Ann Arbor is known first and foremost as a college town, home of the vaunted University of Michigan, but there’s more to the city than just football games and campus tours (not that there’s anything wrong with those).
It’s the perfect place to spend a weekend with your family, whether you’re taking the kids on a road trip or visiting prospective colleges with your teen. See below for our favorite places to go with the whole family!
Great for kids under 10 (especially the ones who like to push buttons and grab everything), the Hands-On Museum offers science lessons in a fun and interactive format. You could easily spend a whole afternoon here with the family.
Permanent exhibits include All About You, which focuses on the human body, the Legacy Gallery, where kids can experiment with machines, the Preschool Gallery, perfect for those 4 and under, and the World Around You, where kids can put themselves in a bubble or take on the climbing wall. To save money on admission, go on a Thursday after 5 p.m., when the entrance fee is reduced to just $5 per person!
Nichols Arboretum & Matthaei Botanical Gardens
The Nichols Arboretum and Matthaei Botanical Gardens are approximately six miles apart but are both under the stewardship of the University of Michigan and have plenty of greenery to immerse yourself in. Best of all, both parks are open year-round and have free admission, though you might have to pay for parking.
At the Arboretum (also known as the “Arb”), the gorgeous Peony Garden is an excellent place for your teen to snap an artfully composed picture for Instagram. Dogs are allowed on-leash, which means your four-legged family member(s) can savor the extensive trails throughout the park.
Over at the Botanical Gardens, you’ll find more than 300 acres of diverse gardens and trails. Kids can learn a lot about the environment at the Michigan Solar House and the Conservatory, chill out while walking the Labyrinth, and enjoy a shaded picnic at the Norman Memorial Grove.
Any kid would be happy to spend his or her allowance at Kerrytown Market and Shops, located in Ann Arbor’s historic market district. This shopping center is full of one-of-a-kind stores and restaurants — Mudpuddles Toys is bound to please, with its creative playthings for all ages. Teach your kids to enjoy their vegetables at The Lunch Room, a vegan restaurant serving up tasty dishes like chili mac & cheese and buffalo wraps.
Nearby in the neighborhood, the celebrated Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market takes place a couple of times per week. Older or more artistically inclined children might appreciate a show at the Kerrytown Concert House, where you can catch intimate performances ranging from jazz to spoken word to cabaret.
Hudson Mills Metropark
Strap on your walking shoes and gather your bikes, frisbees, and picnic baskets for a day spent outdoors at Hudson Mills Metropark. Just 12 miles outside Ann Arbor, the 1,549-acre park is made for play. Your activity options are virtually endless, from soccer fields, baseball diamonds, and tennis courts to an 18-hole golf course. You can also get your feet wet kayaking, canoeing, and fishing on the beautiful Huron River.
Hudson Mills Metropark also has picnic shelters, miles of paved trails, and a playground. The relatively flat terrain is friendly even for the smallest bikers in your family. This summer, the park introduced a new three-story-tall inflatable water slide — what fun! You should also come back in the winter for cross-country skiing, with rental equipment available.
The Creature Conservancy
If your kid has ever asked for a pet alligator or arctic fox, a trip to the Creature Conservancy will be a treat and an educational lesson. The wildlife sanctuary works with the next-door Animal Kingdom Veterinary Hospital to provide care and shelter for a whole host of exotic creatures, many of whom are found injured or abandoned by reckless pet-owners.
Children will love peeking into the Conservancy’s exhibits, which feature animals such as kangaroos, vultures, snakes, and Al the alligator, the sanctuary’s first resident. Visitors can get up close with and learn more about the friendlier animals during the weekend afternoon shows. In August, the featured guest will be Poco the two-toed sloth!
Has your family visited any of these places in Ann Arbor? Let us know in the comments!