Ann Arbor Introduction Walking Tour, Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Ann Arbor

A western exurb of Detroit, the charming green college town of Ann Arbor possesses a unique charm and down-home atmosphere – a combination of big-city amenities and a small-town vibe.

It started off as a small strip of land registered in 1825 as "Annarbour", named after the wives of its co-founders, both called Ann, and the stands of bur oak trees. Following the move of the University of Michigan here from Detroit in 1837, the histories of the university and the town have been closely intertwined. The arrival of the Michigan Central Railroad in 1839 made the town a regional transportation hub and brought more settlers in throughout the 1840s-50s. In 1851, Ann Arbor was chartered as a city.

Ann Arbor enjoyed further growth in the early to mid-20th century. In the 1960s-70s it gained reputation as a center for left-wing politics and became a focal point for opposition to the Vietnam War.

Thanks to the lavish gentrification in the past few decades, Ann Arbor consistently ranks among the "top places to live in the United States" selected annually by various mainstream media outlets. Indeed, today's Ann Arbor is a bustling city that is rich in everything, from tech companies to world-famous research facilities, as well as parks, top-notch museums, performance venues, and more.

Also known as Tree Town for its 50,000 trees lining the streets, this gem in the heart of America is extremely pedestrian friendly. To discover the prominent landmarks of Ann Arbor, take this self-guided introductory walk.
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Ann Arbor Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Ann Arbor Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Ann Arbor (See other walking tours in Ann Arbor)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: Caroline
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The Diag
  • State Street
  • Nickels Arcade
  • First United Methodist Church
  • Judge Robert S. Wilson House
  • Kerrytown’s Market & Shops
  • Kellogg-Warden House (Museum on Main Street)
  • Main Street
  • Kempf House Museum
  • Graffiti Alley
  • Michigan Theater
The Diag

1) The Diag

The Diag is an open green space in the center of the University of Michigan campus. The name comes from the diagonal sidewalks that run through the green. These sidewalks are used by students to get to buildings on campus like the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, the Hatcher Graduate Library, West Hall, Tisch Hall and Randall Lab.

The Diag is one of the busiest places on the campus. Along with the numerous students who use the Diag to get from building to building, it is also often used for special events. On any given day, one can find a concert, demonstration or fundraiser taking place on the green. It is also a popular place for picnicking.

One of the most distinctive features of the green is a brass M, called the Michigan M, that is in the very center. Students take great pains to avoid stepping on the M as it is said that any student who steps on it will fail their first bluebook exam.
State Street

2) State Street

Found near the University of Michigan campus, the State Street and its surrounding area is deservedly regarded as the "entertainment capital " of Ann Arbor – a true mecca for arts and culture lovers, as well as shoppers of all stripes and passionate foodies.

In particular, those keen on history, science, and other intellectual entertainment, will find it in abundance in this artistic and theatrical giant of the community. Places like the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, Planetarium & Dome Theater, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology are fit to blow anyone away with their exhibits.

And if you're a fan of classical music, then the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra is your place. Even those digging on pop more, will find it equally entertaining, as the place regularly runs pieces rooted in pop culture, such as their Harry Potter-inspired event and annual Disney show. University Musical Society is a world-renowned institution that brings world music and barrier-busting performances to Ann Arbor’s historic venues.

The Michigan and State Theaters, in addition to being historic gems, play host to two annual film festivals. The Ann Arbor Film Festival in January is the oldest experimental film festival in North America, while the Ann Arbor Summer Festival is an annual display of performing arts, outdoor entertainment, offering film screenings as well as live performances by stand-up comedians and other artists.

In terms of food and drink, the street stands tall with many outstanding restaurants and bars, serving both American culinary classics and international cuisine. The shopping scene is just as fantastic, fitting the trendy needs of all ages and genders.
Nickels Arcade

3) Nickels Arcade

Nickels Arcade is a historical commercial building on South State Street in Ann Arbor. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The building is notable as perhaps the only remaining example in Michigan of a free-standing commercial arcade building of a type that was popularized by the Cleveland Arcade.

John Nickels owned and operated a meat market at this location on State Street. His grandson Tom Nickels inherited a portion of the property, and bought other portions of the property from his brothers and sister. Nickels hired local architect Hermann Pipp to design this building. Construction began in 1915. The first tenant, the Farmers and Mechanics bank, moved in that year. The entire building, however, was not completed until 1918, due in part to delays caused by the onset of World War I. Nickels owned the Arcade until his death in 1932, when he passed it on to his children, James and Nora.

Nickels Arcade is a 261-foot-long gallery linking State Street on one side to Maynard Street on the other. The principal facade faces onto State Street, and consists of a three-story, three-bay open portico flanked with store and office blocks. The facade is clad with a buff-colored decorative architectural terra cotta. The Maynard Street facade is similar to the State Street facade in design, but is clad primarily with yellow brick, with additional ornamental detailing of terra cotta. The gallery running between the facades is covered with a gable skylight of metal-framed wire-glass panels.

On each side of the gallery are ground-level shops which face onto the roofed passage. These shops are essentially two stories in height, some with a mezzanine level. Upper-story office windows above the commercial spaces also face onto the gallery. The arcade is floored with blocks of square red tile in black borders. The arcade is divided into three sections: the section nearest State Street continues the terra cotta cladding and detailing of the State Street facade. This section is separated from the next by a segmental archway; a similar archway near the other end separates the center section from an entrance vestibule.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
First United Methodist Church

4) First United Methodist Church

The First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor is located near the University of Michigan on State and Huron Streets. The history of the church dates to 1825 when the first Methodist sermon was given in Ann Arbor. The cornerstone for the original church was laid on May 9, 1866. Completed only one year later, the first service at the new church was led by the president of the University of Michigan.

The growth of the congregation required a new, larger church to be built. That church, which is the present First United Methodist Church, was dedicated on October 6, 1940. Though the newer church was much larger, additions and refurbishments have continued through the 21st century. For instance, the chapel and education wing was added in 1959 and the Memorial Garden was added in 1981. A complete renovation took place in 2000.

Regular events that are open to the public take place at the church. Some of these include coffee house-style concerts, conversations about faith and exercise groups. Those who wish to attend services at the church may join at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings or check the church's calendar for a list of special events.
Judge Robert S. Wilson House

5) Judge Robert S. Wilson House

The Judge Robert S. Wilson House, also known as the Wilson-Wahr House, is a private house located in Ann Arbor. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Robert S. Wilson was an attorney who moved from Allegheny County, New York, to Ann Arbor in 1835. He was Judge of the Washtenaw County Probate court for a year, and served in the Michigan House of Representatives. In approximately 1839, Wilson had this house built on a lot in Ann Arbor. He lived there until 1850, when he moved to Chicago and sold the house to John H. Welles.

The Robert S. Wilson House is a two-story Greek Revival structure constructed of brick with a stucco finish on a stone foundation. Nearly every survey of Michigan architecture has singled out the Wilson House as an outstanding specimen of Neoclassical architecture design. Architect Fiske Kimball attributed its "four study Ionic columns, rising through two stories, with graceful flutes and capitals" to the original Temple of the Wingless Victory at Athens.

The front facade boasts a full-width portico with Ionic fluted shaft columns, and an entryway framed by matching pilasters. Windows have external shutters. A two-story addition on the rear was likely constructed more recently than the main portion of the house.

Inside, the main section of the house is two parlors deep with a hall containing a stairwell to the side. The rear addition has a side entrance into another stair hall. All the major rooms in the house have fireplaces.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Kerrytown’s Market & Shops

6) Kerrytown’s Market & Shops (must see)

Kerrytown is a vibrant community near the center of downtown Ann Arbor. Kerrytown’s Market & Shops offer a unique shopping experience that should not be missed. It is the ideal place to find a souvenir from your trip to Ann Arbor or simply enjoy the atmosphere. It is a great place to find something to eat as well.

The history of Kerrytown dates to the 19th century. The old-world charm is still evident in the buildings of the market district that line 5th street. Visitors to the city may find as much joy in admiring the traditional brickwork that is married to modern glass to create a look that is old and new at the same time.

There are numerous shops and restaurants with plenty to offer. Shoppers will find handcrafted merchandise, teas, spices, wines, oils, crafting materials, toys and much more. Those wishing to dine can choose from seafood, organic meats and cuisines from around the world.
Kellogg-Warden House (Museum on Main Street)

7) Kellogg-Warden House (Museum on Main Street)

The Kellogg-Warden House is a single-family house located on North Main Street in Ann Arbor. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. It now houses the Washtenaw County Historical Society's Museum on Main Street.

