Ann Arbor

An Ann Arbor street in winter

Ann Arbor—often abbreviated as AA or A2—is a city in Michigan 35 miles north of the Ohio border and 45 miles west of Detroit, near where the furthest exurban fringes give way to country and small towns. Founded in 1824, it was originally named "Annarbour" after the two founders' wives (Ann Allen and Mary Ann Rumsey) and an arbor of burr oak trees on the village site (although some have theorized that the name arose from an arbor of roses or grapes). Today the city has a population of about 115,000 people, not including the transient college students, or the thousands of visitors who come to town for football games and various festivals.

Ann Arbor is a picturesque city surrounding the University of Michigan. It has a strong bent toward the arts, and an attractive and pedestrian-friendly downtown. Visitors enjoy the city's wonderful sidewalk cafe dining, unique shops, lots of bookstores, and abundant cultural opportunities.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 30 34 45 59 71 80 84 81 74 62 48 35
Nightly lows (°F) 16 18 27 38 49 58 62 61 54 43 33 22
Precipitation (in) 1.7 1.7 2.6 3.2 2.9 3.5 3 3.4 3.1 2.2 2.8 2.8

Looking across S. University Street at the outside of the Law Quadrangle

Ann Arbor is centered on the University of Michigan. The U of M campus intermingles with downtown, and the whole area is walkable, though day buses run between the campuses and the central business district. Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Thomson, Google, and Domino's have a major presence in the area. The University is well known for its medical school complex.

Farther out, the city fades into urban sprawl (a mall and business parks in the south), then countryside dotted with towns, and to the east, Detroit suburbs. Bus routes beyond the city limits, except in the direction of Ypsilanti, are lacking; you'll want a car or bike unless you have several hours to spare. On some autumn Saturdays, transport is difficult as 100,000-odd people pour in for university football games.

Ann Arbor, or Tree town, is, as one might expect, full of trees; they line the streets, and in summer from the air, or year-round in Google Earth, all that can be seen is a green swath with a few buildings sticking out. (In the early 20th century, after having leveled the forest that once occupied the area, the city instituted an aggressive tree-planting program that's since borne fruit.)

Like most of Michigan, summers can be hot and humid, with temperatures occasionally hitting 90 degrees, but averaging in the mid 80s. Winters are fairly normal for the lower Great Lakes region, which enjoys 4 seasons. It starts to be chilly in late October and it begins to warm up again in mid-March (but the occasional early April snowfall is not unheard of!). Average winter temperatures are generally in the range of 30°F and in January temps can dip below 20°F, or even lower if it's windy. Summers can get quite hot; in mid-July it can hit high into the 90's with high humidity.

Downtown is a solid block of restaurants and art galleries. The university hosts cultural events, and venues such as the Michigan Theater host first-run independent films and high-profile music groups. Several good independent bookshops are located here, as was the Borders flagship store until its closing in 2011, and the Ann Arbor Art Fair draws over half a million visitors each summer.

Get in

By car

Ann Arbor is bounded by I-94 (between Detroit and Jackson) on the south and west, US-23 (between Flint and Toledo, Ohio) on the east, and M-14 (which leads to Detroit's western suburbs and I-96) on the north. From Toledo and other points south of Ann Arbor, take US-23 north; from Detroit, the airport, and points east, take I-94 west (or I-96 west to M-14 west); from Chicago and points west, take I-94 east; from the north, take US-23 south. There is ample paid parking downtown, but very little is on the curb (most is in parking garages). An option is to use the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) park and ride lots, which lie on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. There are five such lots with free parking around the city, and bus service to each.

