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How to Spend an Entire Day in Chelsea, Michigan

A growing city home to about 4,500 people, Chelsea—located just 15 minutes from Ann Arbor—is a thriving community with agricultural roots and a vibrant downtown area. From world-class dining and theatre to cultural attractions and annual events, there’s something everyone can enjoy in this quaint Michigan town. And because it’s tucked between more than 30,000 acres of state land, it’s an outdoor paradise, too! 

But when you only have a day to explore everything Chelsea has to offer, it can be hard to narrow down the must-dos. Luckily, we crafted an entire itinerary! So, grab your walking shoes, your buddies and your sense of adventure because we’re touring the area’s best shopping, restaurants and attractions. 

For even more Chelsea-based adventuring, check out our ultimate guide to the area! 

 

8:30 a.m. — Breakfast at Zou Zou’s 

Zou Zou's

Photo courtesy of Zou Zou’s Cafe

Famous for fresh crepes and live entertainment, Zou Zou’s in downtown Chelsea is a breakfast must. Kick-off your day of fun with sweet or savory crepes, breakfast sandwiches and, of course, delicious coffee. They even have a grab n’ go bar in case you want to grab a few snacks for the road! Click here to peruse the whole menu before you go.  

 

10 a.m. — Go Shopping Downtown 

After you’ve enjoyed a delicious breakfast from Zou Zou’s—explore the rest of downtown by doing a little shopping! A few of our favorites include The Potting Shed (for local gifts); Bumble’s Dry Goods (for home decor); Serendipity Books (for used books); and Agricole Farm Stop (for fresh produce and local farm goods). The area is also home to some amazing art galleries, boutiques, historical sites and more, so you could spend hours exploring! 

 

11:30 a.m. — Take a Tour of the Chelsea Milling Company 

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The home of JIFFY Mix and the industrial heart of Chelsea, the Chelsea Milling Company has been milling flour in the area for more than 100 years! Tours of the facility are free and open to the public with a reservation. Your 1.5-hour journey through the factory includes an inside look at the packaging plant, a video presentation, refreshments and a product sample. Yes, that means you get to enjoy a free muffin, too! Call (734) 475-1361 to schedule your tour. 

 

1 p.m. — Lunch and a Beer at Cleary’s Pub 

This family-run pub operates with a strong community focus, offering up a fun atmosphere, a full bar and a food menu that includes everything from burgers to stuffed cheesy bread and pan-fried perch. Preview the menu here then swing by for lunch during your packed Chelsea day. And don’t miss the house-made Crab Stuffed Mushrooms! 

 

2:30 p.m. — Take a Stroll in Timber Town & Veteran’s Memorial Park 

Chelsea is known for its outdoor pursuits and while you don’t have time to visit the famed Waterloo Recreation Area today (you should dedicate a whole day there, if you can!) we still recommend checking out some of our other local green spaces! Two of our favorite parks in Chelsea include Timber Town Park and Veteran’s Memorial Park—located right next door to each other about a half-mile from the heart of downtown Chelsea. Timber Town is known for its huge, 12,000-square-foot wooden climbing structure, perfect for kids looking to let off some energy! And the peaceful green space at Veteran’s Memorial Park is dedicated to those who have served in our armed forces. If you can, take an hour or so to stroll through both parks, enjoying all the picturesque scenery they have to offer before heading back into town.  

 

3:30 p.m. — Grab an Afternoon Coffee & Snack at the Chelsea Bakery 

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After all this exploring, you’re going to need a pick-me-up! Head to the Chelsea Bakery to take a breather and relax with a delicious snack. Cupcakes, doughnuts, cookies, muffins, Danishes, soft pretzels—you name it, and this pastry heaven has it on the menu! Pair it with a cup of warm drip coffee, Vietnamese coffee, hot chocolate or some cold pop to help wash it all down.  

 

4 p.m. — Peruse the Chelsea Antique Mall 

After your belly is full of pastries, walk them off with a trek through this antique mall! With over 40 dealers, the Chelsea Antique Mall is sure to have a little something for everyone. They sell everything under the sun, including antique furniture, home goods and decor, coins, vintage jewelry and clothing, and so much more. Click here to explore all their vendors online and to see what new things are popping up at the store every day! 

 

6 p.m. — Dinner at The Common Grill 

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It just wouldn’t be a stay in Chelsea without at least one meal at The Common Grill! This downtown Chelsea restaurant is known around the state and even as far as the James Beard House in New York City, where self-taught chef Craig Common was invited to prepare a dinner for their members and guests in 1994. For more than 25 years, Craig and his team have been serving innovative New American cuisine with a seafood-forward menu and outstanding service. Preview that menu here and get ready for an unforgettable meal! 

 

8 p.m. — Catch a Show at the Purple Rose Theatre 

Famous across the state for the educational opportunities offered and stand-out shows throughout the year, The Purple Rose was founded in 1991 by Chelsea native and critically acclaimed actor Jeff Daniels. The building that houses the company’s Garage Theatre was once a used car and bus garage owned by Daniels’ grandfather. Now, the facility has developed into one of the best places for theatre production in the region! After canceling all performances in March of 2020, they are finally back to planning shows again and are currently casting for their upcoming season. Until then, check them out on Facebook to stay informed about all their exciting virtual events!  

 

11 p.m. — Hit the Hay at the Chelsea House Victorian Inn 

Chelsea House Victorian Inn

Photo courtesy of Chelsea House Victorian Inn 

If you’re planning on staying in Chelsea overnight, don’t miss the chance to stay at the iconic Chelsea House Victorian Inn! This 1880s Queen Anne Victorian bed & breakfast is the only lodging in downtown Chelsea, offering all the modern essentials for today’s travelers while all the original craftsmanship is restored and on display. Guests are treated to a hearty, hot breakfast every morning so be sure to stick around until tomorrow! 

 

What would you add? 

What must-do Chelsea activities would you include on our itinerary? Let us know in the comments! 

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