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12 Small-Town Restaurants Worth the Drive from Ann Arbor

best restaurants near Ann Arbor Michigan

Southeast Michigan’s small towns are home to some of our favorite local businesses, eateries, breweries, coffee shops and communities in all of Michigan. In these historic cities and towns, entrepreneurs combine neighborhood sensibilities with some of our favorite things—including real, homemade cooking. And that’s what we’re celebrating in this guide. 

Keep reading to see which local spots made our list, then make the list longer by adding your favorites in the comments below! 

 

Beezy’s | Ypsilanti 

20 N Washington St, Ypsilanti | Facebook 

Beezy's Cafe Ypsilanti restaurants

Photo courtesy of Beezy’s

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 seasonal soups, whip up fresh homemade salad dressings, bake hot fresh bread, and prepare everything with a local sensibility using local products from nearby vendors and farmers. To view the menu, click here

 

Bomber Restaurant | Ypsilanti 

306 E Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti | Facebook 

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!

 

Casablanca | Ypsilanti 

2333 Washtenaw Ave, Ypsilanti | Facebook 

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.

 

The Common Grill | Chelsea 

112 S Main St, Chelsea | Facebook 

The Common Grill Chelsea best restaurants near Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of The Common Grill

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.

 

Cultivate Coffee & Taphouse | Ypsilanti 

307 N River St, Ypsilanti | Facebook 

Cultivate Ypsilanti best restaurants near Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Nick Azzaro via Cultivate Coffee & Taphouse

At Cultivate, you can get sandwiches and bagel sandwiches, sweet toasts and simple snacks, but the real attraction is the freshly roasted coffee, the craft beer and the community atmosphere. Built around the mantra, “craft, community and cause,” they roast their own coffee beans, brew their own beer and host some of the region’s most beloved community events. You can see those upcoming events here.

 

Dexter Riverview Cafe | Dexter 

8124 Main St, Dexter | Facebook 

One of the community’s beloved breakfast, brunch and lunch spots, Dexter Riverview Cafe is a locally owned and operated eatery. Their menu features fresh, homemade oatmeal, homemade biscuits and gravy, pita sandwiches, coneys and so much more. To see that menu, click here

 

Matty J’s | Saline 

972 E Michigan Ave, Saline | Facebook 

MJ Malone and her sidekick Matty J are the powerhouses behind Matty J’s Bakery and Cafe. Driven by a passion for real food, the cafe menu balances healthy options with tasty flavors using locally produced ingredients to offer seasonal treats you’ll love. Check out the menu here to find out what breads, sandwiches and cookies you can get today.

 

Ollie Food + Spirits | Ypsilanti 

42 E Cross St, Ypsilanti | Facebook 

Ollie Ypsilanti best restaurants near Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Ollie Food + Spirits

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. These approachable, gourmet eats cater to all kinds of diets—vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.

 

Red Brick Kitchen & Bar | Dexter 

8093 Main St, Dexter | Facebook 

Red Brick is a small, family-owned restaurant nestled in the middle of Downtown Dexter. Led by Executive Chef Cody Wiseley, the kitchen produces fresh, innovative food, and their team combines that with creative craft cocktails and a warm, inviting atmosphere complete with a full bar. That bar also boasts eight beers on tap, all from Michigan breweries! To see the full menu, click here

 

Salt Springs Brewery | Saline 

117 S Ann Arbor St, Saline | Facebook 

Salt Springs Brewery Saline best restaurants near Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Salt Springs Brewery

Named for Saline’s ancient, historic salt springs, this hometown brewery is housed in a beautiful, 116-year-old former church. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive settings in Southeast Michigan, you can enjoy true-to-style ales, wine and cider alongside locally sourced food with stunning stained glass as the backdrop.

 

Sidetrack Bar & Grill | Ypsilanti 

56 E Cross St, Ypsilanti | Facebook 

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 The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die, and that’s just one of the reasons we recommend stopping by.

 

Smokehouse 52 | Chelsea + Saline 

125 S Main St, Chelsea + 105 W Michigan Ave, Saline | 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 at locations in both Chelsea and Saline.

 

Add to the list! 

The small towns of Southeast Michigan are home to some of the best local food and drink in the state. Make our list longer by giving your favorite a shoutout in the comments below!

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15 Free Things to Do in Ann Arbor

UMMNH free things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan

Our charming hometown is filled with art, history, educational opportunities and tons of fun. And, even if you’re on a tight budget, you can enjoy all of that and more—completely free of charge. Highlights in this guide include 1,588 total acres of park space, strange animal encounters, 1000 BCE Middle Eastern artifacts, prehistoric whales, outdoor concerts and ukulele parties! 

If you have a few more dollars available for entertainment, check out our other guide 14 Things to Do in Ann Arbor Under $20

 

Visit the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

UMMA free things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Scott Soderberg, U-M Photography via University of Michigan Museum of Art

Located on campus, the University of Michigan Museum of Art is one of the largest university art museums in the country. Their collections represent 150 years of art collecting and include everything from 1000 BCE Middle Eastern artifacts to 21st-century paintings. Admission to the museum is always free, but a $10 donation is also appreciated. Get full details and plan your visit here.

 

Learn at Leslie Science & Nature Center.

This educational facility on the north side of Ann Arbor encourages sustainability, understanding and regular nature encounters. You can join the fun and visit the grounds, trails and raptor enclosures for free any day from sunrise to sunset. The Critter House is open on select days (which you can see here) and invites guests to observe frogs, turtles, snakes and other adorable and unusual animals. For more visiting information, click here

 

Explore Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two educational and environmental spaces on the U-M campus. The botanical gardens include 11 outdoor areas full of bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials and more, and if you want to head inside, you can enjoy the year-round indoor conservatory filled with plants from around the world. The arboretum spans miles of trails and land with impressive collections of both native and exotic trees and shrubs.

Both the gardens and arboretum offer free admission, but if you decide to drive, you’ll have to pay $1.70 per hour for parking at Matthaei with a $5 daily maximum charge.

 

Visit the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

UMMNH free things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Michelle Andonian via University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

The U-M Museum of Natural History story begins all the way back in 1837 when the university was created, but the first museum building wasn’t constructed until 1881. In April 2019, the museum celebrated its most recent grand reopening after a move into the brand new Biological Sciences Building, part of the U-M School of Literature, Sciences and the Arts. Today, the constantly expanding exhibits include interactive displays about mastodons and prehistoric whales, multimedia artwork, the evolution of life on Earth, space exploration, and more. You can even see the museum staff at work in the Fossil Prep Lab! For more information on your visit, click here. And remember, admission to the museum is free, but donations are always accepted.

 

Tour Chelsea Milling Company.

The home of JIFFY Mix and the industrial heart of Chelsea, tours of the Chelsea Milling Company are free and open to the public with a reservation. Your one-hour journey through the factory includes an inside look at the packaging plant, a video presentation, refreshments and a product sample. Yes, that means you get to enjoy a free muffin, too!

 

Attend Sonic Lunch

Video courtesy of Sonic Lunch

Since 2008, Sonic Lunch has been bringing free, outdoor concerts to the streets of downtown Ann Arbor every summer. Suitable for all ages, the seasonal concert series kicks off in early June and continues through August for a total of about 11 shows each year. All of these performances begin at 11:30 a.m. and you can see the full lineup for this year here.

 

Find all the Fairy Doors

Fairy doors have been popping up all over Ann Arbor in various locations for as long as we can remember. Today, you can find these charming, artistic, miniature doors at locations throughout town, including The Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ark, Nicola’s Books and more. Check out the locations here and see if you can track them all down!

 

Visit the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Located on the U-M campus, this museum supports teaching and research on Classical, Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeology. With a collection of more than 100,000 artifacts—1,500 of which are on permanent display—and two to three annual exhibitions, there’s plenty to explore and learn. Admission is always free, but a donation is also appreciated. 

