We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
Ann Arbor, MI
wDriving a little less than six hours north of Charleston brings you to beautiful and sophisticated Ann Arbor, Michigan. This sassy little college town, known for the prestigious University of Michigan, grows by 50,000 when school is in session. Besides typical college town finds, you will have great outdoor venues, visually stunning gardens, world-class museums, and markets to explore as you learn more about this Midwest favorite.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN ANN ARBOR
The University of Michigan’s campus is a beautiful one, with buildings scattered throughout the walkable downtown. Listen to the University of Michigan’s bell tower, a 53-bell carillon that chimes every quarter-hour and see “The Big House,” Michigan’s stadium that can hold nearly 110,000 guests. The museums on campus are free to visit, including the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, chock full of treasures, plus a planetarium and butterfly garden.
While downtown, stroll through Nichols Arcade, circa 1918, a covered shopping district with great photo-ops. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Two great outdoor attractions are the Matthaei Botanical Gardens (namely the peony garden) and Nichol’s Arboretum, both perfect for a long walk, hike, birdwatching, or admiring the stunning flowers and trees. You’ll have fantastic views from the conservatory, too. Ann Arbor is plentiful with high-end shops and a few bookstores should not be missed.
The Ann Arbor Farmers Market, in Kerrytown, is a year-round attraction featuring locally made and sourced products, art, flowers, and pastries. Beside it sits the Kerrytown Market & Shops, a spectacular indoor venue to shop for groceries and upscale packaged goods and explore locally-owned businesses. You’ll find spices, wine, yarn, oils & vinegar, and 16 Hands craft shop, and several others.
Kids will love Mudpuddle Toys, a treasure trove for creative kid’s toys. They will also appreciate the Ann Arbor Hand’s On Museum (science, technology, art, math, and engineering, not just for kids) and The Petting Farms, with cows, ducks, goats, llamas, peacocks, and horses.
Ann Arbor pays tribute to former 38th US President Gerard R. Ford at his namesake Presidential Library, found on the north campus of the University of Michigan.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Ann Arbor has a trendy food scene, and though you won’t even make a dent in them with only a weekend visit. My recommendation is to go casual for pepperoni bites or $7 burgers with $3 fries (and cheese sauce) during happy hour at award-winning TopCat, featuring 100 beers on tap. Next door, Knight’s Steakhouse is an Ann Arbor favorite, with highly recommended black Angus beef steaks, buttermilk fried chicken, and gourmet burgers. Don’t miss the famous super-sized cocktails. Of course, the hotspot in town tends to be Mani Osteria and Bar, where wood-fired pizzas and upscale salads draw a considerable college and local scene daily and nightly.
Finish off any meal with a tasty treat from Michigan Creamery, serving up Michigan made ice cream and frozen yogurt with flavors such as Wolverine Tracks, Coffee Mocha Chip, and Michigan Pot Hole.
Still, Ann Arbor’s most famous foodie address is Zingerman’s Deli, named one of the top ten delicatessens in the country on countless lists. The packed-with-meat Reuben is the best you’ll ever taste. The wait is long, but it is worth it.
Finally, you’re in Michigan, which by today’s standards translates to “excellent beer”. You can do just that at Jolly Pumpkin Brewery. Try the Rojzilla, a sour ale, and pair your delicious brew with candied Brussels sprouts or red chicken nachos.
WHERE TO STAY IN ANN ARBOR
Graduate Ann Arbor is one of the city’s most stylish and comfortable hotels for your visit. The lobby resembles a prestigious library, and rooms are the same, with dark walls, subtle plaid fabrics, a 24-hour fitness center, and TV stands that mimic a card catalog. Also in the lobby is a 40-foot communal table you will be itching to work from. The walls of The Graduate are lined with impressive commissioned murals and manifestos that are great for conversation. They also offer complimentary bike rentals and are pet-friendly.
Another great place to stay is the Bell Tower Hotel, a local name with a convenient location, free hot breakfast buffet, and WiFi. And always, both the Sonesta ES Suites and TownePlace Suites Ann Arbor are safe choices with comfortable and affordable rooms.
ANN ARBOR: MUCH MORE THAN A COLLEGE TOWN
Ann Arbor is a charming city with a lively spirit, impressive beer and food scene, free museums, abundant outdoor attractions, and top-notch sporting events. Have a great time. Go Blue!