Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to many amazing restaurants, a thriving downtown area, and the University of Michigan. However, besides the traditional day or night spent out on the town that many associate with the city, Ann Arbor and its neighboring areas also hold within their sphere several experiences that may be hard to come by elsewhere. These experiences could leave you with heightened excitement, a sense of awe and a crazy story to bring home to your friends.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Only about a 30 minute drive from the Detroit airport is the quaint city of Ann Arbor – also known as Michigan’s sixth largest city. Ann Arbor, like most other downtown areas, is brimming with eclectic shopping experiences, tasty street side cafes and other fun ways to fill your summer days.
Ann Arbor, or A2 to the locals, is an area I found worth traveling to and experiencing because it is a city unlike any other. It is an area made up of both history and entrepreneurs, small farms and big buildings. It is a well rounded city in which you can find a broad range of lifestyles. It is an area that seemingly has it all – perfect for a solo traveler or family of travelers with a wide range of interests.
7 Unexpected Experiences You Won’t Believe You Can Have
On my most recent solo trip to Ann Arbor, I set out to experience something different. I knew from past experience that this city was diverse, but I never expected to find the large variety of experiences that I did! If you’re looking to experience A2 in a whole new light, check out these seven experiences you might not have known you could have – but totally can have – in Ann Arbor, Michigan!
1 . Take Flight in the 1945 World War II era C-47 transport “The Yankee Doodle Dandy” at the Yankee Air Museum.
Have you ever wondered what it was like to fly in a vintage airplane? Curious about what Michigan Stadium would look like from above? Those looking to experience the Yankee Air Museum, an aviation history museum, firsthand can purchase tickets for a round-about flight in one of several different vintage aircraft’s on the property.
Flight in an aircraft this old can be a bit nerve-racking as you sit along the vessel walls on benches and hear the squeak of the brakes being tested before takeoff. However, once I was airborne and could peer out the windows over the city of Ann Arbor and look into the cockpit at all of the vintage mechanisms used to fly the plane, I knew this was something I was glad I didn’t miss out on (no matter how terrified I was at first).
2. Stand in the middle of the largest stadium in the USA.
This was my first experience being at Michigan Stadium, also known as “The Big House” for reasons that soon became obvious. While I wasn’t there for a game, I was super excited to take a behind the scenes tour of the grounds. I walked out onto the field and looked around in awe at its magnitude. Tours like the one I took are available for purchase and range in length of time and scope.
From the locker room I could feel the anticipation and smell the sweat left behind. As I walked through the tunnel and out onto that field, it took everything in me not to skip, jump and ramp up in energy. I spun 360 degrees imagining the roar of excitement surrounding me, as though I was a part of the team! It is easy to be overcome by the sheer size of this stadium – which unbelievably seats 107,601 people.
3. Eat fresh goat cheese on a small working farm.
Ann Arbor is more than just concrete buildings and streets. It is a mecca of small craft professionals– people passionate about the agricultural lifestyle making their living out of these passions. During my visit to White Lotus Farms I was given a firsthand look at the work that goes into this lifestyle. I was given the chance to meet a baby goat, walk through the beautifully landscaped gardens, watch as skilled cheese artists create blocks of cheese and later was able to taste these cheeses while sitting by the koi filled ponds on the property.
The White Lotus Farms makes visiting easy with special events for families – like the Kids Days on the last Saturday of each month (May, June, July and August) and with Farm to Table events. Check their website for times and details.
4. Peek into ancient and medieval times.
Did you know that our ancient ancestors also had a love of flip flops? This is just one of the surprising realizations I came to while walking the exhibits at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology – a museum which houses more than 100,000 ancient and medieval objects from the civilizations of the Mediterranean and the Near East. All this comes in one relatively small and manageable location.
5. Eat at a famous restaurant pictured in the movies.
Before it was featured in The Five Year Engagement, folks around Ann Arbor were falling in love with a deli style restaurant known as Zingermans. If deli style sandwiches aren’t your thing, the brand also runs the Zingermans Roadhouse, the Creamery, a Coffee Company and Zingerman’s Bakehouse – along with making their own signature line of candies and confectioneries.
Each one of these businesses is housed at a separate location, and each one distinct. Although the Creamery, Bakehouse and Coffee Company are all within walking distance and make for a lovely morning stroll.
6. Dine at an authentic 1947 diner.
Since 1947 the Fleetwood Diner has been serving up meals 24 hours a day in their vintage “tin can” location. Meals range from breakfast to dinner but they are most well known for their “hippie hash” – a combination bowl of eggs, hash browns, feta cheese and veggies.
If you dine outside, be sure to take a peek inside before heading on your way. Here you will find walls covered in stickers, authentic diner seats along a bar and just a few lone cooks manning the grill.
7. Visit a hidden speakeasy.
The Last Word speakeasy isn’t easy to find behind its plain street side door – absent of signage. However, once inside the door, the candlelit room bounces with activity and libations. While you may come for the atmosphere, stay for the food! I teased my palate with their chickpeas and beignets. I am not exactly sure what their secret recipe is for the chickpeas appetizer they had on the menu but somehow the chickpeas tasted like tiny fresh baked donuts. The lovely (and quite extensive) curated drink and food menu were a surprisingly lovely way to end my day.
There are many more things to see and do in Ann Arbor – if you’re planning to only stop by for a quick moment during a road trip check out my list of things to do with kids and time constraints in Ann Arbor.