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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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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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The List to Send Your Friends When They Ask What to Do in Ann Arbor

Kerrytown fun things to do in Ann Arbor

So, you have friends or family coming into town and you’ve suddenly forgotten everything there is to do in Ann Arbor. We’ve all been there. But luckily, there’s plenty to do in our charming little town. And with this guide, you now have a curated list to send that covers student culture, local food, townie favorites, educational experiences, music, film and books, outdoor exploration, craft beer and more.

Other helpful guides include Where to Take Out of Town Guests in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Spending a Day in Downtown Ann Arbor, Mapped. Enjoy!

 

1. Go shopping in Kerrytown.

Kerrytown is a charming market district located just a few blocks from the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. Here, you’ll find the year-round Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, other annual events like Kerrytown KindleFest, beloved restaurants like Miss Kim and The Lunch Room, as well as local shops 16 Hands, Ann Arbor Spice Merchants, Spun and more.

 

2. Get ice cream at Washtenaw Dairy.

This landmark shop has the biggest cones in town at the lowest prices, and they also serve up homemade donuts and donut minis! With more than 30 ice cream flavors, hand-dipped shakes and malts, everyone can find a cold, refreshing treat to enjoy. Follow the team on Instagram and get ready to drool.

To track down more local ice cream, check out The 10 Best Places for Ice Cream in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

3. Visit the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

Museum of Natural History fun things to do in Ann Arbor

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.

 

4. See a show at The Ark.

The Ark is Ann Arbor’s destination for live music and has been since it was founded in 1965 by four area churches. Today, the venue offers more than 300 nights of shows each year in one of the best listening rooms anywhere. In the past, they’ve brought huge acts like Howie Day, Blind Pilot and the Violent Femmes to town! See all their upcoming events here.

And for even more music-centric activities, check out The Music Lover’s Guide to Ann Arbor.

 

5. Catch a movie at The 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. Originally founded in 1928, the theater is now home to three screening spaces for independent movies, concerts, comedy shows, national tours and more. You can 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!

 

6. Eat at Fleetwood Diner.

Fleetwood Diner is the home of late night eats in Ann Arbor. You can get their entire menu of diner classics 24 hours a day, and that lineup includes omelets, pancakes, egg dishes and, of course, the famous hippie hash, which is a plate of homemade hash browns topped with grilled tomato, green pepper, onion, mushroom, broccoli and feta cheese.

 

7. Sip beer at Bill’s Beer Garden.

Bill's Beer Garden fun things to do in Ann Arbor

Photo courtesy of Bill’s Beer Garden

Open seasonally March through October, Bill’s Beer Garden is a community gathering place that offers an impressive lineup of Michigan, domestic and imported craft beers and wines. Located right next door to Downtown Home & Garden, the outdoor beer garden has long, communal tables and shaded areas for gathering with friends. Follow the team on Instagram here to get updates on weather closures and special events.

And if you’re visiting outside of the Bill’s Beer Garden season, check out Your Ultimate Guide to 20 Craft Breweries in the Ann Arbor Area to learn more about our town’s best craft breweries.

 

8. Type on the typewriter at Literati Bookstore.

Literati Bookstore fun things to do in Ann Arbor

Photo courtesy of Literati Bookstore

Literati Bookstore 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 the team’s famous public typewriter which invites anyone and everyone to type a message. Over the years, they’ve accumulated thousands of love notes, poems, sentences and salutations. Published in 2018, “Notes From A Public Typewriter” compiles some of their favorites alongside essays, photos and more. Stop by to shop local for books, type your own notes on the Literati public typewriter, then head upstairs to visit Literati Coffee, a full-service coffee shop.  

If you need more books during your visit, check out Your Guide to Ann Arbor’s Independent Bookstores, Mapped.

 

9. Order sangria at Dominick’s.

Dominick’s is famous for their potent sangria, their Italian-inspired eats and, of course, their patio! Since opening in 1960, this locally owned spot has been the go-to for locals, students, families, you name it! Swing by the patio on a sunny summer day and you’ll quickly find out why.

