Eclectic Explorations

Claudia Capos, a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, takes a visit to Ann Arbor, home to the bustling University of Michigan campus. Upscale shops, old-fashioned bookstores, restaurants, brewpubs and galleries make this college town a must-visit for everyone.

Photo credit: Johnny Quirin

Nickels Arcade

My self-guided tour begins in the heart of the State Street district, linking downtown with the University of Michigan campus. I pass half a dozen coffee and ice cream shops on my way to Nickels Arcade, which offers high-end shopping amid the surrounding college paraphernalia. The two-story, block-long corridor, fashioned after Paris’ elegant glass-roofed shopping arcades, houses boutiques. One of my faves, the Caravan Shop specializes in imported gifts, including Russian matryoshka dolls and German nutcrackers.

Six blocks west (on William or Liberty streets), visitors explore the Main Street shopping district, with not only three brewpubs but also at least four bookstores, galleries and gift shops.

Nobody can pass the Selo/Shevel Gallery at the corner of Liberty and Main streets without stopping in. Owners Elaine Selo and Cynthia Shevel gather folk art from around the world for their museum-like store, which also features American art glass and jewelry. From among the works of some 400 multimedia artists, a fascinating floral paperweight and a set of elegant hand-blown goblets make the perfect memento.

Flickr photo credit: Michigan Travel Ideas

Ann Arbor Art Center

One block west, the Ann Arbor Art Center celebrates the city’s tradition as a Mecca for artists and writers. Wandering through the gallery, I discover avant-garde and traditional creations by well-known and emerging artists specializing in oil paints, watercolors, fabrics, metalwork and photography.

Next door, the West Side Book Shop, tucked into cramped quarters on Liberty Street, offers a treasure trove of tomes where bookworms will find an engaging novel to read on vacation or a first edition of a favorite classic to round out a collection.

Admire the massive brewery through the front window at Grizzly Peak, then step inside this cavernous brick and wood-plank restaurant to try a pint of Bear Paw Porter or Steelhead Red, brewed on site. Ribs, steak and pasta are among the popular staples.

For dessert, I more than satisfy my sweet tooth at Schakolad Chocolate Factory. Huge glass display cases with every type of chocolate bonbon you can imagine (including a line of sugar-free and low-carb options) entice visitors. Buy candy by the piece or the pound, then enjoy it there in the small eating area or get it to go. I do both.


Claudia Capos is an award-winning journalist based in Brighton, Michigan. Her stories of travel, adventure and exploration have appeared in countless newspapers, magazines and books. During her career, she has visited more than 60 countries; closer to home, she enjoys swimming, boating and cycling.