By David Kiley
Open up the Ann Arbor Observer’s monthly calendar and you will find a river of musical performances, lectures, classes, theater and social connections for every possible niche group or interest — from quilters and beekeepers to LGBT. It all adds up to a great place to live and visit.
Day 1: Evening
Ann Arbor has a vibrant downtown with restaurants, shops, cafes, teashops and performance venues, plus several multilevel parking structures. A good plan, especially during a weekend home football game, is to forget on-street parking. Pick a parking garage and walk if your legs are healthy.
To avoid long waits, aim to have dinner downtown around 5:30 or 6 p.m. First hang out at Bill’s Beer Garden in the parking lot of Home & Garden, which opens at 5 p.m. and has at least eight Michigan beers on tap from May through October. Try a Wolverine Amber Lager or Dragonmead. Already hungry? Nip around the corner to Mark’s Carts, a courtyard of eight mobile food vendors, and nab a wood-fired pizza or BBQ from Satchel’s cart.
For sit-down dining, try Grange Kitchen and Bar. Chef Brandon Johns will impress with a Scotch duck egg, spicy fried chickpeas or maybe his seasonal take on walleye. At Logan, you’ll find dishes like wild boar bolognese and homemade ravioli. Fighting Irish fans can toast the Wolverines’ rivals at Conor O’Neill’s, where Guinness and Harp flow on tap.
Avoiding downtown? Venture out to places with their own parking, like Zingerman’s Road House on Stadium for grass-fed beef burgers.
Day 2: Morning
Make your way to the Kerrytown Farmers Market for heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, apples, pears and other local farm goods. Arrive early and hit Zingerman’s Deli across the street for coffee and bread. Try a classic farm loaf of the Detroit Street round. Wait in long lines for sandwiches at your own peril.
A smarter choice for tailgating is to bypass the line and buy salami, corned beef, cheese, bread and the like from the deli case. It can get pricey, but look hard and you’ll find reasonably priced comestibles. If the parking and traffic is too ugly, try Morgan & York on Packard for fancy feasting.
Day 2: Afternoon and Evening
Check out the University of Michigan campus. Hang out on the “Diag,” or hit the university’s art or natural history museum with the kids. Bring or rent bikes, and you won’t have to worry about a long walk back to the car.
On game days, you can tailgate with your morning food haul. The two most popular spots are the parking lot of Pioneer High School and the University of Michigan Golf Course, both across the street from “The Big House” (i.e., the stadium).
Looking to skip the game entirely? Just want sushi? Try Totoro on S. State St. Totoro’s sushi and sashimi is exceptional for being so far from the sea. It’s also extremely well priced, and located in a great location, right in the heart of downtown and steps away from campus.
Day 3: Morning
Try one of several solid choices for breakfast or brunch before you leave town: Zingerman’s Road House, Cafe Zola or local icon the Fleetwood Diner on S. Ashley St. It’s open 24/7 and hosts many an all-nighter.
Then get on your bike again or stretch your legs with a journey along the Huron River walking/cycling paths from Gallup Park. You can also take out a canoe, kayak or pedal-boat.
No stay in a famous college town is complete without a wearable souvenir, which you can get from M-Den on Main Street, on State Street or at the Briarwood Mall. Inside tip: Don’t mention Ohio State.