtown Chelsea. For more information on the art, you can embark on a free, guided tour offered throughout the year from the main lobby of the Chelsea District Library! Follow the team on Facebook to see photos and get updates.


Robin Hills Farm

As one of the area’s popular agri-tourism options, Robin Hills Farm is much more than just a farm. This eco-destination and recreation farm offers workshop classes in art, home and garden, health and wellness, and cooking, community events, festivals, summer camps and more. Follow the team on Facebook for event and farm updates!


Historic Walking Tour

Recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, Chelsea’s charming downtown is filled with history, stories and architecture. If you want to enjoy a self-guided tour of the neighborhood’s historic places, maps are available at the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chelsea Historical Museum — which is a great place to start. Operated by Chelsea Area Historical Society, the Mial M. Boyd House is one of the oldest houses in Chelsea!


Chelsea Farmers Market

The Chelsea Farmers Market is a year-round destination for anyone who enjoy shopping locally and mingling with the community. With one market day during the winter and two during the summer, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to support our local growers, makers and producers!



This indoor playground and cafe is a favorite amongst kids of all ages — and their parents! The 9,000 square foot location boasts a huge climbing and playing structure, five slides, a baby and toddler area, swinging bridges, basketball hoops and of course, a huge tree house!



Outdoor Recreation


Waterloo Recreation Area

As the largest park in the Lower Peninsula Waterloo Recreation Area includes more than 20,000 acres, two modern campgrounds, a rustic campground, an equestrian campground, swimming beaches, 11 fishing lakes, eight boat launches, 12 miles of nature trails, 47 miles of hiking trails, four rustic cabins, a yurt, equestrian trails, mountain biking trails and the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center. Needless to say, it’s an outdoor haven located just minutes from downtown.


Pinckney Recreation Area

Covering over 11,000 acres, Pinckney Recreation Area offers several lakes, playgrounds, beaches, a concession stand, boat launches, boat and canoe rentals, private liveries and stables. Known for its extensive trail system and chain of excellent fishing lakes, it’s a paradise for backpackers, mountain bikers and anglers. During the winter, their system of over 40 miles of trail can be used for cross-country skiing and even snowmobiling and ice fishing in designated areas!



Annual Events


Chelsea Painters Art Fair | June

For a full weekend each summer, the Chelsea Community Fairgrounds is taken over by jaw-dropping fine arts. A local tradition for almost half a decade, the Chelsea Painters Art Fair draws collectors and art connoisseurs from all over Michigan and even from neighboring states!


Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights | June – August

Things to do in Chelsea, Michigan events

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Festivals

Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights is one of the most anticipated summer celebrations in the region. Each Thursday from early June through mid-August, musical acts from across various genres perform at 11 stage locations around downtown. Check out this year’s lineup here.


Sounds & Sights Festival | July

This weekend festival began over three decades ago and has grown to be one of the best summer events in the region. Over two days and three nights, you can experience live music, an indie art market, kids’ entertainment, a classic car show and more in historic Downtown Chelsea.


Chelsea Community Fair | August

One of our favorite community events in the region, the Chelsea Community Fair includes a rodeo, multiple tractor pulls, livestock competitions and auctions, demolition derbies, a local merchant tent, and more.


Smoke & Ale Fall Festival | October

Smoke & Ale is a beer festival, BBQ cook-off and cornhole tournament all rolled into one. Featuring live music, local food vendors and a kids area as well, the event is family-friendly and costs just $5 for admission! Follow the team on Facebook for updates.


Hometown Holiday | December

Things to do in Chelsea, Michigan events

Photo courtesy of Kate Zurenko Photography via Chelsea Festivals

A neighborhood tradition for more than 30 years, Hometown Holiday takes place over three days in December. The activities start with the ceremonial lighting of the giant Christmas tree at Pierce Park and continue with festive crafts and cookie decorating, visits from Santa, a parade, theatre shows, a historic home tour and so much more.


Chelsea Spring Expo | April  

Hosted by the Chelsea Senior Center, this annual expo includes more than 140 local vendors, a wildlife safari show, a student art show, a kid zone, a bake sale and so much more! Admission is free so mark your calendars every year for this community event.


Midwest Literary Walk | April

Now ten years old, this Chelsea District Library event invites community members, authors, readers and eaters to celebrate literature. Each event is within walking distance of the next so you don’t have to miss a minute of the action and education in downtown Chelsea!



Did you fall in love with Chelsea?

Things to do in Chelsea, Michigan

If you want to find your permanent home in Chelsea, Michigan, click here to see homes for sale in the area.

Charles Reinhart Company

Charles Reinhart Company

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