Ann Arbor is known for being home to the University of Michigan which shapes Ann Arbor’s economy by employing around 30,000 people. Founded in 1824, the city soon became home to the university in 1837. Ann Arbor then became the center for left-wing politics and political activism.
The fact that it is a university town means that Ann Arbor has a wide range of rich museums and galleries. Not to mention having a bustling downtown and being a tech hub and a culinary hotspot. Ann Arbor is also famous for its unique location in southeast Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. From there, you can easily reach Detroit and Lake Erie in less than one hour.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Ann Arbor (MI)
1. Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum
Offering sprawling gardens, woods, and prairies, Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum is the most popular attraction in Ann Arbor. The facilities include a visitors center, gift shop, and conservatory. Not to mention a very long walk along the lovely nature trails through forests, streams, and lakes.
The greenhouse and gardens outside are very well taken care of and exhibit a very large variety of plants that most people will not have seen before. You can visit glasshouses with different climate sections, admire a bonsai collection, and take the kids to explore the Children’s Garden.
2. Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is a colorful, 4-story space inviting children to play and learn through over 250 science-focused exhibits. There are a lot of real-life things that kids can experience including cars, electrical work, learn how levers work as well as electrical switches. They can also be involved in a STEM program and have fun at the awesome water table and water areas.
Overall, this place is all about playing with your hands, senses, and imagination in different stations and experiments. There is also a lunchroom where you can eat the food you take with you.
3. Michigan Theater
The historical Michigan Theater which was once a vaudeville and silent-movie hub now hosts diverse films and cultural events. There are no assigned seats in this clean theater with friendly staff and reasonably priced concessions.
Michigan Theater is a really enjoyable place to go, regardless of the event. The restoration and maintenance have really been done well. With a beautiful historic and old-style décor, the theater will give you a chance to experience how theaters used to be. They use the history and preservation of film and art to keep the culture and memory alive.
4. University of Michigan Museum of Natural History
University of Michigan Museum of Natural History is known for its exhibits on prehistoric life, popular with children. While it is slightly geared towards younger scholars, there are plenty of displays that everyone can appreciate. This place does a great job with several hands-on displays and labs that allow children to have a better understanding of the exhibits.
Their permanent exhibits include Exploring Michigan, Evolution: Life Through Time, Under the Microscope, People and the Planet, and more. They have some sample rocks and dinosaur models that you can actually touch. They also offer a planetarium show for an additional charge.
5. Kerrytown Markets & Shops
Kerrytown is one of the best areas of Ann Arbor featuring a variety of stores for those looking to buy a gift, grab a meal, and so much more. There, you will find a coffee shop, spice shop, olive and vinegar shop, wine, toys, yarn, salon, furniture, antiques, and craft paper goods. Not to mention the specialty grocery market with great selections of meat, seafood, produce, and grocery items.
It is a wonderful spot to find a gift to fit just about anyone you know. Besides, this is a great place to go, walk around, and then sit on the grass or a bench and catch up with some friends.
6. Kensington Metropark
Kensington Metropark is a massive green space offering 2 beaches, a golf course, and a nature center with exhibits and guided hikes. They have a 9-mile paved trail around the park as well as unpaved walking trails. And the scenery surrounding the park is simply breathtaking with all the cranes and deer wandering around.
The park has tons to do with activities the whole family can enjoy including a petting zoo and a water park. Whether you are there to relax and enjoy nature or work up a sweat, Kensington is a gem and a boom to the local community.
7. Wiard’s Orchards Country Store
Featuring hayrides, putt-putt golf, a playground, and a corn maze, Wiard’s Orchards Country Store is more than a store of treats and sweets. In fact, you can find donuts, apple cider, pumpkins, and much more.
With many attractions, everything is really well put together at the orchard. The corn maze is fun for all ages and big enough to explore for about 20 minutes. The hayride in the daytime is kid-friendly but at night the spooks come out. Actually, they also have a Haunted House that is guaranteed to give you a few frights.
8. Earth Lore
Earth Lore sells goods from across the globe providing items with a spiritual meaning behind them. The store is one of the best metaphysical stores in the US. There, you can find from rare and exotic minerals, fine incenses and candles, cultural and spiritual tools to semi-precious stone jewelry.
Overall, this place is amazing, and the energy is very light. They fill every space with a great variety of magical items. It can be a super fun shopping adventure.