 

Hear a recital at the Charles Baird Carillon

The Charles Baird Carillon is the third heaviest in the world and contains 53 bells cast in 1936 by the John Taylor & Co. Bellfoundry in Loughborough, England. The tower and carillon were originally dedicated in 1936 and got a complete renovation in 2011. Today, you can hear the bells chime throughout the day from 9:15 a.m. to 9 p.m., including a free, thirty-minute recital performed on the Charles Baird Carillon at noon every weekday when classes are in session. To get there, enter the belfry observation deck any time during the recital, take the elevator to the eighth floor, and climb two more flights of stairs to the belfry. For full information and dates, click here

 

Visit WSG Gallery

Located on Main Street in Downtown Ann Arbor, WSG Gallery showcases original fine art including paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. The team’s special exhibits change every six weeks and you can often attend free artist talks, receptions and other special events, too! To preview their current exhibit, click here, and follow the team on Facebook here

 

Attend an event with Ann Arbor District Library

The Ann Arbor District Library provides services at no charge to all residents living within the library service area, and residents outside the area can still access available services for a fee. In five different locations, these guests can access millions of items, print and digital research materials, computer and Internet training, free WiFi, library exhibits and regularly scheduled, fun events! These include things like Tea 101 with Arbor Teas, Family Writing Labs with 826michigan, film screenings, business workshops, and family-friendly ukulele parties! To see all the upcoming events, click here

 

Preview The Creature Conservancy

free things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan

This local nonprofit is home to Al the Alligator, Quinn the Bald Eagle, Suzi the Macaw, Dumpie the Ball Python, Jerome the Argentine Tegu, Harper the Mountain Lion, and several other rescued animals. Their conservation through education mission allows our community to meet these animals, learn about wildlife and nature, attend educational programs and camps, and more. On weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can enjoy limited outdoor viewing for free, and if you want to get up close and personal, admission ranges from $8 to $10 on Saturdays and Sundays. 

 

Spend time at Buhr Park

A recreation destination throughout the year, Buhr Park’s 39 acres are home to softball diamonds, two tennis courts, playground equipment, a basketball court, open fields, a sledding hill, picnic facilities with a grill, an outdoor pool with a special family activity pool during the summer, and a seasonal ice rink. The park is also connected to Cobblestone Farm, a historic educational facility with a house on-site that was originally completed in 1845. Visiting and recreating in the park are always free of charge, but admission to the pool, ice rink and guided tours of Cobblestone Farm Museum cost a few dollars each. For more information on all three, click here

 

Bike to Hudson Mills Metropark

Although there is an annual or daily fee for vehicles, hikers, bikers and inline skaters can enter Hudson Mills Metropark for free using the trail system. The park is located in Dexter and covers a whopping 1,549 acres, including Huron River access, basketball and volleyball courts, softball diamonds, soccer fields, picnic shelters, a playground, and a 3-mile, paved loop trail for hiking and biking which connects to the nearly 5-mile West River Trail to Downtown Dexter.  

 

Visit the Gerald R. Ford Library

Located right here in Ann Arbor, the Gerald R. Ford Library is one of two Michigan facilities dedicated to Gerald R. Ford. The museum can be found in Grand Rapids. At the library, guests are invited to explore the massive collection of archival materials on U.S. domestic issues, foreign relations, and political affairs during the Cold War era, focusing on the Ford administration. Other attractions include a permanent exhibit on President Ford’s life, rotating exhibitions and frequent special events. 

 

What’s on your itinerary? 

If you have a favorite free activity in Ann Arbor, tell us about it in the comments below! 

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What to Do With Your Kids in Ann Arbor Before School Starts

things to do with the kids Ann Arbor summer

We can’t believe it either, but summer vacation is already winding down. Before we start buying supplies, prepping first day of school outfits, and planning carpools, there are a few more essential, kid-friendly things to do in Ann Arbor. In this guide, we rounded up the 10 things you and your kids need to do before school starts. 

For year-round, kid-friendly activities in the area, check out our other guide, 18 Things to Do with Kids in Ann Arbor

 

1. Don’t miss Sonic Lunch

Since 2008, Sonic Lunch has been bringing free, outdoor concerts to the streets of downtown Ann Arbor every summer. Suitable for all ages, the 2019 concert series kicked off in June and continues through August 29th for a total of 11 shows. All shows begin at 11:30 a.m. and you can see the full lineup here. August headliners include Michael Franti and Spearhead!

 

2. Attend YpsiFest

YpsiFest is a heritage, arts and entertainment festival in Ypsilanti that has been a beloved tradition for more than 35 years. This year’s event includes a kids’ area with bounce houses, pony rides, crafts and games, daily helicopter rides, a classic car show, a BBQ competition, the famous Rubber Ducky Race and more. For all the details, click here, and mark your calendars for August 23rd through the 25th. 

To find more events happening this August, including Ann Arbor Blues Festival, Dexter Daze and Saline’s Summerfest, click here. 

 

3. Attend a food truck rally at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market

The Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market is a favorite thing to do in town, and it continues all year long! During the summer and fall, you can add to the fun on the first Wednesday of every month when the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market hosts food truck rallies from 5 to 8 p.m. The last three rallies are coming up on August 7th, September 4th and October 2nd. For more information, click here

 

4. Spend the day at Rolling Hills Water Park

Rolling Hills County Park covers 439 acres and offers outdoor activities all year long. During the summer, one of our favorite attractions is Rolling Hills Water Park, a huge outdoor water park located on site. Attractions include a lazy river, a wave pool, a zero-depth entry activity pool and multiple water slides! 

To find more nearby swimming holes, check out The 15 Swimming Holes Near Ann Arbor You Need to Visit This Summer

 

5. Meet the animals at The Creature Conservancy

This local nonprofit is home to Al the Alligator, Quinn the Bald Eagle, Suzi the Macaw, Dumpie the Ball Python, Jerome the Argentine Tegu, Harper the Mountain Lion, and several other rescued animals. Their conservation through education mission allows our community to meet these animals, learn about wildlife and nature, attend educational programs and camps, and more. To visit, you can stop by Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. or from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays for limited outdoor viewing.

 

6. Kayak on the Huron River. 

Gallup Park guide to kayaking in Ann Arbor Michigan

Some of the region’s most popular activities, kayaking and canoeing on the Huron River are accessible for all ages thanks to Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery. These City of Ann Arbor facilities offer boat rentals, guided river trips and even river programs designed for children as young as 2 years old! For information on all of the above, click here

And for even more details on kayaking in the area, check out The Ultimate Guide to Kayaking in Ann Arbor

 

7. Explore Waterloo Recreation Area.

Did you know the largest state park in the Lower Peninsula is located right in our backyard? Waterloo Recreation Area covers more than 20,000 acres of outdoor paradise in Chelsea and offers everything from fishing and swimming to mountain biking and disc golf. To get the details on all the available activities, check out Everything You Can Do in Waterloo Recreation Area

 

8. Visit Ann Arbor’s best city parks. 

Argo Park guide to kayaking in Ann Arbor Michigan

City of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation maintains a whopping 159 parks and 15 park facilities. Their list includes neighborhood pocket parks, larger community parks, golf courses and huge, undeveloped nature areas that are open to explore. In our blog post, Your Summer Guide to Ann Arbor’s City Parks, Mapped, we rounded up the largest and the best—offering kayaking, picnicking, disc golf and dirt bike courses, playgrounds, hiking trails, tennis and basketball courts, softball fields and even dog parks! 

 

9. Visit Leslie Science & Nature Center

Leslie Science & Nature Center is an independent, nonprofit organization serving to connect our community with wildlife, nature and science. Their grounds, trails and raptor enclosures are open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk and they also open the Critter House on select days and offer public programs, rentals, birthday parties, field trips and more. To see upcoming programs scheduled on-site, at local parks and at other venues, click here

 

10. Scream for ice cream. 

Ice cream is an all-season treat, but summer makes it taste even better. In our guide, The 10 Best Places for Ice Cream in Ann Arbor, we rounded up the area’s best, including local favorites like Michigan Creamery and Blank Slate Creamery and even Go! Ice Cream in Ypsilanti. 

