12 Things to Do in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nestled in the southeastern part of Michigan, Ann Arbor is a vibrant college town with a rich history and culture. Home to the prestigious University of Michigan, Ann Arbor buzzes with youthful energy from its large student population. But beyond just a college town, Ann Arbor has something for everyone – families, couples, outdoor enthusiasts, art lovers, foodies, and more.

ActivityDescription
Kelsey Museum of ArchaeologyExplore ancient civilizations with over 100,000 artifacts.
University of Michigan CampusTour the historic campus with impressive architecture.
Ann Arbor Hands-On MuseumEngage in interactive science exhibits for all ages.
Border-to-Border TrailEnjoy a scenic hike or bike along this extensive trail.
Hill AuditoriumExperience exceptional acoustics at live concerts.
Ann Arbor Comedy ShowcaseLaugh out loud at stand-up comedy performances.
Felch Log HomeDiscover 19th-century living in this historic log house.
Ann Arbor Art FairBrowse fine arts and crafts at this vibrant outdoor fair.
The ArkEnjoy live music in a historic, intimate setting.
University of Michigan Museum of ArtExplore diverse art collections from around the world.
Ann Arbor Farmer’s MarketShop local produce and artisanal goods at the market.

From exploring museums and galleries showcasing local arts to cheering on the Wolverines at a football game, Ann Arbor offers unique attractions and activities year-round. Outdoor spaces like nature trails allow you to marvel at natural wonders, while the historic downtown area charms with indie shops and farm-to-table fare.

If you’re planning a trip to Ann Arbor, you’ll want to make the most of your time in this delightful Midwestern city. To help you out, here are 12 of the top things to do in Ann Arbor, Michigan to add to your Midwestern itinerary.

1.Explore the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Name and Location: Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded in 1928, this University of Michigan museum houses expansive ancient archaeological artifacts from the Mediterranean region and Middle East spanning 9,000 years as an integral resource for research.

What to Expect: View Egyptian sarcophagi, ancient pottery, Etruscan bronzes, Roman statuary and more. Family activity guides enhance visits with scavenger hunts, crafts. Temporary exhibits rotate periodically.

Visitor Information: Free admission. Open Tues-Fri 9am-4pm, Sat 10am-4pm. Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays. Call 734-764-9304 ahead to confirm hours.

If you want to learn about ancient civilizations, head to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology on the University of Michigan campus. As one of the oldest archaeology museums in the United States, it houses over 100,000 ancient artifacts from the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Spanning nine galleries, the museum showcases items from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and more. Marvel at intricate gold jewelry from the time of the pharaohs, study rare ancient pottery and ceramics, and gaze upon monumental stone carvings. Kids can try on reproductions of ancient Greek battle gear while adults examine papyrus writings.

With free admission, the Kelsey Museum makes for an enlightening and budget-friendly activity. Guided tours are also available to take you through the highlights. Don’t miss the special exhibitions gallery either, which features new and changing displays related to ancient civilizations.

2.Wander Through the University of Michigan Campus

Name and Location: University of Michigan Campus in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded in 1817, the historic University of Michigan flagship campus spans 552 acres with a unique blend of Collegiate Gothic architecture housing one of the top public universities globally.

What to Expect: Self-guided tours let visitors explore libraries, museums, performance halls and the iconic Michigan Stadium. Cultural exhibits, concerts, sporting events held on campus year-round.

Visitor Information: Campus is public with select building entry restrictions. Free 90-minute guided tours offered on weekends. Visitor parking available at select structures/lots.

Even if you’re not a prospective student, the sprawling University of Michigan campus is worth exploring. The 3,177 acres and more than 500 major buildings exude impressive architecture and history.

Start at the Michigan Union, the campus’s social hub since 1910. Snap photos at iconic Burton Memorial Tower and beside the Cubist-inspired Michigan League building. View the Grounds For Democracy plaza honoring U-M alumni civil rights leaders before admiring the intricate wood and stonework of Hill Auditorium.

