About 30 minutes west of Ann Arbor is a destination where adults have been known to take over the scene. It is a haven of exquisite food, eclectic shopping, and where live theatre production sets the stage for a memorable evening out on the town. Couples or groups of girlfriends have option to spend the night in an old Victorian home, get dressed up to take in a small stage performance by professional actors and finish off their night with upscale dining or cocktails at one of the many downtown restaurants. Those looking for a fancy “old Hollywood” experience or memorable weekend away should definitely cruise on over and check out the historic downtown of Chelsea, Michigan!

Zou Zou's Cafe in Historic Downtown Chelsea, Michigan. Photo by Mary Moore / Retro TravelingMom

Zou Zou’s Cafe in Historic Downtown Chelsea, Michigan. Photo by Mary Moore / Retro TravelingMom

Chelsea, Michigan

Chelsea, Michigan is a small city that doesn’t typically come up in conversation as a tourist destination – mostly because its neighbor city, Ann Arbor, has a way of always stealing the scene. However, because I love smaller historic downtown areas with intimate things to do, I decided to spend a weekend in Chelsea to find out exactly what this small city had to offer. What I found was that Chelsea, Michigan, can provide a relaxing stay that is full of foodie experiences, entertainment and vintage appeal – plus it has a little Hollywood secret.

Take a Step Back in Time in the Downtown District

Chelsea is riddled with vintage buildings, with retro signage still decorating the facade. However, take a closer look and you’ll find newer businesses inside these buildings that are definitely worth exploring. While taking a walk through the downtown streets, I was excited to find several interesting shopping experiences. We found vintage markets, old-fashioned toy stores and places to stop for coffee and crepes – like an eclectic French inspired cafe called Zou Zou’s.

Have a Night on the Town and a Vintage Hollywood Experience in Chelsea, Michigan

Crepes and Coffee at Zou Zou’s cafe in Chelsea, Michigan. Photo by Mary Moore / Retro TravelingMom

Scattered in between the shopping choices are a few restaurants and pubs. We had an opportunity to experience two locations during our stay, each uniquely worthy of a repeat visit. One of these choices was the Common Grill – the perfect choice for a date night or an upscale meal before taking in a show at the local theatre. The Common Grill offers American Bistro cuisine in a vintage classic atmosphere. You’ll even find paintings depicting a retro era along the walls overlooking the dining room. The meal choices, however, are very modern with menu choices that differ with the seasons.

The other restaurant we just had to try after smelling its fragrance drift through the streets was Smokehouse 52 BBQ. True to its name, this venue offered perfectly smoked meats such as pork, brisket and chicken, plus a macaroni and cheese that was the epitome of cheesiness. After looking through the menu, we found a smoked pulled pork sandwich that was topped in macaroni and cheese and bacon. Of course, we had to try it as it combined all our favorites into one!

Have a Night on the Town and a Vintage Hollywood Experience in Chelsea, Michigan

Sandwich at Smokehouse 52 BBQ in Chelsea, Michigan. Photo by Mary Moore / Retro TravelingMom

Experience Its Hollywood Secret

Ok, so it really isn’t a secret – but it is something that isn’t widely well known. The city of Chelsea happens to be the home to Hollywood actor Jeff Daniels, who founded a live theatre production company in the historic downtown called The Purple Rose. This production company is a big draw to visitors and it still offers almost nightly professional live theatre performances to guests at what I would consider reasonable ticket prices.

Have a Night on the Town and a Vintage Hollywood Experience in Chelsea, Michigan

The Purple Rose Theatre located in Chelsea, Michigan. Photo by Mary Moore / Retro TravelingMom

Seeing a production at The Purple Rose theatre is an intimate experience because the theatre isn’t very big. When I attended a show, I felt like I was a part of the production – like I could reach over and hug the characters as they cried or high five them during their grand triumphant scene. Adding this experience to my weekend definitely made it even more memorable. Luckily, the production schedule is always changing so next time I come back we can experience a different show with the same intimate feeling.

The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan. Photo credit: Sean Carter Photography

Spend the Night in a Historic Home

While I simply love that the historic district of Chelsea is still hopping with things to do, I found it especially fantastic that I could finish out my retro inspired evening by spending the night in a true historic home. The Chelsea House Victorian Inn offers single room reservations in their 1880’s Queen Ann Victorian home, which is within short walking distance to the shops, restaurants and theatre downtown. The beautifully decorated home is set up true to its era and offers bed and breakfast style amenities, such as a seated breakfast that is shared with the other guests in the dining room. Our breakfast was a full course meal and worth getting out of bed for because not only was it artfully prepared but it gave us a chance to get to know the other guests and share our experiences in the city with each other.

Have a Night on the Town and a Vintage Hollywood Experience in Chelsea, Michigan

The Chelsea House Victorian Inn in Chelsea, Michigan. Photo by Mary Moore / Retro TravelingMom

We found the city of Chelsea, Michigan, to be a lovely experience that gave us a break from the crowded and busy lifestyle we live on the day to day. While this destination could be experienced with children, we found that it was much more of an adult friendly scene. Hey, shouldn’t the adults be the ones having fun every once in a while?