Category: Michigan
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Updated

[2024] Is Ann Arbor Worth Visiting? A Frequent Traveler Gives His Opinion.

The city is very safe, near a major airport, and most of the best things to do are free!
Author standing in Graffiti Alley in downtown Ann Arbor.

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Ann Arbor has a population of 119,570 and is easily one of the most safe cities to visit in Michigan.

From Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, the largest international airport in Michigan, Ann Arbor is only about a 35 minute drive.

Museums like the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology are free. Graffiti Alley, downtown Ann Arbor's largest public art project, is open 24/7 and free to walk through. Despite the city's high cost of living, there is a lot of free stuff for tourists to do.

If you visit Detroit and still have a day or two to spare for your Michigan adventure, then definitely come to Ann Arbor!

As someone who visits this legendary college town frequently and has traveled to major cities all over the United States, I am delighted to provide you 5 more reasons why Ann Arbor is worth visiting in 2024!

IN THIS ARTICLE...

Is Ann Arbor worth visiting in 2024? Yes! Here is why...

Ann Arbor has the best food scene in metro Detroit

Entrance to Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor.
Entrance to the Blue Nile, one of Ann Arbor's most unique restaurants!

It's funny that one of my best arguments for visiting Ann Arbor is that many of the things to do in the city are free and then I mention restaurants, which would not be free!

But you know what? After finding all the fairy doors in downtown, exploring Graffit Alley, getting a picture by 'The Cube', and checking out the free art museum, you're going to need to eat!

Detroit is the best place to get some prime Detroit-style pizza, coney dogs, and the city may have been the birthplace of Superman ice cream. Heck, Detroit has a pretty good food scene overall, but Ann Arbor has the Motor City beat on food!

Ann Arbor is a city for foodies.

Entrance to Shalimar, one of the amazing Indian restaurants you can dine at when you visit Ann Arbor.
Shalimar, off Main Street in downtown. I used to eat here so much when I was in college.

Some nationalities for cuisine you'll find in Ann Arbor are Ethiopian, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Middle Eastern.

For foodies and non-foodies, make it a point to eat at Zingerman's Deli. The establishment is one of Ann Arbor's most famous restaurants-- one that even caught the attention of the New York Times. When you go there, I suggest you order their signature Zingerman's Reuben.

Non-foodies, you'll easily find great food in Ann Arbor too! For instance, I love Italian food, and there are plenty of stellar Italian restaurants in town!

Two Ann Arbor restaurants have been featured on national television: Krazy Jim's Blimpie Burger and Tio's Mexican Cafe and Tequila Bar.

Entrance to Tio's Mexican Cafe and Tequila Bar in Ann Arbor, one of the best restaurants to dine at when you visit Ann Arbor.
I took some friends from California here once and even they said the food here was good!

For a fun and engaging dining experience, go to the Blue Nile. It is an Ethiopian restaurant. Not only is the food great but what makes the dining experience so fun is that you are supposed to use your hands to eat the food. Customers use a spot spongey bread called injera to scoop up the food.

Ann Arbor is home to one of the world's finest universities

The Ross School of Business on University of Michigan's central campus.
No surprise that one of the more modern looking buildings on campus is for the business school.

The University of Michigan is often referred to as a "public Ivy". In 2023, the school had an acceptance rate as low as 20%. US News frequently ranks many of their undergraduate and graduate programs in the top 10.

Even if it's been a while since you attended college or you never attended college at all, the University of Michigan campus is still fun for tourists to explore. Schools like the Ross School of Business and Law School have distinguishable architecture from much of the buildings on the school's campus.

Sculpture outside the entrance to the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
This sculpture takes peek-a-boo very, very seriously...

Two museums-- the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, are both free for visitors. UMMA has two really cool sculptures outside its entrance!

There is a giant black cube which rotates on one of its edges near the Michigan Union that is really fun for visitors to see. Not many people know that the geometric piece of art actually does have a name, the name being 'Endover'.

Author kneeling beside The Cube.
Me kneeling below the rotating Endover a.k.a The Cube!

Especially if you just visited Detroit and you're a sports fan, then you'll be delighted to know that the Michigan Stadium, nicknamed 'the Big House', is the world's largest football stadium.

Ann Arbor has a legendary music venue

Mural on the side of the Blind Pig music venue in Ann Arbor.
One of my favorite murals in the city belongs to this iconic music venue.

Located in the city's Creative District, which in itself is one of the coolest spots to walk around Ann Arbor, is the Blind Pig.

The Blind Pig, which also has my favorite mural in the city, is a music venue where some of the world's most famous bands have played-- many of them before they were really well known!

My favorite band, Nirvana, was one of the acts to perform at the Blind Pig before their album, Nevermind, catapulted them to super stardom. Some other bands who have played here are Pearl Jam, No Doubt, The Police, and The Smashing Pumpkins.

Ann Arbor has things to do for nature lovers

The Arb in Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor.
The Arb. Source: Shutterstock

The Huron River is a 130 mile long river which passes through Ann Arbor. Due to its length, the river provides residents and visitors to Ann Arbor some outdoors options-- the Huron River Water Trail being a hubspot for activities like canoeing and kayaking.

Do you enjoy hiking? Matthaei Botanical Gardens, a treasured Ann Arbor institution which attracts visitors year round, has a collection of hiking trails adding up to about 4.3 miles long! Parks surrounding Huron River also have opportunities to hike.

Nichols Arboretum, or simply known as 'The Arb', is my personal favorite for outdoorsy attractions in Ann Arbor. Depending on the season you visit, you'll see different things in bloom. Summer and fall are the best seasons to visit. Winter-- not much of a point.

Being totally honest, I rarely come to Ann Arbor to do anything outdoorsy, but for those who are more fond of nature and want to temporarily escape the energy of the city, the Ann Arbor area does have options!

Celebrities have spoken highly of Ann Arbor

Entrance to Krazy Jims in Ann Arbor.
Guy Fieri has dined at this classic Ann Arbor restaurant.

We're revisiting Ann Arbor's culinary scene again, reinforcing the point that Ann Arbor is an excellent city for foodies!

The food in Ann Arbor is so special that it's caught the attention of a few celebrities.

One staple of Ann Arbor cuisine that has been around since the 1950's is Krazy Jim's Blimpie Burger. Famous chef and media personality, Guy Fieri, dined at this restaurant. There is a photograph of him doing so inside the restaurant.

A gigantic nacho dish from Tios Mexican Cafe and Tequila Bar was featured on the Food Network show Man V. Food.

The University of Michigan has attracted some high profile names for their commencement speakers. Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Bill Gates, and Larry Page are some of the big names to have given speeches at graduation ceremonies.

Morning talk show host Kelly Ripa speaks highly of Ann Arbor, as one of her children is currently a student at the University of Michigan.

Remember how I said Nirvana performed at the Blind Pig before they were world famous? Kurt Cobain also said in a 1990 interview that his favorite venue to play at was The Blind Pig.

Conclusion

If you find yourself visiting Michigan, add Ann Arbor to your itinerary.

Ann Arbor's food scene, art scene, and youthful energy are reason enough to drive here from Detroit. The city is very safe and, aside from some of the restaurants, many of the best things to do in Ann Arbor are free.

Have I convinced you that Ann Arbor is worth visiting in 2024? I sure hope so! Besides Detroit, Ann Arbor is a city I find myself visiting often!

I hope you end up visiting this amazing college town sometime next year!


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