Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor

5:59 PM

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
*Disclosure: Hotel accommodations and breakfasts were provided by Visit Ann Arbor! and the Hilton Garden Inn during this visit. All words and opinions are my own.


Okay, guys--why have I not been spending more time in Ann Arbor?

When I first moved to Michigan, I had a much looser grasp on which cities and townships were part of the metro Detroit area. Back then (about six years ago), I grouped Ann Arbor into that region, but quickly learned that not only is Ann Arbor geographically outside of (what most people consider to be) greater Detroit, it’s also got a distinct personality all its own. Part college town, part avant-garde city, Ann Arbor is a happy medium for those who just can’t choose between the suburban and urban way of life.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
To help me really nail down what it’s like to spend a couple of days in this city, Visit Ann Arbor and the Hilton Garden Inn graciously hosted Brad and me for a weekend of exploring Ann Arbor without the daily commute. While the drive to Ann Arbor is around an hour or less for most metro Detroiters, a multi-night stay in the area helped us immerse ourselves in the local culture without cutting our days short to hop back on the interstate. And so it happened, on a Friday night after rush hour, that we packed up our car and headed to the land of the Wolverines.


FRIDAY NIGHT

Zingerman’s Roadhouse: Local Flavors & Community

If you’re not familiar with the Zingerman’s family of food brands, you’re missing out! Based in Ann Arbor, Zingerman’s is famous for its deli but also features a coffee roastery, creamery, bakery, mail order service, and more. While we’d visited most of these individual businesses during a self-guided food tour a few years ago, Brad and I had never made it to Zingerman’s Roadhouse, a sit-down restaurant that’s served up scratch-made meals since the early ’80s. It seemed fitting that we start our weekend here, jump-starting our palates with distinct local flavors.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Brad decided on the pulled pork sandwich and I went with the fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Both dishes hit the spot, and we topped the meal off with coffee, which--fun fact--can also be purchased at a drive-up/walk-up trailer outside the Zingerman’s Roadhouse restaurant (no dining in necessary).

Want to learn more about the Zingerman’s family of foods? Click here.


Hilton Garden Inn: Modern Meeting Space & U of M Nostalgia

After dinner, we drove down the road to check in at the Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel was located right across the street from Briarwood Mall, and about 10 to 15 minutes from downtown Ann Arbor. Designed with a combination of modern and natural elements, the Hilton Garden Inn was colorful, contemporary, and composed of equal parts live greenery and University of Michigan renderings. Both classy and nostalgic, the hotel struck me as a perfect venue for U of M alumni visiting town for a big game, wedding, or family reunion.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Our room featured two queen-sized beds, a flat-screen TV, free wi-fi, microwave, and mini-fridge (perfect for snacks and leftovers)! The Hilton Garden Inn was also kind enough to leave us a bag of Michigan-made goodies and complimentary breakfast vouchers (more on our made-to-order breakfast later in this post).

SATURDAY

Sava’s: A Delicious Spin On Flavor & Atmosphere

On Saturday morning, we headed downtown to meet up with Visit Ann Arbor for breakfast and a tour around Kerrytown. We started at Sava’s, a trendy restaurant on State Street that’s known for its foodie-friendly menu and Instagram-worthy ambience.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: Tiled surfaces extend outside the front entryway of Sava's in downtown Ann Arbor

Before I even glanced at the menu, I fell head-over-heels for the sun-soaked dining room and mix of modern and vintage decor, particularly the gorgeous tile floors. And then, when I realized that I could order chicken and waffles with sausage gravy and tabasco honey, I made a mental note to sell my house so I could take up permanent residence at this glorious establishment.

Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market: Shop Local Even If You Aren't A Local

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
After breakfast, we walked a couple of blocks over to the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. It was a gorgeous, sunny morning and the turnout definitely reflected that! Joining hundreds of other weekend shoppers, we (okay, I) resisted the urge to buy 20 bouquets of sunflowers and 300 crates of colorful fruits and vegetables. Brad did buy a small bag of fresh peaches, however, which proved much easier to carry around (and quite tasty for snacking).

Kerrytown Market: Specialty Shops (You'll Want One Of Everything)

Naturally, we had to pop in to the Kerrytown Shops for a few minutes, where I melted over luxurious, decorative papers in Hollander’s and discovered why people everywhere are fawning over artisanal oils and vinegars during our visit to Fustini’s (try the lavender vinegar and rosemary honey!). We left through the downstairs food market, which bustled with lunch-goers and grocery shoppers.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: Fustini's Oils And Vinegars in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Market & Shops

Shopping in Downtown Ann Arbor: Because, Duh.

Taking a quick break to feed our parking meter, we made our way back toward State Street and Liberty for more shopping and strolling. A couple of new favorite places: West Side Book Shop (a quiet, delightfully-musty haven filled with mountains of vintage books) and Downtown Home and Garden (part garden supplies, part outdoor clothing and novelty kitchen items). I think it goes without saying that I also snapped quite a few photos of the iconic Michigan Theater marquee during our walk, because . . . when in Ann Arbor, right?

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: The Michigan Theater's Marquee is a well-known Ann Arbor icon.

We were about ready to head back to the car when I noticed a very familiar-looking clock ahead of us: the iconic Shinola clock! And yep, the Ann Arbor Shinola store was right behind it. Brad and I visit the Detroit location every time we’re in midtown, so I was excited to see how the Ann Arbor shop compared. Inside, we were greeted by Rosie, a friendly associate who put together a list of her favorite Ann Arbor hangouts for us while we browsed leather bags and titanium glider pens. Next, we were led downstairs to Shinola’s cafe, where a very talented barista served up a killer dirty chai latte. The cafe, a popular spot among U of M students, was like a scene out of the sixties: dark, with mid-century modern furniture and records playing on a Shinola turntable.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: Turntable tunes in Shinola Ann Arbor's downstairs cafe.


Neighborhood Fun: Estate Sale-ing

Brad had a list of a few estate sales he wanted to check out, so we took our coffees to go and drove to a few surrounding neighborhoods to hunt for deals. In the past, we’ve discovered several great vintage and second-hand stores around Ann Arbor, so it seemed natural that we’d find more treasures while “estate-saleing” in the area, as well. To quote my husband, “people in Ann Arbor have good stuff!”


Kayaking At Argo Canoe Livery: A Little Bit Of Nature In The City

Two or three estate sales later, I checked my watch and looked up hours for another activity on our list: kayaking at Argo Canoe Livery. We had less than an hour until the last departure for the day, so we booked it back to our hotel, did a quick change, hustled to the livery, and made it just in time! It seemed like everyone in town had the same idea on that warm afternoon, but there were plenty of kayaks to go around, and we set off for a fun early evening on the water.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: Late-day crowd gets ready to embark at the Argo Canoe Livery.

We chose the Argo to Gallup River Trip, a 3.7-mile, 1.5-hour excursion through the Argo Cascades and down the Huron River. The Cascades consisted of nine small rapids and drops, which weren’t too scary for a moderately-okay kayaker like myself, and a lot of fun for both Brad (who’s better at kayaking) and me. Argo’s number-one tip for navigating the Cascades: point your kayak straight toward the direction the water’s moving in and (I figured this next part out) raise your paddle over your head so the paddle doesn’t hit the rocks around you (if you try to go against the current, you could get turned around or fall over). As for recommended skill level, I’ve only been kayaking a handful of times and didn’t have any issues, but if you’ve never kayaked before, I’d recommend practicing once or twice on a calmer section of river or on an open lake.

Aventura: Try Something New For Dinner

Tuckered out after all the paddling and sunshine, the hubs and I made a brief pit stop at our hotel to gussy up for dinner at Aventura. Located in downtown Ann Arbor, this popular Spanish tapas restaurant came highly recommended by multiple Ann Arborites I’d talked to. Plus, Brad and I had never eaten Spanish food before, so it was fun to try something new.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: "It was all a dream" neon sign illuminates a stairwell inside Ann Arbor's Aventura restaurant.

As we chatted with our waitress, we were surprised to learn that Aventura is a sister restaurant to Sava’s, the place we’d eaten breakfast at that morning! Certain that was a good sign for the meal we were about to experience, we ordered a couple of house specialties: Patatas Bravas (small plate of crispy potatoes, pimentón, olive oil, brava sauce, Spanish honey aiòli, and sunny side up egg) and Paella Aventura for two (chicken, chorizo, Catalan sausage, cauliflower, fava beans, piquillo peppers, sofrito, bomba rice, and saffron). Both were really good, and we even had enough paella left over to take home for later.

Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea: Late-Night Mingle

Finishing up another late dinner, we left to hunt for a dessert shop and discovered most of the nearby cake and pastry spots had closed for the night. After a little internet research, we found that Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea on Washington Street was open until midnight, so we stopped in to see if they had any sweet treats.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: Mini Affogato at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea in Downtown Ann Arbor

Success! Brad scored a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, while I enjoyed a mini affogato ($2 after 8:00 p.m.!). The cafe was modern, beautifully decorated, and a nice place to socialize, so we sat down to hang out for a little bit. I can hardly wait to go back during the day sometime to try their coffee!

Singin’ in the Rain Mural: Can't-Miss Photo Opp

Somewhere in between food stops and wandering downtown Ann Arbor, we came across another fun surprise: a Singin’ In The Rain mural! I love old movies, so this was a treat for me. If you ever find yourself near S. Fifth Avenue and Liberty Street, make sure to stop by for a photo with this David Zinn piece!

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: David Zinn's Singin' In The Rain mural is located near S. Fifth Avenue and Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor

SUNDAY

Breakfast At Hilton Garden Inn: Convenient, Flavorful Variety

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Sunday was bittersweet because we were slated to leave Ann Arbor, but a fun day awaited us in nearby Ypsilanti. Armed with breakfast vouchers, we headed downstairs for a quick breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn’s Garden Grille restaurant. Breakfast will run you around $11 if you don’t have a voucher, but the meal is all-you-can-eat and made fresh to order (try a build-your-own omelet or French toast with bacon and eggs!).

RoosRoast: Serious Coffee With A Healthy Dose Of Whimsy

With our bags packed, I remembered one last thing we needed to try before hitting the road: coffee at RoosRoast! Out of three locations, we chose the Rosewood headquarters (it’s also the roastery). Parking around back, we were greeted by three friendly RoosRoast team members, one of whom was John Roos, founder and owner of the well-loved operation. We chatted for a few minutes, then were invited to enter the cafe through the back entrance, which was also a large garage of sorts where all the (delicious-smelling) coffee-making magic took place.

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above (L to R): John Roos (Founder/Owner), Sofia Parker (Manager), and Chloe Di Blassio (Prep Department) take a break to pose for a photo and chat with us.

If you’ve heard of RoosRoast, you’ve probably heard about its wildly-popular Lobster Butter Love, a dark roast coffee that has the gorgeous appearance of fresh espresso (and does not actually taste like butter or any kind of seafood). RoosRoast also has several other popular beans to choose from, ranging from A-A Cowboy (lighter Honduran roast) to Portland in the 90s (darkest roast).

Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Above: Cuppa the ever-popular "Lobster Butter Love" at RoosRoast


Hittin’ The Road: Exploring Nearby Ypsilanti

With a whole afternoon ahead of us, we said our see-ya-laters to Ann Arbor and headed toward Ypsilanti for some aviation-related fun. But that’s a story for another day. ;)


Have you spent time in Ann Arbor? What do you love most about this city?


Why Every Metro Detroiter Should Be Visiting Ann Arbor - An hour or less away from most metro Detroit locations, Ann Arbor is more than just a college town. Food, shopping, art, nature, and more make up this uniquely diverse city! (via Wading in Big Shoes)

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