The Kellogg-Warden House is a side-gable, side hall, Greek Revival half-I-house with a one-and-one-half-story gable-roof rear addition. It measures approximately twenty-six feet by forty-six feet. The house is sided with clapboard, and currently sits on a concrete block foundation, which has been faced with the fieldstones and bricks form the original foundation. The house has a box cornice with returns in the gable ends. The main facade is three bays wide, with the front door at one end. The door is flanked by four fluted pilasters. The windows are primarily double-hung sash units with two-over-two lights, save for a six-over-six window in the attic.

This house was originally located at what is now 1015 Wall Street. Although the date of construction cannot be verified, tax and sales records suggest that the original section of the house was built in about 1835. In 1837, Dan W. Kellogg purchased five contiguous lots, including the one this house sat on. In 1838, Kellogg sold them to his brother-in-law Ethan A. Warden. In 1839, Warden sold two of the lots, including the one containing this house, to his father-in-law (and Dan Kellogg's father) Charles Kellogg, who had moved to the Ann Arbor about this time. The sales prices suggest that the main portion of the house was constructed by Warden before his father-in-law's arrival.

In 1988 the house was sold to the University of Michigan. The University planned to use the land for a parking lot, but recognizing the historical significance, gave the house to the Washtenaw County Historical Society. In 1990, the house was moved to its current location on North Main. The Washtenaw County Historical Society refurbished the house and it now houses the Museum on Main Street.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Main Street

8) Main Street (must see)

Ann Arbor's Main Street technically starts near the Huron River, between Bandemer Park and Bluffs Nature Area, and then snakes through the downtown area, past the University of Michigan Golf Course, culminating at Eisenhower Parkway. Still, for most locals Main Street is the lively portion of it that bustles day and night, dominated by numerous shopping, dining, entertainment and nightlife venues, collectively exuding a strong sense of place and local culture.

As a center of activity and community gathering place, Main Street offers so much to see and do that many visitors plan their time around this eclectic area. The vibrant thoroughfare literally bursts at the seams with progressive restaurants, creative cocktail bars, unique meeting spaces, popular music joints and boundary-breaking art galleries.

Some of the spots a tourist will find on and around Main Street include the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Blue Llama Jazz Club, and Downtown Home and Garden. Those who want to spend their time outdoors will find Liberty Plaza to be a true treat. This park area has benches for seating, shade trees and regular musical performances in the summer.

However, dynamic dining is what most defines Main Street. Classical steaks, Asian cuisine, or other internationally-inspired casual fare (like Cuban or Greek), as well as healthful comfort food, crepes and waffles, or farm-to-table stuff – are all offered here in great supply. The bar scene on Main Street is just as exciting.

Shopping-wise, the area is second to none either and hosts several annual events to celebrate their unique retailers. Bookstores may be the most famous of them. Known for decades as a book-lover’s destination, Ann Arbor is home to a plethora of niche, unique, independent booksellers, many of which are based on Main Street or nearby side streets.

The continuous rhythm of historic 19th and early 20th-century building storefronts (featuring a variety of styles like Commercial, Italianate, Beaux Arts, Moderne and Art Deco) contribute to an exciting pedestrian environment.

There are also more than a dozen events organized on Main Street throughout the year (such as Festifools, Taste of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, or Rolling Sculpture Car Show) which attract residents and visitors of all ages.
Kempf House Museum

9) Kempf House Museum

The Kempf House Museum, also known as the Henry Bennett House or the Reuben Kempf House, is a house museum in downtown Ann Arbor. It was originally built as a single-family home in 1853. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Henry DeWitt Bennet was the postmaster of Ann Arbor during most of the 1850s. In about 1853, Bennett had this house built. Bennett was later the secretary and steward of the University of Michigan. In 1886 Bennet retired and moved to California, selling his house to a neighbor. The neighbor rented it out for a few years, and in 1890 sold the house to Reuben and Pauline Kempf.

Both Reuben and Pauline Kempf were musicians, and they give music lessons in their house. Pauline taught vocal lessons and Reuben gave piano lessons. The Kempfs were very active in the community music events. Pauline served as the choir director of the Congregational Church, and Reuben was the first organist and choir director at St. Andrew's. Reuben also served as the music director of the University Glee Club and the Michigan Union Opera.