 

We hope you enjoyed your summer vacation!  

For more activities you can enjoy throughout the year, check out 18 Things to Do with Kids in Ann Arbor

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Where to Shop to Build the Perfect Ann Arbor Gift Basket

Where to Shop to Build the Perfect Ann Arbor Gift Basket

The Ann Arbor area is defined by its food, its art, its stories and its hyper-local character. And our regional creators and entrepreneurs know exactly how to show off our state produce, our quirky creativity, our iconic water towers and, of course, our University of Michigan pride.

In this guide, we rounded up some of those local businesses, artists and creators so you can build the perfect gift basket for a new resident, a far off family member, or anyone who needs a little sampling of Southeast Michigan. We also provided the retail locations and links to online stores where they’re available so you can shop in person or virtually!

 

Ann Arbor Art Center

Retail location at 117 W Liberty St in Ann Arbor

Located in Downtown Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Art Center is our go-to for enjoying art exhibition, connecting with local artists, and even learning new art skills. The 117 Gallery Shop—located in their Downtown headquarters—is the retail shop where you can find original, handmade works of art for sale by both emerging and established artists from Michigan and beyond. These include original paintings and prints, ceramics, jewelry and more.

 

Ann Arbor Farmers Market

Retail location at 315 Detroit St in Ann Arbor

A beloved weekly tradition in Kerrytown, the Ann Arbor Farmers Market is a 100-year-old, year-round market where you can shop from more than 100 local businesses. As a producer-only market, you’ll find only local products from Michigan, Ohio or Indiana, and the vendors include fourth-generation farmers, bakers, coffee roasters, artisans and more. It’s the perfect place to find Michigan nuts, local maple syrup, fermented sauerkraut or handmade goods for your gift basket!

 

Artistica Gallery

Retail location at 3203 Broad St in Dexter

Located right on Main Street in the charming town of Dexter, Artistica Gallery showcases more than 35 Michigan artisans inside their cozy shop. These products range from hand-carved, wooden bowls and fabric arts to personal products like soaps and balms. To preview their artists, artisans and products, follow the team on Facebook here.

 

Bløm Meadworks

Retail location at 100 S 4th Ave in Ann Arbor | Online store

Where to Shop to Build the Perfect Ann Arbor Gift Basket

Photo courtesy of Bløm Meadworks

Bløm (pronounced bloom) is a hyper-local meadery located in the heart of Ann Arbor. Unlike many other meaderies and cideries, every ingredient is sourced from Michigan and their mead is fermented like a dry craft cider so it’s not as thick or as sweet as other meads you may have tried. In addition to hosting pop-ups and weekly yoga classes, they also sell their naturally gluten-free mead in cans both in the taproom and online. To view their online store, click here.

 

Bo

Retail location at 333 S Main St in Ann Arbor | Online store

Inspired by and named after Bo Schembechler—the University of Michigan head football coach from 1969 to 1989—Bo is a store built by and for Wolverines. In the Main Street shop, you can purchase clothing and hats, mugs and glasses, posters and vinyl decals, and basically everything you need to show your Michigan pride. To shop online, click here.

 

Bookend Candle Co.

Online store

This Etsy shop is run by an Ypsilanti local hand-pouring soy candles to create some of our favorite scents. These include Coffee House which is infused with the scent of freshly ground coffee beans, sweet cream and hazelnut, Rare Book Room which gives off the scent of cedarwood, leather and vanilla, and Campfire which smells just like a summer campfire. The stylish candles even say, “Hand-poured in Ypsilanti, MI” right on the front! To learn more about Bookend Candle Co., you can follow them on Instagram here.

 

Caravan Gift Shop

Retail location at 1 Nickels Arcade in Ann Arbor

A landmark of the historic Nickels Arcade, Caravan Gift Shop has been an Ann Arbor shopping destination for more than 90 years! Their charming and eclectic shop is the perfect place to find globally inspired and globally sourced goods, including handcrafted jewelry, unique cards and paper goods, handcrafted wallets, watches, home decor and more.

 

Cherry Republic

Retail location at 223 S Main St in Ann Arbor | Online store

Cherry Republic is a Michigan business dedicated to Michigan’s Montmorency Tart Cherry and all the delectable products it can help to create. Their inventory boasts more than 200 cherry-based products like chocolate-covered cherries, BBQ sauces, jams, jellies, salsas, nut mixes, ice cream toppings, baked goods, condiments, soda pop, cherry wine and cherry beer. To shop online, click here, or stop by the retail shops in Glen Arbor, Traverse City, Holland, Frankenmuth, Charlevoix and right here in Ann Arbor.

 

FOUND Gallery

Retail location at 415 N 5th Ave in Ann Arbor | Online store

Perfectly merging vintage and modern, FOUND offers a mix of home decor, pillows, rugs, textiles, candles, jewelry and gifts. And many of those goods are made right here in Michigan by local artisans! Their brick and mortar location is in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district, but you can also shop much of their inventory online here.

 

Le Bon Macaron

Retail location at 209 S 4th Ave in Ann Arbor | Online store

Where to Shop to Build the Perfect Ann Arbor Gift Basket

Photo courtesy of Le Bon Macaron

Born from a love of French culture, Le Bon Macaron is a local, family business that offers two of the most charming cafés in Michigan: one in Grand Rapids and one in Downtown Ann Arbor. If you stop in the store, you can get French press coffee and espresso, fresh scones, ice cream sundaes, French and Italian sodas made with handcrafted fruit puree and, of course, the macarons that have made them famous. But, you can also shop online for Le Bon merchandise and customizable macaron boxes! Check out the online shop here.

 

Literati Bookstore

Retail location at 124 E Washington St in Ann Arbor | Online store

The perfect place to experience our hometown’s book culture, Literati is a locally owned and operated book-lovers’ haven in Downtown Ann Arbor. On the store’s lower level, you’ll find the bookstore, and upstairs, they operate a full-service coffee shop called Literati Coffee. In the bookstore, you’ll find the team’s famous public typewriter open to the public for typing messages. Over the years, they’ve accumulated thousands of these love notes, poems, sentences and salutations. Published in 2018, “Notes From A Public Typewriter” compiles some of their favorites alongside essays, photos and more, and this book is the perfect addition to any Ann Arbor gift basket! You can learn more about it and purchase it online here.

 

The M Den

Six retail locations | Online store

The M Den is the official retailer of Michigan Athletics, which means you can find branded clothing for women, men and kids, Michigan Nike products, hats, furniture and home decor, autographed memorabilia, toys, jewelry, pet accessories and more. You can shop online here or stop by one of five Ann Arbor locations to shop in person.

 

Rock Paper Scissors

Retail location at 216 S Main St in Ann Arbor | Online store

Where to Shop to Build the Perfect Ann Arbor Gift Basket

Photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

Located on Main Street in Ann Arbor, Rock Paper Scissors is a paper goods and gift store. In addition to their huge selection of personalized stationery and cards, they carry a variety of fun and funny gifts: mugs, glasses, books, candles, balms, cocktail mixers, keychains, decor and more. To shop online, click here.

 

RoosRoast

Retail locations at 1155 Rosewood St and 117 E Liberty St in Ann Arbor | Online store

Where to Shop to Build the Perfect Ann Arbor Gift Basket

Photo courtesy of Laura Garbarz via RoosRoast

RoosRoast is hands down one of the best coffee roasters in Michigan and word of this has reached as far as Portland, San Francisco and Manhattan. With their Loring Smart Roaster, they use 80 percent less energy than similar roasters and still create outstanding coffees (have you tasted Lobster Butter Love?). RoosRoast has received several accolades, including the best coffee shop in Washtenaw County, the number one coffee shop in Southeast Michigan and more. If you can’t stop by their two Ann Arbor locations, you can shop coffee, tea and merchandise online here.

To find more local roasters, check out The Best Coffee Roasters Around Ann Arbor.