Nature enthusiasts will love strolling through the Nichols Arboretum. Its rolling pathways wind past rare trees and shrubs among woodlands, meadows and wetlands. Sign up for a free guided walk to unlock insider knowledge of the “Arb’s” history, ecology and more than 700 acres of conservation land.

Don’t miss the Matthaei Botanical Gardens for exotic plants and vibrant seasonal displays housed in conservatories. With free admission and parking, U-M’s campus offers an activity-packed escape among Midwest nature.

3.Experience Hands-On Science at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Name and Location: Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded in 1982, this nonprofit children’s museum provides engaging educational exhibits focused on science, math and technology to spark creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills.

What to Expect: Over 250 interactive displays across art, science, literacy and culture themes. Popular sections include Farmers Market, Vet Clinic, Water Works, Invention Station. Great for families with kids under age 10.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am–5pm except major holidays. Admission is $14, free under age 1. Stroller accessible. Exhibit guides provided.

For family-friendly science fun, visit Ann Arbor’s Hands-On Museum. As the area’s premier science center, it features interactive exhibits to excite inquisitive minds of all ages. Spanning two floors and both indoor and outdoor space, the museum delivers an engaging scientific adventure.

Kid-height bubble tubes demonstrate fluid dynamics while letting children control robotic arms tests engineering skills. Investigate principles seen in nature, such as fractal patterns in trees and nest architecture. Several exhibits focus on the properties of light, from optical illusions to mixing color combinations.

Imaginative play spaces like the Farmer’s Market, vet clinic or construction zone allow roleplaying real-world scenarios. Special traveling exhibits such as animal skeletons or Great Lakes ecology provide timely scientific themes. Every visit promises new discoveries at this ever-evolving science center tailored for curiosity and wonder.

4.Hike the Border-to-Border Trail

Name and Location: Border-to-Border Trail in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Established in the 1990s, this 35+ mile multi-use recreation trail loops from one edge of Ann Arbor to the other along the Huron River and through various ecosystems and city parks.

What to Expect: Paved paths ideal for walking, jogging, biking allow taking in diverse scenery from vibrant downtown to serene woods. Benches situated along the way. Connects with other regional trails.

Visitor Information: Access points all around Ann Arbor. TrailHEAD map app and site has interactive guide. Open year-round dawn to dusk for free public access.

Nature lovers shouldn’t miss Ann Arbor’s Border-to-Border Trail (B2B). Spanning 35 miles, this scenic hiking and biking path links cities from Dexter to Ypsilanti along the Huron River. Completed sections take you through woodlands, parks and wetlands with opportunities to spot native birds and wildlife.

For a convenient access point in Ann Arbor, start at Bandemer Park spanning the Huron River’s west bank. Walk south 1.5 miles through peaceful woods before connecting to Barton Nature Area’s meadows and ponds. Continue another 2.5 miles into woodlands adjoining the Leslie Science Center. Interpretive signs detail natural features like vernal pools, geology or restoration ecology.

Or begin from Argo Park tracing the Huron River north into protected parklands. The nearby DTE Energy Foundation Trail curves east 6.5 miles through wetlands to Hudson Mills Metropark for stunning river valley panoramas. Download the B2B Trail app to help navigate routes and trail conditions.

5.Catch a Concert at Hill Auditorium

Name and Location: Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Built in 1913 at the University of Michigan, this historic performing arts venue seats up to 3,500 guests and hosts philharmonic orchestras, top music and theater acts from around the world.

What to Expect: Said to have perfect acoustics, Hill Auditorium enjoys a reputation as one of the finest concert halls in the US. Catch student group shows plus acclaimed symphonies, pop stars and comedians in an ornate setting.

Visitor Information: Event dates, tickets vary widely. Parking in nearby Fletcher Hall structure. Guided venue tours offered select Saturdays when no performances scheduled.

