Less than 40 miles from Detroit sits the city of Ann Arbor, internationally known as the home of the University of Michigan. If you think university is the only draw there, then fill your gas tank and get ready to be surprised. The city is home to some of the best museums in the world, a garden and arboretum that will blow your socks off, an exciting downtown, and eateries that will keep you coming back.
The Detroit area is so spread out, that there are a variety of ways to reach Ann Arbor, which is roughly located west of the junction of I-94 and U.S. 23. From the Detroit area east of I-275 and south of I-96, take I-94 west to Ann Arbor. If you are in the Livonia area, the easiest way is to take I-96 west to the M-14 and I-275 interchange and take M-14 to the city. For the far northern suburbs east of I-275, take I-696 west to I-275 south and then take either westbound I-94 or M-14, depending upon where you want to go in Ann Arbor. For those in Novi and Northville, take I-96 east to I-275 south and then either M-14 or I-94 west to reach Ann Arbor.
1610 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Known around campus as the “Arb,” Nichols Arboretum offers visitors the chance to take in gardens that will simply astound. From the massive 27-bed Peony Garden to the Gateway Garden of New World Plants, which focuses on native blooms, the Arb never disappoints. The naturalistic landscape at the Arb was first created by O.C. Simonds in 1907 and as the area enters its second century, work to maintain the beauty continues. The grounds are filled with trails ranging from a walk through 100-year-old hardwood forests and unique native trees, to a chance to walk along the Huron River. There’s always a quiet place to stop and take in the beauty.
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University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Price: free/$5 donation appreciated
A university like this is a lot more than classrooms and lecture halls, it incorporates knowledge from all disciplines, and art is definitely one of them. The U of M Museum of Art is home to one of the largest standing collections of art in the Midwest with 17 galleries and rotating exhibits. From the styles of Asian masters to the eclectic visions found in the Vertical Gallery, this art is designed to challenge your mind and please your soul. The size of the museum is stunning with the original 41,000-square-foot historic home and the recently opened 51,000-square-foot addition, there is enough here to take an entire day to see.
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
220 E. Ann St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Calling all families, the exhibits at the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum are waiting to be explored. This is the place to take the kids where they can use their imaginations and their hands and feet to explore more than 250 interactive exhibits while parents have fun right along with them. With activities ranging from math and physics to nature and health, there is plenty to keep everyone busy. The Hands On Museum has been a long-time favorite of teachers and schools to help get kids excited about learning. From the Chaos Chimes which help to illustrate the mathematical field of the chaos theory to ViewSpace Exhibit from NASA and its view of deep sky objects, everyone will challenge their minds here.
316 S. Main
Ann Arbor, MI 48104.
Click here for tickets and pricing
The historic Ark Theater is considered to be one of the premier music clubs in the United States. Operated as a non-profit organization, the Ark brings in amazing talent with the likes of Joan Baez, Josh White Jr. and Johnny Lee Hooker Jr., to name a few. With seating only 11 rows deep, saying the Ark offers an atmosphere that puts you close to the performer is an understatement. Beyond the national acts it brings in, the Ark is well known for the local folk acts and open mic nights. If you are looking for a place to enjoy some of the best entertainment around, consider the Ark.
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422 Detroit St.
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
www.zingermans.comFor 20 years, food lovers have made a trek to Zingerman’s, and all for a good reason. It offers some of the freshest and most flavorful fare around. From its signature sandwiches to the to-die-for chocolate brownies, your taste buds will go wild. Along with typical deli dining, enjoy a wide variety of unique foods from the best olive oils to cheeses from across the world. After all, when someone like Chef Mario Batali calls Zingerman’s, “my temple of deliciousness,” you know it must be good.
401 Depot Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
If you are in the mood for some fine dining while in Ann Arbor, then you owe it to yourself to stop at the Gandy Dancer restaurant. Housed in the fully restored and elegant 1886 Michigan Central Depot — a historic landmark — enjoy some of the finest dining the area has to offer. The Gandy Dancer is located only a short distance from the Amtrak station, making it an even more interesting place to have a meal and hear the sounds of trains on the way to Chicago.
Weber’s Restaurant and Boutique Hotel
3050 Jackson Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Price: from $139
If you decide to turn that one-tank trip into an overnight excursion, stay at Webber’s Boutique Hotel. Founded by its name sake, Herman Webber in 1937, it has been a destination in its own right for couples and families from the surrounding area for years. This full-service hotel offers all the amenities you have come to expect, along with Webber’s Restaurant and the Habitat Lounge. Enjoy walk out access to the Four Seasons Pool and Recreation area as well.
Award winning freelance writer and photographer Lawrence DiVizio is based in Southeast Michigan and works to convey in words and images the world around us. His work can be found at Examiner.com.