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Around Ann Arbor: Winter fun on University of Michigan’s campus

Visitors come face-to-face with a real wolverine in the new Exploring Michigan gallery at U-M's Museum of Natural History which showcases the state’s geologic formations and dynamic ecosystems.
Visitors come face-to-face with a real wolverine in the new Exploring Michigan gallery at U-M's Museum of Natural History which showcases the state’s geologic formations and dynamic ecosystems. (LEISA THOMPSON)

ANN ARBOR – The holiday season has come and gone, but winter is only beginning here in Ann Arbor.

Despite the gloomier forecast, there are still plenty of things to do around the University of Michigan campus when it’s chilly outside. Here are a few of our favorites:

Catch a Flick

Curl up in a chair with some popcorn and satisfy your inner film buff at the State Theatre and the Michigan Theater. Just steps away from the Diag, these historic cinema houses offer an eclectic mix of big blockbusters and smaller indie and art house films 365 days a year, and they regularly re-screen beloved classic films.

Extra points for ambiance all around – there’s just something magical about seeing a movie in a glamorous vintage theater. There are discounts for matinees, students, seniors, and members, and accessibility for all is a priority.

Bone Up on History

The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History opened its spectacular new facility in the Biological Sciences building in April 2019, and premiered additional new exhibits in November 2019. Travel through time and learn about the natural wonders around us as you peruse the world-class natural science collections the museum has on hand.

Those in the know make a point to catch a show in the Planetarium and Dome Theater, or to watch the researchers at work in the visible labs. Admission is free to all.

Crack a Book

Not only are the University of Michigan museums free and open to the public, but most libraries are as well!

You’ll find books, maps, documents and so much more throughout the many libraries across campus. The Special Collections Library within the Hatcher Graduate Library has some of the most unique and specialized materials you’re likely to find – among others, you can find the renowned collection of Papyrology, a James Beard commended collection of American Culinary history from the 16th century to today, a vast collection of Asian literature, and histories of astronomy, transportation, and medicine (and much more).

Be sure to visit the Computer and Video Game Archive in the Duderstadt Center, where you can play all sorts of computer and video games dating from the 1970’s to the present. Most libraries also maintain a regular calendar of special events that invite you to take a deeper dive into the treasures within.

Ann Arbor is also home to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, where you can pass a few hours learning about United States History in the 1970′s through the lens of the Gerald Ford Administration. Be sure to see their rotating special exhibits and peek into President Ford’s former local office.

Sip a Toasty Beverage

Across Ann Arbor there are plenty of cozy coffee and tea shops ready to warm you up with a delightful drink, and many of them are located right on campus. For a burst of springtime color, try the steel-blue Butterfly Pea Flower Latte at lab café in the State Street District, or pop into the petit Comet Coffee café inside of Nickels Arcade for a quick espresso on-the-go or a sumptuous warm drinking chocolate.

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Nice to see you all again! 📸@scatterbrainjames

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Play a Mean Pinball

Descend the stairs at Pinball Pete’s arcade and you’ll enter a world of wonder. With rows and rows of pinball machines as well as classic and new arcade and video games from Skee-Ball to Time Crisis, there are hours of fun to be had at this local campus staple.

Play until you have a stack of tickets big enough for a teddy bear, or go for the pure pinball experience – Pinball Pete’s is a multicolor fun extravaganza that will banish the wintertime blues. A bonus: they’re open ‘til 2 a.m. every night!

Try That Triple Axel

Pretend you’re the Olympian of your dreams as you twirl around – or gingerly and slowly scoot – upon the ice during open skate at Yost Ice Arena. Concessions are available and skates can be rented, so make an afternoon of it on the rink. Make sure to watch out for that Zamboni!

Not a skater? Catch a University of Michigan Men’s Ice Hockey game and cheer on the boys in Maize and Blue!

Find Peace Amongst Plants

If you find yourself longing for lush springtime greenery, head for the oasis at the Michigan Medicine Cardiovascular Center’s indoor healing garden. Relax and enjoy the serenity amongst the beautiful plants and listen to babbling waterfalls, perhaps with a good book.

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Coffee break

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The conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens is also open during the wintertime. Meander amongst the cacti and desert plants or sweat it out with the orchids, and you’ll soon forget there is even such a thing as snow. Admission is always free.

Bring the Heat

Cuddle up beside a roaring fireplace and pretend you’re a toasty, toasty marshmallow at the Trotter Multicultural Center or the Chrysler Center on North Campus. Be sure to call ahead to see if the fire is burning!

If you’re looking for a more intense heat, swing by the RecSports buildings on Central Campus and North Campus and have a good shvitz in the saunas. Be sure to check out their many indoor recreation options, including racquetball, volleyball, and swimming, or head to the indoor track for a run! Or, for something new, try out Wheelchair Basketball, open to athletes of any ability.

U-M students get in free, and guests can buy a membership, a day pass, or a punch card.

This story was sponsored by Destination Ann Arbor.