Ann Arbor is both a college town and a great craft beer town, which means you’ll find tons of things to do when you’re looking for craft cocktails, beer gardens, taprooms, late night bars and the like. But if you’re worried you won’t be able to find anything to do outside of bar hopping and brewery crawling, there’s no need—our hometown also offers an impressive lineup of fun things to do, shows to see, classes to take, places to shop, and more. There’s even one spot on this guide serving up incredible mocktails!
Next time you’re looking for something to do in Ann Arbor without the booze, stop by one of these local favorites for art, music, shopping, movies, food, games, tours, tea, coffee and ice cream.
Located in downtown Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Art Center is our local headquarters for enjoying art exhibition, connecting with local artists, and learning new art skills. Their educational experiences are available for all ages and topics cover everything from painting and ceramics to jewelry making and metalsmithing. Depending on how deep you want to delve, you can choose a class that lasts just a few hours, a full day or four weeks. To see upcoming topics and classes, click here.
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.
The Ark is Ann Arbor’s destination for live music. Founded in 1965 by four area churches, the venue has grown to offer more than 300 nights of shows each year in one of the best listening rooms anywhere. In the past, they’ve brought big names like Howie Day, Blind Pilot and the Violent Femmes to town! See all their upcoming events here.
Aventura is a charming spot in downtown Ann Arbor that offers authentic Spanish cuisine and culture, including tapas, paella, vino and artisan cocktails. Inspired by the old-world atmosphere and the historical nature of the building itself, the eatery merges Ann Arbor history with modern Spanish influence. Also on the menu, you’ll find an impressive selection of crafted mocktails like Sangria Falsa, which is made with pomegranate, Earl Grey tea, cinnamon and citrus. To see the full menu, click here.
Founded right here in Ann Arbor and inspired by our hometown neighborhoods, chefs, businesses and history, By the Sidewalk Food Tours explores all of that and more. The Classic Ann Arbor By The Sidewalk tour is a three hour, guided walking tour through downtown Ann Arbor and Kerrytown that pairs food tastings with history, art, architecture and local stories.
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.
Locally owned and operated, the ice cream at Blank Slate Creamery is homemade using fresh, all-natural ingredients, which has landed them on numerous rankings as the top ice cream in Ann Arbor and even throughout the state of Michigan. You can see a list of several of their locally-sourced ingredients on their website, which includes milk and cream from Guernsey Farms Dairy in Northville.
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!
Pinball Pete’s opened its doors more than 30 years ago and has since become the Ann Arbor destination for arcade fun. You can spend your quarters along the entire wall of pinball machines, play video games, and challenge your friends to a game of pool or air hockey!
Ann Arbor’s favorite tea spot, TeaHaus offers options suited for a quick stop or an entire afternoon. For example, the full English tea is a three-tiered service brought out to each table complete with white china and linens. The experience includes all the tea you can drink, four finger sandwiches, the soup of the day, two scones with jam, jellies, lemon curd and clotted cream, and three desserts. Get all the details here and be sure to make your reservation a few days in advance.
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.
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 donation is also appreciated. Get full details and plan your visit here.
Head to Waterloo State Recreation Area.
Waterloo Recreation Area is the largest park in the Lower Peninsula! It offers more than 20,000 acres of outdoor paradise just minutes from Ann Arbor in Chelsea, including campgrounds, mountain biking opportunities, more than 40 miles of multi-use trail, boating and fishing, horseback riding, and more. To learn more, check out Everything You Can Do in Waterloo Recreation Area.
Tucked between Zingerman’s Bakehouse and Zingerman’s Creamery, BAKE! is Zingerman’s hands-on teaching bakery. Here, you can learn everything from cake baking to cheese pairing. Classes are open to the public in categories like pizza making, donut frying, flour grinding, soft pretzel creation and more. To see the full schedule and reserve your spot online, click here.
Do you have a local tip?
If you have a favorite thing to do in Ann Arbor when you’re not drinking, tell us about it in the comments below!
A growing city of just over 5,000, Milan, Michigan straddles the Washtenaw and Monroe County line, providing its residents with quick access to Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Monroe, Detroit and Toledo, Ohio. While the town was founded in 1831 as an agricultural community, it has grown into a community of small business owners and professionals. And with nearly 200 acres of parkland in the city, recreational opportunities abound!
Whether you’re new to Milan or you’re just visiting for the day, keep reading to learn more about some of the best local restaurants, the most fun activities, the coolest places to go and the biggest annual events.
JR’s Hometown Grill and Pub originally opened in 2009 in Adrian and has since grown to include five hometown restaurants. At the Milan location, you can get the same amazing menu, including the team’s famous steaks, ribs and delicious burgers. Also at the Milan location, you can eat breakfast seven days a week!
Run by locals Tom and Vicki right here in Milan, Zilke Farm Kitchen branched out from Zilke Vegetable Farm and the team’s summer farmstand. Though this is not a sit-down restaurant, they sell a great selection of healthy, local, tasty ingredients as well as take-home freshly prepared meal kits, ready-to-heat single serving meals, salads and more. And it’s all available in a comfortable store that’s designed to feel like a home kitchen and pantry.
Open seasonally, Milan Dairy Barn has been a tradition for generations of Milan families. Though they’re famous for soft serve and hard serve ice cream treats like sundaes, shakes, flurries and banana splits, they also offer a huge menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, chili cheese fries and more.
A staple in the Milan food scene, Milan Coney Island has been owned and operated by the same family since 1999. The welcoming, family atmosphere comes free with their huge breakfast, lunch and dinner menus of American classics, including steaks, corned beef sandwiches, burgers and more.
A beloved local business, the most frequent review you’ll hear about Roy’s is that they have the best burgers in Michigan. In an all-American diner setting, they also serve up BBQ sandwiches, cheese steak hoagies, baby back ribs, hot dogs and the Bubba Burger, which is two half-pound patties stacked on three pieces of Texas toast.
Open seasonally at DR Trailer, Papa G’s serves some of the best BBQ in the area. Their menu can include things like homemade brisket chili, smoked sausage, ribs and more. To stay up-to-date on their operating hours and menu, follow the team on Facebook here.
Original Gravity is Milan’s original brewery. Though Brad Sancho just opened this microbrewery in 2008, it’s still the town’s only craft brewery and serves as the local destination for beer, community and fun. Focused on creating an outstanding taproom experience, their space has old-school arcade games, board games, televisions and delicious deli sandwiches.
Featured in The Best Coffee Roasters Around Ann Arbor, Milan Coffee Works has been an area favorite for years. At their headquarters—a charming, bright and welcoming coffee shop in the heart of Milan—they roast coffees in small batches. While you’re hanging out in the cozy, neighborhood cafe, we also recommend tasting the homemade chai! For information on events and pop-ups, follow the team on Facebook here.
Milan Dragway is a quarter-mile, NHRA-sanctioned drag strip that hosts events throughout the spring, summer and fall. Their race schedule includes Test & Tune events where you can test your car, plus spectator events like Bike Night, Aeroquip Heads Up and Kickin’ It Old School. And kids 12-years-old and younger are always admitted for free! To see the race schedule, click here.