 

10. Get a sandwich at Zingerman’s Deli.

Zingerman’s Delicatessen was the first business to open in what is now the famous Zingerman’s Company of Businesses, and it opened all the way back in 1982 with a staff of just two people. Today, the deli is still located in the small, red brick building across from the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, but the menu and the staff have grown astronomically. That menu features some of the best sandwiches you can get in the state of Michigan alongside other creations—some of which are made at the other Zingerman’s businesses around town. Right next door to the deli, you’ll find Next Door Dessert & Coffee House where you can order cakes, pies, cupcakes, gelato, cookies, brownies, chocolates, candies and more.

To track down all the Zingerman’s businesses in the area (including bakeries, coffee roasters, creameries and restaurants), check Your Guide to 14 Zingerman’s Businesses in Ann Arbor.

 

11. Go kayaking on the Huron River.

Gallup Park guide to kayaking in Ann Arbor Michigan

If you visited Ann Arbor and you didn’t see the Huron River, did you even visit Ann Arbor? Well, maybe, because this picturesque river is pretty hard to miss. One of the area’s favorite outdoor activities is kayaking and canoeing on the water and resources like the Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery make it easy to do. For full details on where to go and what you need, you can read The Ultimate Guide to Kayaking in Ann Arbor.

 

12. Explore the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

One of the most obvious attractions in Ann Arbor is the University of Michigan campus, but you can do a lot more on campus than just people watch in The Diag. For example, 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.

 

13. Visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two educational and environmental gardens located on the U-M campus. The botanical gardens include 11 outdoor spaces full of bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials and more which bloom seasonally from spring to the first frost. During the colder months, you can head inside to the year-round conservatory which is filled with plants from around the world.

The second area, Nichols Arboretum, is one of the richest landscapes in the region. It spans miles of trails and land with collections of native and exotic trees and shrubs crafted into a landscape that was originally started by O. C. Simonds in 1907. To see visiting information on both the gardens and the arboretum, click here.

 

14. Go to the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market.

The Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market is open year-round on Saturdays, and during the summer, you can enjoy it twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays! From May through October, they also host six food truck rallies scheduled on the first Wednesday of the month. It’s a great place to get a sense for our Ann Arbor community and to get a little local shopping done.

 

15. Spend a day in Ypsilanti.

Located directly southeast of Ann Arbor along the Huron River, Ypsilanti represents some of Michigan’s best and most interesting hidden gems, including dining destinations, outdoor recreation, historic attractions, craft breweries and events. To begin your exploration of this charming community, check out Your Ultimate Guide to Ypsilanti, Michigan.

 

Want to add something to the itinerary?

Tell us about your essential Ann Arbor activities in the comments below!

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Your Guide to Fishing in the Ann Arbor Area

where to fish in Ann Arbor Michigan

The state of Michigan is made up of more than 40 percent water. Here in Southeast Michigan, much of that acreage is 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 most accessible recreation opportunities in Michigan. And where there’s water, there’s fishing!

In this guide, we’re focusing our attention on the basics of fishing in the Ann Arbor area: what to know before you go, where to cast your reel, how to learn, and where to find communities of like-minded fishers. Enjoy!

 

BEFORE YOU GO

where to fish in Ann Arbor Michigan

The most important things to have before you embark on your fishing adventures are a fishing license and the right equipment—and both are easy to get if you know where to go!

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers fishing licenses to both residents and nonresidents. Options include an annual license, a discounted pass for seniors, a 72-hour license and a 24-hour license for different prices. Anyone under 17 years of age can fish without a license, and licenses are available to residents online. For all the information and online purchases, click here.

The Michigan DNR also publishes a Weekly Fishing Report covering conditions around the state and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services publishes Eat Safe Fish Guides so you know what to catch and eat safely.

To get the right equipment, we recommend heading to a local shop where you’ll meet fishing guides and experts who have been fishing here for years. Schultz Outfitters is one of the most popular options, and they’re located in Ypsilanti’s historic Depot Town. In their brick and mortar shop, you’ll find fly fishing gear and fly tying supplies, but they’re also the area’s only full-time, four-season guide service and destination outfitter!

