Top Things to Do in Ann Arbor
With so many fun things to do in Ann Arbor, MI, there’s a reason that a lot of graduates of the University of Michigan think twice about leaving Ann Arbor when they finish school!
After all, why leave a spot that regularly tops the lists of “best places to live in the United States?”
This quintessential college town in southeast Michigan has a lot to offer visitors in terms of culture, cuisine, shopping, and fun things to do all year around.
Whether you’re seeking family friendly activities, a romantic getaway or looking for a fun trip idea, Ann Arbor is a perfect destination.
Use this travel guide for travel tips and fun ideas for planning your next trip to Ann Arbor.
Read on to find our list of all the must-sees and must-do’s of our beloved Tree Town, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Exploring Ann Arbor MI
Chances are good that when you picture a typical college town in north America, Ann Arbor comes to mind.
The sprawling UM campus, surrounded by tall, leafy trees, is the heart of this bustling city.
One of the top public universities in the world, the university draws visitors from around the world, many of whom stay in the area. This adds to the cultural diversity of the area, and brings a cosmopolitan feel to this small town.
Downtown Ann Arbor MI is home to a big food scene, with a vast collection of coffee shops, cafes and top-rated restaurants.
You’ll also find a unique store, the Michigan Theater for performing arts shows, museum and more.
The Huron River meanders through town, and you’ll find beautiful parks, hiking and biking trails and many opportunities to outdoor activities, too.
The best part?
It’s only about 40 minutes from Detroit, making it the perfect day trip destination for anyone living in southeast Michigan.
Whether you’re interested in visiting the University of Michigan campus, eclectic downtown shopping, or finding new biking trails, Ann Arbor has something for everyone.
University of Michigan
Yost Ice Arena
1116 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Michigan Stadium (the Big House)
1201 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
625 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
825 N University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
You wanna talk acoustics? One of my favorite memories as a child (my father was a U-M grad) was going to see the University of Michigan Marching Band concerts at the Hill. It’s the largest performance hall in the area, and is known as one of the world’s great concert halls due to its unique design.
Designed by renown architect Albert Kahn ( who also designed the Belle Isle aquarium), the Hill is known for it’s perfect acoustics.
Some of the world’s top performers have graced the stage: if you’re lucky, you might catch a concert here!
Ann Arbor Museums
University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Ann Arbor is an eccentric and creative city that promotes diverse artists with emphasis on local creators.
The University of Michigan Museum of Art dedicates itself to showing wide varieties of art that spans cultures, eras, and mediums, making it one of the most varied art experiences in the city. In addition to attracting top exhibitions, their permanent collection is very well-regarded.
The American Art collection, which features artists ranging from Rauschenberg, Frankenthaler and Warhol to James McNeill Whistler and Alexander Calder – is very impressive.
The Decorative Arts collection (a favorite) features works from Frank Lloyd Wright, George Nelson, Frank Gehry and Charles and Ray Eames. Don’t miss it.
Museum of Natural History (Kid-Friendly)
Biological Sciences Building, 1105 N University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Operated by the University, this amazing museum has the largest collection of prehistoric life in Michigan, in addition to a wonderful planetarium that puts on amazing exhibits and light shows.
The museum has four major permanent exhibits, including the Hall of Evolution, which exhibits on evolution and prehistoric life, including fossils, models, and dioramas of dinosaurs, ancient whales, mastodons, and other organisms.
The Michigan Wildlife Gallery displays exhibits on birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants, and fungi native to the Great Lakes. The Anthropology Displays feature exhibits on anthropology, and include artifacts from human cultures around the world.
The Geology Displays on the fourth floor feature a collection of the several rocks and minerals. This is must on any visit to Ann Arbor.
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
434 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
This fascinating museum offers both permanent and visiting displays. The vast collection features more than 100,000 ancient and medieval artifacts from the civilizations of the Mediterranean and the Near East.
Don’t miss the colorfully painted Egyptian mummy coffin or magical amulets from the ancient Near East.
Gerald Ford Presidential Library
1000 Beal Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Located on north campus, The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library houses archival materials on the life of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States.
Born in Grand Rapids, MI , not far from Lake Michigan, Ford became President of the United States following the resignation of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
While Grand Rapids is home to the Ford Museum, the Library was built on the grounds of Ford’s Beloved alma mater.
Ann Arbor Parks
Matthei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum
1800 N Dixboro Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Although the Matthei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are separate places, since their both owned and operated by the University of Michigan, they are often grouped together as one big nature exhibit.
At the Botanical Gardens, you’ll find a perennial garden, Gateway Garden, herb knot garden, and Great Lakes Gardens that features plants native to the Great Lakes region.
You’ll also find a 10,00 square-foot conservatory, where there is something blooming year-round, from rare orchids to cactuses.
At the Arboretum, you’ll find endless hiking trails. For nature lovers, this lovely space just outside the city center is a haven.