Known for its near-perfect acoustics, Hill Auditorium has been the University of Michigan’s premier performing arts venue since 1913. Catching a concert within its storied walls makes for an unforgettable Ann Arbor experience. Renowned orchestras like the Vienna Philharmonic or Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble have graced its stage alongside legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Leonard Bernstein.

Spanning nine months, the annual Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra concert season brings incredible classical and pops performances. Holiday traditions like Handel’s Messiah or dance showcase “The Nutcracker” continue into the new year. But Hill Auditorium hosts diverse genres beyond orchestras. Renowned speakers from David Sedaris to Dr. Jane Goodall command attention within its elegant interior.

Thanks to the university’s robust performing arts program, student dance showcases, plays and theater also entertain Hill Auditorium crowds. Check the music school’s calendar too for student ensemble concerts. With many free or affordable events open to the public, Hill Auditorium offers cultural enrichment for all.

6.Try Your Luck at Comedy at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase

Name and Location: Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Open over 35 years on Main Street downtown, this intimate comedy club has hosted rising stars like Tim Allen and Lewis Black early in their careers alongside showcasing touring stand-up acts every weekend.

What to Expect: Showcase features standup comedy shows Thursday through Sunday evenings. Full menu and bar available inside venue. Lineups vary from local artists to famous traveling comedians.

Visitor Information: Tickets $10-25 purchased on site or online in advance recommended. Valid ID required for entry. Sets start 8:30pm and 10:30pm nightly. Call 734-996-9080 to reserve tables.

For laughter and live entertainment, Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase packs non-stop chuckles Friday and Saturday nights. Nestled downtown, its intimate cabaret setting fosters stand-up intimacy. Both rising and seasoned comedians take the stage for raucous routines touching upon politics, dating mishaps, family drama and all facets of modern life.

Past headliners have included Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen Degeneres early in their storied careers. But beyond the pros, Wednesday open mic night lets amateurs test their comedic chops on stage. Arrive early to nab seats at the small venue and enjoy a drink while awaiting the talent.

Besides stand-up comedy, the club hosts specialty shows like Latin night, drag brunch and guest hypnotist acts. Family-friendly, “clean comedy” matinees cater to all-age crowds too. With shows starting at just $5 per ticket, Comedy Showcase offers affordable laughs almost every night in Ann Arbor’s hip downtown.

7.Tour the Fairytale Magic of the Felch Log Home

Name and Location: The Felch Log Home in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Moved from a nearby township, this historic 1800s pioneer cabin built of hand-hewn logs stands as one of the oldest structures in Ann Arbor, offering a window into 19th century living through tours and programs.

What to Expect: Docent-led tours of the furnished cabin interior provide insight into the resilient Felch family and early settlers. The site also hosts heritage skills workshops like basket weaving and hosts special events.

Visitor Information: Free tours Saturdays 1-4pm June-August or by appointment for groups. Located on Main Street. Events calendar and exhibit info on website or call 734-662-9092.

Nestled amidst a residential neighborhood, the unassuming Felch log home transports visitors to 19th century frontier living. As one of Michigan’s oldest surviving log houses, its hewn tamarack and white pine logs date to 1831. Hand-built by prominent Ann Arbor judge Samuel Felch, the home remains largely unchanged from its original pioneer construction.

Guided tours showcase artifacts, furnishings and stories from generations of families who occupied its rustic interior. Learn how fireplaces and beds warmed the home in winter as guides demonstrate baking in the brick hearth. Period games, bonnet-making and candle-dipping bring old-time activities to life for kids. Costumed interpreters add a magical, fairytale quality while explaining how settlers extracted sap for maple syrup or planted vegetable gardens.

The home comes alive for holidays like Christmas or Maple Syrup Day with traditions of Felch descendants. For intimate glimpses of America’s frontier past, add this hidden historic gem to your Ann Arbor itinerary.