By plane

The nearest major airport is Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (IATA: DTW), about 25 minutes away, from which it will probably be necessary to rent a car or have a friend pick you up. A taxi will cost you in the neighborhood of $45 one-way; alternatively, several shuttle services offer pre-booked trips for $30-35 one-way and $55-60 round-trip, with the cost per person decreasing as the size of the group increases. Uber will also pick up and drop off between Ann Arbor and Detroit airport, and can be much cheaper than a cab, $25-$30 each way. There are quite a lot of airport shuttle services, but the following will give you a place to start:

Ann Arbor Airport (IATA: ARB), (intersection of State Street and Ellsworth Road) ☎ +1 734 994-2841, is a small 24-hour airport that handles business, corporate, public and private flights, air ambulance service, flight instruction and charter services.

By train

By bus

Get around

Map of downtown Ann Arbor

Downtown Ann Arbor is not large, so it's easy to get around just by walking. In fact, free parking is almost nonexistent, especially when the town is full of students, so you'll probably prefer to walk anyway. Occasionally you'll find an unused parking meter; you'll have to feed it money between 8AM-6PM on weekdays and Saturdays, otherwise they're free. There are parking lots and buildings scattered around downtown; they're free on Sundays, otherwise you can generally expect to pay around 80 cents to $1 per hour.

The Greyhound Bus Station in Ann Arbor

By bus

By taxi

Ann Arbor has several reliable 24-hour taxicab companies. Note that you can't hail a cab from the sidewalk, although there are certain spots in town where they often hang out waiting for passengers, notably in front of the Michigan Union on State Street, and the Federal Building on Liberty Street. Uber and Lyft both have a large presence in Ann Arbor and are often far cheaper than a traditional taxi, especially off-peak


If you want to know what's going on in town, the best guide to the entertainment scene in Washtenaw County is the Current, 212 E Huron Street, ☎ +1 734 668-4044. There's information on music, films, dance and theatre events, poetry and novel readings, lectures, art exhibits, festivals, and more, as well as restaurant reviews, general information about the town, and so much more. If you're interested in the Ann Arbor arts scene, this should be one of the first things you pick up; one easy spot to find copies is outside the Michigan Theatre on E Liberty Street.

Michigan Theater on East Liberty St.
Michigan Stadium

Public art

The Cube, taking a breather between spins

Ann Arbor has a number of public sculptures and murals that can be viewed both on campus and downtown. Of these, several are particularly well-known:

Parks and gardens

A tree supports his fallen comrade in Nichols Arboretum

Ann Arbor has 147 city parks, ranging from less than a block wide to over 100 acres. Some of the more prominent ones include:


A tornado demonstration in the Hands-On Museum

University of Michigan Museums

Open to the Public
An Australopithecus skull at the Natural History Museum
Closed to the Public

Several of the University collections are hosted by institutions that are primarily research-oriented, and so generally don't have exhibits on permanent display. However, it may be possible to arrange to view the collections through contacting the curators.


Packed stands at a Michigan football game


The Tempest at Shakespeare in the Arb
Part of the South University Art Fair


the University of Michigan Diag




The book-laden halls of the Dawn Treader

It's been said that Ann Arbor has more bookstores per capita than any other town in the US certainly a walking tour of downtown will take you past quite a few, although the number is beginning to slowly dwindle. The flagship Borders bookstore was located here from 1971 until it closed in 2011 (albeit in two different locations during the course of its existence).


Art and Gifts

Multilingual UM T-shirts at Occasionally


Nickels Arcade

Shopping centers


Outdoor dining on Main Street

For a relatively small Great Lakes town, Ann Arbor has a large variety of cheap (and sometimes quirky) eateries (thanks in part to the large student population) such as pizza restaurants, quick Chinese food and lots of sandwich and wrap shops downtown. You'll also notice hot dog and tamale carts on many street corners, particularly in the summer, selling basic fare starting at $1 with complimentary toppings.

One thing you won't see much of, however, at least on campus and in the downtown area, are popular nationwide fast-food chains. The impression is that Ann Arbor is proud enough of its small independent restaurants that it has no need for mass-produced french fries (although with rental costs rising in the downtown area, many local restaurants — and shops — are being ousted in favor of wealthier small chains, like Bruegger's and Great Wraps).