The Painted Trout is another great, locally owned option in Dexter. They are a fully stocked outfitter shop with a focus on field sports, sporting dogs and fly fishing so you can get everything you need, from clothing to fishing rods and everything in between.

 

 

WHERE TO GO

Gallup Park guide to kayaking in Ann Arbor Michigan

The primary reason Southeast Michigan is a haven for water sports like kayaking and fishing 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 fishing, it’s not the only place where you can practice your casting!

 

Huron-Clinton Metroparks

A haven for all kinds of outdoor recreation throughout the year, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks system is made up of 13 parks which cover more than 25,000 acres in five different counties of Southeast Michigan. Of those parks, 11 offer fishing and/or ice fishing, including Delhi Metropark in Ann Arbor, Dexter-Huron Metropark and Hudson Mills Metropark is Dexter, Huron Meadows Metropark in Brighton and more. For more information on all the fishing opportunities in these parks, click here.

 

Spring Valley Trout Farm

Spring Valley sits on 20 acres of carefully maintained grounds in a private, park setting. Their facility offers nine spring-fed ponds at least one-half acre or larger, two covered picnic pavilions, a children’s play area, and an authentic American log cabin. Especially ideal for kids and beginners, Spring Valley Trout Farm offers wheelchair accessibility and a family atmosphere, and their pollution-free ponds are stocked weekly with fish grown right on the farm.

 

Argo Nature Area

Argo Park, home to Argo Park Canoe and Kayak Livery, is a great place for water sports of all kinds on the Huron River, and it’s located right in the heart of Ann Arbor. Fly fishers can catch carp along the eastern embankment that forms part of the Argo Dam and it’s the closest fishing site to Downtown Ann Arbor! For more fishing tips, we recommend heading to the livery where you can also rent paddle boats. To get more info on the facility and fishing programs, click here.

 

Gallup Park

Gallup Park also offers boat rentals, expert tips and special programs through their Gallup Park Canoe and Kayak Livery. With a total of 69 acres along the Huron River and Geddes Pond, fishers have plenty of opportunities to cast, whether on the shore, from the pier or in a boat.

 

Olson Park

Olson Park is a popular choice in Ann Arbor for pond fishing. The 54-acre parcel is centered around a creek and pond with its own fishing dock, and the area is maintained by the City of Ann Arbor and the County Drain Commissioner.

 

Lillie Park

Lillie Park in Pittsfield Township boasts 148 acres of outdoor recreation opportunities, including a pond with two fishing docks and the picturesque Haven Lake.  

 

 

HOW TO LEARN

where to fish in Ann Arbor Michigan

If you’re a beginner when it comes to casting, tying your own flies or just fishing in general, a local shop or club is a great place to start your education. Many even offer dedicated classes for beginners and advanced students!

 

Schultz Outfitters

In addition to selling all the necessary gear, Schultz Outfitters in Ypsilanti is the area’s only full-time, four-season guide service and destination outfitter. Their offerings include guide trips and destination travel as well as classes and events which include beginner and advanced fly tying workshops and the full spectrum of casting instruction.

 

The Painted Trout

The Painted Trout in Dexter is a fully stocked outfitter shop and their team also offers classes and lessons for various levels of experience. Their fishing courses include group fly fishing classes for beginners both in the classroom and on the water, private lessons in beginner and advanced casting, and more. To see the full lineup, click here.

 

Ann Arbor Trout Unlimited

The mission of Ann Arbor Trout Unlimited is to conserve, protect and restore Michigan’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds, including our own Huron River. As a chapter of Trout Unlimited, they offer education and community focused around fishing and coldwater fisheries. For more information of meetings, programs and membership, click here.

 

Huron River Fishing Association

Based in Flat Rock along the Huron River and near Lake Erie, the Huron River Fishing Association is an affiliate of Michigan United Conservation Club and organizes tournaments, holds meetings and hosts members-only events throughout the year. Dedicated to both fishing and conservation, HRFA hosts two monthly meetings and monthly fly tying groups at Flat Rock Community Center. For more information, click here.