8.Explore the Ann Arbor Art Fair

Name and Location: Ann Arbor Art Fair in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Taking place annually each July since 1960, this massive acclaimed open-air art festival spanning 30 city blocks features works by over 500 juried artists plus street performances and food.

What to Expect: Admire and purchase diverse mediums like paintings, photography, jewelry, ceramics displayed outside along downtown streets closed to traffic during the 3-day event. Festive atmosphere with music acts stages as well.

Visitor Information: Free admission. Next fair runs July 20-22, 2023 from 10am-9pm daily. Guides and maps provided onsite. Nighttime crowds largest on Saturday.

For over six decades, the Ann Arbor Art Fair has showcased juried fine arts against a lively downtown backdrop. Each July, a half million art lovers flock as nearly 1,000 artists transform city streets into an outdoor gallery. Rated one of America’s best art fairs, artists travel internationally to unveil paintings, sculpture, jewelry, photos, ceramics and mixed media across 20 downtown blocks.

Wandering past vibrant booths promises visual inspiration while meeting creators firsthand. Visit during daylight hours as artists demonstrate glass-blowing, rug hooking, chainsaw wood carving and other intriguing techniques for passerby. Performing arts like music, dance and street theater add lively entertainment between artist rows.

Youth art enrichment tents foster creativity for the next generation with hands-on art projects. When you need a break, local streetfood vendors dish up global flavors from sizzling paella to Thai ice cream rolls steps from world-class art. Don’t forget the eclectic mix of sidewalk sales housed in neighboring shops too!

9.Catch a Show at The Ark

Name and Location: The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Open since 1965 in a historic former cinema, The Ark is a beloved nonprofit music venue hosting local and touring folk, roots, world music artists in an intimate 400-seat listening room setting.

What to Expect: Catch acclaimed artists along with emerging stars in genres like folk, bluegrass, Americana performing live concerts most evenings in a comfortable, close-up venue with excellent sound.

Visitor Information: Ticket prices $15-45. Showtimes at 8pm most nights with additional family matinees some weekends. Food, beverages sold on site. Call 734-761-1800 for schedules.

For an only-in-Ann-Arbor musical experience, head to The Ark concert venue downtown. Intimate and historic, its roots trace back to the counterculture coffeehouse movement of the 1960s civil rights era. In one converted house, you may find the next breakout folk group alongside seasoned musical storytellers.

Past legendary performers range from Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris to iconic songwriters like Joan Baez or Arlo Guthrie. But true to its mission, The Ark continues spotlighting emerging talent on its storied stage. Genres swing from indie and Americana tunes to roots, blues and R&B artists touring the Midwest club circuit.

Intimate, cabaret-style seating fosters connection as many artists share stories behind their songs. Kids shows, open mics and songwriting workshops engage all ages too. Thanks to nonprofit support and volunteers, The Ark delivers affordable live music and grassroots community you won’t find elsewhere.

10.Explore Hands-On Exhibits at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Name and Location: Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded in 1982, this nonprofit children’s museum provides engaging educational exhibits focused on science, math and technology to spark creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills.

What to Expect: Over 250 interactive displays across art, science, literacy and culture themes. Popular sections include Farmers Market, Vet Clinic, Water Works, Invention Station. Great for families with kids under age 10.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am–5pm except major holidays. Admission is $14, free under age 1. Stroller accessible. Exhibit guides provided.

Families with kids should carve out time at Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum near downtown. Their mission? Foster lifelong curiosity and learning through interactive science and technology. With 30,000 square feet of exhibits, role-playing spaces and outdoor elements, minds stay constantly engaged.

Ever dreamed of piloting a plane or weather reporting? Their Air Stream gallery lets kids experiment with flight physics and meteorology concepts firsthand. Budding veterinarians nurture dolls in the life-size animal hospital. Exhibits demonstrate scientific principles around construction, magnets or simple machines through hands-on building.

