A beautifully unique college town, home to a thriving community of makers, artists, entrepreneurs and small business owners, Ann Arbor is unlike any place on earth. Our city’s blend of small town charm and big city attractions make it an incredibly attractive place to live—but it’s also a fun vacation destination!
When you’re looking for ways to entertain yourself, it’s easy to find a great restaurant or brewery to enjoy, but there are a few more off-the-beaten-path activities that make our town worth visiting. How many can you check off your list?
Explore Ann Arbor’s Fairy Doors
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When you walk around Ann Arbor, you might start seeing little doors on the sides of popular buildings all across town. These are the Ann Arbor Fairy Doors! Tiny, dainty, decorated doors have been popping up all over the city in various locations for as long as we can remember. Today, you can find these charming, artistic, miniature doors at The Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ark, Nicola’s Books and at least four other documented locations in town. Check out the map here and see if you can spot them all!
Walk through Graffiti Alley
Initially painted in 1999 as an original artwork from local artist Katherine Cost, the Graffiti Alley has become a place for people to express themselves, whether that’s by spray painting, drawing or sticking a piece of gum on the wall! The group of decorated tunnels and walls is tucked behind a hidden entrance off of Liberty Street. Stop by and explore it—or even bring a can of spray paint to add your mark to the wall as well! If you want a less permanent way to add a piece of yourself to Graffiti Alley, chew a piece of gum and stick it to the ever-growing gum wall.
The Graduate is quite possibly the most talked about hotel in Ann Arbor thanks to its unique decor and outstanding amenities. Located directly across the street from the University of Michigan campus, the decor pays homage to Ann Arbor’s love of coziness, arts, books and, of course, Maize and Blue. Everything in the hotel is college-themed, from the chalkboard-themed artwork and plaid bedding to the Student ID room keys! Click here to learn more about the hotel and to book your cozy staycation today.
Located on the North Campus of the University of Michigan, The Wave Field, is an earthen sculpture designed by Maya Lin, an artist known for creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The field features a “wavy” ocean of grass that looks more like an incredible geological phenomenon than an art installation. The most unique aspect of The Wave Field is the way the appearance changes depending on the time of day and time of the year. Depending on when you visit and where the sun is, you’ll get to see shadows alter the waves and highlight new parts of the art piece.
Possibly one of the strangest (and coolest!) shops in Ann Arbor, Robot Supply Company is a small retail space selling supplies to build your very own robots! Okay, they aren’t real robots, but rather toys that help kids stretch their creative muscles. They also sell apparel, books, housewares and more with all the proceeds going to support 826 Michigan, a nonprofit helping to create writing programs for students in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit.
Officially opened in 1992, the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry is here to educate visitors about the history of dentistry through museum exhibitions, related programs, research and the preservation of its collections. Here, you can explore dentistry tools throughout history; learn how dental hygiene has changed over the years; and even explore stories from past U-Mich dentistry students and the history of dental education. Their most recent exhibit “Tooth Fairy Magic” explores childhood tooth loss rituals from around the world. They are currently closed due to COVID-19, but offer a variety of online resources that you can peruse. We recommend following them on Facebook for reopening information.
Go see the Leaning Tower of Pizza at Domino’s Headquarters
Photo courtesy of User:Mgordonb, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Unbeknownst to many, Domino’s Pizza headquarters is located right here in Washtenaw County! In the mid-1980’s, Domino’s owner Tom Monaghan asked Taliesin Associated Architects (the inheritors of Frank Llyod Wright’s practice) to erect a structure based on an unbuilt tower that Wright designed in 1986 for Chicago called the Golden Beacon. After company restructuring, Domino’s headquarters architect Gunnar Birkets took over the project, designing a tower that would rise at a 15-degree angle. While the tower was a serious project, many started to refer to it jokingly as “The Leaning Tower of Pizza” and it never wound up being built. A 50-foot tall scale model still stands at the proposed site on Domino’s Pizza headquarters here in Ann Arbor. You can catch a glimpse of it from Ave Maria Drive.
Take a ghost tour of the University of Michigan
Founded in 1817 as one of the first public universities in The United States, it’s no surprise that many of the buildings at the University of Michigan are supposedly haunted. You can take a spooky night tour of these haunted sites with a local guide and expert. The tour meets on the University of Michigan campus and will take you through the most haunted buildings in the area—including in downtown Ann Arbor. The 90-minute tour ends at a haunted bar, where you are free to grab a drink and see if you can witness the same apparition that the owners and employees have been seeing for more than 25 years. Click here for more information.
For some unique shopping in A2, don’t miss The Getup Vintage! This local shop has been a fixture in the Ann Arbor landscape since 2010, when owners Kelly and Paul McLeod relocated their tiny attic shop to a larger storefront downstairs. In 2015, they passed the torch to their longtime employees, Lindsey Leyland and Kaylan Mitchell. Bright purple and blue and packed full of ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s nostalgia, The Getup Vintage sells refurbished vintage clothing, which they buy, clean and restore in an effort to reduce textile waste. Click here to explore their website (which usually includes a beautifully curated seasonal lookbook) and to shop their stock on Etsy.
Take a scenic drive to Hell
What did we miss?
Are there any unusual or off-the-beaten-path activities in Ann Arbor you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!