 

Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Three retail locations

One of the region’s best wineries, Sandhill Crane operates a year-round tasting room in Jackson and the Cider Mill Tasting Room in Dexter during apple season. Made in small batches right on the premises, the tasting lineup includes well-balanced acidic white wines, rich reds, flavorful fruit wines and delicious dessert wines. Upon visiting, you can enjoy tastings, schedule a winery tour and purchase bottles for yourself and your gift basket.

To find even more regional wineries, check out The 14 Essential Wineries to Visit Near Ann Arbor.

 

True North Jerky and Foods

Retail location at 12855 E Old US Hwy 12 in Chelsea | Online store

If you need a little snack in your gift basket, check out True North, a locally owned and operated specialty meat shop in Chelsea. In store, you can shop smoked meats and fish, handmade sausages, bratwurst, burger patties, hand cut steaks and more. And their jerky, award-winning snack sticks, hot sauces and specialty cheeses are perfect additions to show off true Michigan flavor. To shop more than 25 different jerky flavors online, click here.

 

Ypsilicious

Online store

This Ypsi-inspired Etsy shop is the online destination for all things Ypsilanti. These mugs, tops, towels, tags, posters and cards feature tons of local character and plenty of Ypsilanti Water Tower jokes. You can even buy a customizable, handmade Ypsi Water Tower piñata! But if that won’t fit in your basket, maybe think about a “Greetings from Ypsi” whiskey tumbler; check it out here.

 

Zingerman’s Creamery

Retail location at 3723 Plaza Dr in Ann Arbor | Online store

Where to Shop to Build the Perfect Ann Arbor Gift Basket

Photo courtesy of Zingerman’s Creamery

Zingerman’s Community of Businesses is an icon of Ann Arbor. Their story started with a small deli opened in 1982 and has grown into a community of more than 10 different local businesses all located right here in the Ann Arbor area. At the creamery, they create handmade, full-flavored cheeses and gelati using traditional methods and the highest quality milk sourced from small-scale, regional farmers. At the Cream Top Shop, you can taste cheeses, gelato and sorbet and take home the perfect, cheesy addition to any gift basket. To order online, check out Zingerman’s Mail Order here. And to learn more about all the businesses, check out Your Guide to 14 Zingerman’s Businesses in Ann Arbor.

 

Do you have a gift basket idea?

Tell us where you’re shopping in the comments below!

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Everything You Can Do in Waterloo Recreation Area

things to do in Waterloo Recreation Area Chelsea Michigan

Waterloo Recreation Area offers more than 20,000 acres of outdoor paradise just minutes from Ann Arbor in Chelsea and is the largest park in the Lower Peninsula. Especially famous for its campgrounds, mountain biking trails and educational opportunities, guests in the park can walk or ride more than 40 miles of multi-use trail, boat and fish, visit the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center, bike the DTE Energy Foundation Trail, rent kayaks and canoes, play on swimming beaches, camp, hunt, play disc golf, and even ride horses.

Directly adjacent to Pinckney Recreation Area, the two open spaces offer a combined 31,500 acres of wilderness to explore and it’s all connected by the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail!

To learn about all the ways you can explore Waterloo, keep reading.

 

 

Ride horses with Horse ‘N Around Stables.

things to do in Waterloo Recreation Area Chelsea Michigan

Waterloo Recreation Area offers 18 miles of horseback riding trails accessible to anyone. If you don’t have your own horse, stop by Horse ‘N Around Stables for guided trail rides, riding lessons and even kid-friendly summer camps! Their trail ride offerings include moonlight rides and special occasion BBQ picnic rides with Hotel Hickman Chuckwagon BBQ; to see all the options, dates and prices, click here.

If you do have your own horse, the park also offers equestrian camping at the Waterloo Equestrian-Rustic Campground where sites are available on a first come, first served basis.

 

Bike the DTE Energy Foundation Trail.

The DTE Energy Foundation Trail is a multi-use trail that loops through Waterloo Recreation Area. Though it’s still being developed and grown—with plenty of help from international mountain biking associations—the trail already offers multiple different loops and more than 10 miles to explore. The planning vision includes five loops with one loop built per year over five years for a total of 25 miles. For more information and updates, click here.

 

Visit the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center.

A great way to introduce yourself to our natural surroundings inside Waterloo, The Discovery Center explores the glacial geology of the region, the diverse natural habitats and the many recreation opportunities available in the park and the Chelsea area. Established in 1981, the facility offers educational exhibits, special programs and even year-round events.

 

Play disc golf.

Located near Portage Lake—along with a boat launch, the public beach, a concession stand and a campground—you’ll find an 18-hole disc golf course open to the public. Be sure to bring your own frisbees!

 

Camp overnight.

things to do in Waterloo Recreation Area Chelsea Michigan

As the largest park in the Lower Peninsula, Waterloo Recreation Area is one of the most popular places for camping. In total, the park offers nine different campgrounds, which include equestrian camping, modern camping, rustic camping with limited amenities, a group campsite, an accessible and reservable yurt, multiple rustic cabins and a modern cabin. The Sugarloaf Campground even has an ADA accessible playground! To see a full list of campgrounds, click here.

 

Go fishing.

With a whopping 11 fishing lakes inside the park, this is a popular activity in Waterloo. While doing so, you may catch bass, panfish and pike, but be sure to get your fishing license first! For more information on that, click here.

 

Take a hike.

A variety of trails are available for hiking, including nature trails at the Discovery Center and the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail that traverses from Big Portage Lake to Green Lake and further into Pinckney Recreation Area. Additionally, the new DTE Energy Foundation Trail offers more than 10 miles of loops and will soon consist of 25 miles to explore.

 

Watch wildlife.

Waterloo Recreation Area Chelsea Michigan

One of the most popular activities in Waterloo is viewing sandhill cranes which nest and migrate throughout the region. Directly adjacent to the park on the west side, you’ll find the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Audubon Sanctuary, a bird sanctuary that consists of more than 1,000 acres and is famous for its sandhill cranes. Also in the park, you may encounter deer, wild turkeys, ducks, coyotes and more.

 

Visit Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Audubon Sanctuary.

As we mentioned, the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Audubon Sanctuary is an Audubon sanctuary located on the west end of Waterloo. Though outside the park, the sanctuary offers more than 1,000 acres of trails and wildlife observation opportunities. Renowned for its sandhill cranes, a record 8,177 cranes were counted on one fall afternoon as they landed in Mud Lake Marsh. To learn more about visiting the sanctuary, click here.

 

Kayak on a lake.

things to do in Waterloo Recreation Area Chelsea Michigan

One of the most popular activities in Southeast Michigan, Waterloo offers spectacular settings for still water kayaking. The park’s 11 inland lakes are all available for paddle sports and you can even rent rowboats at the Portage Campground near Portage Lake. Campers can also rent kayaks, canoes and rowboats at Sugarloaf Campground.

 

Swim at the public beach.

With 11 inland lakes and the recreation gem that is Portage Lake, Waterloo offers tons of water recreation opportunities. Day-use swimmers should head to the public beach at the Portage Lake Unit, and registered campers can also take a dip at the beach accessible from the Sugarloaf Campground.

 

Hunt for deer, turkey and small game.

Waterloo Recreation Area is open to hunting for all species following regular state regulations. Opportunities include deer, wild turkey and small game throughout the mix of open brush, open meadows, wetland habitat and mature hardwood forest. Hunters should be aware of private lands, hikers and equestrian trails throughout the open hunting areas; to learn more about the open areas, check out the Mi-HUNT map here. And to learn about the proper licenses, click here.

 

Hit the trails for cross-country skiing.

During our snowy months, all the trails within Waterloo are open for cross-country skiers, offering more than 40 miles of ungroomed exploration. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources put together a map of recommended cross-country ski trails, which you can see here.

 

Hike on snowshoes.

things to do in Waterloo Recreation Area Chelsea Michigan

All the trails within Waterloo are open to snowshoeing throughout the winter. Though they’re not groomed, this offers more than 40 miles of snowy trekking. To see a list of all the park’s trails, click here.

