15 Top-Rated Things to Do in Ann Arbor, MI

Written by Lavanya Sunkara and Lura Seavey
Updated Dec 23, 2023
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The charming college town of Ann Arbor, an exurb of Detroit, offers big-city amenities and interesting things to do while maintaining a small-town vibe.

With a young, sophisticated, and diverse population, the home of the University of Michigan (U-M) has a thriving cultural and culinary scene, with top-notch museums and a resurgence of farm-to-table dining.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Known as Tree Town for its 50,000 trees lining the streets, this gem in the heart of America is easily accessible from major cities. There are attractions for every type of tourist in this Michigan city. Take a sightseeing stroll down the bustling Main Street, grab a sandwich at the famous Zingerman's Deli, enjoy fragrant peonies at the Arboretum, go kayaking, or catch live music.

Discover more places to visit on your next Midwestern getaway with our list of the top things to do in Ann Arbor.

1. Catch a Game at the University of Michigan Stadium

The Big House
The Big House | Photo Copyright: Destination Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan Stadium, nicknamed "The Big House," is the biggest football stadium in the United States and the second largest in the world.

Built in 1927, the iconic stadium literally takes your breath away, especially when it's filled to the brim with more than 100,000 people on a fall weekend, all wearing the maize and blue of the Wolverines. Seeing a game here is one of the most popular things to do in the city.

Tickets are nearly impossible to get, as every game is sold out months in advance, but you can contact the University of Michigan Ticket Office to try to secure tickets.

If you can't get game tickets but still want to visit the stadium, The Big House offers tours of the field, locker room, and press box. The venue is also home to the university's spring commencement, special events, and movie nights in the summer.

2. Take the Kids to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum | Andy Eick / photo modified

Parents of younger kids will love the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, which offers a variety of themed galleries that encourage interactive learning through play. Kids can get creative in the STEAM Park, experiment with light and water, learn about dental health, and keep shop at a 1930s-themed country store.

The Leslie Science and Nature Center is also affiliated with the museum, offering free access to its nature trails through Black Pond Woods and the raptor enclosures. Visitors can also check out the Critter House on Sundays, home to many native species of snakes, frogs, and turtles.

3. Explore the University of Michigan Campus

University of Michigan Law Quadrangle
The University of Michigan Law Quadrangle

The University of Michigan (or U-M, for short) is home to many of the city's top cultural attractions, including museums and performance venues, as well as plenty of picturesque green spaces and beautiful architecture.

The Law Quadrangle is one of the prettiest parts of the campus, known for the imposing Neo-Gothic architecture of the law library, Hutchins Hall, and residential buildings. If you're a music lover, be sure to check out the performance schedule at Hill Auditorium, a venue known worldwide for its incredible acoustics.

4. Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Peony Garden at Nichols Arboretum
Peony Garden at Nichols Arboretum | Photo Copyright: Lavanya Sunkara

The dog-friendly Matthaei Botanical Gardens' Conservatory features three houses with tropical, temperate, and arid plants. The temperate collection includes an impressive bonsai and penjing (Chinese) tree collection.

The university's student-run campus garden grows leafy greens and other produce to feed the student body. Visitors to the botanical gardens can meander on trails winding past beautiful natural features. Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the nature trails.

Operated by the University of Michigan, the Nichols Arboretum, known as "The Arb" sits on 123 acres bordering the Huron River on the east side of Ann Arbor. It features native and exotic trees and shrubs, and the famed Peony Garden.

Visitors flock to the peony beds every spring to take in the beauty of colorful, sweet-smelling flowers that have been blooming for more than 100 years. The Arb offers nearly three and a half miles of trails through important areas of the arboretum.

5. Visit the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

University of Michigan Museum of Natural History
University of Michigan Museum of Natural History | VasenkaPhotography / photo modified

From the building blocks of DNA to the expanse of time and space, the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History offers exhibits that engage visitors of all ages in learning and exploration.

One of its most popular exhibits is Evolution: Life Through Time, which includes ever-popular fossils and skeletons of the Earth's earliest inhabitants, including our distant ancestors. In addition to examples of dinosaurs like the Majungasaurus, you can see giant mastodons and even prehistoric whales.

In addition to the museum's extensive permanent collections, it hosts a variety of changing exhibits that include a showcase of current U-M student research projects, rotating displays of the museum's vast specimen collections, and installments of artwork that join science and creativity.

6. University of Michigan Museum of Art

University of Michigan Museum of Art
University of Michigan Museum of Art | VasenkaPhotography / photo modified

The University of Michigan Museum of Art contains the oldest university museum collection in the country. Located on-campus, this art museum houses 20,000 works from Europe and Asia as well as American art and African sculpture.

Highlights include works by Pablo Picasso, Frank Kline, Claude Monet, and James McNeill Whistler, among others. The museum also has an outstanding outdoor sculpture collection, with works by artists such as Richard Hunt and Mark di Suvero.