Catch special traveling exhibits like animal skeletons, crime forensics and Great Lakes ecology for timely science engagement too. Daily experiences like live raptor Meet-and-Greets connect visitors with nature. With new exhibits arriving annually, return visits continue sparking wonder and discovery year-round.

11.Tour the University of Michigan Museum of Art

Name and Location: University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Established in 1946, this university art museum holds significant multicultural collections with nearly 20,000 works spanning diverse cultures and media from antiquities to contemporary pieces.

What to Expect: Spanning 6 galleries, exhibitions feature sculptures, prints, photography, Asian porcelains, Old Master drawings, ancient Cypriot ceramics and more showcased in rotating displays from the vaults.

Visitor Information: Free entry. Open Tues-Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. Closed Mondays. Tours every Sat 2pm and last Sundays monthly. Phone 734-763-4186 for details.

Art aficionados shouldn’t miss touring the University of Michigan Museum of Art when visiting Ann Arbor. Its collections span vast cultural heritage across continents with nearly 19,000 works. Galleries curate global masterpieces from contemporary, modern, pre-Columbian and ancient civilizations under one roof.

European masters like Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh share rarefied air with Qing Dynasty paintings, Native American beaded dresses and Nepalese devotional bronzes. Don’t miss Diego Rivera’s iconic Detroit Industry Murals or the glass-enclosed sculpture garden showcasing Rodin bronzes.

Interactive iPad stops unlock interpretive details for self-guided exploration across five floors. Coincide visits with monthly Gallery Experiences for docent talks, hands-on art workshops and live music in the galleries too. As one of America’s oldest university museums, UMMA’s free admission provides exceptional fine arts discovery in an afternoon.

12.Shop for Local Goods at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market

Name and Location: Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded 1919, this bustling producers-only market situated downtown features over 150 farm vendors selling fresh local fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers and artisanal foods during summer peak season.

What to Expect: Wide selection of seasonal harvests, baked goods, dairy, honey, maple syrup, spices and specialty items grown or produced locally. Festive community atmosphere with live music. Go early for best selection.

Visitor Information: Open year-round, peak season April-December on Wed/Sat 7am-3pm. Some vendors accept EBT payments. Free parking at city structures during market hours.

No trip to Ann Arbor is complete without experiencing its bustling Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market held downtown. As one of America’s oldest continuously operating markets, the open-air bazaar packs 150 vendors along three city blocks. It’s anchored by grower-producers selling just-picked Michigan fruits and vegetables in every vivid hue.

Beside mounds of sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and leafy greens, artisanal goods tempt those with a craving for place-based flavors. Stock up on spicy salsas, fruit preserves, maple syrup and Great Lakes fish specialties to enjoy back home. Beyond edibles, Michigan makers create honey, plants, cut flowers, candles and textiles upholding sustainable practices.

Streetside cafes dish up breakfast to crepes, Middle Eastern falafels, and cold-pressed juices to sip while strolling between booths. Don’t forget your cash and reusable bags before joining the bustling Saturday scene downtown from May through December. An indoor market keeps Saturdays lively all winter too!

Conclusion

This college town delivers an eclectic, enriching getaway no matter your interests or traveling style. From strolling museum halls and wooded trails to cheering stand-up comics or touring DIY artist booths, Ann Arbor serves up vibrant and nostalgic Midwest vibes. Those wanting glimpses of America’s past can explore pioneer homesteads or archaeological wonders. Outdoor enthusiasts traverse the Border-to-Border trail linking nature parks across Washtenaw County.

Performances at Hill Auditorium or concerts within The Ark’s storied walls create lifelong cultural memories to cherish. And the bustling Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and downtown scene foster community connections unique to this Michigan hub. Whenever your visit, be it for football Saturdays or cultural escapes, Ann Arbor promises countless treasures waiting to be uncovered across its storied streets.

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