9. Island Lake Recreation Area
The sprawling 4,000-acre Island Lake Recreation Area features meadows and mature woodlands with a hot air balloon launch point. This is a fantastic state park and whatever your outdoor pleasure is, you will find it there. From hiking and biking to canoeing and swimming, or just admiring sandhill cranes.
Besides paved and unpaved trails, there are 4 lakes in the park with a couple of beaches and a playground for the little ones. But be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty so keep an eye on the kids at all times.
10. Kensington Metropark Farm Center
Featuring a live farm with its machines and tools still functioning, Kensington Metropark Farm Center is home to a nice number of animals you can observe outside and pet if close enough. Some of the farm animals you will see include goats, chickens, ducks, sheep, horses, and more.
While there, check out the 150-year-old restored barn, the poultry house, and the herb garden. The farm also counts with a barn exhibit room displaying old-fashioned farm equipment. And to better entertain the kids, take them to the kids’ area, the stone labyrinth, and the grass maze.
11. Hush Haunted Attraction
Hush Haunted Attraction features many mechanical and still props that guarantee all the excitement and spookiness you expect of a haunted house. The scenes include Descend the Basement, Voodoo Bayou, Rosecliff Hall, and Hush Falls, and they smoothly change as you walk through them.
Overall, it is a short but fun haunted house to go to with your friends. The props and actors are really good. Even though it is not super scary, there are a lot of good jump scares that just pop out at you. It does not feel cheesy like some other haunted houses with that annoying banter from the actors.
12. TreeRunner Adventure Park West Bloomfield
With zip-line trails, climbing platforms, and elevated bridges, TreeRunner Adventure Park West Bloomfield is a forest recreation center located 40 minutes from Ann Arbor. They have top-notch obstacle courses through the trees with different levels for different skill sets.
The training session is brief and to the point, and they explain the harness and how to attach everything so well. As you move through each course for more challenging sections, it is easy to forget that your muscles are getting tired. It is a great outdoor activity that not only is fun but also involves a lot of problem-solving skills. Just when you think you cannot do it or fear sets in, you find a way and just go for it.
13. Lower Huron Metropark – Turtle Cove Family Aquatic Center
Turtle Cove Family Aquatic Center is a public water park featuring a lazy river, slides, a swimming pool, and a playground. Part of the Lower Huron Metropark, the center is a perfect place for families. There is a kids’ area, and the pool is no deeper than 3 ft.
The park has plenty of lifeguard towers with actual lifeguards on the post. The slides and lazy rivers are fun and everything for the most part is child/toddler friendly. The concession stand has the usual park fare with hot dogs, burgers, chicken strips, and fries. They also provide life vests for small children.
14. University of Michigan Museum of Art
The University of Michigan Museum of Art features spacious galleries housing a sizable collection of rotating artworks that span centuries and the globe. This is a great place to check out and appreciate the art of different cultures and they are always adding new exhibits. Their galleries are devoted to Asian, African, and European art of all periods.
It is completed with 11 unique paintings which all could either mean nothing or everything to you. Some of the paintings are even 3D so they just feel different. The museum itself is small enough for everything to feel intimate and personal. It is also great seeing local students in the area sketching various works of art.
15. Rolling Hills
The year-round park of Rolling Hills offers hiking and skiing trails, generous space for outdoor activities, and a water park. Located 24 minutes south of Ann Arbor, the park also features a great disc golf course and putting labyrinth.
If you are looking for peace, quiet and some serenity, visiting the Rolling Hills park will give you all of this. There are fishing docks, bike trails, and benches where you can sit awhile and take in nature. The wide-open fields are inviting and large enough to set up for volleyball, badminton, and frisbee throwing. There is even an apple orchard right across the street so grab some cider and enjoy a nice day outside.
16. Mt. Brighton Ski Resort
With a nice variety of ski hills and great snow conditions, Mt. Brighton Ski Resort is the best place to practice snow sport around Ann Arbor. The resort is by all means not the biggest around, but that hardly takes away from the experience. It is really easy to get around the mountain, and you are able to explore the whole hill in just a few hours, and that just makes you enjoy the mountain much more.
The park has small jumps and boxes, making it also perfect for those learning new tricks and challenging themselves with freestyle.
17. Yankee Air Museum
Yankee Air Museum is an aviation museum focused on WWII hosting exhibits and offering pre-booked flights in classic bombers. There are several planes and helicopters to look at along with many displays. Throughout the museum, there are a number of informational signs that describe the very interesting history and facts. The museum guides are veterans, and they are very friendly and knowledgeable.