The Owl is an all-day hangout that offers exclusively organic, shade grown, carbon-free and fair trade coffee. By night, they also offer Michigan’s finest craft beers and ciders for an atmosphere that anyone can enjoy. As a community hangout, The Owl offers weekly events, like beer yoga, trivia night, live music and more. To stay up-to-date on events, follow the team on Facebook here.
This small, locally owned comic, book and gaming store is the headquarters of fun and gaming in Milan. As a neighborhood shop, they’ve built a community where everyone is welcome to play, teach and learn about role-playing games, board games, card games and more. To stay up-to-date on fun events and workshops, follow the team on Facebook here.
Downtown Milan is one of the best places to shop local in town, and Northern Chicks is a beloved shop located at the heart of Main Street. Their cozy, down-home boutique offers a curated collection of vintage home decor, including old and new, as well as Michigan-made artisan gifts and boutique clothing.
During the fall season, Wasem Fruit Farm offers more than a dozen varieties of apples you can pick yourself, you-pick raspberries available in September and early October, you-pick pumpkins in October, and pears! And during a fall visit, guests get the chance to taste plain, apple, blueberry and pumpkin donuts paired with some of the best, fresh cider in the region.
Just next door, you can also venture to Talladay Farms for a trip through one of the Midwest’s largest corn mazes. It covers 27 acres!
The headquarters of outdoor recreation, community events and family-friendly fun in Milan, Wilson Park cover 35 acres in Downtown Milan. Here, you’ll find charcoal grills, playground equipment, basketball courts, a sand volleyball court, walking and biking paths, as well as softball and baseball fields.
This 9-acre park is home to an adult softball league as well as a variety of local youth baseball teams. Located just south of Main Street, the park features two baseball/softball diamonds and is connected to Wilson Park by a paved multi-use path that runs along the scenic Saline River.
Located just west of Milan, this preserve protects 113 acres and more than one-half mile of Saline River shoreline. Explorers can enjoy 2.25 miles of trail and high-quality floodplain forest habitat with oak, walnut, butternut, and sycamore trees.
Organized by Milan Main Street, Bloom is an annual celebration of spring complete with free activities for the entire family, like field day games, scavenger hunts, a flower mart, an artisan market, a bike parade, live music and more.
The annual Milan Fair is a favorite regional event for good reason! Each year, highlights include a carnival, a parade, an artisan market, fireworks, kids’ activities, and an entertainment tent with things like karaoke and live music. For information on this year’s event, click here.
On the third Thursday of each month from June through October in downtown Milan, 3rd Thursdays turns the neighborhood into a free, family-friendly festival. Attractions include local food and beer, live music, activities for both kids and adults, and shopping with vendors offering handmade, handcrafted and homegrown goods.
An annual event hosted by Milan Main Street, Route 23 Arts & Music Festival is a three-day celebration complete with live music, street performers, plays, a street art fair, food trucks, a craft beer festival and a beer garden. For information on this year’s event, click here.
In celebration of Small Business Saturday, Pop On Main Street brings together the Milan small business community for a full day of special deals and promotions, pop-up markets, food trucks, artisans and vendors. For information on this year’s event, click here.
Centered around Milan’s downtown shopping area, Wilson Park and Edgetown, this annual event is one of our favorite winter happenings in Southeast Michigan. Activities include a chili cook-off, the Let’s Chill Winter Fest Wine Walk, indoor and outdoor winter games, ice carving, an artisan tent, local food, The Big Freeze and more. For full details on the next event, check out the website here.
What do you love about Milan?
If we missed your favorite local business, attraction or event, tell us about it in the comments below!
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 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.
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 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.
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 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!
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.
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!).
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.
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 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
With a combined population of about 74,000, Ypsilanti and adjacent Ypsilanti Township represent some of Michigan’s best and most interesting hidden gems, including dining destinations, outdoor recreation, historic attractions, craft breweries and events.
Throughout its history and continued today, this town has played an important role in the development of the automobile and the community has served as a driving force in national aviation technology. Several of our favorite local attractions and events showcase these stories which have been brought to us from the 1920s and World War II.
Further hallmarks of the town’s history include Eastern Michigan University which is located in town, 12 parks in the city and another 30 in the township, and some of the region’s best events encompassing everything from Elvis to motorcycles and orphan cars.
Keep reading to find out what you need to see, where you need to eat and what you need to do in Ypsilanti.
Sidetrack has been a local destination since it opened its doors in 1850 and it’s easy to explain why. They serve some of the best pub food, pour some of the best beer, and offer it all in one of the best Ypsi atmospheres. Their burger—Our Famous Burger—was included on GQ’s 2005 round-up of The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die, and that’s just one of the reasons we recommend stopping by.
This Ypsi favorite offers a seasonally rotating menu made with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and they pair that with a lineup of artisan cocktails, craft beer and wine. And these approachable, gourmet eats cater to all kinds of diets, including vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores.
Any place that has Fried Chicken Tacos and Churro Biscuit Donuts on the menu is worth a visit. At Ma Lou’s, a small, counter-serve spot, they offer both and serve them alongside some of the best fried chicken in the state. Come for the chicken, stay for the wings, and don’t leave without dessert.
This old-school diner has been an Ypsi staple since it opened in 1936. Surrounded by aviation inspired decor, you can get one of the county’s best breakfasts right here in the Bomber dining room, and their huge menu of American classics offers more than 35 options.
One of Ypsilanti’s highest-rated eateries, Casablanca serves authentic Moroccan and Arabic cuisine for dine in, carry out and delivery. From fresh hummus to chicken shawarma, this is the best way to explore global cuisine in town.
Both a beloved coffee shop and a delicious cafe, Beezy’s is a hyper-local option in downtown Ypsilanti. Every day, they make two different soups, whip up fresh, homemade salad dressings, bake hot, fresh bread and prepare everything with a local sensibility and local products from nearby vendors and farmers.
The Maíz team has brought a fresh approach to traditional, Mexican favorites and Tex-Mex specialties. Everything on their menu is made from scratch daily and it’s made with ingredients from local purveyors and farmers, too!
Both a coffee roaster and a craft brewery, Cultivate is one of our favorite hangouts in town. Built around the mantra, “craft, community and cause,” you’ll find some of the area’s best beverages served alongside regular community events, fun series and philanthropic support of worthy causes.
When the Greffs opened the doors to Arbor Brewing Company in 1995, it was the first brewpub to open in Ann Arbor and only the fifth brewpub to open in the entire state of Michigan. On a trip to Belgium, the couple was further inspired to innovate and they brought the first sour program of its kind to the state of Michigan. Today, they operate the Ann Arbor brewpub and Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, a casual hangout for craft beer, board games, events and food.
In 1927, Carl L. Miller opened this Hudson Sales and Service franchise as an automobile dealership and repair shop. After a merger and the discontinuation of the Hudson line, the fate of the shop was in jeopardy, but Carl’s son Jack continued Miller Motors by selling Hudson parts and cars until the museum was founded. Thus preserving the dealership’s authentic condition, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum was opened in 1995 and now hosts some of the region’s best car shows and events, including the Show & Shine Car Show, the Orphan Car Show and the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Car Show.
Housed inside a restored firehouse, the Michigan Firehouse Museum covers more than 26,000 square feet; this includes the original 1898 firehouse and a modern, multilevel exhibit display area. Here, they display 25 changing exhibits, including antique fire trucks and early fire rigs, multiple displays of historic artifacts and the largest collection of fire truck bells in the country.
