Category: Michigan
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Updated

15 Really Fun Things to Do in Ann Arbor [2024]

Can you find all the fairy doors? Go Blue!
A rotating cubic structure on the University of Michigan campus called 'The Cube'

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Ann Arbor, a.k.a "A Squared", "A2", or "Tree Town" is perhaps the second most well-known city in Michigan, only behind Detroit. I myself am lucky to live only about 20 minutes away from this incredible city!

There are plenty of art-focused things to do in Ann Arbor, such as exploring Graffiti Alley, checking out the University of Michigan Museum of Art, finding all of the fairy doors, and searching for all the murals in downtown.

Foodies rejoice! Ann Arbor is the culinary culmination of cultural diversity in all of Michigan. One of my favorite restaurants in the city is an Ethopian restaurant!

College sports fans will want to check out Michigan Stadium, a.k.a 'The Big House'-- which is the largest football stadium in the world, and home to the Michigan Wolverines.

Of course, no to-do list to this college town would be complete without mentioning a visit to the University of Michigan campus. The university is one of the most prestigious public universities in the world, with many of their undergraduate and graduate programs ranking in the US News top 10.

As a Michigander who frequently visits the city, I am convinced no visit to our state should exclude Ann Arbor. From its fun scavenger hunts, emphasis on visual art, intellectual atmosphere, athletic achievements, and fantastic food, there are plenty of memorable things to do in Ann Arbor!

With that being said, I am thrilled to bring you all my personal list of the 15 best Ann Arbor attractions!

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For 2024, here are 15 really fun things to do in Ann Arbor...

01 // Locate all of the fairy doors

Fairy door in the Ann Arbor District Library. Finding all the fairy doors is one the most fun things to do in Ann Arbor.
I'll tell you where this fairy door is down below...

Easily one of the most fun things for visitors to do on a date, with children, or even by yourself-- is to locate all 14 fairy doors in downtown Ann Arbor.

As of October 2023, there are 14* fairy doors. This can change as some businesses close and thus, the doors vanish and new ones in other locations pop up in their place.

What I love about this DIY scavenger hunt is you'll have to go inside many places to find them. This isn't solely an outdoor activity!

For instance, the door pictured above? You can find this inside the Ann Arbor District Library-- in particular, in the Youth Department. The genre of bookshelf? I think it'll be obvious by the name since you're looking for a fairy door...

If you'd like my answer guide as to where all the fairy doors are, I will provide the list here.

* to my knowledge

02 // Explore Graffiti Alley

The name of the city 'Ann Arbor' spray painted in Graffiti Alley. Graffiti Alley is one of the most fun things to do in Ann Arbor.
The number of photo opportunities in this space is unimaginable.

One of the coolest and most spirited Ann Arbor attractions, not to mention one you can visit any time of day is Graffiti Alley.

For a street art lover like myself, this section of downtown was mindblowing to me and is the spot in downtown I revisit the most!

Graffiti Alley is located between E Liberty Street and E Washington Street. On E Liberty Street, the entrance is across the street from Necto nightclub.

Wildly colorful, rebellious, and thought-provoking, this artistic space is ever-evolving. This is a tremendous location to take pictures, as there are countless backdrops with vibrant colors and attention-grabbing text for travelers, bands, and artists to use.

Address: E Liberty St, across the street from Necto
Hours: 24/7

03 // Check out all the murals & public art

A mural outside the legendary music venue The Blind Pig. Searching for all the street art is one of the most fun thing to do in Ann Arbor.
A fun mural outside the legendary music venue The Blind Pig.

If you were enthralled with Graffiti Alley and want to see more eye-catching street art, well... downtown Ann Arbor has a lot of it!

I lived in downtown Ann Arbor from 2010-2012 and there were hardly any murals back then. In 2020 and 2021, the Ann Arbor Art Center crowdfunded a project where they paid artists a living wage and covered project-related expenses for these artists to add 16 murals to downtown.

There are two resources you can utilize to help you on your Ann Arbor mural scavenger hunt, which I'll describe below.

The first resource to aid you in tracking down all the downtown Ann Arbor murals is an app I think no one who adores street art should go without called CANVS Street Art. When you toggle 'Mural Hunt On', the app will alert you anytime you are walking distance from a mural in your location!

Alternatively, you can use Google Maps and type in 'A2AC Murals'.

One piece of street art that I've seen other travel bloggers and visitors take pictures near is the yellow 'ANN ARBOR' letters off Ann St and Main St.

The mural I'm pictured kneeling in front of is on the outside of the Blind Pig. It's a music venue where my all-time favorite band, Nirvana, performed at before they blew up and became world famous.

04 // Explore the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

A sculpture on the second floor of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
An artpiece on the second floor of the museum.

When I was outlining this article, I originally thought to include the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) with things you can see on the University of Michigan campus, but since it's a free museum and I've been talking about art for the last three items on this list, I felt UMMA deserved its own mention as well.

Whereas walking through Graffiti Alley and finding all the murals in downtown can be noisy, UMMA allows you to see amazing pieces of art in a quiet and peaceful environment. Plus, if the weather is chilly outside, going inside the art museum can be refreshing.

UMMA has a mezzazine, lower level, two additional floors, and some cool structures outside the museum as well. The art to see in the museum includes but is not limited to modern/comtemporary, Asian, African, photography, and European.

As mentioned earlier, the art museum is free admission for everyone-- not just UofM students or residents of Ann Arbor.

Address: 525 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Hours: M (closed), T, W 11:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m, Th, F 10:00 a.m - 8:00 p.m, S, Su 11:00 a.m - 8:00 p.m.

05 // Check out the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Second floor of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.
A colorful exhibit entitled "The Room of Mysteries" on the museum's second floor.

Aside from UMMA, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is another free museum open to the public, though donations are welcome.

This museum is housed within one of the most gorgeous buildings on the University of Michigan campus. I'm no expert on the style of architecture but the outside of the museum is all stone.

For a fairly small museum, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology contains over 100,000+ artifacts, a majority of them being from ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, and the Middle East.

Address: 434 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Hours: T-F 9:00 a.m - 4:00 p.m, S-Su 1:00 p.m - 4:00 p.m, M closed

06 // See the forever spinning giant cube

The forever spinning structure known as 'The Cube' on the University of Michigan campus. Seeing The Cube is one of the most fun things to do in Ann Arbor!
It is possible to stop the cube from spinning if you hold it!

One of the most fun photo opportunities for tourists to Ann Arbor is the giant rotating cube sculpture which spins one of its corners. Few know that the cubic structure actually does have a name: Endover, though it is colloquially referred to by most as 'The Cube'.

If you are on State Street, The Cube is to the left of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in the back and also very close to the Michigan Union.

Travelers who have been to New York City may have seen a similar looking cube structure in East Village. This is no coincidence as both cubes were designed by the same sculptor, a man by the name of Tony Rosenthal.

Even though the cube is quite heavy, it is rather easy to stop it from spinning if you grab one of its corners or edges.

Address: Richard L Kennedy Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Hours: 24/7

07 // Tour the University of Michigan campus

The University of Michigan Law School nearby the Hill Auditorium.
Part of the University of Michigan Law School.

Albeit being a public unversity, the University of Michigan is regarded as a "public Ivy" due to many of its undergraduate and graduate programs ranking in the US News Top 10. In 2023, the university had an acceptance rate as low as 20%.

You can feel the aura of intellectualism walking on the university's beautiful campus. From downtown, go on a walk along 'The Diag', located on the university's central campus. In the center of The Diag is a large brass 'M'. Legend has it that if a new student steps on the 'M' before taking their first exam, they'll fail it!

My favorite school on the campus to explore, by far, is the law school. It looks more like an Ivy League campus or a set straight out of Harry Potter. Also, the Lawyers' Club is one of the more serene spaces for students to study. It's spacious and especially aesthetically pleasing.

Other cool buildings to see on the campus are the Burton Memorial Tower (the clock tower), the Michigan Stadium (nicknamed 'The Big House' and is the largest college football stadium in the U.S)-- where the Michigan Wolverines play, the Hatcher Graduate Library (cool mural in there!), the Hill Auditorium, and the Michigan Union.

Address: 500 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Hours: Outdoor campus 24/7. Schools & buildings will have varying hours.

08 // Go to Kerrytown

A street in Kerrytown in Ann Arbor. One of the most popular events in Kerry is the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.
Kerrytown is a charming neighborhood of Ann Arbor.

Kerrytown is a small neighborhood located in the historic district nearby downtown.

This charming neighborhood of Ann Arbor hosts an array of delightful local businesses. The most notable of these businesses would have to be the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and Zingerman's Delicatessen-- a deli that has caught the attention of national periodicals such as the Washington Post and New York Times.

Like many major cities, Ann Arbor is not a city one should see from the window of a car but, rather, on foot. Although, if walking long distances is a challenge, Ann Arbor does stand out amongst other Michigan cities for having public transportation. You can use Ann Arbor's bus system, The Ride, to get to Kerrytown.

Address: 407 N 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (address for Kerrytown Market)

09 // Head down Nickels Arcade

Inside Nickels Arcade in downtown Ann Arbor.
Inside Nickels Arcade.

Nickels Arcade is a beautiful indoor shopping mall in downtown with a timeless look thanks to its mosaic tiles. The mall is one long corridor with a high ceiling housed between Maynard Street and State Street.

Nickels Arcade has been the home of many businesses for over 100 years. Walk down the corridor and check out who's there. Even if you don't pop in a single store, the mall itself has a timeless aesthetic that'll make you stop and gaze.

Address: 326 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: M-F 7:00 a.m - 7:45 p.m, S 9:00 a.m - 6:00 p.m, Su 24 hours

10 // See an indie film at the Michigan (or State) Theater

The entrance of the Michigan Theater.
The Michigan Theater.

When it comes to showing films, the Michigan Theater specializes in showing independent, foreign, and classic cinema. If you've ever thought something like, "I wish I could have seen The Empire Strikes Back in theaters", well... the Michigan Theater will do a fantastic job of re-creating that experience for you!

The other thing that is super cool about the Michigan Theater is its use of a restored organ from the 1920s. Film screenings and other live events hosted at the theater are often preluded by an organist playing music on the vintage instrument. Much more memorable than a slideshow of film trivia!

As hinted at earlier, the Michigan Theater also hosts other live events besides film screenings, such as lectures and live music performances.

The State Theater, which is located very close to the Michigan Theater, is under the same organization as the Michigan Theater. Address: 603 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

11 // Nerd out at Vault of Midnight

Outside the entrance to Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor.
Outside the entrance to Vault of Midnight.

I happened to be re-visiting Ann Arbor on Saturday May 6 when Vault of Midnight was hosting Free Comic Book Day.

Vault of Midnight is an awesome comic store with a great selection of comics, graphic novels, board games, action figures, and other related merchandise. What I feel is especially worth checking out is their basement level. The lower level of the store has an extensive archive of much older editions of comic books.

Vault of Midnight also has locations in Detroit and Grand Rapids!

Address: 219 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: Su-Th 11:00 a.m - 8:00 p.m, F-S 11:00 a.m - 10:00 p.m.

12 // Dine at some really amazing restaurants

Outside the entrance to an Indian restaurant, Shalimar, in downtown.
An award-winning Indian restaurant, Shalimar.

Ann Arbor is home to many of Michigan's finest eateries. Traveling through Ann Arbor without eating at one of the many amazing restaurants would be a pity.

Below is a personal pick of my favorite restaurants in the city.

Ever have Ethopian food? If not, then you should definitely try The Blue Nile. Dining here may be one of the most unique and fun restaurant experiences of your life! No silverware here-- you consume most of the food scooping it up with bread (called injera there).

Big sushi fan like I am? I've recommended sushi places before and I'm doing it here too: for the freshest sushi I've had thus far in Michigan, go to Sadako.

Seafood fan? Go to the Gandy Dancer. The building alone is enchanting to look at. For incredible Indian food, can't go wrong with Shalimar. Looking for a 24 hour diner? Go to the Fleetwood Diner.

Looking for a good burger? Go to Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger. Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger is Ann Arbor's oldest hamburger restauraunt, having been open since 1953! Famous Food Network personality Guy Fieri was filmed dining at this establishment.

For Mexican food, go to Tios Mexican Cafe and Tequila Bar. One of their nacho dishes was featured in an episode of Man V. Food.

If the restaurants in Ann Arbor are out of your budget, you can find some fast food options in the Michigan Union. There is a Subway, Qdoba, and a Panda Express there.

13 // Pinball Pete's

Outside the entrance to Pinball Pete's.
Entrance to Pinball Pete's.

Located off University Ave, one of the most lively streets in downtown Ann Arbor and on the university's central campus, Pinball Pete's is an Ann Arbor staple that's entertained generations of college students and visitors. It is an especially popular nighttime attraction.

While Pinball Pete's is something that UofM student's can't say is solely their own (there is also a location in East Lansing, where Michigan State University is), it doesn't deter from the enjoyment. It's an arcade that's open to midnight or 2am (depending on the day) where people can go to play pinball and other arcade games.

It's a simple place with great atmosphere and is a fun way to wrap up a night of activities in downtown Ann Arbor!

Address: 1214 S University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: Su-Th 12:00 p.m - 12:00 a.m, F, S 12:00 p.m - 2:00 a.m.

14 // Matthaei Botanical Gardens and The Arb

Fall colors on a trail at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor.
Fall in Ann Arbor is a beautiful time of year. Source: Shutterstock

Southeastern Michigan is not exactly a spot renowned for natural beauty, as much of the land is rather flat. Thus, an opportunity to see anything involving nature is really special!

If you're looking to step briefly outside the city, then add a trip to Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, or as locals call it, 'The Arb', to your itinerary! The land spans 123 acres.

For an opportunity to do some hiking, Matthaei Botanical Gardens has a 4.3 mile long trail.

In my opinion, the best time of year to visit Nichols Arbortetum is the fall.

One slight drawback to visiting The Arb is the lack of public parking. Visitors who drive themselves should park at the University of Michigan blue lot M28 on Washington Heights.

If you don't want to drive yourself, this is where using Ann Arbor's public transportation, The Ride, will come in handy! If you start at Blake Transit Center in downtown, catch the 23 bus, and get off at Markley Hall. From this stop, it is only a 2 minute walk to reach The Arb.

Address: 1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: 8:00 a.m - 8:00 p.m.

15 // Stand besides people-sized carrots

Human sized carrots at The Food Gatherers food bank in Ann Arbor.
Spoiler alert: these carrots are statues, not actual carrots. Darn.

I'm wrapping up my list of really fun things to do in Ann Arbor with an attraction that not even some locals of Ann Arbor know about! That's right-- you as a traveler are going to know of something fun to do that may even impress someone who lives here!

About 10-20 minutes outside downtown is a food bank called Food Gatherers where you can see carrots (well, carrot statues) the size of people! Definitely makes for a fun photo opportunity!

Address: 1 Carrot Way, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Hours: M-F 9:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m, S, Su closed

Hononary mention: Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti, often referred to as 'Ypsi' by Michiganders, is a city neighboring Ann Arbor. It is about a 20 minute drive from Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor's bus system, The Ride, also goes into Ypsilanti.

Ypsilanti has an escape room called Decode, which was rated the second best escape room in the country! It is located at 16 N Washington St.

One funny thing to see in Ypsilanti is the water tower at Eastern Michigan University. The tower's phallic shape is amusing and can make for a funny picture.

Hononary mention: Huron River

While not a favorite of mine, I feel compelled to mention that many other people who reside in Ann Arbor, as well as much of metro Detroit, enjoy going to the Huron River.

You can rent kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, and tubes to use on the river.

The Huron River Water Trail is a staple. It is 104 miles long.

For those desiring some outdoor activities and a break from the traffic and activity of downtown, the Huron River and the Huron River Water Trail is a nearby escape from it.

Be forewarned-- parking can be tough to come by at the Huron River.

Where are all the fairy doors?

The Fairy Door outside Hidden King Cafe & Bar in downtown Ann Arbor.
Another fairy door one can find outside in downtown Ann Arbor.

Here is my guide to the locations of all the fairy doors as of May 2023:

1. The Ann Arbor District Library (the first door whose picture I posted), 2. The Hidden King Cafe & Bar (pictured above), 3. The Michigan Theater 4. The Ark 5. Red Shoes 6. Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea 7. Found Gallery 8. Mott Children's Hospital 9. Nicola's Books. 10. The Himalayan Bazaar 11. Blank State Creamery 12. Shinola 13. The Fairy Village 14. FordLabs

Find any that I missed?? Contact me so I can keep my article updated!

What is interesting about Ann Arbor?

Ann Arbor is a forward-thinking city with some notable accolades such as having the country's largest football stadium (the Big House), being the most educated city in the country, and being home to the University of Michigan. Every April, Ann Arbor hosts Hash Bash, an outdoor event celebrating use of marijuana, and every summer, hosts the largest art festival in the nation.

Ann Arbor also annually hosts the Ann Arbor Film Festival-- one of the largest experimental film festivals in the country.

Is Ann Arbor a foodie town?

Absolutely! The wide spectrum of culinary diversity and top-tier quality of the food make Ann Arbor a must-visit for foodies. Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, the Gandy Dancer, Shalimar, Tios, and the Blue Nile are some of Ann Arbor's best restaurants for foodies.

How do you spend an afternoon in Ann Arbor?

If you have only an afternoon to spend in Ann Arbor, then I would strongly advise to check out Graffiti Alley, the University of Michigan campus, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and have a meal at one of Ann Arbor's fine restaurants, as these attractions are all easily walking distance from one another.

For an outdoors-focused afternoon, exploring the Huron River Water Trail, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and the Arb are all excellent choices!

Things to do in Ann Arbor at night

For fun things to do in Ann Arbor at night, go to Graffiti Alley, as it is free and open 24/7. Being a college town, it is easy to go barhopping in downtown. If you are into nightclubs, check out Necto. Pinball Pete's is open to 2am on some nights and for food options, the Fleetwood Diner is open 24 hours a day.

Things to do in Ann Arbor for couples

Ann Arbor is an amazing city to date in! Couples should definitely look for all the fairy doors together. Taking a scenic walk through Nichols Arboretum is always terrific for those on a date. Ann Arbor has plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating and scenery ideal for couples. Pinball Pete's is fun for couples to playfully compete against one another.

A trip to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market is another great idea for couples who enjoy cooking together.

Couples who enjoy doing outdoor activities on the water will be fond of the Huron River Water Trail. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats there.

Conclusion

To anyone who's on an adventure exploring Michigan, Ann Arbor is definitely a must-see! It is especially convenient that Ann Arbor is only about 45 minutes away from Detroit.

From the city's stellar food options, the variety of public art, intellectual spirit, and youthful energy, Ann Arbor is bound to be one of the most memorable places you'll see when you explore Michigan (and even the entire country!).

I hope you have enjoyed my personal list of 15 really fun things to do in Ann Arbor! I feel lucky to live close to such an extraordinary city.


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