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Ann Arbor: Recreation


A number of museums and buildings of architectural significance are located on the University of Michigan campus. The Rackham Building, which covers two city blocks, is made of Indiana limestone, with bronze window and door frames, a copper-sheathed roof, and Art Deco interior. The University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History is devoted to Michigan's prehistoric past; it houses the state's largest collection of dinosaur bones, including a 15-foot-tall dinosaur that was the forerunner of the Tyrannosaur, and more than 200 species of birds native to Michigan. There are also exhibits on minerals and biology, Native American life, culture, and artifacts, a planetarium, and a hall of evolution. The most popular exhibit is the Michigan Mastodon, an elephant-like creature that became extinct more than 6,000 years ago.

The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Newberry Hall exhibits artifacts, statues, and glass discovered on university excavations in Egypt and Iraq. The Museum of Art in Alumni Memorial Hall is the state's second-largest fine arts collection and exhibits a diverse permanent collection that includes a number of works by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The Burton Memorial Tower is the world's third-largest carillon and presents weekly concerts during the summer. On the steps of the Michigan Union building, in the heart of the campus, a plaque records the place where in 1962 President John F. Kennedy announced the formation of the Peace Corps.

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum displays more than 250 participatory exhibits on the sciences and arts; it is housed in a century-old former fire house. Matthaei Botanical Garden, the university's conservatory and outdoor garden, is a favorite winter oasis.

Domino's Farms is the world headquarters of Domino's Pizza, among several other corporations on a sprawling 217-acre campus in eastern Ann Arbor. The Prairie House headquarters building was based on a design by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The site also maintains a petting farm and a herd of American bison. Cobblestone Farm and Kempf House are among the area's other historical tourist attractions. Ann Arbor is rich in architectural history; among some of the city's distinctive buildings are St. Andrew's Church and several homes dating from the early to mid-nineteenth century.

Arts and Culture

The city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan offer a broad selection of music, dance, theater, and cinema. The university's Hill Auditorium is considered to rank with the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Hall in New York City as one of the nation's premier performing arts facilities. Built in 1913 and designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn, the venue underwent a massive $40 million renovation before re-opening in 2004. Renovation included interior restorations and improved seating access, but also important infrastructure upgrades to the heating system and the addition, for the first time in its history, of air conditioning. Featuring excellent acoustics, Hill Auditorium houses the Henry Freize Pipe Organ, which was originally unveiled at the 1883 Chicago World's Fair. The University Musical Society, founded in 1879, has hosted virtually all of the world's great performers, conductors, and orchestras throughout its more than 100-year history. The Society schedules dozens of music and dance concerts each year at Hill and other local venues featuring international artists and performing groups.

The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra plays a season of concerts at the renovated Michigan Theater, where the Ann Arbor Chamber Orchestra also presents a series of concerts of classical and contemporary music featuring young artists. The Comic Opera Guild is a local amateur company that is the only one of its kind to tour nationally. The university's Gilbert and Sullivan Society presents light opera productions in the spring and winter.

The University's drama and music departments stage several large and smaller productions at campus theaters throughout the year. The Ann Arbor Civic Theater, drawing on experienced local artists, stages 11 dramatic productions a season. The Young People's Theater, recruiting young people from across the country, is an outlet for students to write and perform their own works. Since 1954 the Ann Arbor Civic Ballet has programmed dance performances. The Performance Network is a local studio and theater space for original work by local artists creating theater, film, video, music, and dance. Ann Arbor supports several local art galleries and film theaters, including the Michigan Theater, which shows classic and contemporary films. In addition, several film societies are active in the city—virtually every night of the week there are a variety of classic films held in small theaters and university lecture halls throughout the city and campus area.

National touring musical acts stage concerts at Hill Auditorium and the University's 13,000-seat Crisler Arena. Smaller acts play any of a number of local clubs, including the Blind Pig and Bird of Paradise for jazz. The Ark is an internationally-recognized venue on the folk music circuit, and also features acoustic blues, rock, and bluegrass.

Festivals and Holidays

The Ann Arbor Folk Festival is one of the largest and most renowned events of its kind, held each January and in 2005 celebrating its 28th year of existence. The Ann Arbor Film Festival (43 years running in 2005) is a week-long event held in March. The juried Spring Art Fair brings together hundreds of artists in all media at the University of Michigan Track and Tennis Building on an early April weekend; a Winter Art Fair is held in October/November. More than 300 dealers gather at the Ann Arbor Antiques Market to sell antiques and collectibles every Sunday from April through November.