For the more refined palate, there's no shortage of fine dining. Between Ann Arbor's vibrant cultural life and its sizeable international population, there seems to be considerable demand for the fancy and the exotic. There are certainly a few restaurants in town that can empty your wallet singlehandedly, but don't let their reputations scare you away: at even the priciest restaurants, there are dishes that you can order for a more modest fee, if you just want to sample the atmosphere. During warmer weather, be sure to check out the eateries on Main Street that offer outdoor sidewalk dining. It's a popular alternative, especially for the locals who have just suffered through six months of winter, and even though you're sitting right by the street, it's more relaxing than you might expect.

If you're looking for an Ann Arbor specialty, the fragel — a raisin bagel that has been deep-fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar — seems to have originated here. Once available all over town, now you can only find them at the Bagel Fragel on Plymouth Rd or certain Paneras.



Regionally-renowned Zingerman's Deli




The famously varied taps at Ashley's

Bars and Nightclubs

Coffee, Tea and Chocolate


Map showing the hotel districts in Ann Arbor

There are four main hotel districts in Ann Arbor: near campus; in the southern part of town, where State Street meets I-94 (including Boardwalk St, Briarwood Cir and Victors Way); in the southeastern part of town, near the intersection of Washtenaw Rd and US-23 (including Carpenter Rd); and in the northeastern part of town, by the intersection of Plymouth Rd and US-23 (including Green Rd). There are also a few in the northwestern part of town, near the intersection of Jackson Ave and I-94. Accommodations tend to be the most expensive in the campus area, so unless you're here for a conference or business trip that's being paid for, you'll probably want to look further out.

Hotels in the campus area are within easy walking distance of downtown Ann Arbor and most of the attractions. The southeastern area is served by two AATA bus lines, route 4 (along Washtenaw) and route 22 (along Carpenter), and the northwestern area is along route 9. The other two areas aren't quite as well linked, although route 2 does go along part of Plymouth Rd, and the commuter 36 stops at Wolverine Tower, which is a short walk from the hotels along State and Boardwalk. However, you'll most likely want to use your car to get around if you're staying outside of downtown.


Bed and Breakfast


Bed and Breakfast


Bed and Breakfast

Stay safe

Ann Arbor is generally a very safe town, though the usual rules about common sense (being aware of your surroundings after dark and knowing where you are going) apply here as they would anywhere. The only really common crimes in town are those that you find in any other university town. Theft is the biggie, as many university students who leave their bags unattended in the library or those who fail to lock their bikes can tell you. There's also the occasional mugging or sexual assault, but these tend to occur after dark, so if you're not wandering the streets at 2AM, you probably don't have anything to worry about. Having said that, wandering the streets at 2AM in downtown Ann Arbor is generally quite safe and not at all frightening; there are usually enough students out partying or hanging out with friends until the wee hours that you won't feel like a lone target, or like you're in a dangerous crowd. U of M Police, Ann Arbor Police, and the Washtenaw County Sheriff patrol regularly and are not difficult to find--indeed, alcohol violations such as drinking on the street from an open container are vigorously policed. There are emergency phones located all over campus.



Free wifi access is plentiful at local cafes. Additionally, a county government project is underway to bring free or low-cost Wi-Fi to all of Washtenaw County, starting with downtown Ann Arbor. As of April 2010, the Wireless Washtenaw network is visible but not consistently usable, so seeking out a cafe is a better bet.


Radio stations

Four good public radio stations are within listening distance.


Go next

The rest of Washtenaw County has quite a few charming little towns and villages that you might enjoy visiting.

If you'd rather get out of the county, there are some larger cities and towns a short drive away.

Routes through Ann Arbor

Battle Creek Jackson  W  E  Dearborn Detroit
Kalamazoo Dexter  W  E  Ypsilanti Detroit
Flint Brighton  N  S  Jct W EMilan Toledo
END  W  E  Jct EPlymouth Detroit via

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.