Yankee Air Museum is an aviation, aerospace and science museum located at Willow Run Airport just a few minutes outside of Ypsilanti. Exhibits offer hands-on experiences and insights into World War I and World War II, Willow Run and Rosie the Riveter, The Vietnam War, aircraft restoration and so much more.
Dreamland Theater is unlike any other theater in Michigan. This small, non-profit puppet theater and community space is located in downtown Ypsilanti and offers classes and performances in puppetry, theater, music, independent film and other arts. To find out what’s going on right now at Dreamland, check out their Facebook page here.
The Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra story begins after Ypsi Pride Day in 1998 when two friends discussed the idea that our local musicians needed a community to develop their skills and our community needed an avenue to enjoy orchestral music. Soon after, a small group of friends and musicians gathered at Abe’s Coney Island to plan and the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1999. Today, they host several concert events throughout the year at Towsley Auditorium on the Washtenaw Community College campus.
Operating for more than 180 years and open every fall, Wiard’s Cider Mill and Apple Orchard offers u-pick apples, a u-pick pumpkin patch, delicious cider, a corn maze and haunted thrill park, mini golf, hayrides, and more. Throughout the months of September and October, Ypsi locals, Ann Arbor locals and Michiganders from all over the state flock to the orchard for both spooky haunts and family fun.
Maintained by Washtenaw County, Rolling Hills County Park encompasses 439 acres and represents one of the most recreational diverse destinations in the county. And it’s one of the most popular places to visit during the summer thanks to the Rolling Hills Water Park! Other attractions include walking trails, a fishing pond, a playground, an 18-hole disc golf course, sports fields and horseshoe pits.
Located on the Huron River in the center of Ypsilanti, Riverside Park consists of 13.8 acres and connects downtown Ypsi with Depot Town. When you’re not fishing, dog walking, picnicking or sunbathing, we recommend heading to the park for one of Ypsi’s best annual events, including ElvisFest, Michigan Summer Beer Festival and the Orphan Car Show.
Developed in partnership with Huron River Greenway, the Border-to-Border Trail is a non-motorized pathway that connects cities, parks, neighborhoods and trails throughout Washtenaw County. Eventually, the trail will span 70 total miles. And a section of those miles already connects Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor and even on to Dexter and Chelsea.
First Friday in Ypsilanti is a self-guided monthly art walk hosted at multiple venues throughout downtown Ypsi. When you participate, you can explore our community’s local businesses and enjoy free art activities, presentations and tastings.
This family-oriented fitness event is an annual fundraiser for Ypsilanti organization Dawn Farm. Community members at any fitness level are invited to register for one of four bike rides: a 5K/10K, a 25-mile, a 40-mile and a 58-mile. Registration includes a celebratory lunch and all the proceeds benefit Dawn Farm. For more information on this year’s event, click here.
Ypsilanti Proud began as a class project by the 1995 graduating class of Leadership Ypsilanti. Now a community celebration for more than 20 years, the event fosters community pride and encourages local business growth through simple beautification projects. Join more than 500 volunteers for this year’s event and you can help clean up litter, paint and plant flowers. For more information, click here.
Each year, Depot Town honors Independence Day with Michigan’s oldest parade. This tradition has been going strong and growing for nearly a century and fills our streets with patriotism, red, white and blue every July.
The oldest of the Michigan Brewers Guild’s four annual festivals, the Summer Beer Festival hosts more than 100 local breweries sampling more than 1,000 different craft beers. Guests can also enjoy live music from Michigan bands and food available for purchase. This event takes place every summer in July or August.
Ton-Up Motorcycle and Music Festival has been an Ypsi tradition for a decade now. Serving to promote and educate the public about the art, science and history of the motorcycle, motorcycle safety, and awesome music, this one-day event brings vintage and custom motorcycles, scooters and mopeds to Arbor Brewing Company’s Corner Brewery and also adds plenty of local music and tons of fun.
An indie art fair like none other, DIYpsi is a handmade art fair that takes place in Ypsilanti’s business districts once each summer and winter. Alongside incredible homemade foods and drinks, the event features unique handcrafted gifts that are sold by and in support of local, Ypsilanti artists.
Each year, the Ypsilanti Heritage, Arts, and Entertainment Festival gets bigger and better than ever before. In past years, they’ve had two stages in the music, entertainment and beer tent, local arts and crafts vendors, a juried competition, a Magical History Tour, a children’s entertainment area, and so much more! To stay up-to-date on everything coming this year, follow the team on Facebook.
Presented by Wayne County Airport Authority at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, this family event brings the United States Air Force Thunderbirds to Southeast Michigan. The air show features presentations from Team Oracle and Quicksilver P-51D as well and is a celebration of our region’s important aircraft history.
From the same team that brings FestiFools and FoolMoon to Ann Arbor every April, ypsiGLOW is a light-filled celebration through Downtown Ypsi. In the weeks leading up to the event, local artists, businesses and organizations host GLOWorkshops so you can create your own luminary and costume. Then, you can join the community in October for a celebration of Ypsilanti and art.
Ann Arbor and our surrounding communities have been built by local business, hands-on creation and artistic expression, and our local organizations and businesses are continuing that tradition every week with classes covering every imaginable topic.
From casual, drop-in events to intense, week-long workshops, these organizations, roasters, bakers, actors, studios, fly fishers and farmers are spreading the wealth through education. And we rounded up the best and most fun options in the area. Keep reading to find out where you can learn how to properly brew a coffee, bake a soft pretzel, knit a scarf, tie a fly, paint a picture, meditate, improvise, develop software, mix a cocktail and so much more.
Located in Downtown Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Art Center is our local headquarters for enjoying art exhibition, connecting with local artists, and learning new art skills. Their education experiences are available for all ages and topics cover everything from painting and ceramics to jewelry making and metalsmithing! Depending on how deep you want to delve, you can choose a class that lasts just a few hours, a full day or four weeks. To see upcoming topics and classes, click here.
The Ann Arbor Center for Mindfulness works to create workshops, retreats and events that cultivate awareness and mindfulness through meditation. Through their programs, you can dive into a full-scale retreat or simply drop-in for a sample. These weekly drop-in meditation sessions are open to anyone interested in practicing mindfulness meditation and they’re available in several different area communities, including Ann Arbor, Saline and Ypsilanti. For more information on drop-in classes, click here.
This nonprofit, community theatre program provides opportunities for people in our community to participate in theatre and learn new acting skills. In addition to putting together shows for the public, they support artists and creatives by giving them a place to practice and enhance their talents. Classes and workshops through the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre are available in topics like improv, choreography, stage management, sound design and more, and they cover several different age groups.
The team at Flipside Art Studio takes a casual and fun approach to art instruction based on the belief that art should be transformative and freeing, rather than strict and formal. Through their programs and programs with Dexter Public Schools and Ann Arbor Rec and Ed, they offer classes, events, camps and workshops for kids. But their team also hosts weekly adult art classes both during the day and in the evening. To stay up-to-date on the most recent offerings, check out the website here.