 

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS?

If you love fishing in Southeast Michigan, share your local tips 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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Kid-Approved Dining in the Ann Arbor Area

the best restaurants for kids in Ann Arbor

We know, kids can be the pickiest eaters in the world. And apparently, so do our local eateries, because many of them offer menus and environments that can make even the pickiest kids want to eat dinner.

We rounded up 15 of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter and Saline that offer specially designed kids menus, a comfortable and fun atmosphere, and weekly specials — and some on this guide even offer all three!

 

 

The Blue Nile | Ann Arbor

221 E Washington St | Facebook

The Blue Nile is a casual Ethiopian restaurant in Downtown Ann Arbor offering both delectable plates and all-you-can-eat platters. Both options offer meat and vegetarian foods. On the lunch menu, the all-you-can-eat feasts are available for half the price for children under 12 and children under 5 years old eat for free! You can see the lunch menu online here.

 

Conor O’Neill’s | Ann Arbor

318 S Main St | Facebook

the best restaurants for kids in Ann Arbor

Photo courtesy of Conor O’Neill’s

Taking inspiration from real, historic pubs in Ireland, Conor O’Neill’s is the place to go for community fun, social gathering, Irish hospitality, hearty food and great drinks. The pub was even designed and built in Ireland! And their menu amps up the Irish culture even more with meals like fish and chips, Mighty Murray’s Corned Beef & Cabbage, Kate’s Shepherd’s Pie and more. They made this list for the fun atmosphere and their Tuesday special when kids under the age of 12 eat for free with the purchase of an adult meal.

 

Fresh Forage | Ann Arbor

5060 Jackson Rd | Facebook

Fresh Forage fills Ann Arbor’s need for both convenience and health as well as quick and locally sourced. The team’s ingredients are sourced from their own family farms and other local farms, and several are even sustainably foraged from Michigan’s deep woods. Using 100 percent compostable materials, they prepare these meals rapidly so the busy people of Ann Arbor can fuel up on the go. Their Kids Menu offers all these healthy ingredients at a low price and prepared in approachable, kid-friendly meals. You can see it here.

 

Frita Batidos | Ann Arbor

117 W Washington St | Facebook

the best restaurants for kids in Ann Arbor

Photo courtesy of Steve Julin via Frita Batidos

At Frita Batidos, the burgers are the main attraction because a frita is a traditional Cuban burger made from spicy chorizo served with shoestring fries on a soft egg bun. And a batido is a tropical milkshake made with fresh fruit, crushed ice, sweetened milk and rum (optional, of course). The team’s Kid’s Menu offers all of that fun in mini sizes plus shoestring fries and fresh fruit. You can see the full menu here.

 

Harvest Moon Café | Ypsilanti

5484 W Michigan Ave | Facebook

Harvest Moon Café has been a staple of the Ypsi community for more than 30 years, and their home-style menu offers something everyone can love, including the kids! That’s because their Kids Menu is one of the largest on this guide and offers smaller portions of some of their best creations: fish and chips, a slow-roasted turkey dinner, linguine with marinara sauce and more. To see the menu, click here, and don’t forget to order your free kiddie drink!

 

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales + Kitchen | Dexter

2319 Bishop Cir E | Facebook

the best restaurants for kids in Ann Arbor

Photo courtesy of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales + Kitchen

Founded by Ron Jeffries in 2004, Jolly Pumpkin began in Dexter and now operates pubs and tap houses in Dexter, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Traverse City, Royal Oak, Grand Rapids and Chicago. In the Dexter tasting room and kitchen, you can enjoy their signature sour beers while your kids enjoy kid-sized portions of fried drumsticks, burgers and cheese pizza. On Family Night every Wednesday, kids can eat free with the purchase of any full price sandwich or pizza.

 

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery | Ann Arbor

311 S Main St | Facebook

This famous brewery was born in Dexter in 2004 and operates pubs and tap houses in Dexter, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Traverse City, Royal Oak, Grand Rapids and Chicago. In Downtown Ann Arbor, you’ll find Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery, a full-service brewpub serving lunch, dinner, brunch, late-night eats and a large kids menu that offers simple selections alongside adventurous choices (plus three delectable desserts!).

