Arbor Days All Year ‘Round

Photo: Students from the University of Michigan (Credit: Benjamin Weatherston)

Ann Arbor, an hour outside of Detroit and Windsor, may be a college town but plays like a big city all year round.

It’s navigable, safe, and paved with wide assortment of performing arts venues, museums and art galleries, shopping, and a wealth of fine dining and ethnic restaurants. Nearby communities such as Ypsilanti have their own lively and distinctive “Main Streets,” historic landmarks, and outdoor activities.

This is a big reason why many graduating high school seniors in the U.S. Midwest plan visits to the University of Michigan campus and set their sights on the ultimate prize—a place in the freshman class. Of course, that also means that many outgrowths of campus life will appeal to younger siblings and adults as well.

The newly relocated UM Museum of Natural History (courtesy of Destination Ann Arbor)

While the Hands-On Museum was anointed as one of Ann Arbor’s best places for a first date by local media, it is still designed with aspiring young scholars in mind. Its ongoing partnerships with the University of Michigan, the National Science Foundation, and other learning institutions ensures it has thoughtfully designed interactive areas dedicated to natural sciences, physics, computer tech, and biology, made relatable by how they touch a child’s world in everyday life. While the installations are guaranteed to keep kids and parents entertained for a morning, continued expansion into 2020 will expand the museum and young minds.

Speaking of expansions, the Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan does one better by being both the city’s oldest and newest museums, locating from its previous 1928 building into a brand new facility that officially opened in April 2019 and is set to be near completion by November. The new facility features the Digital Dome Theater (an intimate planetarium), observation areas to view working laboratories used by UM students and researchers, and hands-on public investigation labs open to the public. Specimens and artifacts from the old museum and new ones have been placed on displays with newly updated signage.

Interactivity, creativity, and mind expansion are recurring themes, with many of the varied local businesses offering classes, talks, and performances. The Ann Arbor Art Center offers single classes and day camp class series covering everything from ceramics and paintings to found object sculptures and mixed media projects.

Literati book store in downtown Ann Arbor beautifully resurrects the nearly lost paradise of the brick-and-mortar bookstore down to a second-floor community area with a coffee bar, a performance space, and a reading room for preschoolers and younger elementary school-age kids. Meanwhile, teens and adults wanting to test their paper-making prowess can check out bookbinding and fine craft classes at Hollander’s in the Kerrytown neighbourhood.

The one-of-a-kind institution of Zingerman’s, also in Kerrytown, cannot be ignored. The 35-plus-year bedrock of the Ann Arbor food scene (said to have as many restaurants per capita as New York City) transcends the “restaurant group” business model.

Zingerman’s Deli (courtesy of Destination Ann Arbor)

While the original Zingerman’s Deli features classic and updated delicatessen sandwiches whose fans include Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and generations of UM students, it has also provided food-related education initiatives for the community and helped food entrepreneurs succeed in the famously challenging business.

The Zingerman’s community includes Miss Kim for Korean food crafted with local ingredients, Zingerman’s Roadhouse for Southern fare, and dessert hub Zingerman’s Next Door. On a satellite campus a few miles from downtown, one can enroll in a variety of baking classes at Zingerman’s Bakehouse and chill out at Zingerman’s Creamery, where fresh cheeses and ice creams are crafted daily. Cornman Farms, an enchanting hybrid of English country inn and American farmhouse a half hour outside of Ann Arbor, MI, is tailor-made for small weddings and special occasion dinners. Chef Kieron Hales, who previously cooked for British royalty and U.S. presidents, reigns in the kitchen but will generously share recipe cards for the asking.

Other fine picks with creative menus include sibling restaurants The Lunch Room and Detroit Street Filling Station (, noted for flavourful vegan fare, live music, and many community fundraising efforts. Since its inception, Detroit Street Filling Station has raised money for several local charities and boasted its partnership with the Youth Justice Fund, which provides young people in need with housing, clothing, transportation, job placement, and mental health services.

To learn more about Ann Arbor or to plan your next vacation visit,