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An essential guide to the 2018 Ann Arbor Art Fair

From July 19-22, event attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors

Credit: Ann Arbor Art Fair
Credit: Ann Arbor Art Fair

ANN ARBOR – The Ann Arbor Art Fair is upon us.

If you're planning on coming to town for the four-day event Thursday through Sunday, here are a few things you might want to consider. 

Whether you're looking for tips on where to park, how to navigate 1,000+ artists' booths or which activities your kids will most enjoy, we've got you covered.

Getting around

We're just going to say it. Parking near the fair can be difficult to find, since much of the downtown is closed to traffic (30 city blocks, to be exact).

We will be posting real-time updates on best places to park, but in the meantime, have a look at this great parking guide Matt put together. He explains which garages will be open and how the shuttle systems work.


(Credit: Ann Arbor Art Fair)

As you can see above, the fair is split into four separate fairs (with The Guild having two locations downtown). The blue squares with 'P' in the middle denote public parking lots where you can park for the day for $15, and $7 after 5 p.m.

Navigating the fair 

With over 1,000 artists to see, the fair has introduced a new wayfinding system this year to help you find each artist's location ahead of time.

So if there are some artists you know you want to visit, be sure to take down their respective booth IDs before you arrive.


(Credit: Ann Arbor Art Fair)

How it works:

Two letters at the beginning of the booth ID represent the street the artist is located on, and the following number represents which block.

For example, featured artist Alann J. Boatright of the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair (The Guild) is in the 200 block of Main Street, giving him a Booth ID of MN237.

The complete list of street names and their abbreviations:

CH = Church Street
EU = E. University Avenue
IN = Ingalls Mall
LI = Liberty Street
MA = Maynard Street
MN = Main Street
NU = N. University Avenue
ST = State Street
SU = S. University Avenue
TH = Thompson Street
WA = Washington Street
WI = William Street

Discover artists here.

Family-friendly activities 

Since the fair is attended by people of all ages, it has a great lineup of activities for families. 

Each day, there will be a variety of artist workshops and demonstrations. From watching Guild members throw clay on pottery wheels to learning the art of silk screening and tapestry-making, there is something that is sure to catch your eye.

One highlight we recommend checking out: Chalk the Walk with local artist David Zinn. Known for his whimsical characters he leaves on the streets and building walls downtown, globally recognized Zinn will be working on an original street art piece on Thursday and Sunday from 1-3 p.m.

It's a great chance to see him in action since he tends to leave his art without a trace!

Want to see the full schedule of events? Check out Matt's awesome all-ages activities guide here.

Live music stages

In addition to award-winning art and endless activities, music keeps the festival pulsing.

Three live stages will feature everything from folk and classical to jazz and Americana.


Jared Deck and the Travelers will be performing on The Ark Stage Friday (Photo: Jared Deck Music)

Check out the complete lineup of artists here.

Some general advice

We've been speaking a lot to people who run the fair over the last couple of months. 

Here are their best tips:

Don't try and do it all in one day. The fair spans 30 city blocks and, if you're like us, you'll want to stop by as many booths as you can. If possible, split your time at the fair into two days. 

Wear comfortable shoes and dress accordingly. While Art Fair is known for being hot, it also frequently rains. And with scattered thunderstorms in the forecast this weekend, we recommend bringing an umbrella or poncho just in case. As mentioned, comfortable shoes are a must. It's a lot of walking and standing on pavement -- a good walking shoe can make all the difference. Wear breathable clothes in case it gets hot. And drink lots and lots of water.

Eat a good breakfast. There's a reason people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Take time to rest and cool off. It's easy to over-exert yourself, especially at such a large event. Plan times to take a break to drink, eat a meal and refuel. Local restaurants are great places to sample and enjoy some air conditioning. Did we mention drink water?

Mornings are the busiest times. You know the saying, "get there early to beat the crowds"? Not at Art Fair. We've been told buyers hit the fair at 10 a.m. when it opens to get the best selection of art. So if you're there to browse and take it easy, you might want to come later in the day. Although it's hard to predict lulls, evenings can be slower (and cooler). 

Make it a date night. If you're not keen on doing Art Fair by day, why not by night? Having a nice dinner at a local restaurant and then browsing the fair and music stages until closing is a great way to experience all the fair has to offer. It's open until 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and until 6 p.m. on Sunday.

For more up-to-date information, check out our Art Fair page.

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