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The Best Things to Do on a Weekend in Ann Arbor

There’s plenty for grown-ups to love about Michigan’s quintessential college town

A watercolour copy of Pompeii's Villa of Mysteries fresco is on display at the Kelsey Museum of Archeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor is pretty big for a small town. Nearly 45,000 University of Michigan students flock to campus each year, filling the town’s coffee shops and apartment complexes. But even if you’re in the alumni age bracket, it’s well worth making the 30-minute drive west of Detroit’s airport to this Midwestern hub teeming with museums, farm-to-table restaurants, bars and more. Here are the best things to do on a weekend trip.

Get close to ancient wonders and modern marvels at local museums

A vintage plane from the Yankee Air Museum flies over the tree line in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

A wander through the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, part of the university, is basically “a tour of people’s garbage,” jokes Cathy Person, the museum’s director of education. There are plenty of treasures amid the nearly 100,000 objects, from Egyptian sandals to ancient olive-oil pressings (that still look—sort of—like olives). A watercolour copy of a fresco in Pompeii’s Villa of Mysteries is the showiest highlight, but it’s worth pausing to read the heartfelt inscriptions on the collection of Roman memorial stones, too.

Learn about more recent history at the Yankee Air Museum close to Willow Run Airport, between the Detroit airport and downtown Ann Arbor. The collection of vintage aircraft is lovingly maintained by volunteers and staff, and during the summer, you can even book rides when the planes aren’t touring at air shows.

Have a great meal—in a strip mall

A couple eats dinner at Ayse's Turkish Café in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor’s hub is full of good food, but so are unlikely places like a shopping centre off Plymouth Road, a 10-minute drive from downtown. Plan to have lunch with the locals at Ayse’s Turkish Café, an unpretentious place dishing up homespun eggplant stews, and come back for dinner at Mikette Bistro and Bar, whose red leather seats and plentiful frites make it feel like a neighbourhood joint in Paris.

Stop at Zingerman’s—any of them

Outside Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan

This beloved local juggernaut of a brand started in 1982 as a deli, and the Zingerman’s name is now on a roadhouse (with barbecue and a killer mac and cheese), creamery (with cheeses made of local cow’s and goat’s milk) and candy manufactory (with homemade chocolate bars plus marzipan, licorice and more from Europe).

Former Zingerman’s employees have also gone on to partner with the company on their own eateries. Ji Hye Kim is one of them. Her Korean restaurant, Miss Kim, is an airy spot serving the food Kim imagines her Korean grandmother would cook with Michigan produce, like miso-buttered vegetables and hearty seasonal bibimbap.

Drink artisanal mead, hand-crafted cocktails and sommelier-picked teas

An employee chooses a tin from one of the 180 varieties of tea stacked on a wall at TeaHaus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Sure, there are plenty of student bars in town, but for grown-ups there’s Bløm Meadworks, where you can sip lightly fizzy rotating brews beneath wood panelling from the co-owner’s family farm, and The Last Word, a speakeasy-inspired, literary-minded cocktail bar where the drinks menu is organized by chapter and the jazz trio kicks off with the theme from “The Muppet Show.”

If your drinking days ended in college, try one of the 180 expert-selected varieties on offer at TeaHaus. Pair your cup of oolong, green or white with light plates inspired by tea-loving countries from Germany to Morocco, and you’ll have drained this town to the dregs.

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Image Credits: Courtesy of annarbor.org, Yankee Air Museum