ANN ARBOR - For first-time visitors to Ann Arbor, it can be difficult to choose what to do. This bustling college town has seemingly endless shops, restaurants and events to experience.
Our readers suggested some of their favorite spots below (included are some of ours, too):
1. Zingerman's Deli
If you have ever asked someone where to eat in Ann Arbor, this has likely been the answer. The deli, which has enjoyed visitors from former President Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey, has been in business for almost 40 years.
Not only are their signature sandwiches delicious, but the process of ordering from that massive menu on the wall to gleefully raising your hand when you hear your name called is an experience in and of itself. My advice? Get the salty pickle.
2. The Arb
You don't have to be an outdoor enthusiast to enjoy the Nichols Arboretum, or as locals call it, "The Arb." Its 123 acres on University of Michigan's campus are a welcome escape from campus and Ann Arbor's busy downtown.
Highlights include miles of trails, beautiful river paths and a massive open field. Seasonal events like the blooming of the peony garden and Shakespeare in the Arb are a must if you're in town.
3. Ann Arbor Farmers Market
The Farmers Market is, in many ways, the heart of the town. With a year-round Saturday market and the addition of Wednesdays during warmer months, this spot keeps Kerrytown bustling. Supporting local farmers is an ethos for Ann Arborites, and the conversations you'll have with local producers are just as quality as the produce they sell.
During the summer, the Farmers Market holds Food Truck Rallies on the first Wednesday of each month. In the wintertime, it is the epicenter of Kindlefest, where vendors, carolers and traditional Scandinavian glögg wine are enjoyed by all.
4. Sunday Artisan Market
Since 1991, local artisans have been selling their works every Sunday from April to Christmas at the Farmers Market. Expect to find beautiful creations, from gorgeous woodworks to handcrafted soaps. The artist is the seller, so don't be shy and ask about how items that you really love were created. Enjoy food, live entertainment and artist demos at this one-of-a-kind market.
5. Grab a drink
Ann Arbor has such a vast array of bars, there really is something for everyone.
During the warmer months, enjoy outdoor spots like Bill's Beer Garden and The Beer Grotto. The patio at Dominick's is also a local favorite for sipping margaritas and sangria from mason jars with big groups of friends.
If you're more into wine, VinBar and Vinology are popular places to sit and have a glass (or three).
Want to try something totally new? Blom Meadworks is one of the newer bars in town. They brew dry, sparkling meads (honey wine) and ciders on site using only locally-sourced ingredients. My personal favorite is their Apple Cyser: a blend of mead and cider.
6. See a game at The Big House
This is a must. Even if you're not the world's biggest football fan, there is something to say for 100,000+ people gathering to watch their favorite team in the largest football stadium in the U.S.
Did you know that an estimated 50,000-100,000 people come for the tailgate only? The tradition is so popular, some people only come for the party. We recommend doing both and getting the full experience. By the end of the day, you'll know Michigan's fight song by heart.
7. Art Fair
You have to do Art Fair at least once.
Half a million people come to Ann Arbor for the four-day event in mid-July to browse and buy art from more than 1,000 artists.
To say it's massive is an understatement. It takes over 30 city blocks; i.e. the entire downtown area. Enjoy strolling through each of the four fairs (that's right, it's actually four fairs rolled into one) and the live music stages, kids activity area and general summer fanfare at the larger-than-life event.
8. See a show at The Ark
There's seeing live music and then there's seeing live music at The Ark.
It is a beloved Ann Arbor institution that's run by a small staff and a fleet of devoted local volunteers with a commitment to preserving live folk music. The venue is intimate and seats 400, with no audience member more than 50 feet from the stage.
I recently went to see singer-songwriter Lori McKenna there and beyond the in-your-living room atmosphere, I was shocked by the absence of something else: cellphones. That's right, people just taking in the moment and listening to great live music. Do you need any more convincing?
9. Festivals, festivals, festivals
This town has festivals year-round. There's always something going on.
Some highlights: The Ann Arbor Folk Festival (put on by The Ark) in January, FoolMoon and FestiFools in April, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival in June and July, and Dancing in the Streets and the Kerrytown BookFest in September.
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