9 Things to Do and See in Ann Arbor

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

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.

Here’s my ‘Top 9' list of fun things to do in Ann Arbor.

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. 

A fairy door in Ann Arbor
Photo Copyright: Dwight Burdette

2. The Farmers Market. The Ann Arbor Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 7 a.m. - 12 p.m. (with extended hours during some weekends). If you're headed to a University of Michigan game or are just strolling the inconic downtown, 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). Open since 1866, this family-ownded and operated mill is a treat for locals and visitors alike.

Donuts from the Dexter Cider Mill
Photo Courtesy of the Dexter Cider Mill

4. The Huron River. If you're looking to get out on the water, a tour down the Huron River via kayak, canoe or paddleboard is the adventure for you. The Huron River is a calm waterway with a few riffles and sections of drops and pools fun for both beginners and watersports enthusiasts. Argo and Gallup Park Canoe Liveries are open every day from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. through the last week in October and the river makes for a beautiful scene when surrounded by snowy banks in the winter.

5. Seasonal Colors. For those looking to explore Ann Arbor fall color on foot – especially during the fall – 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. These locations offer breathtaking views during every month of the year, whether it be flowers blooming in spring or fantastic sheets of ice in the winter. 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 and Planetarium (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.

University of Michigan Ann Arbor.JPEG

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. Check out Michigan's expansive craft beer scene for more brewery ideas and tours.

Ann Arbor Beer

8. Catch a game at the Big House or Crisler Center. There are plenty of places that are great for game-watching fun, but maybe none as iconic as the University of Michigan Football Stadium, more commonly referred to as the Big House. Attending an event at the largest college football stadium in North America or the nearby Crisler arena should be on every Ann Arbor visitor's bucket list. If you'd like to watch a game or event from the comfort of a restaurant, I recommend Banfield’s Westide Grill, Fraser’s Pub or Conor O’Neill’s. Aubree’s in Ypsilanti is a great spot too. Make sure to get there early to claim your spot!

9. 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). 

Ann Arbor's food scene
Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

About the Author: 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.