Undoubtedly one of the region’s best coffee roasters, Hyperion Coffee Co. shares experiences and knowledge of coffee through Hyperion Labs. These fun and informative classes explore different aspects of coffee whether that’s developing your palate, the fundamentals of cupping or the science of water chemistry. With plenty of tastes along the way, you’ll also get to take home coffee at the end of the lab!
Founded in 2011, Maker Works is a huge, 14,000-square-foot workshop that is entirely focused on making things. When you purchase a membership or a day pass, the workshop is wide open for hands-on learning, practice and creation, but their team also offers one-time classes for specialized instruction in several topics. Covering craft, wood, metal, electronics, jewelry, software and more, Maker Works can provide you the skills and the tools needed to both learn and excel at nearly anything. Safety checkout classes are required before using some tools; check tool pages online to see which ones. And you can stop by for a free tour whenever Maker Works is open!
Run through Ann Arbor’s delicious and entertaining Pointless Brewery & Theatre, Pointless School of Improv makes learning and practicing improv even more fun than it already sounds. Their intense curriculum isn’t made up of casual, drop-in classes. Available in two terms per year, the classes take place over the course of eight weeks and are designed to be taken in order, with the skills from one class forming the foundation for the next.
But in addition to these courses, they also offer single-session workshops that focus on specific aspects and they host showcases where you can come, see and support the students work before you dive in head first. For more information and dates, check out the website here.
Ypsilanti’s headquarters for all things fishing and outdoors, this locally owned and operated fly shop sells equipment, organizes guided trips, hosts destination travel excursions and offers classes in fly fishing, skills and tying. Their basic classes are available on a weekly basis and take place inside Schultz Outfitters or at Sidetrack Bar & Grill depending on your experience level. Each week, they host three classes; they do require pre-registration and both classes at Sidetrack include pre-packaged material kits. For more information, click here. And follow the team on Facebook to learn more about upcoming classes.
Spun is a local, family-owned yarn shop in Kerrytown where you can shop yarn and tools, learn at scheduled classes and ask questions at free, drop-in sessions. Their free social knitting and crochet sessions occur four different times per week and they host Ask-a-Knitter throughout the week, too. Regularly scheduled classes are more hands-on and intensive, covering topics like beginning crochet, crochet for knitters, introduction to lace and more. To see the full calendar, click here.
Tammy’s Tastings is a local, Ann Arbor business dedicated to building unique food and drink experiences. In addition to custom workshops, corporate events and private classes, Tammy and her team host regularly scheduled events that cover everything from chocolate tasting to mixology and cocktail history. To see the upcoming event schedule, click here.
White Lotus Farms is an Ann Arbor institution, specializing in organic produce, homemade breads, artisan goat and cow’s milk cheeses, and soothing botanicals. Their varied experience and knowledge on the farm, in the bakery, in the creamery and with botanicals makes their classes some of the most fun in the region. Topics include cheese making, croissant baking, food pairing and more. To see the schedule and register for your favorite topic, click here.
Tucked between Zingerman’s Bakehouse and Zingerman’s Creamery, BAKE! is Zingerman’s hands-on teaching bakery. There, you will be able to learn everything from cake baking to cheese pairing. Classes are open to the public in categories like pizza making, donut frying, flour grinding, soft pretzel creation and more. To see the full schedule and reserve your spot online, click here.
Zingerman’s Coffee Company is a wholesale roaster supplying cafes, restaurants and businesses all over the region, but they also offer their own coffees at the Zingerman’s Coffee Bar at Zingerman’s Southside Producers row. Here, you can enjoy the coffee shop, taste craft coffee and learn the ins and outs of tasting, preparing and roasting coffee beans. The team’s special events cover topics like cupping, brewing methods and even Yerba Mate tea.
Already learned something?
If you have a favorite class in Ann Arbor, tell us about it in the comments below!
Founded in 1824, Dexter has been built by Washtenaw County’s farm and agricultural heritage. Today, the community offers attractions that celebrate that history as well as a thriving village center. As the unofficial gateway to the area’s lakes and Metroparks, you’ll discover plenty of places to gather, refuel and rest—and you’ll find some of our favorites on this guide.
Keep reading to find out where you need to go, what you need to see, what you can do and which annual events should be on your calendar.
The home of mouth-watering jelly donuts, Instagram-worthy cupcakes, towering cakes, fluffy soft pretzels and freshly baked breads, The Dexter Bakery is a must-visit near Ann Arbor. In 2018, they were even named the Sweetest Bakery in Michigan through the Sweetest Bakery in America Contest! And they’ve been serving their treats in downtown Dexter for more than 100 years.
Located on Main Street and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this local spot offers authentic chuckwagon cooking and cowboy culture. From full slabs of baby back ribs to BBQ pulled pork served Hotel Hickman baked buns, this is downhome cooking you’ll want to eat every day.
One of the community’s beloved breakfast 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 more.
Located in a historic, former farmhouse in downtown Dexter, The Fillmore Bar & Grill is one of the newest additions to the dining scene in town. Inside their relaxed, cozy home, you can enjoy meals made from scratch using only fresh, house-made and locally sourced ingredients. And the drink menu includes craft beer and craft cocktails!
This cafe, bakery and coffee shop is a Dexter original. They use organic and fair-trade products to create delicious sandwiches, hot soups and cravable pastries like freshly baked scones, vegan muffins, and tea biscuits you can pair with loose leaf teas.
Chela’s serves up authentic Mexican food from two locations: one in Dexter and one in Ann Arbor. Their huge menu of tasty dishes includes classics like barbacoa, al pastor and carne asada alongside vegetarian options and creative fusions.
Using only the highest quality ingredients, sourced directly from family farms in Ecuador, Mindo Chocolate Makers crafts true bean to bar chocolate. And while they’re crafting those delectable bars, they’re supporting local economies in chocolate-growing communities and promoting sustainable practices. Want to take a class or a tour? Click here.
The Encore Musical Theatre Company puts together some of the best live shows in the Ann Arbor area. Typically, their calendar year includes six productions of both classics and new shows. To learn about their kid-friendly summer program, click here.
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 brewery and tasting room, you can taste their sour beers, celebrate new releases, attend special events and more. The Dexter location is also a full-service restaurant, so if you get hungry, you can snag something from the locally sourced and sustainable menu.
Located on 42 acres, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms is surrounded in all directions by flowers, vegetation and jaw-dropping landscape. As both a working farm and an elegant event venue, the space features an exhibition kitchen for events and culinary classes, a chef’s garden, a classic farmhouse, a four-season barn and a stunning tent pavilion. Led by Executive Chef and Owner Kieron Hales, the foods and the hospitality services are born from his experience in Michelin star kitchens and time spent living and cooking in 27 different countries. If you want to visit, check out their event calendar here which includes a monthly pancake pop-up.
The Dexter Area Historical Society is a nonprofit organization which works to preserve the history of the Dexter area. They do this through their two properties—the Dexter Area Museum and Gordon Hall—where they host public tours, educational opportunities and some of our favorite annual events.
Open seasonally, Dexter Cider Mill is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in the entire state. Today, the team makes cider the same way it was made 120 years ago: using locally grown, hand picked apples on an oak rack press. Even their equipment is over 100-years-old! In addition to natural cider, fresh apples, doughnuts, apple nut bread, made-from-scratch apple pies, apple strudel, apple turnovers and hand rolled gingersnaps, you can also purchase homemade hard ciders made on-site.