There is plenty of space to walk trails and observe and enjoy the variety of plant life while learning about the natural world and the importance of conservation of our planet’s plant life.
4940 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
You’ll find over 80 species of mostly exotic animals, many of whom are rescued former pets, at this unique wildlife conservancy.
Conservancy residents include injured wild animals and abandoned exotic pets, including a bald eagle, a red kangaroo, sloths, reindeer, alligators, armadillos and others.
While you are welcome to visit the outside area free of charge (donations are encouraged), small private events and private tours are available by advance reservation only.
3001 Earhart Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48106
Children and adults alike share a love for animals, making the Domino’s Farms Petting Farm a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the area.
See a wide range of animals including chicken, goats, sheep, llamas, pigs, rabbits, ducks and more.
Here, you can get up-close and personal with animals while learning about the important role’s animals have in agriculture and larger ecosystems.
The animals are fantastic ambassadors and show us the importance of sustainable farming and the preservation of Michigan’s wildlife.
Leslie Science and Nature Center
1831 Traver Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
This amazing natural area is great family destination, with a wide range of activities focused on inspiring awe of the natural world.
You’ll find a natural space with trails, raptor enclosures, a critter house and public programs for all ages.
If you’re visiting for an extended time in the summer months, check out the kid’s day camps. The camps are a fun opportunity for your young one(s) to immerse themselves in nature.
Dexter Cider Mill
3685 Central St, Dexter, MI 48130
Located just outside of Ann Arbor, this is one of Michigan’s most popular cider mills.
Family-owned and operated since 1886, this top Michigan cider mill is located on the banks of the Huron River and offers fresh apple cider, baked good and many other yummy treats during Michigan’s beautiful fall season.
Hudson Mills Metropark
8801 N Territorial Rd, Dexter, MI 48130
This 1,500-acre Michigan metro park offers a great opportunity to outdoor recreation in a stunning setting.
You’ll find a tamarack swamp, open fields, deciduous forest, vernal and permanent ponds, and the Huron River.
There are picnic facilities, swings and slides, softball diamonds, hike/bike trails, a nature trail, fishing sites, and an activity center with disc golf, a tot lot, a baseball diamond, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and shuffleboard.
Ann Arbor Shopping
407 N 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Located in Ann Arbor’s historic Kerrytown District, Kerrytown Market & Shops features a wide selection of specialty markets, unique gift shops, including Mudpuddles Toys.
This fun toy shop has a wide range of unique toys for kids: it’s not your average toy store. It’s also home to Spun, a specialty yarn shop.
326 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Stepping into Nickels Arcade is like stepping into a European-style galleria, with eclectic shops and cafes.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, this 261-foot-long mosaic-tiled corridor, houses some of Ann Arbor’s oldest specialty retail shops.
You’ll find clothing and gift shops, a florist and more great spots to check out in a very unique setting.
Liberty Street is in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, and it’s here where you’ll feel the essence of city. Mixed in alongside landmarks such The Ark, where some of the best musical acts have performed, you’ll find a crazy collection unique stores.
Be sure and check out Ragstock, a hip outlet for new and used clothing; Elmo’s Liberty Street T-Shirts; Orchid Lane, which features women’s clothing and home décor items, and West Side Books, with a vast collection of used books.
West Wide Books has a diverse selection of books ranging from children’s literature to rare books in many fields, including an extensive collection of books about polar exploration, there is bound to be a gem for you hidden among the shelves.
100 Briarwood Cir, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
This indoor shopping mall is home to the regulars (Macy’s and J.C. Penney) along with Von Maur, an upscale department store.
223 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
208 N 4th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
124 E Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Kid-Friendly Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (Kid-Friendly)
220 E Ann St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
This museum oozes fun right from the go: it’s set in a vintage red brick firehouse, which means lot of room for kids to run around, explore and play comfortably.
At the Hands-On Museum children learn about science and technology through interactive exhibits that inspire curiosity and exploration.
Additionally, they can develop interest for STEM industries and the natural world by seeing them in action.
Start with a lesson in economics from a 1930’s era country store, or experience the characteristics of light and optics by playing the stringless Laser Harp.
One of the most popular exhibits with the young audience is a look at how a toilet works… it’s actually kind of interesting for adults, too.
There’s a whole day’s worth of fun here, so plan accordingly but don’t miss it.
509 State Cir, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
Ann Arbor Festivals
Ann Arbor is home to many seasonal and annual events.
Many of these are related to the city’s love and passion for the arts and are designed to uplift and support local or up-and-coming artists in several mediums.
This appreciation for the arts is what gives Ann Arbor the eccentric atmosphere we all love and these seasonal events allow that creative aura to thrive.
Each spring, the Ann Arbor Film Festival shines a light on bold filmmakers and celebrates the art of film.
This non-profit organization receives thousands of submissions from dozens of countries and showcases the best of the best.
Awards are presented each year for best picture, most promising filmmaker, as well as genre-specific awards.
This annual summer event takes place on the streets of Ann Arbor. Artists from all over the US, including Michigan based creators, set up vending tents along the streets where visitors can browse and purchase one-of-a-kind art pieces.
Ann Arbor Farmers Market
One of the most eclectic farmers markets here, you’ll you’ll find a mix of fresh produce and flowers to handmade goods, prepared foods and artisan items. One of my favorite pairs of socks made from alpaca wool, was purchased here years ago…and they’re still like-new!
The farmer’s market is held year-round, Wednesdays and Saturdays near Kerrytown.
Whether you’re into photography, paintings, woodwork, ceramics, or something else, there will be an artist here that has exactly what you like.
The Summer Festival in Ann Arbor is massive and aims to enrich the community culture through demonstration, performance, and art.
Live music, films, demonstrations, and interactive activities mark this festival throughout the city.
This enormous event draws people into Ann Arbor to enjoy the arts and experience community coming together to appreciate them.
Ann Arbor Restaurants
A day in Ann Arbor isn’t complete without trying out a new restaurant, pub, or brewery in town.
Ann Arbor has everything, from breakfast bistros to late-night cravings. The diverse and high-quality restaurant selection in Ann Arbor might leave you wondering where to go, so here are a few of our favorite places and activities related to food and drinks.
Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger
Featured on the television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network Channel, this quirky restaurant serves up some tasty burgers.
Get in the cafeteria line and start building your own burger, with any type of additions or condiments you can imagine.
The fun part is watching as your burger is prepared right before your eyes, giving you even more time to work up an appetite.
422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Everyone in Ann Arbor knows Zingerman’s Deli for their famous mac and cheese and crazy sandwiches, but there is so much more to discover.
Zingerman’s is a whole community of businesses providing all kinds of food, including sandwiches, bread, coffee, candy and more.
Zingerman’s Bakehouse, is known for their spectacular cakes, cookies, and breads, but they also offers soups and sandwiches at this cozy location near Briarwood Mall.
Sign up for Zingerman’s Bakehouse classes and learn some trade secrets to making great-tasting pies, pastries and more.
121 W Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
For something with a more upscale feel without sacrificing a cozy environment, The Earle is a great spot.
The combination of its underground location, classic French-Italian food, extensive wine list, and regular live jazz music creates a speakeasy kind of atmosphere that exudes that fine dining aura.
Consider this perfect Ann Arbor date-night dining.
1100 Catherine St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Angelo’s has been an Ann Arbor breakfast staple for well over half a century.
A full breakfast from Angelo’s, including raisin toast, fresh eggs, crispy bacon, and hot coffee would be the perfect start to any day, so it’s no wonder lines are long to get that perfect morning meal.
341 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
This Liberty Street favorite serves up Mexican standards served in a rustic space with painted-brick walls & a festive streetside patio.
Ann Arbor Breweries
Like any college town, the breweries are plentiful in Tree Town. Lots of high-quality Michigan craft beers are brewed in Ann Arbor, including Wolverine State Brewing Co., HOMES Brewery, Bløm Meadworks, plus so many more.
All of these breweries are fantastic, so if you can’t decide on one place for your birthday or bachelor/bachelorette party, consider a pedal trolley beer tour so you can try numerous Ann Arbor breweries safely while pedaling a trolley through the streets of Ann Arbor.
Outdoors Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor isn’t all cityscapes and downtown shopping. There are plenty of bicycle lanes in town for a city bike ride and the downtown area certainly is very walkable.
However, there is still so much to do in the nature surrounding Ann Arbor, including canoeing, kayaking, and biking.
Canoeing & Kayaking on the picturesque Huron River is one of the most popular activities at Argo Park.
The Huron River flows straight through Ann Arbor and taking a kayak or canoe out on the water is a popular activity, particularly in the warm months.
Argo Park in the northwest and Gallup Park in the east both offer canoe and kayak rentals. Glide on the water through miles of natural river coastline nestled in the middle of bustling Ann Arbor.
Border to Border Biking Trails
Using a bicycle in the city is great for transportation.
However, if you’re looking for a more natural landscape, or even off-road biking, there are lots of parks in the surrounding areas that make great biking locations.
The Border-to-Border Trail has over 40 miles of non-motorized pathways for long-distance biking (or running).
If you’re more into off-road or mountain biking, Olson Park in northern Ann Arbor is perfect for you, with rugged trails to bike or hike. There are also a handful of amenities here, including a pod, dog run, sport courts, and a playground.
These are only some of the top things to do in Ann Arbor. There are amazing public libraries, parks and more to visit. It’s a perfect spot for weekend getaways or road trips.
About the Author
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor at mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.
You Might Also Enjoy…
We love spreading the word about the beauty of Michigan and the many Michigan activities throughout the year. Please use the buttons below to share this post with others.