They have a few exhibits where guests can sit inside the cockpit and play with knobs and switches. They even have a flight simulator and hands-on learning area, especially for kids. Also, the annual Thunder Over Michigan airshow is held by the museum.
18. Hill Auditorium
Opened in 1913, the cozy and quaint Hill Auditorium is the University of Michigan’s largest performance venue. With a capacity to hold over 3,500 people, they offer a wide selection of unique events and concerts. The building itself has a unique architecture. Pay special attention to the ceiling design.
The acoustics are of the highest caliber at Hill Auditorium. The view is excellent from every possible angle too. And there is the convenience of this venue being located next to the Bell Tower in the heart of the University of Michigan campus.
19. Greenmead Historical Village
Located 30 minutes from Ann Arbor, Greenmead Historical Village is an 1820s homestead with a historical village, an original farm complex, and picnic facilities. The village is composed of many buildings among garden plots and nature trails. Be sure to check the 1-mile loop Virginia B. Matley Trail through the woods. You can simply walk around, explore the grounds, and discover new restaurants.
Among the buildings is a beautiful church built in 1892 which is open for tours and special events and weddings. The stained glass windows are a window in time with names of original congregation members who donated the stained glass.
20. Domino’s Farms Petting Farm
Opened in 1984, Domino’s Farms Petting Farm pays tribute to the farmers who used to live in this region while providing a unique interactive experience focused on kids. This is a wonderful place for the little ones to get an up-close experience with animals including sheep, goats, cows, horses, chickens, pigs, alpaca, donkeys, and rabbits.
All the animals look healthy and happy and you can even feed some of them with carrots purchased on-site. The farm also features a little store selling toys and ice cream. And make sure to visit their Griffith Station and explore a 1920s caboose, home to train crew from back then.
21. The Creature Conservancy
The Creature Conservancy is home to many exotic animals including some rescued and some from zoos. It is wonderful what they do to rehabilitate and protect wild animals, many of who were taken in as pets and abandoned. The staff takes time educating the public on the animals with many educational programs and series.
With a tremendous collection of animals, they are all very well taken care of. During your tour, you might be able to touch and feed a kangaroo, tortoises, cougar, sloths, and many more. Some of the other inhabitants at the zoo are alligators, Arctic foxes, emus, porcupines, and black swans.
22. Briarwood Mall
Briarwood Mall is a standard mall offering brand-name apparel, beauty products, and homeware, plus informal restaurants. The Briarwood Mall is a one-stop-shop for picking out something for yourself or others. Some of the stores you will find there are JCPenney, Sephora, Lush, American Eagle Store, and H&M.
Also, all of the food vendors are very good including Wetzel Pretzels, Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt, and Starbucks. And besides a kids’ play area, the mall also features a virtual reality experience for grown-ups.
23. Michigan Stadium
Also known as The Big House, Michigan Stadium is a historic football stadium at the University of Michigan and can seat up to 110,000 visitors. Watching a game at The Big House is one of the most incredible experiences involving College Football. Even if you are not a fan of the Maize and Blue you should put this on your destination list.
Seating in the bowl itself is preferred over the boxes. No alcohol is allowed, so it might be a good idea to tailgate before the game. But overall, the food is delicious, and the staff throughout the stadium is very friendly and helpful.
24. Leslie Science and Nature Center
Leslie Science and Nature Center is a natural space with trails, raptor enclosures, a Critter House, and public programs for all ages. The center has been at the forefront of local science, nature, and environmental education and experience opportunities for the community.
If you are looking for a local mini-adventure, this place is pretty cool. There are quite a few trails to walk, and a couple of cool buildings to check out. They have a community garden you can walk through, an energy building, and an area where you can view rescued birds.
25. Zingerman’s Delicatessen
Locals line up for generous deli sandwiches at the funky Zingerman’s Delicatessen, which is also a longtime market with specialty groceries. Opened in 1982, the deli has always cared about stocking local and farmhouse high-quality products. The service is exquisite and there is so much to see and smell with all of its cheeses, wines, bread, and more. Just make sure you plan as they were extremely busy.
Some of the restaurant’s highlights include the pesto sandwich, Brussel sprouts, and garlic potato salad. They also have special sodas that are great.