Open seasonally from mid-July through August, Dexter Blueberry Farm is a local farm where you can pick your own fresh blueberries. And that tradition began all the way back in the early 1970s when the first field was planted.
This 120-acre park is located on the east side of Dexter along the Huron River. Heavily wooded and filled with wildflowers during the spring, the open space offers shady picnic areas, swings, slides, a softball diamond, fishing and convenient places to launch your canoe on the river.
The setting for some of our favorite events throughout the year, Hudson Mills Metropark covers 1,536 acres and features some of the Huron River’s most picturesque scenery. Activities throughout the year include disc golf on two, 24-hole courses, golfing on the 6,560-yard, par-71 course, cross-country skiing, playing field and court games, camping, fishing, canoeing and so much more.
Mill Creek Park in downtown Dexter has a north side and a south side located on each side of Main Street. In Mill Creek Park North, you can explore 2.15 acres via the pedestrian path, over the pedestrian bridge and along the scenic Mill Creek which flows northeast into the Huron River.
Developed in partnership with Huron River Greenway, the Border-to-Border Trail is a non-motorized pathway that connects cities, parks, neighborhoods and trails throughout Washtenaw County. Eventually, the trail will span 70 total miles. And a section of those miles already connects downtown Dexter directly to the Metroparks system.
Hosted by the Dexter Area Historical Society, Gordon Hall Days is an exciting and historic community event that features barn raising demonstrations, an antique market, tours of Gordon Hall, arts and crafts, kid-friendly games, animal demonstrations, afternoon tea inside Gordon Hall, the Dexter History Walk, a car show, food and live music. For information on this year’s event, click here.
For nearly 50 years, Dexter Daze has been providing an occasion for our communities’ families to come together and celebrate with artisans and crafters, local businesses and free entertainment. This event is put together each year by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce.
En plein air is the act of painting outdoors, and the Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival invites artists and community members to do just that! Over the course of four days, local and visiting artists will paint in and around Dexter. Then, non-painters can view and purchase artwork at the three-day exhibit in Monument Park.
Every Friday during the summer, the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce hosts this summer series in the Monument Park Gazebo. The free shows start with the Dexter Community Orchestra, continue with other local bands, and include other live performances.
The Dexter Lions Club sponsors Apple Daze in celebration of Michigan’s most famous product: apples! In Monument Park during harvest season, the event includes hayrides, apple pie eating contests, a classic car show, games for kids, cider, doughnuts and candy apples, craft booths, and more.
On the day of Halloween, you can find Main Street businesses open for trick or treaters all day. Then, the holiday culminates in a kid-friendly party in Monument Park during the afternoon—all hosted by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce!
Epic Races celebrates Thanksgiving with a race through Hudson Mills Metropark. This running and walking event features three different distances: a 5K loop around scenic Hudson Mills, a 10K course comprised of two 5K loops, and a quick mile fun run.
An event hosted by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce, Dexter After Dark invites local businesses to stay open late and shoppers can enjoy special sales, giveaways, prizes and more to kick off the holiday season.
This one-mile fun run and 5k in Dexter has become one of our favorite family traditions in the area. The hilly dash through the community allows participants to take in the neighborhood light displays and run in festive costume and lights, too! A portion from each registration is donated to local charities and race day participants can bring non-perishable food items to receive free raffle tickets.
Did you fall in love with Dexter?
If you want to find your permanent home in Dexter, Michigan, click here to see homes for sale in the area.
So, you’re planning a dinner date, a family outing, or a friendly dinner and you forgot to make a reservation? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of options for dining in Ann Arbor.
We rounded up the local Ann Arbor restaurants that either don’t accept or don’t require reservations which means, yes, some of these restaurants won’t have a wait. But remember, walk-in only doesn’t mean walk-in right away. Some of the walk-in only spots may have a wait; if you’re worried, it’s always a good idea to call ahead. We’ve provided phone numbers, too, to make it easy for you.
When the Greffs opened the doors to Arbor Brewing Company in 1995, it was the first brewpub to open in Ann Arbor and only the fifth brewpub to open in the entire state of Michigan. Today, their two locations in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have become beloved destinations for craft beer and inspired food. The Ann Arbor brewpub offers a pub-inspired menu with everything from hand breaded chicken fingers to smoked trout and even a vegan burger!
Everything at Biercamp is made by hand in small batches using unique ingredients and family recipes. And all the meats come from farms where animals are raised humanely with no antibiotics, hormones, growth promoting drugs or artificial ingredients. And as a craft brewery, the same care and attention is applied to their beer program. In the combination shop, taproom and beer garden, you can taste their small-batch craft beers which are also made in-house and by hand.
From their casual dining room perched above South University, Cantina serves bold tacos made from quality ingredients alongside tequilas, whiskeys and craft margaritas. With a menu of both meaty and vegetarian options, it’s the perfect location for everyone to come together and enjoy carnitas tacos, potato tacos, black bean tacos and more!
If you’re looking for a place to dine without a reservation, a buffet is going to be a good bet, and choosing Earthen Jar would be one of your best decisions of the day. The vegetarian and mostly vegan buffet is the first and only kosher restaurant in Ann Arbor. They offer a hot buffet, cold buffet and dessert buffet all packed with delicious Indian food.
The name El Harissa comes from Harissa, a spicy and flavorful chili pepper paste that has injected its explosive flavor into dishes from throughout the Mediterranean region. Using this inspiration, the team at this Ann Arbor café produces unique North African and Mediterranean cuisine that includes everything from meat entrees to gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegetarian and vegan options.
At Frita Batidos, the burgers are the main attraction because the 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). That’s what we call a perfect pairing!
Good Time Charley’s opened its doors in 1979, the first U-M student walked in, and the rest is history. The sports bar and restaurant is located right across the street from the university and is a great choice to watch Wolverine games, to enjoy a casual dinner, to meet with friends or to grab a beer at the bar. Whichever one you’re choosing today, we recommend starting your visit with an order of Pepperoni Styx.
Located in Downtown Ann Arbor, Haymaker is a favorite sports bar and restaurant amongst locals, students, visitors and people around all of Southeast Michigan. Their pub offers board games, trivia, handcrafted beverages, 24 different beers on draft and a menu of classic comfort food that includes Brisket & Waffle Poutine. Yum!
HopCat began back in 2008 in Grand Rapids and later opened their Ann Arbor location which has now been serving beer, food and fun for more than three years. Through those years, they’ve offered their famous lineup of 100 craft beers on tap and a semi-psychedelic setting that perfectly fits the atmosphere of A2. With items like Vladimir Poutine, Five Pepper Beef Chili, The Grand Royale, and an entire section dedicated to stuffed burgers, the food menu is worth a visit even if you’re not there for the beer.
From the same team behind MANI Osteria and Mikette Bistro & Bar, Isalita is our hometown’s very own cantina. The menu is inspired by the street stall food found in open-air markets throughout Mexico and the hospitality is designed in true mi casa es su casa spirit.
On normal days, they don’t accept reservations for groups smaller than five, but they do offer a 20-minute call ahead guest list. For more information on their reservation policy, click here.
