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The Best of Downtown Ann Arbor Michigan in All 4 Seasons

Explore Downtown Ann Arbor things to do. Discover Ann Arbor Michigan. Try Downtown Ann Arbor restaurants and bars. Experience Downtown Ann Arbor shopping. Learn about places to eat in Ann Arbor. Take a walk on the University of Michigan campus.
I’m fortunate to be a part-time travel blogger with a full-time day job that takes me to some really cool places. I’ve visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, a small city not far from Detroit, a number of times over the years for business and found it to be an intriguing college town that changes with the seasons. 

I always recommend getting up 30-60 minutes early to take a walk and discover a new place when traveling on business. 

Read on to find out about things to do in Downtown Ann Arbor no matter what time of year you visit.

State Street facades in Downtown Ann Arbor Michigan

Ann Arbor in the Spring: Go Back in Time to Main Street USA

I love visiting smaller American towns. The people of Ann Arbor emerge from a long winter’s hibernation making Spring the ideal season for a walk downtown to discover that Main Street U.S.A. is alive and well in Michigan. 

There are a number of old and unique shops in the Main Street area of Ann Arbor including the Zwerdling Fur Shop which has been around since 1904. I passed King's Chosen Furniture and was surprised to see some familiar designs -- inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the architect we'd seen all over Glasgow when we visited!

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Experience more of the architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh by spending two days in Glasgow Scotland.

Ann Arbor has its own street art flair. I liked the white picket fence portraying a small town vibe along Washington St. My favorite spot? 

I really liked the window display at Vogel's Lock and Safe which seemed to change daily and harkens back to a bygone era. On my first pass, they were proudly presenting the maize and blue of the University of Michigan. 

On my second pass a day later, a tiger sat atop a pile of rusty keys protecting his domain. Very imaginative!
Michigan Theatre landmark in downtown Ann Arbor Michigan
While there are new Downtown Ann Arbor shops and offices all around, I love the historical touches like the old 'Michigan' movie theatre and the two story square buildings all in a row. Nearby State Theatre is another classic facade. 

The State Street District in Ann Arbor abuts the University of Michigan campus. The bell tower stands above the entire scene; both campus and town. 

An old fashioned shoe store sits between modern conveniences. If you have the chance, take a walk and look around carefully to be transported back in time.

Ann Arbor for the Summer Art Fair

There are plenty of events in Ann Arbor over the summer. One business trip to Ann Arbor serendipitously coincided with the Ann Arbor Art Fair which takes place in July. 

I walked through on my morning walk to work and surveyed row after row of white vinyl covered booths waiting for an audience. I managed to leave work at a reasonable time in the evening and spent an hour exploring the festivals. 

I was a bit surprised to see the 'Best Psychics in Town' at the art fair, but hey, I'll roll with it.

I continued up State Street and soon realized that art is only one small component of this festival. Everything from Hawaiian inspired dresses to sandals were on offer. It was the perfect place to shop for an upcoming vacation in Hawaii! 

The festival was backstopped by the some of the beautiful buildings on the University of Michigan campus. I did eventually find an avenue of stalls featuring fine art. 

I smiled when I saw a 'Made in Ireland' booth. I'll wait until I return to Dublin to purchase Irish goods but I'm glad my friends and colleagues in Ann Arbor will have the chance to partake.
Elephant ears at the Ann Arbor Summer Arts Festivals in Downtown Ann Arbor
Good old-fashioned carnival food was also on offer including Elephant Ears. I wasn't sure what these were but quickly learned that they are basically deep fried dough in a thin floppy form. 

I managed to avoid temptation and continue on my way. I did stop for something only slightly more nutritious -- a slice of Cottage Inn Pizza and lemonade. It was the perfect dinner combo on a hot and humid summer evening.

The backdrop of local buildings (in this case, the Michigan Theatre) behind the festival was striking. Fine art met street art on one sunny corner. 

One final thing I noticed was that the choice of materials of construction and items for sale was a bit puzzling for a heat wave. One group of artists built their booth out of sheet metal. 

That couldn't be comfy in 100 degree heat! Winter caps anyone? 

In the summer, I think most people in Ann Arbor would like to forget about winter. I wonder how their sales trended in the 100+ degree heat. 

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is definitely worth a look if you're in Downtown Ann Arbor. Window shopping is fun but there is also ample opportunity to get a head start on that Christmas shopping -- when a winter cap might not be such a bad idea.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Do you like visiting college towns as part of your travels? I can highly recommend visiting Stanford in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pittsburgh universities (Pitt and Carnegie Mellon) are also worth touring. If you want to venture further afield, check out the National University of Ireland, Galway or Maynooth University in Maynooth, Ireland.

Ann Arbor in Autumn

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is a spectacular campus to behold. When I visited in October, I made a point of getting up early to allow myself a chance to amble about campus and explore. 

A University of Michigan flag flapped in the brisk wind. Red and green ivy enrobed a number of buildings. The foliage was just about at its peak. 

Some of the campus buildings featured Art Deco touches. Impressive mansions had been turned into student housing, offices, and fraternity houses. The mottled brick of the newer additions to campus shown in the sun.

 In the distance, a power plant kept the campus, and Ann Arbor town, warm and was a stark contrast to the beauty of the university. The bell tower provided a convenient reference point to ensure I didn't get lost. 

A new section of campus was clearly more modern but designed to blend in. The University of Michigan campus is definitely a great place for a perfect, pre-work walk in Downtown Ann Arbor!
Downtown Ann Arbor points of interest: The University of Michigan campus

Autumn Detour to Ypsilanti

While visiting Ann Arbor in October, I made plans to meet up with an old friend who works at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, about 10 miles away. 

I appreciated the opportunity to see another slice of 'Main Street U.S.A.' and we met up at the Corner Brewery. About 10 different craft brews were on offer. 

There was also a huge collection of ceramic steins on the wall. Regulars could buy a membership and have their mug ready and waiting for them on every visit. 

It was a charming spot to behold. I hope I have more time to explore 'Ypsi' on my next trip to Michigan.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other places to visit in the U.S. with great Fall foliage? Why note spend a weekend in Saratoga Springs in Upstate New York. The Hudson River Valley is also an excellent place for an Autumn workcation where you can explore things to do around Poughkeepsie.

Winter in Ann Arbor

Traveling to Ann Arbor in winter can be risky. One of my first trips to Ann Arbor actually pre-dates this blog and memories of a white knuckled ride from Detroit airport to Ann Arbor in a snow storm are hard to erase. 

Expect bitter cold and snow if you visit in January to March. If you do brave the elements and visit in the winter, take the opportunity to run from coffee house to coffee house for a hot beverage to stay warm. 
Places to eat in Ann Arbor: lab coffee
Visit lab and sample a brown sugar and sea salt latte! The latte itself is very sweet so consider asking for half-sugar.  Lab offers up a great winter-warmer. 

As a former scientist, I also appreciate the name. It sounds like all kinds of cool, coffee experiments happen at lab! 

Check out Comet Coffee located in Nickels Arcade, a well-preserved Victorian-era shopping arcade. The latte I ordered was well prepared with a lovely leaf decoration. Various toy figures adorned the order counter. 

Downtown Ann Arbor Restaurants Any Time of Year

Seva Vegetarian

One of my favorite Ann Arbor restaurants is Seva, a gorgeous vegetarian place. I was able to eat outside on the terrace and people watch as the sun went down during my Spring and Summer visits to Downtown Ann Arbor. 

The sweet potato fries with spicy dipping sauce were amazing. I combined it with a cheese quesadilla with guacamole and chips for a delicious satisfying meal.

In my opinion, Seva is one of the best restaurants in Downtown Ann Arbor.

Mani Osteria and Bar

Mani Osteria and Bar is an open and airy Italian restaurant featuring unique pizzas. The menu looked amazing. We started out with crisp breadsticks for the table. 

Deconstructed bruschetta (Mani's speciality) followed. The tomatoes were soaked in vinegar and were tart and delicious. We tried the Tartufo pizza with black truffles and egg. We paired this with a more traditional Margherita pie. Yum!
Restaurants in Ann Arbor: pizza at Mani Osteria and Bar

The Blue Tractor

I had dinner at the Blue Tractor. It was a lovely Fall day in Downtown Ann Arbor and we were able to sit outside. I enjoyed a barbeque sampler plate with a craft beer. The meal came with four BBQ sauces to choose from -- yum!

Grizzly Peak 

Grizzly Peak occupies one of the edifices along Washington Street and offers tasty pub fair and local brews for dinner. 

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Things to do in Downtown Ann Arbor MichiganThings to do in Downtown Ann Arbor Michigan

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: The Best of Downtown Ann Arbor Michigan in All 4 Seasons
The Best of Downtown Ann Arbor Michigan in All 4 Seasons
Explore Downtown Ann Arbor things to do. Discover Ann Arbor Michigan. Try Downtown Ann Arbor restaurants and bars. Experience Downtown Ann Arbor shopping. Learn about places to eat in Ann Arbor. Take a walk on the University of Michigan campus.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog