10 Things to do and see in Ann Arbor

The Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans play each other at the University of Michigan this Saturday, October 20th. If you’re heading to Ann Arbor for the game, why not make a day (or weekend) trip out of it and check out what the city has to offer outside of the stadium?

Sydney Hawkins, Communications Director for the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, gives her recommendations on things to do and see in the area.

Are you heading to the game? Let us know in the comments section below, and be sure to share your UofM or MSU pride by downloading and sharing a photo from our Facebook image app.

I’ve lived in (Pure) Michigan my entire life; I grew up in Jackson, spent my undergrad in East Lansing, and moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor just over a year ago. That said, I’ve spent many a weekend ‘Visiting Ann Arbor,’ and a whole year learning about all the things I wish I would’ve known before I lived here.

With the ‘big game’ coming up this weekend, here’s my ‘Top 10’ list of fun fall things to do in Ann Arbor (other than actually going to the game, of course).

    1. The Fairy Doors. If you don’t know about them, odds are, you’d probably walked right by these tiny doors, located throughout downtown Ann Arbor in various storefronts, cafes and galleries. Although going on a ‘fairy door hunt’ in Ann Arbor is a perfect activity for kids, I’ve seen adults just as excited to discover them. Get a fairy door map here.
    2. The Farmers Market. The Ann Arbor Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 7am – 12pm (with extended hours until 3pm this weekend). If you’re headed to the game, I’d advise that you plan a grab-and-go breakfast at the market. I always get a coffee from Roos Roast, apple donuts from Kapnick Orchards, or an olive twist from Millpond Bakery.
    3. The Dexter Cider Mill. 11 miles southwest of Ann Arbor, the Dexter Cider Mill is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in Michigan. They’re known regionally for their unique cider blend, donuts and other homemade apple goods (open Wed. – Sun., 9am – 5pm).
    4. The Huron River. Probably the best way to view fall scenery (weather permitting), is to rent a canoe or kayak and take a tour down the Huron River. Argo and Gallup Canoe Liveries are open every day from 10am – 7pm through the last week in October.
    5. Fall Colors. For those looking to explore on foot – especially this coming weekend – I have a few favorite places to go: 1) Nichols Arboretum (aka ‘The Arb’ to locals) on UofM’s campus. 2) Gallup Park 3) Scio Woods Preserve 3) Hudson Mills MetroPark in Dexter (5) Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea. Bring your camera!
    6. University of Michigan’s Campus. I absolutely love exploring the U of M’s beautiful campus. If you have time while you’re here, stop into the U-M Museum of Art (free, open Mon. – Sat.) or the U-M Museum of Natural History (free, open Mon. – Sun.). If you’re looking for an abbreviated tour, central campus is a good place to start. You can easily see Hill Auditorium, The Michigan Union, Angell hall, Burton Tower, ‘the diag’, the West Hall Arch, the Clements Library and more in about a half hour. If nothing else, you absolutely must go to the ‘Law Quad’ and peek into the Law Library. You won’t be disappointed.
    7. Brew Tour. There are eight breweries in Washtenaw County. Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti always carries my favorite beer (ABC’s Phat Abbot Trippel), Wolverine State Brewing Company’s Tap room is a favorite local hang out, and Original Gravity in Milan is a hidden hoppy gem. Honestly, they’re all amazing. Arbor Brewing Company, Grizzly Peak, Jolly Pumpkin and Blue Tractor are all within walking distance from each other downtown.
    8. Wiard’s Orchard & Haunted Thrill Park. Cider, donuts, a corn maze, hayrides, U-pick pumpkins and apples, mini-golf, childrens’ play areas and more – it’s the quintessential place to for fall family fun in the area. Wiards’ haunted thrill park, Night Terrors, is also popular destination in October (open Friday – Sunday this weekend, 7:30 – 11:30pm).
    9. Don’t have tickets? Not everyone has a ticket to the big game, which is fine because there are plenty of places that are great for game-watching fun. I recommend Banfield’s Westide Grill, Fraser’s Pub, Conor O’Neill’s, The Arena, or Damon’s Sports Bar. Aubree’s in Ypsilanti is a great spot too. Make sure to get there early to claim your spot!
    10. Food. Everyone ALWAYS asks me where to eat in Ann Arbor. I never have a straight answer, mostly because there’s way too much to choose from, and I have way too many favorites. Here’s my short list: the falafel wrap at Pita Kabob. The TLT at Seva. The Chicken Tortilla Soup at Le Dog. The salmon burger at Monahan’s. A slice of veggie pie at NY Pizza Depot. The #24 at Amer’s Deli. And whenever I go to Ayse’s Turkish Cafe, I always let her choose (because I can’t). 

Sydney Hawkins is the Communications Director for the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. You can follow her on Twitter @SydneyHawkins. Also, be sure to follow ‘Visit Ann Arbor’ at @Annarborareacvb and hashtag your visit with #VisitAnnArbor so that Sydney and team can see your favorite pictures/things to do in Ann Arbor.

A “Frenchie” Takes on Life in Detroit

Nora Mandray is a “Frenchie in the D” behind the Detroit je t’aime project. She moved to the Motor City in 2011 to shine light on what makes Detroit unique.

Today, she answers some of our questions about what life in Detroit has been like for her.


Q: What made you move to Detroit and how long have you been here?
A: I moved to Detroit in August 2011, with one goal in mind: make a documentary about the city.

Q: What makes Detroit different from other places you’ve lived?
A: Before living in Detroit I had been living all over Europe (Paris, London, Krakow, Berlin…) and I had been studying for 2 years at UCLA, in Los Angeles, right before I came here. I’ve always had a thing for “post-industrial” cities but Detroit was nothing like what I had ever seen. The ruins, of course, is the first thing that strikes you when you come here — even though they’re a sign of blight, they’re beautiful old buildings with a fascinating history. But the reason I stayed in Detroit for a year is really because of the people. Detroiters are truly welcoming, heart-warming and generous; I wanted to be a part of that community.

Q: Where are some of your favorite places in the city?
A: Whenever I want to relax I take walks by the Detroit River and hang out with the occasional fishermen, whom I always ask whether their fish is American or Canadian! It always triggers interesting conversations! What I love in Detroit are those strips of paradise that exist within the city, and the people who find themselves there: urban farms and community gardens are such places. Feedom Freedom, in the Eastside, as well as the Brightmoor Farmway, are beautiful in the Summer, and definitely worth a visit! And the Eastern Market, and Belle Isle, and the Fender Bender bike shop, and the DIA, … the list goes on and on!

Q: Where have you been in Michigan outside of Detroit?
A: I’ve been to Lansing and Traverse City. I’m going to go back to “TC” next week actually, for the Traverse City Film Festival! Michigan has so much to offer, I feel lucky I was able to spend a whole year here. After spending two years in L.A. where the weather is almost steadily the same all the time, I was happy to feel the cycle of the seasons in Michigan. Fall is, I think, my favorite, with the trees that turn orange and red.

Q: Do you think people from different parts of the country (and world) would enjoy visiting Michigan?
A: I can’t speak for all foreigners, but I can tell you this: French people LOVE Detroit. I’ve met a large number of ‘Frenchies’ who’d come visit and wouldn’t want to go back! It’s partly due to the history of the city, which was founded by a Frenchman (Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac!) on July 24th, 1701! French people do feel connected to “Détroit” (which means “strait” in French, by the way.) As a tourist you can find lots of attractions here, it’s a great and rich place to learn about American history and culture, from the Tigers games to the Henry Ford and the Motown museums… Plus a brewer friend of mine recently told me that “two of the best breweries in the world” are both located in Warren, MI… yet another reason to visit!

Q: What advice would you give someone visiting Detroit for the first time from another country?
A: Talk to everybody! Detroiters from all walks of life are eager to tell you about their city. Sometimes it even feels like Detroit is a person, the way people talk about it!

Q: What has surprised you about Detroit and Michigan in general?
A: The sense of resilience and of ingenuity that Detroiters show is amazing to me. I didn’t expect to witness such a strong “DIY spirit!” This has been a very inspiring, life-changing experience.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about your experience here?
A: I’ve been writing a blog since I arrived; it’s called “Detroit je t’aime”, French for “Detroit I love you” : www.detroitjetaime.com, where you can also watch some of the videos I’ve shot so far.

Nora is a Fulbright scholar and UCLA filmschool MFA. In Summer 2011, Nora escaped Hollywood to move to Detroit and has been working on several film and journalistic projects. If you’re looking for things to do in Detroit, visit michigan.org.

Peter Greenberg Puts Spotlight on Ann Arbor, Michigan

When you think of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan might first come to mind. But did you know that Ann Arbor is also home to a number of unique cafes, storefronts and art galleries? With a mix of eclectic shopping, world-renowned music venues and more than 200 restaurants, it’s a town that offers something for everyone.

This past Saturday, May 26th, Peter Greenberg put Ann Arbor in the spotlight to explore these unique offerings during his weekly radio show. While broadcasting from the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Peter spoke with local influencers and subject matter experts that helped him answer questions like “How did the town of Ann Arbor gets its start?” and “What on earth is a ‘fairy-door’?”

Guests include:

  • Dhani Jones, former University of Michigan football star and current collaborator on the non-profit organization Bow Ties for a Cause
  • Tom Murray, owner of Conor O’Neills, Ann Arbor’s “real” Irish Pub
  • Jonathan Wright, founder of urban-fairies.com and creator of Ann Arbor’s “fairy-doors”
  • Joseph Rosa, director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

Check out a recap at PeterGreenberg.com, or visit iTunes or stitcher.com to download the full show.