Ann Arbor is a small town unlike any other, primarily because it is not a small town at all; with a population of over 120,000, Ann Arbor is actually classified as a city. Although some aspects of Ann Arbor do resemble city-like characteristics, there is also an obvious small-town vibe. Basically, what we’re saying is that if a big city got together with a quaint little town and they had a baby, its name would be Ann Arbor. Fondly referred to as A2 by the locals, the city is located just 50 miles west of Michigan’s hub, Detroit. Although technically an exurb (a prosperous area beyond the suburbs that absorbs influences from the larger city) of Detroit, Ann Arbor embodies a unique personality of its own. Ann Arbor is the younger, more mellow neighbor to the bigger, more energetic Detroit. While Detroit may be the party house on the block, Ann Arbor is more akin to the house that is surrounded by a white-picket-fence with a University of Michigan flag hanging proudly by the front door. Ann Arbor is the epitome of a college town.
Just 13 years after the city was founded in 1824, the University of Michigan relocated from Detroit to Ann Arbor, meaning that the city’s cultural foundation was built around the university which has resulted in an exuberant amount of Wolverine pride. At the core of all of that pride is “The Big House”, also known as Michigan Stadium. “The Big House” earned it’s nicknamed due to its sheer immensity. The stadium holds the record for the largest stadium in the United States and comes in at second for title of largest stadium in the world. The stadium’s capacity, which is officially listed as 109,901, is big enough to accommodate almost the entire population of Ann Arbor. Every seat in “The Big House” is necessary as game attendance often exceeds 111,000 fans. The Wolverine’s football team have earned the right to call this magnificent area their home field as they are the winningest collegiate football team in NCAA history. Even just stepping foot on the turf during our tour of the stadium made us feel like winners. When game day rolls around, the city becomes a sea of blue and gold.
The university is not the only reason to visit. Ann Arbor’s diverse food scene is ripe with international flair. There are over 300 restaurants with menus inspired by cuisines from all over the world with atmospheres that will satisfy the wildest dining dreams. Whether you’re in the mood for a fancy, black-tie dining extravaganza or a laid-back snack from a quirky food truck, Ann Arbor has it all. We treated ourselves to a fine dining experience at Taste Kitchen. The high-quality ingredients combined with the expertise of the staff are what makes the blend of French and New American style dishes so delicious. Miss Kim’s Korean restaurant was perfect when we were in the mood to sit back and relax with a fabulous Korean style meal with a little Michigan twist. The restaurant’s owner and namesake designed the menu to showcase Michigan’s bountiful produce and works closely with local farmers to ensure the food is always at the highest possible quality. Miss Kim’s prides itself on offering a carefree and fun environment to its guests. Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina offers patrons the best of both worlds. The restaurant opened its first location in Southfield, Michigan with the intent to provide diners with a casual dining experience while still maintaining supreme standards of cleanliness and authentic cooking, adopting the motto “we feed you like we feed our family.” Bigalora is the pioneer of biga fermented pizza in the state of Michigan. The restaurant’s success led to several more locations opening up throughout the metropolitan area, including Ann Arbor. Biga lovers can grab a slice anytime anywhere from the food truck or even book the truck for catering services.
We planned a trip to world class indoor rock climbing facility, Planet Rock, but before we could transform ourselves into world class rock-climbers, we had to look the part. We outfitted ourselves at Bivouac, a men’s and women’s gear and clothing store that was founded in 1970. We may have bought way more than we needed for our upcoming adventure but we just couldn’t help ourselves! Bivouac’s array of unique merchandise is perfect for every occasion, whether it be a weeklong camping trip or a night out on the town. Once we had nearly emptied our wallets, we were ready to take on Planet Rock. Unfortunately, we had been so distracted by the stylish clothing at Bivouac, we completely forgot to pick up some climbing gear. Luckily, Planet Rock pro shop carries all essential gear for both indoor and outdoor climbing sessions. The facility caters to recreational climbers as well as those training to climb competitively. The climbing walls are fun for everyone and the challenging features are sure to interest even the most experienced climbers. The topography of the wall design may result in a few missteps and slip-ups but Planet Rock has installed an innovative mat system that will suitably cushion the occasional fall. By the end of our session, we were exhausted and in serious need of some chill vibes and good food. We replenished the burnt calories at Fred’s, a trendy health conscious restaurant a few blocks away from the University of Michigan.