 

Go snowmobiling.

When snow falls, the majority of the park is open to snowmobiling. Check out the snowmobile map here to see these specific areas.

 

 

What do you love about Waterloo Recreation Area?

Are you a camper, a horseback rider or a cross-country skier? In the comments below, let us know what you love to do in our region’s largest park!

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The Ultimate Guide to Kayaking in Ann Arbor

Huron River Kayak Ann Arbor Michigan

Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the entirety of Southeast Michigan are famous destinations for paddle and water sports. This is thanks in large part to the Huron River, a designated National Water Trail that winds through the entire region and has been developed into one of the best, most beautiful, and easily accessible recreation opportunities in Michigan.

So, if you want to try your hand at kayaking or canoeing, this is a great place to start. Keep reading to find out where you can rent or buy the necessities, where you can sign up for programs, classes and guided trips, and where you can go to paddle both on the river and off.

 

 

Where to Go

The primary reason Southeast Michigan is a haven for kayakers is the rejuvenated Huron River, which meanders through Island Lake Recreation Area over to Dexter, through Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, then all the way to Lake Erie. And though the river offers fantastic waters for kayaking, it’s not the only place where you can practice your paddling!

 

Huron River Water Trail

As we mentioned, the Huron River is a huge kayaking attraction through Southeast Michigan. It winds through some of our favorite communities and is one of only 18 designated National Water Trails. The river trail sees more than 100,000 visitors every year who paddle, float and fish along the water. The 104-mile river offers 32 access sites, an all-abilities access point in Gallup Park and more accessible access points planned.

 

Waterloo State Recreation Area

The largest state park in the Lower Peninsula, Waterloo Recreation Area encompasses 20,000 acres. Home to 11 inland lakes, visitors can paddle in several different surroundings. Overnight campers can rent paddle boats at Sugarloaf Campground and all visitors can rent at the Portage Campground. For more information regarding park activities, click here.

 

Independence Lake County Park

Operated by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, Independence Lake Park offers countless year-round attractions. During the summer months, the park’s 360 acres feature trails for biking and hiking as well as fishing, boating and swimming in Independence Lake. Featuring both a small dock and a boat launch, you can take off in your own kayak across the water, or rent paddle boats and rowboats on site.

 

Kensington Metropark

Just 40 minutes from Ann Arbor directly above Island Lake Recreation Area, Kensington Metropark is one of the most popular parks in the state of Michigan. Throughout the 4,486 acres, you’ll find an 18-hole golf course, a 27-hole disc golf course, a nature center, a farm center, beautiful picnic areas, and the 1,200-acre Kent Lake. Paddle boats, canoes, kayaks and rowboats are available at the boat rental building near Maple Beach; you can get more information here.

 

Seven Lakes State Park

An hour north of Ann Arbor, Seven Lakes State Park is made up of farmland, rolling hills, forested land and 230 acres of water. During the summer months, you can rent or bring your own rowboats, canoes and paddle boats. Near the swim beach, you’ll find a boat launch, a concession stand for snacks, restrooms and changing courts as well as horseshoes, volleyball and playground equipment.

 

 

What You Need

There’s more to kayaking than just the kayak. Especially if you’re a beginner, there are a few safety items you may want to look into and maybe even a fun accessory or two! If you’re wondering where to start, we suggest stopping by any one of these local facilities or businesses. There, you’ll find local experts, rentals and more.

 

Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery

Argo Park guide to kayaking in Ann Arbor Michigan

The City of Ann Arbor operates two rental facilities: Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery. Here, they maintain and offer hundreds of boats available on a first come, first served basis. They also offer guided river trips, still water paddle excursions, river programs, festivals, camps for kids, and an annual canoe and kayak auction. Whether you need a boat, need to ask a question, or want expert guidance on the water, start here.

 

Adventure Leadership Rental Center

Adventure Leadership Rental Center is a University of Michigan facility that rents outdoor and recreational equipment to students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. To see their operating hours, click here.

 

REI

Our Ann Arbor REI is a great place to ask questions about local recreation and buy your own equipment. They also offer regular classes and trainings in recreation topics, from the How to Pack a Backpack Workshop to Kayaking Basics and everything in between.

 

Dunham’s Sports

Dunham’s Sports is the Midwest’s largest sporting goods chain. When they opened in 1937, they were just a small bait and tackle shop in West Bloomfield. Today, they have 230 stores, including one in Ann Arbor and one in Ypsilanti. Their available equipment includes kayaks, canoes, boats, life vests and more.

 

Play It Again Sports

Play It Again Sports is the go-to sporting goods store for gently used, lower-priced sports and recreation equipment. The Ann Arbor store is located at Westgate Shopping Center.

 

 

How to Learn

Paddle sports can be dangerous in some cases, and learning the ropes through classes, workshops or guided trips is always a good idea before you take off alone. If you want to practice with an expert or take a class on the basics, keep reading!

 

Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery

Gallup Park guide to kayaking in Ann Arbor Michigan

In addition to boat rentals, Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery offer great places to learn through guided river trips. In addition to these seasonally available daily trips, their calendar includes special classes and camps in kayaking, fishing and stand up paddleboarding. To see their programs, click here.

 

REI

Our Ann Arbor REI hosts regular classes in several outdoor and recreation topics. That calendar often includes workshops like free Kayaking Basics, free Women’s Kayaking Basics, and even SUP Basics. To see the calendar, click here.

 

Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery

Guide to kayaking in Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery

Located at Delhi Metropark, Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery is open seasonally and offers some of the best, guided river trips on one of the most scenic stretches of the Huron River. Their lineup includes tubing and kayaking trips between one and four hours and new Guided Glow Paddle trips, which take place at night in kayaks equipped with color-changing LED lights. To learn more, click here.

 

Tecumseh Paddling Company

Located right on the water in Tecumseh, this family-run paddling company offers guided river trips on River Raisin—one of the world’s most crooked rivers—and paddle practice and excursions on Globe Mill and Standish Ponds. Paddle the Ponds is an especially good option for beginners and kids! For more information, check out the website here.

 

Heavner Nature Connection & Canoe Rental

Heavner Nature Connection & Canoe Rental have four locations to make traveling the Huron River easy and convenient. Their main location is at Proud Lake State Recreation Area with others at Island Lake State Recreation Area, Kensington Metropark and Newburgh Lake in Livonia. Their team offers a variety of trips ranging from one-hour, self-return trips to multi-day journeys with transportation back to the canoe rental. To learn more, click here.

 

 

Do you have any tips?

If you love paddling in Southeast Michigan, share your local tips in the comments below!

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What to Do in Ann Arbor in the Spring

what to do in spring in Ann Arbor Michigan

Spring sees the last of our bitter cold days and welcomes the warm, summer sun back to Ann Arbor. Through the transition, our community celebrates with huge annual events, blooming gardens, bountiful harvests, and plenty of outdoor adventure.

To help you make the most of the season, we created a guide to spring activities in Ann Arbor and our surrounding communities. From the hyper-local community gardens and farmers market events of Ann Arbor to the wilds of Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea, here’s everything you need to do this spring. Enjoy!

 

1. Attend a seasonal event.

Zingerman's Camp Bacon 2019

Photo courtesy of Emma Boonstra via Zingerman’s Community of Businesses

Though community events don’t ever stop here in the Ann Arbor area, they certainly increase during the warmer months. Spring brings us some of our most beloved happenings, like FOOLmoon and FestiFools, Ann Arbor Earth Day Festival, Cinetopia Film Festival, Camp Bacon, Ypsilanti Proud, and so many more.

On the Reinhart blog, we post monthly event guides so you can stay up-to-date on our community’s most exciting events. First, check out The 11 Essential Ann Arbor Area Events to Attend April 2019. Follow us on the blog here or on our Facebook page here for our upcoming May and June guides, too!

