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!
The only Great Lake entirely located within the United States, Lake Michigan is one of the best choices for summer vacations, weekend getaways, family retreats and romantic escapes, no matter where you live. Along our Michigan shoreline, the water offers picturesque beaches and year-round fun all the way from New Buffalo up to the Straits of Mackinac.
And in this guide, we’re sharing a few of our favorite places to stay along that entire shoreline with highlights from the shores of Torch Lake and Traverse Bay, too. Enjoy!
Located on the New Buffalo harbor just 70 miles from Chicago and within walking distance of a stunning Lake Michigan beach, Marina Grand is one of the top resorts in Michigan. Overnight stays are available in king and double queen rooms, suites and lofts, and every option includes waterfront views and luxurious fireplaces. As guests of the resort, you’ll also have access to evening s’mores in the Terrace Room, Ben & Jerry’s delivery, rentals from Oleska Marina, indoor and outdoor pools, beach cruiser rentals, a game room, a DVD library and more.
From the same hospitality group behind Marina Grand Resort, The Harbor Grand Hotel offers a boutique hotel experience on the harbor within walking distance of a stunning beach and Downtown New Buffalo. The personalized service at this cozy hotel can include breakfast in bed and rooms with fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, spa showers and harbor views. To see a list of all the amenities, click here.
Located on 365 feet of beautiful White Lake shoreline and just minutes from Lake Michigan beaches, Buzz’s Lakeside Inn is a family resort with a history reaching all the way back to the late 1800s. On site, guests can enjoy an outdoor garden and pool, live music performances, dining at Buzz’s Lakeside Inn Restaurant, water sports facilities, a playground and tennis court, a bar and restaurant, and more.
Located right on the shore of Lake Michigan and just two miles from Downtown South Haven, Lake Bluff Inn & Suites is a stunning getaway suitable for family vacations, romantic escapes and quiet retreats. The luxurious suites come in a variety of options and all include a refrigerator and microwave, a coffee maker, air conditioning and access to panoramic views of the waterfront.
A top resort for romantic getaways, family vacations, weddings, family reunions and even corporate meetings, The Homestead is a distinctive, four-season resort on Lake Michigan. Overnight options include charming rooms at The Inn, one- and two-bedroom suites at Stony Brook Lodge, suites in the romantic Little Belle, and beautiful cottage rooms at Fiddler’s Pond.
This Victorian hotel is nestled on the beach of West Grand Traverse Bay just minutes from Downtown Traverse City. On site, guests can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast, complimentary internet, an indoor pool and whirlpool, a game room, jet ski and boat rentals, and more. To view all the available rooms, click here.
If you want a vacation where you can ride a horse, play a round of mini golf and slide down a waterslide all in the same day, choose Double JJ Resort. This family-friendly resort is home to Mystical Forest Mini Golf, Gold Rush Waterpark and stables where you can participate in cattle drives, take riding lessons, and embark on horseback adventures to explore 1,200 acres and miles of trail. And that’s just the short list of things to do! To view the accommodations, which include hotel rooms, condos and log cabins, click here.
Encompassing 900 acres, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa boasts three championship golf courses, five indoor and four outdoor tennis courts, four different pools, a 100,000-square-foot Health Club with classes, boat and Slingshot rentals, the Orvis Fly Fishing School, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals, and more—all on-site! With six different overnight accommodation options, you can tailor every stay for the perfect vacation every time.
This Marriott hotel is a world-class resort located on the shores of Lake Michigan and has been named one of the best hotels in the world. Built in the style of Northern Michigan’s turn-of-the-century lakeside inns, modern amenities include on-site dining from four different cafes, bars and restaurants, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness facility, an outdoor pool and much more.
Nestled on 800 feet of sparkling blue Lake Michigan shoreline, Tamarack Lodge is one of the top-rated resorts on the Traverse City waterfront. In addition to year-round features like free WiFi, complimentary coffee and tea, and game tables, the lodge offers a beach swimming area, beach firepits and outdoor games, a dock, a playground, a volleyball court and even more in the summer months.
This Traverse City resort is one of nearly 20 award-winning Great Wolf Resorts located across the United States and Canada. At this location, your Michigan getaway is made even better with a huge indoor and outdoor water park with more than 15 different attractions in addition to Howl in One Mini Golf and Ten Paw Alley which offers kid-sized bowling. Included with every room purchase, guests receive water park passes and access to the park on the day of arrival, unlimited WiFi, special kids’ activities and more.
Staying at Shanty Creek Resort means you can ski in the winter, golf on four different championship courses, enjoy year-round resort attractions, partake in world-class dining on site, and more. Located a short drive from Lake Michigan, the huge resort boasts more than 400 lodging options across 5,000 acres adjacent to Torch Lake. These accommodations include custom packages, three distinct villages, hotel rooms and even vacation homes. To see all the options, click here.
Do you have a favorite?