The Lunch Room is the original location from the foodie team that has become a favorite here in Ann Arbor. Because only plant-based foods are served here, you never have to worry about the presence of meat, dairy, eggs, honey or anything processed with animal products. Additionally, many ingredients are also organic and non-GMO and nearly every item is made from scratch.
This downtown restaurant is named for two things: the word “mani”, which means “hands” or “handmade” in Italian and the classic Italian osteria, an eatery that emphasizes local ingredients, small production wines and hospitality.
On normal days, they don’t accept reservations for groups smaller than five, but they do offer a 20-minute call ahead guest list. For more information on their reservation policy, click here.
The family-owned Rappourt offers a communal dining room and a true community atmosphere. Pair that with a gourmet burger, signature tacos, shareable snacks, pub-inspired entrees, and/or chicken wings and you’ll leave happy every time. Additional bonuses include 48 taps of rotating craft beer and delicious vegetarian options!
Owned and operated by two food and hospitality experts, Spencer balances the feel of a casual wine bar with craveable, upscale fare made from local ingredients. As a result, the small, daily changing menu is made up of unique shareable plates as well as an impressive lineup of wines, drafts and bottles. Their casual but modern atmosphere is complete with counter service and communal seating, and you can stop in for dinner six nights a week.
As Ann Arbor’s favorite noodle bar, Tomukun, serves some of the town’s best ramen, pho, udon, stir-fry and pork buns along with a wide variety of imported Asian beers, sake and soju. Inspired by the comfort foods the owners and chefs grew up with in Asia, you’re sure to be satisfied at the end of every dinner—and you’ll want to come back ASAP!
This Ann Arbor craft brewery is the first and only all-lager microbrewery in the state of Michigan. That means, when you stop in, you’ll get the opportunity to explore absolutely everything a lager can do—from the solid, approachable flagship to innovative, ingredient-driven and aged creations. And in the taproom, you can pair that a food menu filled with shareable plates, snacks, famous nachos, salads and craft sandwiches.
Do you have a favorite?
Where do you go for dinner when you don’t have time to make a reservation? Let us know in the comments below!
Sure, you know your ABCs. A stands for apple, L stands for lion and Z stands for zoo, right? But do you know your ABCs of Ann Arbor?
Today, we’re swapping apple for Ann Arbor Art Center, lion for Literati Bookstore, and zoo for Zingerman’s. Keep reading to get a peek into Ann Arbor’s best local businesses, landmarks, parks, attractions and characteristics. And don’t forget to practice your ABCs!
Since 1909, the Ann Arbor Art Center has served as a contemporary forum for the visual arts through education, exploration, collaboration and exhibition, and they strive to engage minds, expand perspectives, and inspire growth in students of all ages, teachers, artists and the community. Now, they engage more than 49,500 people every year through programming, exhibitions, fun classes and the 117 Gallery Shop.
Blank Slate Creamery is a local ice cream shop churning out homemade ice cream using fresh, all-natural ingredients. This little shop has even won numerous rankings as the top ice cream in Ann Arbor and throughout the state of Michigan!
This nonprofit organization hosts camps, classes, private events and programs that inspire compassionate connections to wildlife and allow the public to learn about ecology, biology, conservation and more through real animal encounters. In addition to offering these programs, they serve as a home for Al the alligator, Quinn the bald eagle, Jerome the Argentine Tegu, Harper the cougar, Bedhead the porcupine and several other rescue and transplant animals.
Detroit Street Filling Station comes to us from the team behind The Lunch Room, and every eatery and bakery run by this team serves food that is entirely plant-based. That’s why both The Lunch Room and Detroit Street Filling Station landed on The 15 Best Vegan + Vegetarian-friendly Restaurants in Ann Arbor. This particular restaurant is housed in the historic building that was once The Staebler Family Oil Company so it offers plant-based eats with a side of history (and a great patio!).
The Earle has been a downtown Ann Arbor favorite for more than 20 years. In addition to the decadent menu of French and Italian country cuisine, the romance is heightened by live jazz five nights a week, solo piano and solo guitar performances. Their world-class wine selection has over 1,200 options and wraps the evening up perfectly!
One of the community’s favorite annual events, FoolMoon is the nighttime kick-off event to an entire weekend of foolishness and revelry. Hosted by Wonderfool Productions, the event celebrates the coming of spring with dance, laughter and handmade luminaries, interactive installations, laser shows, live music performances, and other entertainment.
And FoolMoon is followed by FestiFools, the annual, daytime event of foolishness and art. This enormous public art spectacular showcases hundreds of colorful, bizarre, human-powered paper-mâché puppets made by members of the community and U of M students.
One of the highlights of Ann Arbor is the Huron River, and one of the best places to see the river is on top of it! Gallup Park Canoe Livery in Gallup Park offers canoe, two-person kayak, one-person kayak, kid kayak, paddle boat and rowboat rentals, plus concessions, merchandise and river-themed programs. And the park itself offers 69 acres of open space for play, recreation, picnicking and more.
Highlighted in 18 Things to Do with Kids in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum is home to countless interactive exhibits where children and adults can get hands-on and discover their inner scientist. Visiting the museum any day of the week means you can explore exhibits like Michigan Nature, Lyons Country Store, MediaWorks, and DTE Energy Foundation Light and Optics.
The Jim Toy Community Center is a resource center that exists to provide information, education, social events and advocacy by and for the queer and ally community in our county. In addition to providing resources and awareness, they help foster an inclusive community here in Ann Arbor and host Ann Arbor Pride every summer.
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. 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 note on the Literati public typewriter, and head upstairs to visit Literati Coffee, a full-service coffee shop.
Located on the university 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, which makes it one of our favorite budget-friendly attractions in town! To learn more, check out 14 Things to Do in Ann Arbor Under $20.
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. And during colder months, 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.
Based in the Ann Arbor area with facilities in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Ozone House is a community-based, nonprofit agency that helps young people lead safe, healthy and productive lives. They do this by offering high-quality housing and support programs, as well as services that provide support, intervention, training and assistance to runaway, homeless and high-risk youth and their families. To learn more about this and more organizations in the area, check out 23 Local Charities in the Ann Arbor Area and How You Can Help.
Covering a whopping 11,000 acres, Pinckney State Recreation Area is one of our favorite outdoor destinations in the Ann Arbor area. Known for its extensive trail system and chain of excellent fishing lakes, the park also offers over forty miles of multi-use trails, picnicking, playgrounds, beaches, a concession stand, boat launches and rowboat, canoe, paddle boat and kayak rentals. To find more ways to opt outside in and around Ann Arbor, check out 8 Things to Do in the Ann Arbor Area for Outdoor Enthusiasts.
Q: Quality of life
Ann Arbor is consistently ranked on research and data-based lists of the best places to live in the United States. In 2018, our city ranked the number one city on the Livability Top 100 Best Places To Live. This list measures data points that cover economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, social and civic capital, education and healthcare.
Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of World War II, representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during the war. And many of those real Rosies worked in factories right here in the Ann Arbor area. To celebrate this, 3,755 people gathered at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center in Ypsilanti in 2017 to beat the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Rosie the Riveter. And this Ypsi gathering had 58 original Rosies who worked in factories during WWII!