 

Maíz Mexican Cantina | Ypsilanti

36 E Cross St | Facebook

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 is made with ingredients from local purveyors and farmers, too! Every Sunday from 12 to 10 p.m., kids ages 10 years and under can enjoy up to two free kids meals with the purchase of any adult entree, and they’ll be enjoying some Mexican classics like quesadillas, tacos and arroz con pollo.  

 

The Original Cottage Inn | Ann Arbor

512 E William St | Facebook

Back in 1948 when it opened, The Original Cottage Inn was Ann Arbor’s first restaurant to serve pizza. Today, they still serve some of the best pies in town as well as classic American, Italian and Greek cuisine. On that extensive menu, you’ll also find several smaller, lower priced, kid-friendly selections, including Pita Pizza, Grilled Cheese and Spaghetti with Meatballs.

 

The Pretzel Bell | Ann Arbor

226 S Main St | Facebook

the best restaurants for kids in Ann Arbor

Photo courtesy of The Pretzel Bell

The Pretzel Bell was the place to be for students, townies and visitors for more than 50 years. When the doors reopened after a brief closing, it became one of the Tree City’s warmest and coziest spots while still functioning as a popular student hangout. The menu offers a modern take on traditional American comfort food with hearty items like fried chicken and signature burgers. That gourmet style extends to the kids menu where you’ll find items like the Lil’ Bell Burger and Mini Mac topped with a Goldfish cracker topping. From Sunday through Wednesday, kids eat free!

 

Red Brick Kitchen & Bar | Dexter

8093 Main St | Facebook

Red Brick is a small, family-owned restaurant in the heart of Downtown Dexter where their team offers fresh, innovative food alongside craft cocktails and a warm community atmosphere. Adults can enjoy some of the region’s best, most creative comfort foods, and the kid’s menu doesn’t skimp on quality, either. Approachable selections like homemade mac and cheese and chicken tenders come with a side of fries, sweet potato fries, chips, fruit, sauteed vegetables or celery and peanut butter, and on Mondays, kids eat for free with the purchase of an adult entree!

 

Revel & Roll | Ann Arbor

1950 S Industrial Hwy | Facebook

With more than 2,400 square feet of video screens, 100 different arcade games and 27 lanes of bowling, Revel & Roll might be the most kid-approved option on this list. Because, in addition to offering tons of entertainment, they also offer a gourmet menu that covers all the pub favorites—from buffalo chicken nachos and loaded tater tots to a PB&J burger and mouth-watering pizzas.

 

Salt Springs Brewery | Saline

117 S Ann Arbor St | Facebook

Named for Saline’s ancient, historic salt springs, this hometown brewery and restaurant is housed in a beautiful, 118-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. On Tuesdays, kids eat for free from a menu that includes burgers, sandwiches, pizza and poutine.

 

Zingerman’s Delicatessen | Ann Arbor

422 Detroit St | Facebook

The first business that opened in the Zingerman’s Company was this historic deli; it opened in 1982 with a staff of two. Today, the deli is still located in the small, red brick building across from the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, but you can now choose from an enormous menu of both classic and creative sandwiches, breakfasts, salads, housemade Jewish specialty foods, handmade pot pies and more. In addition to offering a great Kids Menu (which you can see here), they host regular events, including storytime tastings and classes! You can check out that schedule here

 

Zingerman’s Roadhouse | Ann Arbor

2501 Jackson Ave | Facebook

At this all-day restaurant, the Zingerman’s team showcases their favorite things about American food—both locally and nationally. The regular menu includes grits inspired by South Carolina, Maryland-inspired crab cakes, Carolina barbeque, local meat from Washtenaw County, produce from local farms, artisan cheeses, micro-brewed beers, and fine wines sourced from all over the country. The Just for Kids menu offers more approachable, smaller portions of some of our favorite Roadhouse flavors, from Mac n’ Cheese and the BBQ Slider to Roadhouse Corn Dogs and a Fish Plate with the fresh catch of the day. You can see the menu here.