"Taste of Ann Arbor" on Main Street on a Sunday in June offers specialties from participating Ann Arbor restaurants. The Summer Festival, taking place over several weeks in June and July, presents mime, dance, music, and theater. The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fairs, which comprise one of the oldest and largest street art fairs in the country, bring artists from around the country to Ann Arbor to exhibit and sell their work in three separate fairs that spread throughout the entire city and run simultaneously for four days in July; more than a million people attend the Art Fairs. Edgefest, a three-day celebration of jazz and improvised music featuring world-class acts, is held in early October. One hundred fifty artists participate in the Christmas Art Fair at the University of Michigan Coliseum on Thanksgiving weekend.

Sports for the Spectator

The University of Michigan fields some of the country's finest college sports teams, which compete in the Big Ten athletic conference. The Michigan Wolverines football team is among the most storied and recognizable athletic traditions in the nation. Football Saturdays are like a statewide holiday and near-obsession in Ann Arbor during home games; more than 100,000 fans pack Michigan Stadium, the largest college-owned stadium in the country. The Wolverines strongly compete each season for the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl. The Michigan basketball program (home games at Crisler Arena) likewise has a long and celebrated tradition, and the Michigan hockey team (Yost Arena) has won more NCAA championships than any other institution. Other University of Michigan team sports include men's and women's teams competing in gymnastics, wrestling, softball, soccer, baseball, and swimming, golf, and other sports. Professional sporting events in nearby Detroit feature the Tigers (baseball), Pistons (basket-ball), Lions (football), and Red Wings (hockey).

Sports for the Participant

Among the popular participatory sports that can be enjoyed in Ann Arbor are cycling, running, ice skating, racquetball, paddleball, handball, roller skating, downhill and cross-country skiing, swimming, and tennis. Cycling lanes exist on many of Ann Arbor's main streets; paved paths for walking, running, cycling or skating run along the Huron River. The Ann Arbor Department of Parks and Recreation maintains the city's more than 147 parks and sponsors programs for all age groups. The Nichols Arboretum on the university campus is a 123-acre natural area that serves as a research area for the university and is open to the public for picnicking and hiking. There are more than 50 lakes in Washtenaw County, offering water sports and fishing. The Dexter-Ann Arbor Half-Marathon and 10-K Run is sponsored by the Ann Arbor Track Club and held on a Saturday in May. Ann Arbor is one of the ten best cycling cities in North America, and the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society is the state's largest group for cyclists. The nearby Pinckney-Waterloo Recreation Area has several lakes and miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. The Huron River can be fished and canoed, and golf is played at city, university-owned, and private courses.

Shopping and Dining

Ann Arbor's Main Street area, consisting of several blocks of specialty shops, brew pubs, nightspots, and restaurants, forms the central commercial district. State Street, the university's major business district, consists of a cluster of retail stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and several record and book shops that include Shaman Drum, one of the nation's best independent book stores, and the original Borders Book Shop. Nickels Arcade, built in 1915 and modeled after a European arcade, houses shops and galleries. South University is a collection of shops and eateries anchoring the other end of central campus. Kerrytown and the Farmers' Market are three restored historic buildings in the Kerrytown district, just east of the Main Street downtown area, that contain more than 30 semi-enclosed shops and other stores offering farm-fresh produce, baked goods, and craft items. Briarwood Mall is anchored by the J.C. Penney and Marshall Field's department stores and has more than 130 stores. Ann Arbor and nearby Saline are considered antiques centers.

The presence of a major state university in Ann Arbor helps explain the city's many fine restaurants and varied cuisines. Hundreds of Ann Arbor restaurants, far more than what is offered in comparably-sized cities, make this a dining destination city. New American cuisine, traditional American fare, Northern Italian, French, Greek, Korean, Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese, Caribbean, Thai, Turkish, and other cuisines are represented here. A number of restaurants are located in historic or unusual buildings, such as a train depot. Cafe, deli, and pub settings are also popular choices. Zingerman's Delicatessen, near Kerrytown, is an Ann Arbor institution and recognized as one of the top delicatessens in the country. The small shop and its attendant bakery, mail-order business, and catering operations earned it the distinction as Inc. magazine's Coolest Small Company in America designation.

Visitor Information: Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau, 120 West Huron, Ann Arbor, MI 48104; telephone (734)995-7281; toll-free (800)888-9487; email