In addition to celebrating history, this group gathered to support the Yankee Air Museum’s effort to save, preserve and renovate Rosie’s historic World War II-era factory: the Willow Run Bomber Plant located just minutes outside the heart of Ypsilanti.
Paired with its sister venue, The Michigan Theater, the State Theater is an excellent representation of Ann Arbor’s proud history and passion for indie art. Today, the two historic theaters offer regular showings of indie movies, limited releases and special screenings as well as live music shows, performances and more.
Every year, our Ann Arbor community hosts countless recreation and racing events to celebrate our community and our parks. The annual Ann Arbor Triathlon is the culmination of all of this and happens every year near the end of the summer. Beginning at Halfmoon Lake in Pinckney State Recreation Area, racers swim the waters of Halfmoon, bike the country roads of the surrounding rural area, and run the 5-mile classic Poto Trail course to complete the challenge. You can get more information here.
Owned and operated by the Jonna family, this neighborhood wine bar, dinner destination and event venue boasts a chic atmosphere, 150 wines and a New American menu. Their team has more than 40 years of experience in the food and wine business and offers everything from weekend brunch to wedding services.
Wolverine State Brewing Co. snagged their W in the ABCs of Ann Arbor because they represent both our community’s love and passion for the University of Michigan Wolverines (Go Blue!) and our community’s love for craft beer.
And this Ann Arbor craft brewery is the first and only all-lager microbrewery in the state of Michigan! That means a visit to the taproom will be an exploration of absolutely everything a lager can do—from their solid, approachable flagship to their innovative, ingredient-driven and aged creations.
X-Golf is a franchise and creator of what is called the most innovative and accurate golf simulator in the world. The Ann Arbor location is minutes from the heart of town in Saline and is different from other locations because the team also offers a full bar and restaurant with pizza, mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders and pretzels, craft beer, bar games like shuffleboard and darts, and nine big screen TVs. So you can come for a drink, come to cheer on your favorite football team, play some virtual golf, host your own event or even join X-League!
A celebration of Ann Arbor wouldn’t be complete without a feature on its surrounding communities, and Ypsilanti is a great place to start. This community is located on Ann Arbor’s eastern border, has a dense history in automobile production and World War II, and is now home to some of our favorite local museums, businesses, restaurants, events and parks in the area. To explore the community, check out Ypsi Real, a brand managed by Destination Ann Arbor.
A hallmark of Ann Arbor’s entrepreneurial character, Zingerman’s Company of Businesses began humbly in 1982 as a small delicatessen in a historic building that was once a neighborhood grocery store. But when founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig wanted to expand Zingerman’s Delicatessen, they chose to avoid the typical franchise model in favor of expanding their expertise, their team and their company into new, independent businesses. Now, our community boasts a whole array of businesses—from bakeries and restaurants to training services and wedding venues—operating under the Zingerman’s name. You can learn about all of them in Your Guide to 14 Zingerman’s Businesses in Ann Arbor.
Do you know your ABCs?
Give your favorite Ann Arbor landmarks, businesses and characteristics a shoutout in the comments below!
Ann Arbor is one of Michigan’s many foodie destinations, especially if you’re on the hunt for plant-based, locally sourced or whole food eats.
Today, we’re rounding up a handful of the best places for meals that are good for you and, coincidentally, good for our planet, too! This guide includes acai bowls, poké bowls, all-vegan restaurants, gluten-free menus, locally-sourced ingredients, fruit smoothies and so much more. Enjoy!
Owned and operated by the same team behind Ann Arbor’s The Lunch Room, Detroit Street Filling Station is housed in the historic building that was once the home of The Staebler Family Oil Company. Today, they’re churning out plant-based eats that make everyone, regardless of diet, love vegan cuisine.
Why it’s healthy: Their menu features high-quality, vegan fare like jackfruit tacos, Carolina tempeh ribs, fried artichoke po’ boys, and more. The menu covers a range of cuisine and nutrition, but because everything is made from non-meat products, every item offers less fat content than meat and more environmental sustainability!
Earthen Jar is a vegetarian and mostly vegan Indian buffet, as well as the first and only kosher restaurant in Ann Arbor. Everything at the hot buffet, the cold buffet and the dessert buffet is vegetarian and the majority are also vegan.
Why it’s healthy: Thanks to the all-vegetarian menu at Earthen Jar, this restaurant is healthier for the planet and for you! Next time you need a plate of savory and spicy vegetables swing by for a hearty lunch or dinner.
This local Ann Arbor restaurant is built on the ideals of wholesome, imaginative, and thoughtfully prepared food. That means this team cares about everything from the farmer to their neighbors and, of course, you! Though you can’t dine in at eat, you can order from the carry-out menu or get them to cater your next event.
Why it’s healthy: From their meals, sandwiches and salads to their TV Dinners and larder items, everything at eat is prepared with sustainability and whole, local foods in mind. And because meals are made from scratch, too, they cut out many processed items, preservatives and additives.
First Bite is driven by the idea of Food 4.0, which is why you’ll find the phrase featured prominently on the wall in the dining room. They believe that food must positively impact everyone involved: the producers, the customers, the First Bite team and the environment. That’s why they support local farming and sourcing from like-minded vendors and almost all of the team’s packaging is fully compostable.
Why it’s healthy: Using sustainably grown, whole foods is better for the planet, our bodies and our minds. Though the First Bite menu includes delicious, sugary items like Fluffy French Toast, it also includes an impressive burger lineup: the Beet Burger, the Southwest Black Bean Burger and the Turkey Burger made with an organic house-made turkey patty.
Previously called Fred’s, Wilma’s opened in 2016 with the goal of brightening, refreshing and uplifting through food. Inside their bright and modern setting, they serve a menu of both sweet and savory toasts, acai bowls, yogurt bowls, poké bowls, grain bowls, salads, smoothies, and large items like shaved ribeye and a beetroot and quinoa burger.
Why it’s healthy: Everything on the Wilma’s menu is hearty, delicious and filled with both micro and macronutrients. For example, their Kale Shake has kale, avocado, banana, dates, cashews, agave and almond milk. Yum!
Ann Arbor’s Fresh Forage fills the community’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 sustainably foraged from Michigan’s deep woods. Using 100% compostable materials, they prepare these meals rapidly so the busy people of Ann Arbor can fuel up on the go.
Why it’s healthy: Using whole, local, sustainable and responsibly produced ingredients, the Fresh Forage menu gives you choices that range from sugary to savory, vegetarian to omnivorous, whole grain to meaty and everything in between.
Using locally sourced produce, hormone-free chicken, and organic vegetables and grains as much as possible, Juicy Kitchen crafts meals from scratch in healthy, sustainable ways. While this Ann Arbor spot is an excellent option for anyone searching for healthy food, they also cater to specific allergies, gluten-free diets, and vegans and vegetarians during both breakfast and lunch.
Why it’s healthy: Scratch-made and sustainable eats at Juicy Kitchen allow for fewer preservatives and additives, and a lot more nutrients!
Often referred to simply as The Lunch Room, The Lunch Room Diner & Canteen is this team’s original location in Kerrytown. Because only plant-based foods are served here, you never have to worry about the presence of meat, dairy, eggs, honey or anything processed with animal products.