By the time we refueled, our heads were still in the clouds from our rock climbing adventure and we weren’t quite ready to land just yet so we went over to the Yankee Air Museum, located just 30 minutes away from Ann Arbor in the city of St. Belleville, Michigan where the sky is the limit. Literally. The museum opened its doors in 1981 and really took off when it acquired a small collection of flyable aircrafts, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell Bomber, and C-47 Skytrain. The museum’s popularity soared right along with its visitors once the opportunity was extended to the public to fly on some of America’s most iconic flying machines. Our team was lucky enough to have a chance to ride aboard the C-47 Skytrain. With the wind beneath our wings, we glided through the sky in that bright yellow airplane and admired the beautiful city of Ann Arbor below. Although we flew for a reasonable length of time, it felt like we were only up there for a few seconds. We guess it’s true when people say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” Our feet were back on the ground and we felt sad that our stay in Ann Arbor was coming to an end. 360 Magazine’s President, Vaughn Lowery, loved the trip so much that he decided to nab a souvenir before we left so he could carry the experience around with him for the rest of his life. Michael Aul, a local tattoo artist who works at one of Ann Arbor’s best shops, Spiral Tattoo, drew up a stunning design and inked it onto Lowery’s arm. Much like a tattoo, the memories of our experience in the beautiful city of Ann Arbor will last a lifetime.
Other Notable Ann Arbor Hotspots
Humane Society of Huron Valley Animal Shelter vows to love and protect the animals of Ann Arbor by encouraging and enforcing responsible care. Their mission is to adequately nurture the animals that come into their shelter until they can be placed in loving homes and also to provide educational services about animal care to the community in an effort to combat animal cruelty. http://www.hshv.org
Yourist Studio Gallery exhibits and celebrates the works of clay artists, potters, printmakers, sculptors, and painters. Their diversified classes are held in the fully-equipped studio workspace and are offered for advanced and introductory level students. http://www.youristpottery.com
Ypsi Alehouse is located in the Centennial Center Building in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Founded in 1982, Ypsi is not only one of the first breweries in Michigan, but also one of the first in the country. Guests can wash down the delicious food with one of the 12 unique brews that are crafted from the finest local ingredients. https://ypsialehouse.com/
VinBar is one of Northern Michigan’s finest wine bars and is located in downtown Ann Arbor. All wines come from Black Star Farms and cocktails are made from Grand Traverse Distillery spirits. VinBar customers can enjoy the cozy, yet contemporary atmosphere and munch on small bites that pair perfectly with the drinks. http://www.vinbara2.com
Mélange is a French word that literally means “a mixture”. The restaurant is named due to the unique combination of diverse culinary influences that make up the foundation of the menu. Taste buds embark on an epic journey with every bite. http://www.melangebistro.com
Nightcap is exactly what it sounds like: the perfect way to end (or begin) a great night out. Ann Arbor’s newest cocktail bar is open every day of the week except for Tuesday from 5 PM – 2 AM. Their drinks are mixed with the finest and freshest ingredients and the staff is devoted to excellence and quality. https://www.nightcapbara2.com/
The Graduate hotel is just minutes away from iconic Ann Arbor destinations such as Kempf House and University of Michigan. The air-conditioned rooms are equipped with refrigerators, flat-screen televisions, and complimentary WiFi. https://www.graduatehotels.com/ann-arbor/
Yankee Air Museum is “where history takes flight.” The museum’s goal is to educate people about American aviation, aerospace technology, and Willow Run, the birthplace of Rosie the Riveter. Visitors can opt to soar through the sky in one of the museum’s historic flyable planes. http://yankeeairmuseum.org
Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina is famous for their mouth-watering biga fermented pizza. Pizza lovers rejoice as the Bigalora is committed to their motto: “we feed you like we feed our family.” http://bigalora.com
The Brinery was founded in 2010 with the intent to preserve a surplus of fresh cabbage by making it into sauerkraut. The operation expanded and went on to make more batch ferments and processes over 200,000 pounds of local family farmed vegetables per year. https://thebrinery.com
Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars opened its first tasting room in Traverse City, Michigan in 2007 and has since expanded to opening four additional locations, including one in Ann Arbor. Fustini’s prides itself on the quality is taste of their products, offering healthy and flavorful additions to any home-cooked meal. https://www.fustinis.com
Spiral Tattoo is among the best tattoo shops in Ann Arbor and has maintained its superb reputation for over 13 years. Although the shop specializes in Traditional Tribal and Americana styles, the talented artists can masterfully ink just about any design in whatever style is desired.
