15 Things to Do in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Jessica Peterson

15 Things to Do in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Having grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I love college towns. It still came as a surprise how quickly I fell in love with Ann Arbor, Michigan. Home of the University of Michigan, this historically-preserved walking town has a seemingly endless supply of hip coffee shops, quirky specialty stores, and yes, turn-of-the-century architecture. I visited most of the recommended spots below and sourced a few more from two Ann Arbor residents and frequent patrons, my sister- and brother-in-law.

TeaHaus

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TeaHaus serves upscale teas and food in a coffee shop setting. The most beautiful aromas waft through the two-room cafe and shop in Ann Arbor’s charming downtown. More than 170 tea tins line the wall and customers are welcome to smell as many as it takes to choose the right tea for the day. I chose a complex and spicy Earl Grey, while the Hubs chose an Irish breakfast tea.

Owner Lisa McDonald is a font of information, not just about her business but about the entire tea process, from the leaves to the brewing. McDonald is a tea sommellier and it shows in her menu. According to McDonald, TeaHaus is the only one in the U.S. to test all its tea in Germany as certified organic. Germany has the highest standards of quality control which is why all TeaHaus product comes from there.

You can expect gluten-free and vegan selections and tea incorporated into the food. A full English tea is a three-tiered service brought out to each table already set with white china and linens. It includes all the tea you can drink and five finger sandwiches (savories), two scones with jam, jellies, curd, clotted cream, and three desserts. I highly recommend this!

Nickels Arcade

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A single strip of shops frames this 1918 structure, which illustrates just how charming Ann Abor is.

Aventura

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Chic tapas restaurant offers al fresco dining, happy hour food and drink specials, and sizzling plates of Spanish delicacies. What more could you ask for? I highly recommend the octopus and the stuffed peppers with a glass of sangria.

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Ann Arbor Farmers Market

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Sample coconut-infused honey from the honey stand, shop for handmade wool hats, or pick up locally grown produce — it’s all part of the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in historic Kerrytown.

Art Deco Theaters

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Ann Arbor boasts not one, but two Art Deco theatres — State Theatre and Michigan Theatre — which is half of why I love this historic and quaint college town.

Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea

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Open and airy coffee shop departs from the rest by serving the French Vietnamese Cafe Au Lait — espresso with condensed milk. Trust me, it’s good. Exposed brick interiors and plenty of seating make this a popular hangout for college kids downtown.

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Four Directions

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This upscale hippie jewelry shop sells precious gems. I picked up an amber pie-shaped ring.

Rock Paper Scissors Shop

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Specialty paper, stationary, and gift shop may seem like a quick stop, but trust me, it’s easy to get lost and hard to pull yourself away. Snarky greeting cards alone will detain you.

Ann Arbor Art Fair

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Established in 1960, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is the original of the now four award-winning Ann Arbor Art Fairs. Together, the fairs attract over 500,000 attendees from across the nation.  The Original Fair was named the Number One Art Fair in the country by AmericanStyle magazine readers survey (October 2004) and has made the Top Ten Fairs and Festivals list every year since.

Mighty Good Coffee Shop

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Choose how you want the coffee made, it’s roasted on site. Pick the brand then pick the method of brewing.

More Things to Eat, See & Do in Ann Arbor

The Blue Nile

Ethiopian food you eat with your hands. Go there for the live jazz on Saturday nights.

Law Quad

Cool place to admire architecture, walk, or people watch, this quadrangle of English gothic architecture dates to 1920-30’s.

The Earl

Get there before 5:30 p.m. for happy hour during week and get half off drinks and steamed mussels for $2.75 for first plate, then $3.75 each additional plate.

The Arboretum

Ann Arbor’s Central Park is a must-see. Go there for walking trails, a peony garden, and grassy knolls which are perfect for picnicking.

Pacific Rim

Popular Asian fusion restaurant serves a flight of Asian-themed creme brûlée in raspberry, ginger, and green tea.

What’s your favorite college town?

Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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  • I think I’d have gone for a fruit tea if they were on the menu, if not a traditional Irish tea. Being English I love a traditional English tea with Scones, jam and creme so if I was homesick in Ann Arbor I’d go straight to the Teahaus. This looks like a fun town to spend a couple of days in.

  • I’ve not been to Michigan before but I do love historical places you can wander around – Ann Arbor clearly hits the spot. And as Brit- a place for tea and cake is always welcome too! My favourite would be clotted cream and scones!!

  • TeaHaus does look yummy!!! I think I’d try the Blue Nile as well – I don’t think I’ve ever tried Ethiopian food!!! I’d love to visit Rock Paper Scissors too! I’m sure I’ll get too excited there!

  • Ann Arbor was the setting of a book series I used to read as a teenager, so I’ve always wondered at the back of my mind if there’s anything to do there! Seems like there’s quite a lot! I’m a sucker for pretty paper and stationery and easily get stuck in those kind of shops for hours on end, so I think Rock Paper Scissors Shop would have to be a must if I ever visit.

  • Fairytale Studios

    The pictures made my mouth water. I definitely want to visit Rock Paper Scissors and buy so much from there. Art fairs have always been my favorite. Thanks for a perfect list of places to visit.

  • Jean Bean

    I’d never consider going to Ann Arbor or even Michigan! Now I’m prepared to give it a go when I next return to the States. The food here looks so tempting. I’d be tempted to spend a whole afternoon hiding from the world in the Teahaus!

  • Andrea Soranidis

    I’ve never been to Michigan before, but being a foodie this sounds a perfect pace to visit!

  • Have never been to Michigan before but the place looks beautiful. Would love to visit someday especially the art deco theatres and food scene looks quite inviting. Good to know that vegan selection with tea is also served in cafes 🙂

  • Kathy James

    I love the sound of Four Directions. It sounds like my type of shop.
    I’m also one for visiting nice little coffee shops. I always need to get my coffee fix in the morning and it is a wonderful place to hang out and people watch.
    I haven’t been to Michigan but I know where to head when I do. Thank you

    • Yeah, Ann Arbor is pretty special and you can spend weeks there are not explore all the shops and restaurants.