 

2. Visit a community garden.

community gardens in the Ann Arbor area Michigan

Spring is planting season, and here in the Ann Arbor area, you don’t have to have an at-home garden to celebrate. In fact, Project Grow operates more than 20 garden sites around Ann Arbor, including plots at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Leslie Science and Nature Center, and West Park! To learn more about community gardens in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea and Dexter, check out our list of Community Gardens in the Ann Arbor Area. Our guide includes garden plots you can rent and grow yourself, as well as community gardens maintained for charitable and educational purposes.

 

3. Go to the dog park.

As snow melts and we get sneak peeks of summer weather, there might be no one else who is as excited as your dog. Your pups are free to play and explore outdoors without snow or cold and in some regional dog parks, they can even play in the water! To help you and your four-legged family members explore the area, we rounded up The Best Dog Parks Near Ann Arbor, Mapped. It includes details on local spots like Brighton Recreation Area where your dog can play on one of the state’s only dog-friendly beaches, Mill Pond Dog Park which is the only local park that offers off-leash water access, and Swift Run Dog Park right here in Ann Arbor — at ten acres, it’s the largest dog park in the city!

 

4. Shop the farmers market.

Ann Arbor Farmers Market

Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Farmers Market

Here in Ann Arbor, you can shop the Ann Arbor Farmers Market year-round on Saturdays. But beginning in May, market hours get longer and you can shop two days a week—Wednesday and Saturday. Monthly Food Truck Rallies return in May, too! These community events bring together some of Michigan’s best food trucks once a month from May through October for a full evening of fun in Kerrytown. For complete details, hours and dates on this year’s market, click here.

 

5. Sign up for a CSA program.

In addition to local farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture—or CSA programs—are an excellent way to get local meat, veggies, fruit and/or eggs directly from a local farmer. These programs invite people of the community (like you!) to invest in a local farm for the season and those paying members get to enjoy the annual harvest however abundant it may be. Typically, you pay a one-time fee at the beginning of the season. Then, you get to be a part of the farm community and enjoy a portion of the harvest every week.

Since Southeast Michigan has been built largely upon our agricultural history, our community boasts several thriving, local and family-run farms, and many of these farms offer CSA programs! A few of our favorites include Tantré Farm, Community Farm of Ann Arbor, Raindance Organic Farm and Sunseed Farm.

 

6. Visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two educational and environmental spaces on the UM campus. The botanical gardens include eleven outdoor areas full of bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials and more. The arboretum spans miles of trails and land with impressive collections of both native and exotic trees and shrubs. Together, they provide trails, lawns and stunning gardens—especially stunning during full bloom in the spring.

 

7. Kayak the Huron River.

Huron River Kayak Ann Arbor Michigan

Ann Arbor and its surrounding communities have developed along the banks of the Huron River amid countless lakes and ponds suitable for paddle sports. So, whether you want a challenging route down the river or a peaceful float atop a lake, you’ll find the perfect setting right here.

Some of the best places to get on the river can be found in Argo Park and Gallup Park, which are connected by the Huron River and home to the Argo Canoe Livery and the Gallup Park Canoe Livery, respectively. Through these facilities, you can embark on guided adventures, rent equipment and even attend river-themed events like the Huron River Day Festival, which happens every May!

 

8. Explore our city parks.

The City of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation maintains 159 parks and 15 park facilities offering everything from hands-on experiences at Cobblestone Farm to swim lessons at Fuller Park Outdoor Pool. On the long list of activities available throughout these outdoor areas, you’ll find disc golf courses at Bandemer and Mary Beth Doyle, a dirt bike course at Bandemer, more than ten acres of off-leash dog area, an outdoor skate park at Veterans Memorial Park, soccer and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, and so much more.

To see the full list of parks and activities, click here.

 

9. Head to Waterloo Recreation Area.

Waterloo Recreation Area Chelsea Michigan

Directly adjacent to Pinckney Recreation Area, Waterloo Recreation Area offers more than 20,500 acres of outdoor paradise just minutes from Ann Arbor near Chelsea. Especially famous for its campgrounds, mountain biking trails and educational opportunities, guests in the park can walk or ride more than 40 miles of multi-use trail, boat and fish, visit the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center, bike the DTE Energy Foundation Trail, rent kayaks and canoes, play on swimming beaches, camp, hunt, play disc golf on an 18-hole course, and even ride horses. There are 18 miles of horseback riding trails accessible to anyone, and Horse ‘N Around Stables offers guided trail rides and riding lessons.

Together, Pinckney Recreation Area and Waterloo Recreation Area offer a combined 31,500 acres of wilderness to explore and they’re connected by the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail.

 

10. Grab a spot on the patio.

Our Ann Arbor community certainly loves being outdoors—whether we’re lounging in a park, exploring a nearby trail or simply enjoying a meal under the sun. And there are plenty of places to do all three. When you’re looking for a meal and a patio, check out The 16 Best Outdoor Patios in Ann Arbor. Our guide includes local businesses like Bill’s Beer Garden, a beer garden and community gathering space that’s open seasonally from March through October, and Dominick’s, a local legend famous for potent sangria, Italian-inspired eats and outdoor seating.

 

Happy Spring!

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Community Gardens in the Ann Arbor Area

community gardens in the Ann Arbor area Michigan

Through decades of history, our Ann Arbor area communities have been built around agriculture. As a result, our neighborhoods are home to thriving family farms, year-round farmers markets, several food and agriculture-based organizations, and dozens of community gardens.

This history has cultivated some of the most important organizations serving our communities, too! For example, Food Gatherers runs a Plant-A-Row program which invites gardeners anywhere to grow extra food for community food pantries. A few community gardens even have designated areas for Plant-A-Row and Food Gatherers.

We the People Growers Association is another force behind urban farming in Washtenaw County. This local farm business was founded by Melvin Parson, the man behind several community gardens in the area, and is working to build the We the People Opportunity Center, a world-class, nonprofit, urban farm in Ypsilanti. To find out how you can help, follow the team on Facebook here.

If you want to grow your own food, build community and help our local organizations, gardening is one of the best ways to do it. And while community gardens are great settings, these plots aren’t always easy to find. To help you find your new gardening home, we rounded up more than 35 community gardens operated by volunteers and organizations throughout Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea and Dexter.

Keep reading to learn more about each garden or organization, and keep in mind some sections have information on more than one garden site. Happy planting!

 

Click to jump ahead and find:

Gardens where you can grow your own food or gardens developed for educational + charitable purposes

White space

Gardens where you can grow your own food

 

Project Grow | Ann Arbor

community gardens in the Ann Arbor area Michigan

Photo courtesy of Project Grow

Project Grow is one of the driving forces behind urban farming and community gardens in the Ann Arbor area. This organization operates more than 20 garden sites around Ann Arbor, including plots at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Leslie Science and Nature Center, and West Park. On the list, you’ll also find three different Discovery Gardens which offer raised beds for limited mobility gardeners. To see the full list, click here.

 

Pittsfield Township Community Garden | Ann Arbor

The Pittsfield Township Master Plan includes initiatives to increase local food availability and their first community garden is working to do just that. Open Spring 2019, the Community Garden at Prairie Park will feature more than 15 different beds, six of which are located on an ADA Accessible surface. Other on-site materials include compost bins, an equipment shed, a pollinator garden and rain barrels. For more information on reserving your plot, click here.

 

Frog Island Park Community Garden | Ypsilanti  

community gardens in the Ann Arbor area Michigan

The community garden at Frog Island Park is maintained by the adjacent neighborhoods at the north end, and plots are available to rent on a sliding scale. Open to all residents of the City of Ypsilanti and all skill levels, gardeners are welcome to grow both vegetable and flowers. For more information, check out the group, Frog Island Community Garden (FICG) on Facebook.

 

Parkridge Community Garden | Ypsilanti

Developed and maintained on city-owned land next to Parkridge Community Center, the Parkridge Community Garden is a hidden gem in Ypsilanti operated by a dedicated group of volunteers and community members. To find out how you can help cultivate the garden and when you can attend special events, join the group on Facebook here.  