Why it’s healthy: In addition to being entirely plant-based, many of the ingredients at The Lunch Room are organic and non-GMO, and most items can be made gluten-free. Additionally, nearly everything is made from scratch—even the bread!
Whether you’re looking for delivery, quick eats on-the-go or sit-down meals, Pocai is the place to find healthy, carvable selections. Their menu includes acai bowls, poké bowls, vegetarian Bim Bap, toasts, salads and more.
Why it’s healthy: Pocai caters to special diets including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. Additionally, their bowls are packed with micronutrients thanks to ingredients like kale, pickled red onions, acai berries, chia seeds, brown rice and more.
Robert and Max were seniors at the University of Michigan when they discovered their dream of creating a healthy, fast-paced restaurant that would be accessible to students, visitors and townies alike. Today, they have two locations in Ann Arbor and one in Madison, Wisconsin.
Why it’s healthy: The menu at S’UP is entirely made up of classic healthy meals like salads and wraps, warm grain bowls, fruit smoothies and even homemade juices and cold brew coffee!
Seva has been serving outstanding plant-based cuisine in Ann Arbor since 1973. Now located in Westgate on the town’s west side, Seva offers an impressive craft beer list, entirely homemade desserts, gluten-free options and dishes that will make even carnivores love vegetarian food.
Why it’s healthy: Seva offers the perfect combination of healthy and indulgent, from the fruit smoothies to the ice cream shakes and The Beyond Burger to the homemade desserts.
Owned and operated by Amanda, a Registered Dietitian and a plant-based eater since 2005, Vedge Cafe is where she gets to combine her love for cooking with her passion for educating and sharing diet alternatives. Amanda and her team offer a menu of scratch-made vegan food like Korean BBQ Jackfruit Tacos, The Vedge Stromboli with house-made dough and pepperoni seitan, Reubens and more.
Why it’s healthy: In August 2018, Vedge Cafe made the move from vegan and vegetarian to all vegan which improved sustainability and created even more innovative plant-based dishes like the Vedge Stromboli!
Do you have a go-to spot in the Ann Arbor area?
In the comments below, tell us about your favorite places to dine out for healthy foods in Ann Arbor and in our surrounding communities.
Ann Arbor’s downtown area is one of the city’s best places to explore local business, local eats, local drinks, and other locals-only attractions. Listed in our guide, The Top Five Ann Arbor Neighborhoods with the Best Walk Scores, it’s also the city’s most walkable neighborhood! So today, we’re combining all of these characteristics for a full day spent in one of our favorite places in Ann Arbor. Along the way, you’ll taste local food, local brews and local coffee, you’ll shop books and see art, and you’ll even get some bonus tips throughout the day.
For full details on the businesses in Downtown Ann Arbor as well as transportation options and events, check out Main Street Area Association.
Locals line up for this Ann Arbor staple—and it’s easy to see (and taste!) why. Serving brunch for over 30 years, the Afternoon Delight breakfast menu includes pan-grilled pancakes, homemade bran muffins, customized three-egg omelets, fresh poached salmon on the weekends and more. The eggs are always cage-free, the bread comes gluten-free and most of the ingredients and meats are organic!
Deeply local Roos Roast is the coffee headquarters for freshly roasted beans in Ann Arbor—and it’s just steps from Afternoon Delight on the way to Literati Bookstore. At their charming locale in Rosewood, they roast all their coffees in-house and offer a lively and cozy vibe. And the downtown location is everything we want in a local coffee shop. They’ve been voted the best in Washtenaw County and the best in Southeast Michigan, so it’s the perfect place to swing by for a taste of local Ann Arbor!
When Ann Arbor’s original, local bookstore, Borders, closed its doors all over the country, Hilary and Mike Gustafson moved back to their home state and opened Literati Bookstore as a book-lovers 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 on it. Over the years, they 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 and make sure you type your own note on the Literati public typewriter!
Bonus tip: If you need even more coffee, head upstairs to Literati Coffee where you’ll find even more books and a full coffee and espresso bar.
After our typing and reading excursion to Literati, we’re headed back to Liberty Street to get a feel for local art. Acting as Ann Arbor’s art headquarters since opening in 1909, this center in Downtown A2 serves both artists and our community by hosting art exhibitions in the gallery, events and classes for all ages, and they even sell jewelry, paintings, ceramics and prints in the 117 Gallery Shop. So, spend time perusing the gallery and you can even take home a bit of Ann Arbor culture for your friends, family or home!
Bonus tip: On the way to the Ann Arbor Art Center from Literati, stop in Le Bon Macaron for a morning treat.
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. Each location—whether full-service pub or casual hangout—offers its own character, menu and lineup of sour, aged Jolly Pumpkin beers. In Downtown Ann Arbor, you’ll find Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery, a full-service brewpub serving lunch, dinner, brunch and late-night eats. Choose the JP Burger and you’ll be in for one of Ann Arbor’s best lunches!
Locally and independently owned since 1982, Crazy Wisdom is another great place to get a sense of Ann Arbor’s strong literary history and character. Inside the downtown shop, you’ll find books, art, crystals, jewelry and, of course, the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room! Here, they serve more than 100 varieties of tea, coffee from local roaster, Mighty Good Coffee, as well as appetizers, entrees, desserts and other treats.
Bonus tip: If you’re looking for something stronger than tea, head to Grizzly Peak Brewing Company just around the corner on W Washington Street.
The Michigan Theater Foundation was founded in 1979 to save the Michigan Theater from the wrecking ball—and we’re so glad it was. Today, this historic theater and its neighbor, the State Theater, offer regular showings of indie movies, limited releases, special screenings and more. Matinee movies typically start between 3 and 4 o’clock.
Between the Michigan Theater and our evening activities, we’ll travel right past Downtown Ann Arbor’s MANI Osteria and its sister restaurant, Isalita. MANI is a local restaurant modeled after the classic Italian osteria, but Isalita takes the team’s focus on local ingredients, small production and hospitality to the streets of Mexico. Isalita is our little city’s very own cantina. The menu is inspired by the street stall food found in open-air markets throughout Mexico and the hospitality is designed in true mi casa es su casa spirit.
After dinner, keep heading down Liberty Street for dessert. The ice cream at locally-owned and operated Blank Slate Creamery is homemade using fresh, all-natural ingredients which has resulted in numerous rankings as the top ice cream in Ann Arbor and even throughout the entire state of Michigan! You can see a list of several of their locally-sourced ingredients on their website which includes milk and cream from Guernsey Farms Dairy in Northville.
Just a few steps north on 1st Street from Blank Slate, The Blind Pig is the locals’ choice for live music almost every night of the week. This quirky bar and music venue hosts everything from punk and folk to comedy and karaoke. Check out the calendar online and you can buy your tickets in advance if needed.
Bonus tip: The doors typically open between 7 and 9 p.m. so if you have some time to kill, head to Bill’s Beer Garden which is open seasonally or Ann Arbor Beer Grotto. They’re both just steps from Blank Slate Creamery and The Blind Pig!
Repeatedly named as Ann Arbor’s best cocktail bar, The Last Word is a hidden gem, literally. It’s located underground just up the street from The Blind Pig. With no exterior signage, 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 as well as house-made syrups and bitters.