With a combined population of about 74,000, Ypsilanti and adjacent Ypsilanti Township represent some of Michigan’s best and most interesting hidden gems, including dining destinations, outdoor recreation, historic attractions, craft breweries and events.
Throughout its history and continued today, this town has played an important role in the development of the automobile and the community has served as a driving force in national aviation technology. Several of our favorite local attractions and events showcase these stories which have been brought to us from the 1920s and World War II.
Further hallmarks of the town’s history include Eastern Michigan University which is located in town, 12 parks in the city and another 30 in the township, and some of the region’s best events encompassing everything from Elvis to motorcycles and orphan cars.
Keep reading to find out what you need to see, where you need to eat and what you need to do in Ypsilanti.
Sidetrack has been a local destination since it opened its doors in 1850 and it’s easy to explain why. They serve some of the best pub food, pour some of the best beer, and offer it all in one of the best Ypsi atmospheres. Their burger—Our Famous Burger—was included on GQ’s 2005 round-up of The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die, and that’s just one of the reasons we recommend stopping by.
This Ypsi favorite offers a seasonally rotating menu made with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and they pair that with a lineup of artisan cocktails, craft beer and wine. And these approachable, gourmet eats cater to all kinds of diets, including vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores.
Any place that has Fried Chicken Tacos and Churro Biscuit Donuts on the menu is worth a visit. At Ma Lou’s, a small, counter-serve spot, they offer both and serve them alongside some of the best fried chicken in the state. Come for the chicken, stay for the wings, and don’t leave without dessert.
This old-school diner has been an Ypsi staple since it opened in 1936. Surrounded by aviation inspired decor, you can get one of the county’s best breakfasts right here in the Bomber dining room, and their huge menu of American classics offers more than 35 options.
One of Ypsilanti’s highest-rated eateries, Casablanca serves authentic Moroccan and Arabic cuisine for dine in, carry out and delivery. From fresh hummus to chicken shawarma, this is the best way to explore global cuisine in town.
Both a beloved coffee shop and a delicious cafe, Beezy’s is a hyper-local option in downtown Ypsilanti. Every day, they make two different soups, whip up fresh, homemade salad dressings, bake hot, fresh bread and prepare everything with a local sensibility and local products from nearby vendors and farmers.
The Maíz team has brought a fresh approach to traditional, Mexican favorites and Tex-Mex specialties. Everything on their menu is made from scratch daily and it’s made with ingredients from local purveyors and farmers, too!
Both a coffee roaster and a craft brewery, Cultivate is one of our favorite hangouts in town. Built around the mantra, “craft, community and cause,” you’ll find some of the area’s best beverages served alongside regular community events, fun series and philanthropic support of worthy causes.
When the Greffs opened the doors to Arbor Brewing Company in 1995, it was the first brewpub to open in Ann Arbor and only the fifth brewpub to open in the entire state of Michigan. On a trip to Belgium, the couple was further inspired to innovate and they brought the first sour program of its kind to the state of Michigan. Today, they operate the Ann Arbor brewpub and Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, a casual hangout for craft beer, board games, events and food.
In 1927, Carl L. Miller opened this Hudson Sales and Service franchise as an automobile dealership and repair shop. After a merger and the discontinuation of the Hudson line, the fate of the shop was in jeopardy, but Carl’s son Jack continued Miller Motors by selling Hudson parts and cars until the museum was founded. Thus preserving the dealership’s authentic condition, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum was opened in 1995 and now hosts some of the region’s best car shows and events, including the Show & Shine Car Show, the Orphan Car Show and the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Car Show.
Housed inside a restored firehouse, the Michigan Firehouse Museum covers more than 26,000 square feet; this includes the original 1898 firehouse and a modern, multilevel exhibit display area. Here, they display 25 changing exhibits, including antique fire trucks and early fire rigs, multiple displays of historic artifacts and the largest collection of fire truck bells in the country.
Yankee Air Museum is an aviation, aerospace and science museum located at Willow Run Airport just a few minutes outside of Ypsilanti. Exhibits offer hands-on experiences and insights into World War I and World War II, Willow Run and Rosie the Riveter, The Vietnam War, aircraft restoration and so much more.
Dreamland Theater is unlike any other theater in Michigan. This small, non-profit puppet theater and community space is located in downtown Ypsilanti and offers classes and performances in puppetry, theater, music, independent film and other arts. To find out what’s going on right now at Dreamland, check out their Facebook page here.
The Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra story begins after Ypsi Pride Day in 1998 when two friends discussed the idea that our local musicians needed a community to develop their skills and our community needed an avenue to enjoy orchestral music. Soon after, a small group of friends and musicians gathered at Abe’s Coney Island to plan and the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1999. Today, they host several concert events throughout the year at Towsley Auditorium on the Washtenaw Community College campus.
Operating for more than 180 years and open every fall, Wiard’s Cider Mill and Apple Orchard offers u-pick apples, a u-pick pumpkin patch, delicious cider, a corn maze and haunted thrill park, mini golf, hayrides, and more. Throughout the months of September and October, Ypsi locals, Ann Arbor locals and Michiganders from all over the state flock to the orchard for both spooky haunts and family fun.
Maintained by Washtenaw County, Rolling Hills County Park encompasses 439 acres and represents one of the most recreational diverse destinations in the county. And it’s one of the most popular places to visit during the summer thanks to the Rolling Hills Water Park! Other attractions include walking trails, a fishing pond, a playground, an 18-hole disc golf course, sports fields and horseshoe pits.
Located on the Huron River in the center of Ypsilanti, Riverside Park consists of 13.8 acres and connects downtown Ypsi with Depot Town. When you’re not fishing, dog walking, picnicking or sunbathing, we recommend heading to the park for one of Ypsi’s best annual events, including ElvisFest, Michigan Summer Beer Festival and the Orphan Car Show.
Developed in partnership with Huron River Greenway, the Border-to-Border Trail is a non-motorized pathway that connects cities, parks, neighborhoods and trails throughout Washtenaw County. Eventually, the trail will span 70 total miles. And a section of those miles already connects Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor and even on to Dexter and Chelsea.
First Friday in Ypsilanti is a self-guided monthly art walk hosted at multiple venues throughout downtown Ypsi. When you participate, you can explore our community’s local businesses and enjoy free art activities, presentations and tastings.
This family-oriented fitness event is an annual fundraiser for Ypsilanti organization Dawn Farm. Community members at any fitness level are invited to register for one of four bike rides: a 5K/10K, a 25-mile, a 40-mile and a 58-mile. Registration includes a celebratory lunch and all the proceeds benefit Dawn Farm. For more information on this year’s event, click here.
Ypsilanti Proud began as a class project by the 1995 graduating class of Leadership Ypsilanti. Now a community celebration for more than 20 years, the event fosters community pride and encourages local business growth through simple beautification projects. Join more than 500 volunteers for this year’s event and you can help clean up litter, paint and plant flowers. For more information, click here.
Each year, Depot Town honors Independence Day with Michigan’s oldest parade. This tradition has been going strong and growing for nearly a century and fills our streets with patriotism, red, white and blue every July.
The oldest of the Michigan Brewers Guild’s four annual festivals, the Summer Beer Festival hosts more than 100 local breweries sampling more than 1,000 different craft beers. Guests can also enjoy live music from Michigan bands and food available for purchase. This event takes place every summer in July or August.
Ton-Up Motorcycle and Music Festival has been an Ypsi tradition for a decade now. Serving to promote and educate the public about the art, science and history of the motorcycle, motorcycle safety, and awesome music, this one-day event brings vintage and custom motorcycles, scooters and mopeds to Arbor Brewing Company’s Corner Brewery and also adds plenty of local music and tons of fun.
An indie art fair like none other, DIYpsi is a handmade art fair that takes place in Ypsilanti’s business districts once each summer and winter. Alongside incredible homemade foods and drinks, the event features unique handcrafted gifts that are sold by and in support of local, Ypsilanti artists.
Each year, the Ypsilanti Heritage, Arts, and Entertainment Festival gets bigger and better than ever before. In past years, they’ve had two stages in the music, entertainment and beer tent, local arts and crafts vendors, a juried competition, a Magical History Tour, a children’s entertainment area, and so much more! To stay up-to-date on everything coming this year, follow the team on Facebook.
Presented by Wayne County Airport Authority at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, this family event brings the United States Air Force Thunderbirds to Southeast Michigan. The air show features presentations from Team Oracle and Quicksilver P-51D as well and is a celebration of our region’s important aircraft history.
From the same team that brings FestiFools and FoolMoon to Ann Arbor every April, ypsiGLOW is a light-filled celebration through Downtown Ypsi. In the weeks leading up to the event, local artists, businesses and organizations host GLOWorkshops so you can create your own luminary and costume. Then, you can join the community in October for a celebration of Ypsilanti and art.