7. Explore Kerrytown

Fustini's Oils & Vinegars
Fustini's Oils & Vinegars | Photo Copyright: Lavanya Sunkara

Blocks away from downtown Ann Arbor is the lovely neighborhood of Kerrytown, which serves as the location for the twice-weekly farmer's market (Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am to 3pm) and a collection of one-of-a-kind stores.

At the Kerrytown Market & Shops, you can easily spend an entire day browsing and enjoying tastings. At Fustini's, get a taste of olive oil and vinegars from around the world or take a cooking lesson. Have a sampling of exotic herbs, teas, and spices at Ann Arbor Spice Merchants.

8. See a Show at the Michigan Theater

Upstairs lobby at the Michigan Theater
Upstairs lobby at the Michigan Theater | Andypiper / photo modified

This classic movie house is a must-visit for any film lover, providing moviegoers with an atmosphere of grandeur and sophistication that is rarely found in modern theaters.

If you're not a big fan of foreign or arthouse films, don't worry—in addition to these showings, the Michigan Theater features new releases in all genres. For those who are feeling particularly nostalgic, they also offer screenings of old classics, including favorites like The Wizard of Oz, The Princess Bride, and even seasonal showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Michigan Theater also hosts live events throughout the year, including stage plays, musical events, lectures, and comedy shows.

9. Gerald Ford Presidential Library

Gerald Ford Presidential Library
Gerald Ford Presidential Library | Photo Copyright: Lavanya Sunkara

Located on the North Campus of the University of Michigan, the Gerald Ford Presidential Library annex was built on the grounds of his alma mater, separate from the museum and birthplace in his hometown of Grand Rapids. History buffs will enjoy a visit to this small, but informative library of the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford.

Along with a replica of his Oval Office, the library has a collection of more than 20 million archival pages, audio, and visual material from his presidency between 1974-77, on issues such as domestic and foreign affairs during the Cold War era. One of the exhibits covers the Watergate case, from the burglary in 1972 to Ford's controversial pardon of Nixon.

10. Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology | Photo Copyright: Lavanya Sunkara

The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, operated by the University of Michigan, has been a research museum since 1928, housing a collection of more than 100,000 objects from Ancient Greece to Mesopotamia. Open to the public at no charge, this is one of the best free things to do in Ann Arbor.

This world-class museum showcases approximately 1,500 artifacts on permanent display, along with spices preserved from 2,000 years ago, amulets from the Near East, pottery, Greek and Roman sculptures, and a watercolor reproduction of the Villa of the Mysteries murals from Pompeii by Maria Barosso.

The elaborately decorated sarcophagus of Egyptian priest Djehutymose from around 625-580 BCE, one of the museum's central exhibits, even has its own Twitter account, offering tips on how to have the best afterlife.

11. Go Kayaking on the Huron River Water Trail

Kayaking the Huron River
Kayaking the Huron River | Photo Copyright: Destination Ann Arbor

If you are looking for things to do in summer, a paddle along the picturesque 104-mile Huron River Water Trail is the perfect activity. Running through Ann Arbor, it's perfect for canoeing or kayaking.

Bring your own boat, or get a rental at one of Ann Arbor's main launches in Argo Park or Gallup Park. If tubing is more your style, the best stretch of the river is between the Argo Cascades and the Arboretum; rafts and river tubes are also available to rent at both liveries.

The River also has some of the best bass and carp fishing in Michigan for those interested in fly fishing. In the neighboring town of Ypsilanti, Schultz Outfitters offers fly-casting instruction and guided trips on the Huron and Flint Rivers.

Read More: Top-Rated Lakes in Michigan

12. Willow Bomber Run & Yankee Air Museum

Willow Run B-25 Bomber Jet
Willow Run B-25 Bomber Jet | Photo Copyright: Lavanya Sunkara

Just outside of Ann Arbor in Ypsilanti is the Willow Run Bomber Plant, where Ford Motor Company built 8,685 B-24 Liberator bombers during WWII, ultimately helping America secure victory.

The nearby volunteer-run Yankee Air Museum, with a tagline "where history takes flight," has a vast collection of aircraft ranging from WWI to the Vietnam era. It offers flight enthusiasts a chance to go on historic planes such as the B-17 Yankee Lady, B-25 bomber jets, the C-47 Hairless Joe Skytrain, the UH-1 Huey, and the Ford Tri-Motor.

Take a thrilling ride from May to October to get a bird's-eye view of the iconic Big House and downtown Ann Arbor.

The museum also highlights the importance of the war labor women performed in factories, including an inspiring exhibit on the famed Rosie the Riveter, who worked at the plant and inspired females to join the workforce.

13. Zingerman's Deli

Zingerman's Deli
Zingerman's Deli | Photo Copyright: Lavanya Sunkara

No trip to Ann Arbor is complete without tasting the delicious sandwiches of the legendary Zingerman's Deli. This iconic delicatessen, which once served President Obama, sells a variety of mouthwatering sandwiches along with cheeses and specialty foods, many of which are sourced from local ingredients.

Started in 1982 by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, this small deli located on a triangular lot near downtown has consistently ranked among the world's best sandwich joints.

In the past few decades, it has expanded to other food-related businesses, including the Zingerman's Roadhouse restaurant; Zingerman's Bakehouse, Zingerman's Coffee Company, and Zingerman's Creamery where you can find their own cheese and gelato.

When college is in session, the lines are long, but the food is worth the wait. Though the side dishes change with the season, the perennial favorite is the award-winning mac and cheese.

14. The Ark

The Ark
The Ark | Photo Copyright: Destination Ann Arbor

With live music 300 nights a year, The Ark is among the most popular music venues in the country and one of the top tourist attractions in Ann Arbor. This 400-seat theater, located in historic downtown, features artists in a number of genres, ranging from folk to country.

It all began when four local churches decided to fund a community space for college students, and it gradually became a popular place to visit for folk musicians to share their talent. In 2015, the fabled spot celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Today, the Ark remains one of Michigan's busiest music venues, attracting famous singer/songwriters including Ani DiFranco, the Dixie Chicks, Norah Jones, and Don McLean, as well as musicians who are just starting out.

The Ann Arbor Folk Music Festival, held every January at the University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium, raises funds for The Ark.

15. The Creature Conservancy

If you're an animal lover looking for things to do in Ann Arbor on a weekend, check out The Creature Conservancy. The residents here are an eclectic bunch consisting of rescues who cannot be released back into the wild and "transplants" who have come from other institutions, as well as a few who are part of a captive breeding program.

Visitors will find a former pet alligator named Al, a bald eagle named Quinn, and a macaw named Suzi, along with snakes, owls, and foxes. Among the most popular residents are two-toed sloths whose offspring can be found at zoos and other conservation facilities.

If you're not going to be around during regular hours, private tours are also available with prior arrangements. The conservancy also has periodic special events, including opportunities to feed the sloth, meet a wolf hybrid, and watch Egyptian fruit bats take flight.

Address: 4950 Ann Arbor Saline Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Where to Stay in Ann Arbor for Sightseeing

Luxury & Mid-Range Hotels:

Ann Arbor doesn't have any 5-star resorts, but it has a number of mid-range properties, including lovely boutique properties and small inns and bed and breakfasts.

  • The only 4-star hotel in town is Graduate Ann Arbor. The hotel is located just across the street from the University of Michigan campus and within walking distance of Nickels Arcade. Rooms and suites are charming and pay homage to the college. The public spaces are equally inviting and make use of repurposed library furnishings and commissioned murals to add flair. The hotel is pet friendly. Amenities include a workout room, an electric vehicle charging station, and loaner bicycles.
  • Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown is another excellent choice. The downtown location is ideal. It's within walking distance of the University of Michigan and more than 60 different restaurants and shops. Rooms and suites feature separate living and sleeping spaces, and the hotel is a favorite selection for extended stays. Amenities include a free hot breakfast, an indoor swimming pool, and a 24-hour fitness center.
  • For a non-chain experience check out the Bell Tower Hotel. The property is also centrally located, across the street from the college campus. The elegant rooms and suites were recently renovated and feature pillow-top mattresses, large flat-screen TVs, and sofa beds in the suites. Amenities include a 24-hour workout room and a free breakfast buffet.
  • The Hilton Garden Inn Ann Arbor is another solid mid-range choice. This 3-star hotel has spacious and comfy rooms and suites about two miles south of the university campus. The family-friendly hotel has an indoor swimming pool with a zero-entry area for kids and a rainfall area. There is also an on-site restaurant; a 24-hour convenience store, where you can grab a meal to microwave in your room; and a fitness center.

Budget Hotels:

  • Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Ann Arbor is a good budget-friendly hotel. Near the Briarwood Mall and not far from downtown, it offers clean and comfortable rooms and suites. These come with fridges and microwaves, and the suites have separate living spaces and sleeper sofas. Breakfast and parking are complimentary.
  • Also check out Red Roof PLUS+ Ann Arbor - U of Michigan North for a good-value sleep. This 2-star hotel has modern rooms, with bright colors and amenities like microwaves. The hotel is pet friendly and also offers a free shuttle service to the hospital if you are visiting for treatments. Other amenities include an outdoor fire pit, free breakfast, and free parking plus a kids-stay-free program.

Map of Things to Do in Ann Arbor, MI

Ann Arbor - Climate Chart

Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Ann Arbor, MI in °C
-1 -8 1 -7 7 -3 14 3 21 9 26 14 28 17 27 16 23 12 16 6 8 0 2 -6
Average monthly precipitation totals for Ann Arbor, MI in mm.
57 52 71 85 75 86 80 94 86 64 76 72
Average monthly snowfall totals for Ann Arbor, MI in cm.
27 23 18 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 9 30
Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Ann Arbor, MI in °F
30 17 34 19 45 27 58 37 70 48 79 58 83 62 81 61 74 53 61 42 47 32 35 22
Average monthly precipitation totals for Ann Arbor, MI in inches.
2.2 2.0 2.8 3.4 3.0 3.4 3.2 3.7 3.4 2.5 3.0 2.8
Average monthly snowfall totals for Ann Arbor, MI in inches.
11 9.1 6.9 2.0 0 0 0 0 0 0.2 3.4 12

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