 

Do you have a kid-friendly favorite?

Tell us about it in the comments below!

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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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The Book Lover’s Guide to Ann Arbor

Book Lovers Guide to Ann Arbor Michigan

Once the headquarters and hometown of Borders, an Ann Arbor bookstore that grew to have locations nationwide, Ann Arbor is a famous book-loving city. And despite Borders closing in 2011, our indie bookstores and reading community are still thriving. In Your Guide to Ann Arbor’s Independent Bookstores, Mapped, we got to share information and stories from 10 local stores all located within Ann Arbor.

And here, we’re sharing even more about book clubs, libraries, nonprofit organizations, book-centered events and more. So if you love books as much as you love Ann Arbor, keep reading!

 

Jump ahead:

Bookstores | Libraries | Book clubs | Organizations + programs | Annual events

 

White space

Bookstores

As a mark to Ann Arbor’s history, entrepreneurial character and book-loving nature, our town has become a haven for indie bookstores—both longstanding institutions and shops that opened to replace the Borders headquarters. We rounded up Ann Arbor’s bookstores in Your Guide to Ann Arbor’s Independent Bookstores, Mapped. And below, you’ll find features on several of the largest.

 

Literati Bookstore

Literati Ann Arbor independent bookstores

Photo courtesy of Literati Bookstore

Hilary and Mike Gustafson opened Literati Bookstore in 2013 as a book lover’s haven in downtown Ann Arbor. On the store’s lower level, they set out an old typewriter and invited anyone and everyone to type a note. Using compiled notes, essays and photos collected over the years, the team published “Notes From A Public Typewriter” in 2018, and in 2019, Literati Bookstore was named the Publishers Weekly Bookstore of the Year! And in addition to their public typewriter, their huge inventory of books and their friendly staff, they offer a full-service coffee shop upstairs.

 

Nicola’s Books

Nicola’s is a bookstore for everyone with everything and every title you could dream of. That’s because this premier independent bookstore specializes in book searches — especially if your dream book is out of print or hard to find. In addition to this unique skill, they also offer an inventory of bestsellers, new releases, classics, children’s book and more.

 

Bookbound

Co-founder Peter Blackshear worked at Ann Arbor’s Borders for nearly two decades. When it closed for good, he and his wife decided to pursue their dream of opening their own community bookstore, and since our book-loving community offered the perfect setting, they opened Bookbound right here in 2013. Today, they’re a favorite in town offering new releases and bestsellers alongside classics and nonfiction, children’s books, bargain books, gifts, special orders and more.

 

 

Libraries

Our community libraries are great places to find books and do research, of course, but they’ve also grown into fun institutions for community events and gathering, education and classes, and even gardening. For more information on a couple of our area library districts, keep reading!

 

Ann Arbor District Library

Ann Arbor District Library locations

Photo courtesy of 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 service 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, special events and more. Their long history also features Friends Books Shop which is an independent bookstore in the Downtown Library and a publishing imprint focused on local authors called Fifth Avenue Press

 

Ypsilanti District Library

In addition to providing classic library services, research materials and education opportunities in the City of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and a portion of Superior Township, Ypsilanti District Library locations are home to The Learning Garden, a pollinator garden, the Seed Library and Beezy’s Café, a hometown cafe located inside the Whittaker Road library.

 

 

Book clubs

In a book-loving community like Ann Arbor, you’ll find plenty of other book lovers, and many of Ann Arbor’s indie bookstores offer discounts to book clubs! In addition to the formal clubs and discussions listed below, you can find even more organized gatherings through Meetup here.

 

Washtenaw Reads

Book Lovers Guide to Ann Arbor Michigan

Washtenaw Reads is an annual initiative organized by our area libraries to promote reading and civic dialogue. Launched in 2003 by the University of Michigan Life Sciences, Values and Society Program, the project has grown to include participating libraries in Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township, Saline and Ypsilanti so you can read and discuss with our entire community! After everyone reads, events include author discussions, film screenings, book discussions, community discussions and more. For more information on this year’s selection, click here.

 

Literati Book Club

One of four book clubs hosted by Literati Bookstore, this option is free and open to the public. Each meeting is about 90 minutes long and if you buy the chosen book from Literati, you get 15% off. You can see the current book and upcoming meeting here.

 

Feminist Book Club

One of four book clubs hosted by Literati Bookstore, the Feminist Book Club fosters a fun, thoughtful and safe environment where participants can discuss current issues and topics regarding feminism and equality. To see past books, the current book and upcoming meeting dates, click here.

 

Eco Book Club

One of four book clubs hosted by Literati Bookstore, the Eco Book Club meets once every few months. At meetings, guests talk about the featured book and discuss matters concerning sustainability, climate change and the environment. To get more information on upcoming books and dates, click here.

 

Poetry Book Club

One of four book clubs hosted by Literati Bookstore, the Poetry Book Club meets once a month at Literati Coffee. Guests can sit back and relax while reading poems aloud, discussing, and sharing reflections. For information on upcoming books and dates, click here.

 

Crazy Wisdom Monthly Book Discussion

Scheduled on one Friday per month, the Crazy Wisdom Monthly Book Discussions explore selected books from the bookstore’s diverse inventory. Each selected book is available in the store for 30% off and attending the discussion is always free. For information on the next event and book, click here.

 

The Barnes & Noble Book Club

A nationwide program, The Barnes & Noble Book Club brings readers together in their local stores to discuss some of the most compelling books being published today. For more information, click here.

 

 

Organizations + programs

Our communities are home to countless nonprofit organizations assisting every family, child and person living here. Below, you’ll find a handful that are focused on small book businesses, literacy and youth education. You can find even more local charities in our guide, 23 Local Charities in the Ann Arbor Area and How You Can Help.

 

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation

Bookstores Ann Arbor Michigan

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation began in 1996 as the Borders Group Foundation. In the beginning, employees and executives of Borders Group, Inc. worked to help bookstore employees and booksellers in need. Today, the foundation is alive and well as The Book Industry Foundation and they still serve struggling bookstores around the country affected by natural disasters, medical expenses, violence, the threat of eviction, essential utility shut-off, or the unexpected loss of household income.

 

Washtenaw Literacy

Striving to completely eliminate illiteracy in Washtenaw County, this nonprofit organization provides literacy support at no cost to adults through a network of trained tutors, and they’ve been doing so for more than 40 years. Since 1971, they have served over 20,000 learners and trained and fully supported over 10,000 volunteer tutors. You can find information on joining that team here. Or you can donate directly here.

 

826michigan

826michigan inspires school-aged students to write confidently and skillfully with the help of adult volunteers in their communities. They do this through tutoring, workshops, drop-in writing opportunities, field trips, in-school projects and even publishing opportunities.

 

 

Annual events

Ann Arbor and our neighboring community, Chelsea, host some of the region’s biggest events in book arts and literature. And together, these happenings offer nearly a full month of books, authors, arts and fun!

 

Midwest Literary Walk

April

Midwest Literary Walk Chelsea Michigan

Photo courtesy of Burrill Strong Photography via Midwest Literary Walk

Now more than ten years old, the Midwest Literary Walk is an event presented by Chelsea District Library that invites community members, authors, readers and eaters to celebrate literature. Each author presentation is within walking distance of the next in downtown Chelsea, so you don’t have to miss a minute of the action.

 

Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair

May

The Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair takes place annually in the Michigan Union. When the fair returns in 2020, guests can shop and learn about first editions, old and collectible books, literature, children’s books, Americana and prints. For just a $5 admission fee, you can access all of this and more, and the money benefits the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

 

Jewish Book & Arts Festival

November

This multi-week festival celebrates culture and arts of all kinds but is heavily anchored by authors, and it has been for the past three decades. Including both free and ticketed events, the schedule always offers interactions with authors, performers, artists, topics and projects that are Jewish or have significant Jewish connections.

 

Do you have a tip for local book lovers?

Share your insider 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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