 

Normal Park Neighborhood Association | Ypsilanti

With assistance from Growing Hope and nearby neighborhoods, Normal Park Neighborhood Association developed three community gardens around Ypsi, including Recreation Park Community Garden, West Middle School Community Garden and Midtown Community Garden, which was developed with the Midtown Neighborhood Association. Plots in these gardens are available through registration and are open to all skill levels for planting organic fruits, vegetables and flowers.

 

Chelsea Community Garden | Chelsea

The Chelsea Community Garden at Timber Town Park has plots available by reservation so residents can grow their own organic vegetables and flowers. And as a gardener in this tight-knit community, your household is expected to contribute at least six hours per plot in the gardening season to help with composting, mowing, weeding, administrative duties and more. For full details, click here.

 

City of Dexter Community Garden | Dexter

Dexter’s community garden is located at 7651 Dan Hoey Road and plots are assigned to residents on a first come, first served basis. They offer three different sizes and types of plots, which you can reserve here.

 

 

Gardens developed for educational + charitable purposes

 

Help Yourself Garden at University of Michigan School of Dentistry | Ann Arbor

community gardens in the Ann Arbor area Michigan

The University of Michigan has several gardens on campus, including the Campus Farm available to students and interns. Many of these gardens aren’t open to community members, but the Help Yourself Garden at the School of Dentistry is open to everyone! Begun in 2014 as a community resource, the garden is maintained by staff, students and faculty from the School of Dentistry. Anyone walking by is welcome to plant, water and weed, take photos, and even harvest your own veggies to take home. For more information, click here.

 

Children’s Services Community Garden | Ann Arbor

This community garden began at the Washtenaw County Youth Center in 2008 by local celebrity Lisa Gottlieb. Today, the garden is directed and guided by a group of Washtenaw County Master Gardeners and community volunteers, but students do all the planting, tending, harvesting and cooking. Together, they grow more than 40 types of vegetables and 10 herbs.

 

Ypsilanti District Library | Ypsilanti

community gardens in the Ann Arbor area Michigan

Ypsilanti District Library maintains gardens at YDL-Whittaker, YDL-Michigan and YDL-Superior. These include a community vegetable garden, The Learning Garden and a pollinator garden developed specially for bees. Through these gardens, you can learn about growing and cultivating your own garden. The Learning Garden welcomes any aspiring gardeners to lend a hand and learn. Additionally, fresh produce is given away to library visitors during the growing season!

The Seed Library is another great resource for local gardeners at Ypsilanti District Library. Available to anyone at YDL-Whittaker and YDL-Michigan with or without a library card, this library is a collection of seeds that anyone can take from and contribute to.

 

The Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor | Ypsilanti  

The land that is now home to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor was once a family farm, and in 2010, they honored that history by breaking ground on one of the first hospital-based farms in the United States. Today, The Farm serves both as a staff community garden and as a tool for hospital patients and the community to learn, heal and eat locally grown food. If you want to taste the food for yourself, stop by the farmers market that pops up in the main lobby every Wednesday. To learn more about the educational opportunities and facilities on-site, click here.

 

Growing Hope | Ypsilanti

Growing Hope is a local organization that serves to improve our lives and our communities through gardening and through increased access to healthy food. The Growing Hope Urban Farm began with just 1.5 acres in 2008 and has grown into a community gathering space, educational facility and setting where vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers can flourish. To get hands-on at the farm, check out Growing Hops events here which include Farm & Garden Volunteer Days, cleanup days, special celebrations and more.

 

The Cooperative at Dawn Farm | Ypsilanti

This farm is located on 64 acres of the Dawn Farm property in Ypsi. When it began, the program served to put the land to better use and that mission has grown into a beautiful cooperative of varied growers, farmers and stewards who have built the perfect setting for flower growing, beekeeping, vegetable harvesting and even sheep raising. Currently, the land is home to an eight-acre food forest, bees, personal gardens, a market garden and Project Mow which is a sheep lawn mowing service. And the member program is driven by a gift and service system rather than a monetary one. Each member is encouraged to give back to Dawn Farm in an appropriate way of their own choosing, whether it’s through homegrown food, education, system design, community outreach or something else. To stay up-to-date on Cooperative events, follow the team on Facebook here.

 

 

Happy growing!

If we missed your favorite community garden, tell us about it in the comments below.

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The Best Dog Parks Near Ann Arbor, Mapped

dog parks near Ann Arbor Michigan

Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan offer some of the best and largest parks in the state as well as lakes, river access, hiking trails, biking opportunities and more. But when you’re looking for off-leash opportunities for your dog, it can be tough to navigate the rules, permit requirements and available areas.

To help, we rounded up the Ann Arbor area’s best dog parks available to both residents and non-residents. We also included links to important rules and permit information where necessary.

Keep reading to find your dog’s new favorite play area and be sure to mark your calendar for the annual Doggy Dip at Rolling Hills Water Park! It happens every year around Labor Day and you can get more information here.

 

 

Brighton Recreation Area | Howell

Get directions | On-leash

dog parks near Ann Arbor Michigan

Though not an off-leash area, Brighton Recreation Area offers one of the state’s only dog-friendly beaches. Available on a section of shoreline at Chilson Pond, dogs are welcome to play in the water but must be on leash and under control at all times. For more information on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources pet policy, click here.

 

Broadway Park | Ann Arbor

Get directions | Off-leash

Located in one of Ann Arbor’s best community parks, the off-leash dog play area at Broadway Park is nestled along the Huron River with a designed area for small and large dogs. For more information on the park, required permits, leash laws and other dog policies, click here.

 

Cady Street Dog Park | Northville

Get directions | Off-leash

The Northville park system currently includes two dog parks. The Cady Street Dog Park offers 0.7 acre of fenced-in play area behind the Northville Art House and has open hours every day of the week. A dog park membership, fee and mandatory education session are required before you and your dog can be admitted. That means the environment is kept safe for all dogs and owners! For more information, click here.

 

Canton Dog Park | Canton

Get directions | Off-leash

dog parks near Ann Arbor Michigan

Available year-round to dog park members, Canton Dog Park offers six acres of fenced-in, outdoor space for dogs to run and play off-leash. The park’s separated sections are reserved for dogs under 20 pounds and dogs over 20 pounds so large and small pups can play safely, and owners are asked to keep watch over their dogs at all times. For membership information, click here.

 

Lyon Oaks Dog Park | Wixom

Get directions | Off-leash

Available year-round from sunrise to sunset, the Lyon Oaks Dog Park offers 13 acres of fenced play area, a separated small dog area, benches, shelter and picnic tables. All licensed dogs are welcome, and owners are asked to keep watch over their dogs at all times. To learn more about all the dog parks managed by Oakland County, click here.

 

Marv Gans Community Park | Northville

Get directions | Off-leash

The second of Northville’s dog parks, the off-leash play area at Marv Gans Community Park offers four acres of room to roam. The park also has its own parking lot for easy access. Before you and your dog can be admitted, a dog park membership, fee and mandatory education session are required. That means the environment is kept safe for all dogs and owners! For more information, click here.

 

Mill Pond Dog Park | Saline

Get directions | Off-leash

dog parks near Ann Arbor Michigan

Boasting a whopping 54 acres total, Mill Pond Park is the largest community park in Saline. In addition to boat launches, sports fields and walking trails, visitors are welcome to enjoy the Mill Pond Dog Park. Covering one acre, it’s the only local park that offers off-leash water access, so water-loving dogs will definitely have fun!

 

Novi Dog Park | Novi

Get directions | Off-leash

Located behind the Novi Ice Arena, Novi Dog Park offers three acres of off-leash fun with a separate area for small and timid dogs which covers 3/4 of an acre. The remaining one and a half acres are available to all other dogs. To enter the park, you’ll need to take the dog park quiz and be approved for a membership; for more information, click here.

