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Ann Arbor—named in part for the stands of bur oaks dotting the banks of the Huron River—is both quintessential college town and major Michigan metropolis. Lively coffee shops and libraries lit by stained-glass windows keep the city in an intellectual frame of mind, while leading cultural institutions like the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Ark lend a decidedly cosmopolitan feel. Whether you want to take in a show hosted by the University Musical Society or stroll Main Street in search of a savory sandwich, Tree Town offers something for everyone.
If the University of Michigan is responsible for imbuing Ann Arbor with its scholarly vibe, then Ann Arbor's neighborhoods are responsible for its Midwestern charm. From the family-run delis lining Main Street to the Old World feel of the Old West Side, a stroll through Ann Arbor's enclaves offer an illuminating look at a city shaped by millworkers, immigrants, and academics.
A 45-minute drive lands you in the heart of Ann Arbor, where a bevy of mainstream and independent purveyors beckon—from nostalgic record shops to outdoorsy athletic purveyors and swanky farm-to-table restaurants.
As Main Street bleeds into Kerrytown, you’ll find Ann Street—the thoroughfare Bob Seger crooned about in his 1976 hit single "Mainstreet." Fresh-roasted coffee, handcrafted jewelry, and the Ann Arbor Farmers Market are all attractions that lure visitors to Kerrytown’s tree-lined streets.
Gothic cottages and charming colonials dominate the scenery in Ann Arbor's Old West Side, a residential neighborhood along the city's western edge. Seasonal events like the late-May or early-June Children's Festival and the Lurie Terrace Concert lend a community feel to this historically German locale.
With its densely forested public parks and lanes canopied with oak and ash trees, Ann Arbor is a verdant gem. Once you've filled up on natural beauty, check out a live performance. Begin at the University Musical Society, one of the United States' oldest and most beloved performing arts centers, which hosts everything from live jazz to choral acts. Nearby, see American folk and new roots musicians take the stage inside The Ark's 400-seat theater. The Michigan Theater is also worth a visit, offering showings of independent films and symphony performances inside a fully-restored movie palace.
Fed by the endless energy of active twenty-somethings and the lively waters of the Huron River, there's always something to do in Ann Arbor. For a look at the city's preeminent art collection, pay a visit to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, which focuses on European, Asian, African, and American artwork. Next, get a breath of fresh air at Nichols Arboretum—which students lovingly refer to as "the Arb"—or else head to the Argo Canoe Livery, where you can rent a canoe, kayak, raft, or tube for a ride down the Huron. If you plan to visit in the fall, reserve tickets well in advance to catch a game at the Big House—although Michigan Stadium happens to be the largest football stadium in the country, home games almost always sell out.