If you have a favorite Lake Michigan getaway, tell us about it in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 this guide, we rounded up the 14 parks that should be on every Ann Arbor summer bucket list, thanks to things like pickleball, disc golf, swimming pools, skateparks and more. These outdoor playgrounds and recreation havens are home to some of the best attractions, amenities and trails in the region, including Cobblestone Farm, Gallup Canoe Livery and Fuller Park Pool—just to name a few.
To see a full list of all City of Ann Arbor parks and nature areas, click here. Or find the one nearest you using our interactive map to start exploring!
Argo is one of Ann Arbor’s most popular parks thanks in large part to the boat launch along the Huron River and the Argo Canoe Livery, which is open for rentals from April through October. Its 22 acres includes a fairly wide, unpaved trail that runs the length of the park along the river and offers spectacular views of the water.
Bandemer Park covers nearly 37 acres of natural area along the Huron River. Amenities throughout the park include accessible trails, restrooms, an accessible canoe dock, a fishing deck, a shelter and picnic areas, and grills, but the largest recreation draws are the disc golf and dirt bike courses!
At just over 161 acres, Bird Hills Nature Area is Ann Arbor’s largest park. Though undeveloped, the area offers five different trailheads and is a haven for hikers right in town! For more information and history, click here.
A recreation destination throughout the year, Buhr Park’s 39 acres offer softball diamonds, two tennis courts, playground equipment, a basketball court, open fields, a sledding hill, picnic facilities with a grill, an outdoor pool with a special family activity pool, and a seasonal ice rink. The park is also connected to John Allen Elementary School and Cobblestone Farm, a historic educational facility. You can get more information on the Buhr Outdoor Ice Arena and Pool here.
Burns Park covers 15 acres adjacent to Burns Park School. It was once the site of the County fairgrounds but today offers a small shelter with restrooms and a drinking fountain, five tennis courts and a practice court, a basketball court, a sledding hill, a small parking lot and playground equipment. This park is also the only one in Ann Arbor with a pétanque court, a sport similar to bocce!
The most popular summer attraction at Fuller Park is the Fuller Park Pool, an outdoor, 50-meter pool with an adjacent waterslide. The park’s 60 acres are also home to one of the city’s largest playgrounds, a pedestrian bridge that connects to Island Park, and premium athletic fields available for use with a permit. For more information on Fuller Park Pool, click here.
Encompassing a whopping 69 acres, Gallup Park is Ann Arbor’s most popular recreation area. As one of the most accessible parks along the Huron River, this makes sense. Gallup offers two playgrounds, the Gallup Canoe Livery, picnic areas and grills, two picnic shelters, an open field for play, and more than 3 miles of asphalt trails that are available for biking, rollerblading, walking and running. And, for even more exploration, Gallup Park connects to Furstenberg Nature Area to the west.
Leslie Park is adjacent to some of the biggest and best attractions in Ann Arbor, including Leslie Park Golf Course, Leslie Woods Nature Area, and the Leslie Science and Nature Center. Throughout the 38 acres of parkland in Leslie Park, you’ll find two play areas, tennis courts, basketball courts, softball fields, a sledding hill with a great view over the golf course, picnic tables, benches, and open fields with ample parking and a portable restroom in the summer.
One of the largest parks on this list, Mary Beth Doyle Park covers more than 81 acres and is home to one of two disc golf courses in Ann Arbor. Other attractions include a playground with a famously long slide, a basketball court, open fields, a neighborhood ballfield, picnic tables and benches, and an unpaved trail that travels along Malletts Creek and through the woods and wetlands.
Olson Park offers 54 acres of fun for the entire family, including the dog, because this park is home to one of two off-leash dog parks in the city! Visitors will also find a wonderful fishing pond, paved pedestrian trails, a mountain bike trail, premium athletic fields available for use by permit, a basketball court and a rock climbing playground.
A popular destination for fly fishing, Riverside Park covers 15 acres bordering the Huron River. Along the river, fishers will find several easily accessible spots, and other visitors can enjoy the picnic tables and grills, a newly renovated playground, a football field and a softball diamond.
Nestled in West Ann Arbor, South Maple Park encompasses nearly eight acres and is home to one of two pickleball courts in town. The park also offers tennis courts, a play area, a neighborhood softball field, open fields, a drinking fountain and a scenic wooded area.
A bustling setting during the summer months, Southeast Area Park is most notable for featuring recycled products. The play area, picnic tables and benches were constructed from recycled plastics, the basketball surface was made from old athletic shoes, and the bleachers were created from recycled aluminum. Throughout the 26.5 acres, visitors can enjoy two playgrounds, lighted softball fields and basketball courts, athletic fields, a picnic shelter, grills and more.
Veterans Memorial Park is one of Ann Arbor’s most well-equipped parks for year-round fun both indoors and out. The most notable attraction is the Veterans Memorial Pool and Ice Arena, which offers a seasonal outdoor pool and an indoor ice rink. But the grounds are also home to three tennis courts, five softball fields, and Ann Arbor’s only outdoor skatepark!
Do you have a favorite Ann Arbor park?
Whether it’s on our list or not, tell us about it in the comments below!
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
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
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!
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 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 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 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 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 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
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.