Taste Kitchen believes that the first step to preparing good quality food is knowing exactly where the ingredients come from. The variety of menu selections are a delicious blend of French and New American cuisine and are cooked to perfection with the highest quality ingredients available. http://www.tastekitchena2.com/#restaurant
The Last Word embodies an old-fashioned aesthetic and gives off serious speakeasy vibes. The dimly-lit underground locale is decorated with vintage style furniture and the book-themed menu offers a variety of drinks and late-night bites. Well-dressed bartenders serve up both classic and original cocktails while patrons enjoy the live music and unique ambiance. https://thelastwordbar.com
At Candy Bar, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bi, queer, trans, whatever; everyone (over the age of 18) is invited to the weekly dance party. Satisfy your sweet tooth every Thursday at LIVE nightclub. http://livea2.com
Blind Pig is the music venue that helped put Ann Arbor on the map. The club opened in 1971 and originally only showcased blues style music to the wide range of clientele that frequented the venue. Ownership changed in the 80’s and the atmosphere of the club followed suit. The 90’s brought about “grunge” music and Blind Pig became one of the first to book the then unknown start-up band, Nirvana, that would later describe Blind Pig as their all-time favorite venue. http://www.blindpigmusic.com
The Big House, also known as Michigan Stadium, is the largest stadium in the United States and the second largest stadium in the world. The stadium is home to the University of Michigan Wolverines and was built in 1927. http://mgoblue.com/
Fred’s is a health-centered café that is located within walking distance of the University of Michigan. The assortment of acai bowls, salads, smoothies, and various toast options makes eating healthy the ideal and tastiest option. https://fredsannarbor.com
Planet Rock has been offering its world-class indoor rock climbing facility to the public since 1994. Climbers of all ages and experience levels will enjoy the innovative design of the walls and landing mats that Planet Rock has perfected in order to enhance everyone’s rock climbing experience. http://www.planet-rock.com
Jolly Pumpkin is a local chain that brews artisan ales. With six different locations throughout the state, it is undeniable that Jolly Pumpkin is a Michigan favorite. The Ann Arbor location is not only a brewery but it is also a café that offers delectable dishes to pair with the hand-crafted beers, wines, or cocktails also listed on the extensive menu. http://www.jollypumpkin.com
Final Round Training Center is a personalized mixed martial arts training facility that offers classes 7 days and individual lessons. Beginners, experts, and everyone in between is sure get their booty kicked (in a god way) by the skilled coaches that are devoted to understanding the individual goals of each client and helping them to succeed. http://finalroundannarbor.com
KindleFest is a one day annual festivity that takes place on the first Friday of December in the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. The four-hour event features artisans, farmers, and retailers selling unique goods at unbeatable prices to holiday shoppers and downtown businesses stay open after traditional hours to participate in the festivities and offer some holiday bargains of their own. The assortment of traditional food, mulled wines, crafted beers, and family-friendly activities are an added bonus to the highly anticipated night. http://kerrytown.org/kindlefest/
Aventura is the brainchild of restaurateur Sava Lelcaj, who bought the building out due to her fascination with its history. Lelcaj decided to transform the building into a space that would celebrate her fixation with Spanish culture and cuisine, particularly with tapas-style dining and its intent to bring people together through food. http://aventuraannarbor.com
The Earle delivers scrumptious award-winning French and Italian country style meals and an epic wine list that features over 1,200 selections to choose from and has been given the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for 21 consecutive years. Jazz music resonates through the dining room five nights a week for an uncontested high-class dining experience. http://theearle.com
Necto Nightclub is all about serving up good drinks, good music, and good vibes. Weekly theme nights such as Factory Monday, one of the longest-running Goth-Industrial style nights in the U.S., and Pride Friday, one of the largest weekly LGBTQ+ parties in Michigan, revamp the atmosphere frequently to ensure that every night is a good night. https://www.necto.com
Zingerman’s Deli is the birthplace of some of the best sandwiches every ingested in Ann Arbor. Each sandwich is made-to-order therefore the opportunities are endless. The Deli is also proudly stocked with an array of fine farmhouse cheeses, olive oils, vinegars, fish, salamis, coffees, teas, and much, much more. https://www.zingermansdeli.com
Zingerman’s Roadhouse is the seventh member of the Zingerman family of businesses. Following the success of the Deli, Zingerman’s has committed itself to providing Ann Arbor with great-tasting foods as well as fun and informational eating experiences for guests to enjoy and they have traveled the country looking for inspiration on how to do just that. The Roadhouse has allowed the Zingerman’s franchise to bring traditional foods from all over the U.S. back home to Ann Arbor. https://www.zingermansroadhouse.com/
Bivouac was founded in 1971 as an army surplus store and has since expanded evolved to cater to a much larger audience. Bivouac, which has adopted the slogan “Outfit Your Life”, is essentially a one-stop-shop that serves a wide array of shopping needs. The store carries an immense collection of both men’s and women’s clothing and gear and has the means to prepare customers for any and every adventure. https://www.bivouacannarbor.com
Miss Kim is another member of the Zingerman’s family. The restaurant was named for the restaurant’s lead female chef, Ji Hye Kim. Raised in Seoul, South Korea, Kim greatly admires ancient Korean culinary traditions and seeks to practice the cooking methodologies of her home country while using ingredients native to the state of Michigan. http://misskimannarbor.com/#home