 

Olson Park | Ann Arbor

Get directions | Off-leash

One of three dog parks managed by the City of Ann Arbor, the dog run at Olson Park is conveniently located next to the parking lot. The fenced area is just one of the attractions in the 54-acre park. For more information on the park, required permits, leash laws and other dog policies, click here.

 

Paw Run Recreation Area | Dexter

Get directions | Off-leash

dog parks near Ann Arbor Michigan

Paw Run Recreation Area is a private, 18-acre dog park in Dexter. Located on quiet, private property, the park boasts nearly one mile of mowed trails, a play area with a pond, an agility yard, a secure double-gated entry system, seating for humans and water for both humans and dogs. For information on the required temperament test and the various types of memberships and passes available, click here.

 

Swift Run Park | Ann Arbor

Get directions | Off-leash

Swift Run Dog Park is jointly managed by The City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Located at the northeast corner of the Swift Run landfill, the off-leash area covers ten acres making it the largest in the city. For more information on the park, required permits, leash laws and other dog policies, click here.

 

Where do you take your dog?

If you have a favorite place to take your dog in the Ann Arbor area, tell us about it in the comments below!

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15 Winter Date Ideas in the Ann Arbor Area

Winter date ideas in Ann Arbor Michigan

Winter in Michigan brings us our coldest, snowiest and coziest months of the year. Sure, that means date night needs to head indoors, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find something fun to do in town.

We rounded up some of our favorite things to do indoors in the Ann Arbor area, including comedy shows, live music, art classes, museums, theater productions, food, cocktails and so much more.

For even more local date ideas, check out 16 Ann Arbor Date Ideas That Don’t Involve Going to a Restaurant and 10 Ann Arbor Date Ideas Perfect for Any Time of Year.

 

Click these links to jump ahead and see the best date ideas in each category:

Adventures | Classes | Food + Drink | Museums | Shows

 

Adventures

 

Escape Decode.

Decode Ann Arbor escape room

Photo courtesy of Peter Doyle via Decode 

As Michigan’s top escape game, Decode offers some of the most interesting and complex escape rooms in the state—and they have facilities in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit! In Ann Arbor, their facility offers a three-part adventure called Minerva’s Trilogy. The story is about Minerva, an adolescent Artificial Intelligence machine with lofty goals. The Minerva Project and Minerva’s Return are the first and last parts, both one-hour escape rooms. And the second part, Minerva’s Escape, is a free puzzle hunt through downtown Ann Arbor.

 

Skate at Yost Ice Arena.

The University of Michigan ice arena, Yost Ice Arena, offers programs like Public Skate, Noon Skate and Sticks-n-Pucks. All three allow you to skate at one of the most recognized and iconic rinks in college hockey! Public Skate admission is $6 for adults and $4 for students, kids and U-M faculty. For $3 more dollars, you can rent skates, too. And Noon Skate prices are even lower. Get all the pricing details here and be sure to check the arena schedule before you go.

For more ice skating options in town, check out Buhr Outdoor Ice Arena and Pool and Ann Arbor Ice Cube!

 

Climb at Planet Rock.

Both beginner and experienced climbers can find fun challenges and learning opportunities at Planet Rock. Ann Arbor’s premier, indoor rock climbing gym, Planet Rock offers more than 25,000 square feet of climbing surface, a full training area and a giant bouldering mushroom. Their second location in Madison Heights offers a 15-meter official competition speed climbing wall and an ice climbing training area as well!

 

 

Classes

 

Learn at the Ann Arbor Art Center.

Ann Arbor Art Center things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Art Center

Since 1909, the Ann Arbor Art Center has served as a contemporary forum for the visual arts through education, exploration, collaboration and exhibition. They do this through rotating exhibitions in the 117 Gallery, special events, and an impressive lineup of classes and workshops. Topics on the class calendar include everything from drawing and painting to metalsmithing and wheel throwing in the Ceramics Studio. To see the class schedule, click here.

 

Bake at Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

When you sign up for a baking or cooking class at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, you’ll get an insight into their delicious breads, pastries, cookies, cakes and more! The class schedule includes pizza, doughnuts, French baguettes, soups, brownies and so much more. The best part is Zingerman’s takes care of all the cleanup and you get to take home your leftovers. Check out the class schedule here.

 

 

Food + Drink  

 

Sip coffee at Hyperion Coffee Co.

Hyperion Coffee Labs classes Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Erica Perry via Hyperion Coffee Co.

The coffee source for many of our favorite coffee shops in Ann Arbor and around the state, Hyperion is an outstanding roaster located right in Ypsi. In addition to brewing their own coffees and serving them in their café, they host Labs where you can learn, sip coffee and take some home, too! Topics cover every process of roasting and go all the way to home brewing methods. To learn more about Hyperion Labs, click here.

And to find more Ann Arbor area coffee shops, check out The 16 Best Coffee Shops in the Ann Arbor Area.

 

Sip cocktails at The Last Word.

Repeatedly named as Ann Arbor’s best cocktail bar, The Last Word is a hidden gem, literally. Located underground with no exterior signage, and offering dim lighting and an outstanding bar program, it’s a bar designed in true speakeasy fashion. The drink menu includes high-quality wines and craft beers alongside cocktails prepared with fresh ingredients and house-made syrups and bitters. The food menu includes crafted dishes like Pork Belly Tostada, Duck Confit Hash and Fried Chicken Buns—and it’s available until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday!

 

Get dinner at Aventura.

Aventura is a charming spot in the heart of Downtown Ann Arbor. And tapas are the perfect date night dish! Their culinary team offers authentic Spanish cuisine and culture including tapas, paella, vino and delicious, artisan cocktails. Inspired by the old-world atmosphere and the historical nature of the building itself, restaurateur Sava Lelcaj designed the restaurant from the bones of the original, 1872 space by utilizing classic Spanish design elements paired with works by local artists.

To learn more and check out other romantic restaurants in town, check out The 15 Best Date Night Restaurants in Ann Arbor.

 

 

Museums

 

Visit University of Michigan Museum of Art.

University of Michigan Museum of Art Ann Arbor Michigan date night ideas

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Museum of Art

The University of Michigan’s art collection is among the oldest in the nation. Years before the great art museums of Detroit, Toledo or Chicago were founded, UM students and the general public had free access to the on-campus gallery. Today, you can explore more than 20,000 artworks, special exhibits and educational experiences, and admission is still free!

 

Visit Yankee Air Museum.

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.

 

 

Shows

 

See a movie at Michigan Theater.

Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor Michigan

Photo courtesy of Michigan Theater

The Michigan Theater Foundation was founded in 1979 to save the Michigan Theater from the wrecking ball—and we’re so glad it was. Founded in 1928, the theater is now home to three screening spaces for independent movies, concerts, comedy shows, national tours and more. Check out the current films here and peruse the special event schedule here. Or, head over to the historic State Theatre for even more movies and shows!

 

Listen to music at The Ark.

The Ark is Ann Arbor’s destination for live music. Founded in 1965 by four area churches, the venue now offers over 300 nights of shows each year in one of the best listening rooms anywhere. In the past, they’ve brought Howie Day, Blind Pilot and the Violent Femmes to town! See all their upcoming events here.

 

Laugh at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase.

Originally opened in 1984, this comedy headquarters offers a lineup of up-and-coming stand-up stars, as well as nationally touring acts. The 18+ venue has hosted Tim Allen, Drew Carey and Ellen DeGeneres in the past, and has a calendar full of events every single weekend! You can see that calendar here.

 

See a show at Purple Rose Theatre Company.

Located in Chelsea, 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 state. Click here to see the schedule of current and upcoming shows.

 

Laugh at Pointless Brewery & Theatre.

Pointless Brewery & Theatre combines two things that make for the perfect date night: craft beer and laughter. In the taproom, you can taste beers brewed on-site and enjoy frequent events like league shows, improv games, showcases and more. To see the theatre and improv show schedule, click here.

 

 

Do you have a go-to?

If you already have the perfect winter date idea in the Ann Arbor area, tell us about it in the comments below!

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