Early this month I visited my 43rd state on my 50 by 50 quest to see all 50 states by the time I turn 50 in September. Although there are many places in Michigan I would love to explore (Mackinac Island, the Upper Peninsula), I was lucky enough to land in the quirky, fun, charming town of Ann Arbor for my introduction to the state.
This college town has the highest concentration of bookstores per capita in the U.S., a fantastic craft beer and farm/sustainable/healthy food scene, independent boutiques and plenty of fun things to do. Here are a few of my highlights:
Taking Flight in an Original WWII-era Plane
At the Willow Run Airport, home to the WWII Willow Run Bomber Plant where the original Rosie the Riveter worked and where a plane was completed every 55 seconds, I got to take flight in a historic WWII-era C-47 airplane: The Yankee Doodle Dandy. The adjoining Yankee Air Museum is full of fascinating exhibits and historical pieces from World War II and other conflicts.
Kayaking the Huron River
One morning a few of us headed to the Ann Arbor Canoe Liveries, to rent some kayaks for a 3.7 mile trip down the Huron River. The trip starts off a bit more exciting than most calm-river kayaking: you begin by shooting through a series of a half-dozen cascade drop-offs, where rushing water splashes over you and your craft as you rush down the cascades. The remaining boating was peaceful and very pretty; and it’s really nice to be able to take a one-way, downriver trip and get shuttled back to the starting point.
Visiting a Buddhist Farm (and naming a baby goat!)
White Lotus Farm is a working farm run by the Tsogyelgar Buddhist community in Ann Arbor. They grow, make and sell fresh produce, farmstead cheeses, artisan breads, and an array of other products. They also run monthly Farm Dinners in the gardens, featuring a different Farm-to-Table chef each time. While we were there taking a tour, we were quite besotted with an adorable, playful group of one-week-old baby goats. I particularly fell in love with this one; when I asked his name, I was told that he didn’t have one yet, and asked if I wanted to do the honors. Yes, I did! I named him Jude, after my grandson.
Eating and Drinking my Way Through the City
Actually, two cities: Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, right next to each other and sort of sister cities. There is a wonderful, thriving craft beer and foodie scene here. Some of my favorite places included Spencer, The Slurping Turtle, Fleetwood Diner, TeaHaus, Eve, and the Ypsi Alehouse.