The Kempfs turned their house into a local center for the musical arts often hosting diverse groups from students to dignitaries. Among their guests are musical figures such as Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Victor Herbert, and Ernestine Schumann-Heink. The Kempfs lived in the house until their deaths: Reuben's in 1945 and Pauline's in 1953.

In 1969 the city of Ann Arbor acquired the house and turned the house into a historic museum. The house has been restored, and includes a music studio that looks as it did when the Kempfs were first giving lessons. The house is open for tours weekly.

The Bennett House is a frame, 1-1/2 story, temple style Greek Revival house sitting on a brick foundation. The facade has four massive, squared Doric columns, along with three frieze windows and a graceful tympanum. A small, two-room addition holding the kitchen, built in the 1890s, is attached to the rear.

Kempf House is open for guided tours on Sundays 1-4pm (except holidays), from September through December, and April through May. Tours are also available by appointment for groups or individuals. Admission is free.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Graffiti Alley

10) Graffiti Alley

Tucked away just off East Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, right next to Michigan Theatre, is a narrow alley densely covered in graffiti. This colorful alley, a unique place for artists and lovers of this media, emerged on the scene in 1999, when the artist named Katherine Cost first painted here a piece, called Infinite Possibilities. Sadly, that original work was defaced by other graffiti artists only a few weeks later. Still, the mark made by Ms. Cost lingers on, as the new artists continue to leave theirs, seeing this place constantly evolve.

The result is a pretty cool, if not say crazy, mixture of colors, messages and images perpetually changing, as time goes by. A hotbed for artists, Graffiti Alley is open for everyone to leave their statement for the world... literally, if only for a week or so, till it gets painted over by something else. This, in turn, makes it ever more interesting to explore.

The spot may well not be too much publicized, but it is popular nonetheless. People simply cannot help stepping in to check it out whilst passing by. If you wish to tag the wall, or snap a few selfies, or are just curious to see what's inside, don't be shy and pop in. Although open all year round, the alley is particularly packed during summer with those anxious to take selfies and photos for Instagram.

Indeed, Graffiti Alley is a new kind of art in the city that you don't want to miss.... Even if graffiti is not your thing, you may still have some ideas that may change your perspective. Plus it's free! So, it's a win-win all the same...
Michigan Theater

11) Michigan Theater (must see)

The Michigan Theater is a movie palace in Ann Arbor. It shows independent films and stage productions, and hosts musical concerts.

Designed by Detroit-based architect Maurice Finkel and built in 1927, the historic auditorium seats 1610 and features the theater's original 1927 Barton Theatre Pipe Organ, orchestra pit, stage, and elaborate architectural details.

The Michigan Theater opened on January 5, 1928, and was at the time the finest theater in Ann Arbor. The theater not only showed movies, but also hosted vaudeville acts, live concerts, and touring stage plays. Over the years, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Paul Robeson, and Ethel Barrymore all appeared at the theater.

During a renovation in 1956, many of the original ornate designs were destroyed. After a period of low attendance, the theater was threatened with demolition when its 50-year lease to Butterfield Theatres ran out in 1978, but members of the community and local organists helped raise funds to save and renovate the theater, returning it to its original design. A second screen, the Screening Room, with a state-of-the-art sound system, seating for 200, and the ability to project films digitally, was added in 1999.

The Michigan Theater is the current home of the annual Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Ann Arbor Symphony, and the Ann Arbor Concert Band. The theater has been named Outstanding Historic Theatre by the League of Historic American Theaters in 2006.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Create Your Own Walk in Ann Arbor

Create Your Own Walk in Ann Arbor

Creating your own self-guided walk in Ann Arbor is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Ann Arbor's Historical Buildings

Ann Arbor's Historical Buildings

Founded in the 1820s and centered on the University of Michigan, the city of Ann Arbor boasts hundreds of splendid buildings, many of which are included in the National Register. The U-M campus itself was registered as Historic District in 1978.

The abundance of down-home charm, especially in the historic district, is richly complemented by plethora of time-tested architectural landmarks in...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
University of Michigan Walking Tour

University of Michigan Walking Tour

Ann Arbor is a home to the sprawling University of Michigan – one of America’s best public educational institutions, attracting top students and faculty from all over the world.

Founded in 1817 in Detroit as the University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state, this university is Michigan's oldest. The school was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837. Among its alumni there...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles