Budget summer vacations from Detroit: Ann Arbor

Forty miles west of downtown Detroit and twenty minutes from its airport, Ann Arbor is the complete antithesis of it’s next door neighbor. Unemployment and crime are among the lowest in the state, property values are high, education is top notch and the city is alive with innovation and activity.

Sure, The D has it’s virtues (as Mr. Lansel from the Post gently reminds us,) but there is a quaintness about Ann Arbor that’s hard to find in a large city: A two-lane downtown Main Street bustling with boutique shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment. Lush green trees that arch over sleepy neighborhood streets. Rolling parks, a top notch university and a summer festival unrivaled in the state.

Spending time wandering through the Kerrytown Farmer’s market then bouncing among the locals you being to wonder: “Am I really in Michigan?” Ah, but you are. A small blue pocket in an oft red state, Ann Arbor defies many of the stereotypes cast onto Michigan and the Midwest. Stick around and we’ll tell you what to see

The Sights

Home to the University of Michigan, a large part of downtown tree city is devoted to campus, where a leisurely stroll through The Diag will introduce you to many of the architectural hits, including the voluminous Graduate Library and recently remodeled (and free of charge) art museum. Stop by on the first Saturday of April to see Hash Bash, the annual celebration that brings thousands of hippies and revelers out to celebrate their love of weed under the towering, silent Oak trees.

At ether end of The Diag, nose through campus boutiques and restaurants, remembering to pass through the gorgeous Law School (above) before getting a jug of the best sangria in town at Dominicks.

The Big House, Michigan’s enormous football stadium is just south of the Law School, and on most days is open for the public.

Back downtown, you can walk west down Liberty Street and see the world’s first Border’s Book Store on your way past the Michigan and State theaters. During the Ann Arbor Art Fair every July, these streets fill up with hundreds of artists and vendor stalls in one of the largest art fairs in the country.

On Main Street, a host of boutiques including Peaceable Kingdom and the ever popular Moosejaw should keep you busy shopping for the entire afternoon while Kerrytown, a short walk north, hosts a variety of eclectic shops, restaurants and even a local butcher.

If you’ve still got time left in your day, walk North on Main Street to Argo Pond, where you can cross the dam and rent canoes and float down the Huron River past the University of Michigan hospital and sport fields.

The Food

There are far too many fantastic places to eat in Ann Arbor to make a comprehensive list, so we’ll give you the best of the best. For dinner, Bella Ciao is a cozy, privately owned restaurant serving outstanding Italian food, while Ryan and the team at Logan serve modern Americana. On the cheaper end, Fleetwood Diner is open all night while Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger fires up the legendary burgers recently filmed on the Food Network.

If you’re not too full from dinner, stop by Bab’s Underground Lounge, where Giancarlo will pour you a stiff vodka tonic, Babs will scowl at you from behind the register and you can play a few rounds of pool on their plush, red tables. Have a few extra drinks and stop in the photo booth on your way out.

Where to Stay

You can stay right on campus and walk everywhere by booking a room at either the Bell Tower Hotel or The Inn at the Michigan League. If that’s to expensive for you taste, try booking a room at the Holiday Inn on North Campus to save a few bucks. Prices range from $200 at the high end to $100 at the Holiday Inn.

Finally, remember that Ann Arbor isn’t the metropolis that Chicago or San Francisco is — you can cover the entire city in two days or even one if you try. The key is to enjoy the setting, soak in the collegiate atmosphere, shop and eat well. If you stick to those standards you’ll have a great time.

Check out more budget summer vacations here!