First and foremost, I feel obligated to warn everyone that I am not a travel writer. I won’t be able to “transport you to far-off destinations” or “allow you to escape” through my following city guide. I am, however, a lifelong Michigander and, more importantly, an Ann Arbor LOVA LOVA (Shaggy voice). Besides my hometown, there is no other place in Michigan that I would rather be. It is a smaller city, about 113,000 people live there, but it rivals bigger cities in its things to do, places to go, and sights to see. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to the city, but here are some of my favorites from around the area!
The University of Michigan: U of M’s campus is spread throughout the entire city of Ann Arbor and it is an impressive one. Established in 1817, it is the state’s oldest university with separate campuses located in Flint and Dearborn. Its athletic teams, nicknamed the Wolverines, are members of the Big Ten Conference. The football team plays in Michigan Stadium, also known as “The Big House,” which is the largest football stadium in the world. Attending a game there, or any other University of Michigan athletics event, is a must-do while in Ann Arbor. While I was in high school, my brother was a student at U of M–I always loved driving to the city to visit him, go to sporting events together, and wander around the different buildings asking about the history of the university. It is an impressive one. Click these links for more information about the University of Michigan (and its athletics).
The Necto: Located at 516 E. Liberty Street, The Necto is one of the few clubs in Ann Arbor. Known for holding theme nights and hosting international DJs, it has quickly become one of the best nightclubs in southeastern Michigan. Originally opened in the mid-1970s, it is open to the public six nights a week. I have only ever attended on Friday nights (theme night: Pride), but those nights have been incredible ones. The music is always great, drink specials are always available, and the place is always full of people looking to have an awesome time. I enjoy going to The Necto’s website for its automatic-play music–you should enjoy it, too! Check it out at here.
The Brown Jug: The Brown Jug, located on South University Avenue, is a popular hangout for University of Michigan students. Located in the heart of campus, it has quickly become a trademark of the city. While walking the streets of Ann Arbor in the summer, it’s common to find the outside tables completely packed with people either enjoying a meal or a few drinks with friends. My only experience at the Brown Jug led to me meeting a member of the University of Michigan men’s hockey team–not too shabby! Open since 1983, it is a definite staple of the U of M/Ann Arbor experience. Check out here for more about The Brown Jug!
Blind Pig: Since opening in 1971, this venue has hosted some of the most popular musical acts in recent years, including REM, Sonic Youth, Soul Asylum, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. Initially established as a home for blues musicians, it is now known for inviting indie rock acts and local groups to its stage. This is one place in Ann Arbor that I have never been, and regrettably so, but it is one of the main reasons Ann Arbor was cited as the #7 “Campus Scene that Rocks” in a 2003 issue of Rolling Stone. A MUCH better write-up of this incredible venue’s history and schedule is at this website.
Blimpy Burger: I went here for the first time last summer with my brother, his girlfriend, and my sister. In short, it was an experience. Located on the corner of Packard and S. Division (also, right by West Quad, home to many Michigan athletes during their time at the university), it is one of the best burger places in Michigan. Or, possibly, the country. Yes. The country. It’s that good. I was a bit nervous to go here, simply because it is known for its “right” and “wrong” ways to order, but found myself extremely relieved upon arriving and seeing that everything is written out for you above the grills. Educate yourself before visiting and prepare yourself for a hard time at the counter, though–there are over 2, 147, 483, 648 different ways to have a burger here! It’s a bit small and a bit cramped, but it’s full of charm and it’s a lot of fun to visit. One can find a full menu and more about ordering styles on their website.
Zingerman’s: Let me get this out of the way before I say anything else: This place serves the most incredible sandwiches. I would give my right arm for the reuben here–it is incredible. Now that I’ve said that, let me tell you that Zingerman’s also serves and sells deli meats, olive oils, vinegars, coffee, cakes, pastries, and gelato. With two locations in Ann Arbor, it is popular year-round and is known for its long lines, especially at the Kerrytown location. Most notable about the Zingerman’s franchise might be the friendliness and helpfulness of its employees. During my first visit years ago, I was helped the entire time, offered samples, and given ample amounts of time to order my meal and peruse the shopping area while waiting for my food. Prices here are a bit more expensive than other sandwich shops you might find in Ann Arbor, my aforementioned reuben is about $14, but the portions are huge and the quality is out of this world. You must go to Zingerman’s–it’s delicious AND the name is fun! Win win. Information about all of the Zingerman’s businesses can be found here.
Briarwood Mall: Fun fact about Briarwood Mall: I fell in one of its fountains when I was five years old. Moving on! Briarwood Mall is the largest indoor shopping mall in Ann Arbor and home to over 130 stores. There is nothing particularly special about Briarwood, but it is one of my favorite places in Ann Arbor for its presence of stores that are not available closer to my house. It’s right off of the highway (I-94, to be specific), extremely easy to get to, and only a five-minute drive from the University of Michigan campus. More information is located at their website.
Kerrytown: Kerrytown is a historic district within Ann Arbor and, in my opinion, one of the most charming and lovely places in the entire city. Home to the aforementioned Zingerman’s, it is lined with cobblestone streets, brick buildings, and feels completely separate from the rest of the city. Kerrytown also plays host to the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and the Ann Arbor Artisan Market, both incredibly nice places to visit during the warmer months. I used to work in Kerrytown and one of my favorite things to do on break was wander the streets and people-watch. It is, simply enough, a really great area of town. Find more information at kerrytown.org.
The Ann Arbor Art Fair: In 2012, the Ann Arbor Art Fair will be embarking upon its 53rd year and for very good reason–it is one of the most fun, most incredible events to attend during a summer in Michigan. Taking over the entire downtown area, it is home to talented artists of all mediums from all over the world. Attending is of no cost; you can wander the streets, peruse the art, and just enjoy the sights and sounds of the area. There is live music, food and drink, and all art is available for purchase. My sister and I always complain about how hot it is during the art fair, and for good reason because it is BLAZING, but dealing with the heat is worth it. Discover more information on their website.
Hash Bash: Hash Bash is an annual event held in Ann Arbor on the first Saturday of April. This event, centered on the goal of reforming federal, state, and local marijuana laws, takes place at high noon (get it, guys?) on the University of Michigan Diag. Ann Arbor has very lenient laws regarding the possession of marijuana, but Hash Bash participants are still subject to the stricter state laws regarding possession if caught with marijuana during the event. There is a separate but heavily related event following Hash Bash known as the Monroe Street Fair, where live shows and street vendors are present for the entertainment of those in attendance. Click for more information about Hash Bash (and the Monroe Street Fair).
These are just a few gems within the city of Ann Arbor, but there are many more to unearth if one ever visits. I’m lucky enough to live only 45 minutes from A2 and I will never tire of visiting. Visit, enjoy, and give me a call if you’re ever in the area. I’ll meet you at The Brown Jug and buy you a drink or find you at Hash Bash and buy you”¦another drink.