Andrea Gallagher Photograph

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI offers a diversity of culture and experience unlike any other city its size. Located on the banks of the Huron river, about 45 minutes away from Detroit, it has become known as an educated environment and center of artistic activity. Ann Arbor offers something for everyone and has been ranked in a number of surveys in various periodicals in the top ten places to live in the United States.

What most people know about the city is that it is home to the University of Michigan, with an enrollment of over 30,000 students. On Saturdays in the fall the city population swells as people from all over the region flock to the stadium nicknamed "The Big House" to cheer on the Michigan Wolverine football team. Annually a top ranked team, the 108,000 capacity stadium is almost always full with people spilling out to the parking lot to tailgate and amongst the drinking facilities throughout town. Also boasting top rated sports teams in basketball, baseball, hockey, and wrestling and with Detroit only a short drive away, the sports fan has a variety of choices for every season of the year.

The University of Michigan has a diverse student body and also a beautiful campus. With a walk through campus you will notice the sprawling landscape dotted with trees, pathways for biking and walking, and ponds. Many of the older building are still intact and the gothic architecture helps to give the campus it's overall charm. Many other attractions throughout Ann Arbor are also owned or sponsored by the University including botanical gardens, the Aboretum,, and the yearly Greek festival. The annual Summer Arts Festival, co-sponsored by UM, attracts artists and musicians from across the country to show their wares and showcase their talent.

People don't come to Ann Arbor for the University alone though, as the city is usually ranked in the top five in the book The 50 Best Places to Live and Retire in the US. The first thing you will notice in the downtown area is the variety of scents emanating from the diverse array of restaurants. For a simple spot with quick, but delicious food, Zingerman's deli is widely considered one of the best eateries in town. From Sabor Latino for Mexican, Palio for Italian and Miki Japanese and Sushi Bar Ann Arbor has a place for every taste. Hit New York Pizza for the best pie in town and a cold beer.

The night life offers a many bars and clubs with dancing and live music from every genre. The Ark is a non-profit organization as well as a club that focuses on folk, roots and ethnic music from up-and-comers and well known performers alike. Another favorite of the local populace is Bird of Paradise, Ann Arbor's best Jazz club, where performers in the area for bigger concerts often show up unannounced for in-promtu performances. For the beer lover, the city also offers some local beer pubs that make their own brew including Arbor Brewing Company, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, and Leopold Brothers of Ann Arbor. Leopold Brothers claims their's is the world's first "ecobrewery" as they recycle everything throughout the beer making process including the spent grains and water.

For the shopper in you, Kerrytown is the place to be for the area's best, boasting lots of small boutiques and restaurants that will keep you busy all day long. My favorite thing about the shopping is the over 30 independent bookstores dotted throughout the city. I would recommend everyone stop by at least one, Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom. Hosting a diverse and interesting collection, specifically from the New Age and Self Help genre's, there is literally something for everyone here. Now getting past the books, Crazy Wisdom also offers many different teas, and has regularly scheduled Astrology, Tarot and Rune readings. A sample of events you may find happening at the store include "Mastering Mediation", a "Reiki Healing Circle", and a safety lecture on taking Ritalin. For the music lover, Crazy Wisdom has acoustic music every Friday and Saturday night at 8:30 pm (smoke and alcohol free). This is one of the most unique shops in the nation and I would advise you take some time and check it out while in the area.

Whether on a short trip or coming to live and work, Ann Arbor offers a unique experience for old and young alike. Although the size of the city has a certain quaintness and charm like a small town, but with the art and entertainment of a large city. If you are looking for a unique and remarkable vacation, take a trip to Ann Arbor, MI in the fall to see the leaves change, take in the football, and enjoy the food and atmosphere of one of America's greatest small cities.

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