Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ann Arbor--Journey to the Heartland

Ann Arbor, Michigan has something for everyone—a perfect Midwest Mix of activity, culture, and relaxation. Its climate is ideal for growing flowers and food; there are plenty of bike trails and kayaking for outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s home to the University of Michigan, which gives visitors great opportunities for music and art—and, of course, sports.

For starters, here are a few surprising things I learned on a recent visit about this easy-going, back-to-nature, sporty, foodie-nurturing, arts-loving, and well-educated town.

University of Michigan Solar House
• It’s a blooming wonderland. In June more than 10,000 peonies burst into bloom in colors ranging from white to wine-red at Nichols Arboretum, displaying the largest collection of antique and heirloom peonies in North America. Attractions in Matthei Botanical Garden cover the spectrum from century-old plants in the Conservatory to the prototype Michigan Solar House, designed and built by University of Michigan students and faculty and exhibited on the Mall in Washington D.C.

Hollander's Paper Works features
a variety of beautiful paper designs.
• Downtown is the “in” place to shop. In the 1960s, a revitalization plan turned the brick-paved Main Street of Kerrytown into an urban, outdoor market. Three main buildings feature a variety of locally owned and operated—but widely known--businesses such as Sweetwater’s Cafe, Found Gallery, Lily’s Garden, Hollander’s Paper Works, and Zingerman’s Restaurant.

• Fresh food is foremost. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farm-to-table, and slow food movements are strong in the area. A consortium of people, restaurants, and farms are working to transform Ann Arbor into a center of food culture in Southern Michigan.

• Small breweries are big business. Locally owned and operated microbreweries like Jolly Pumpkin Brewery in nearby Dexter and Original Gravity in Milan are making a name for themselves with tasty and unusual beer flavors. Sip suds flavors from these experimental breweries like oatmeal cookie, orange peel, Belgian training wheels, and vanilla java porter. Then learn about ingredients, aroma, and palate of artisan beers from Arbor Brewing Company in the city.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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