Travel like a local.


Best Things to Do in Ann Arbor, Michigan with Dan McPherson

It was so much fun interviewing Dan McPherson of Leaders Must Lead about Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dan is such a huge fan of his hometown, and I love his tips about getting better college football tickets for less! And his suggestions for the best things to do in Ann Arbor have me wanting to plan a road trip to hang out with Dan, grab some amazing food, and tailgate before catching a Michigan Wolverines football game in the Big House.

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Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan located about 30 minutes from Detroit, and it’s probably most well-known for being the home of the University of Michigan Wolverines. However, as you’ll find out in this podcast episode, there’s so much more to the town than just the college.

Dan’s favorite time of year to visit Ann Arbor is the fall. There’s college football, pretty colors with the leaves changing, and plenty of cider to drink.

We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Destination Ann Arbor, the local convention and visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.

Best things to do in Ann Arbor

Here are some of the best things to do in Ann Arbor according to our local expert, Dan McPherson. And I’ve added some additional options based on my research and places I’ve visited.

  • Ann Arbor Art Fair Booths (reviews) – join over 100K people to take over a 1/4 of the city as you explore blocks full of booths showcasing artists, food, and drinks.
Best things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Art Fair

So many art booths!

Best things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB Hands On Museum

For kids (and grown-ups) to explore and have fun.

Best things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Michigan Wolverines stadium field

Who’s ready for some football?

Best things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB UM Law Quad

Michigan Law Quad. Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB.

Best things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB U-M Museum of Art

University of Michigan Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB.

Best things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB Yankee Air Museum

Yankee Air Museum. Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB.

During the summer, Sonic Lunch is a local favorite. Every Thursday at 11:30 am, a nationally recognized band will play a free concert in the middle of town. As an added bonus, a local band is the opening act. Most of the music leans towards rock and folk music, so if that’s your style, you should definitely check them out. The weekly concerts start after Memorial Day and end before Labor Day.

One of the coolest tips I learned is that there are Certified Tourism Ambassadors roaming around the town who are willing to help out anyone they come across. Dan says that they have extensively studied Ann Arbor and many of them even have degrees in local history.

When you’re on the University of Michigan campus, don’t step on the famous “M” logo at the very center of Central campus. Many superstitions surrounding stepping on this. It is pretty iconic and obviously needs to be repainted, which typically happens each year.

Best things to do in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson University of Michigan M

Here’s a short list of the current events happening in Ann Arbor that you can buy tickets for.

Looking for other things to do? Here are the top 10 sightseeing tickets and packages for Ann Arbor.

Or, you can buy one of the Lonely Planet books, which are another excellent resource. Their current promo offers 3 books for the price of two.

Best places to eat in Ann Arbor

Although Ann Arbor is seen as a college town by many, it’s also a foodie’s paradise, according to Dan. When you’re in Ann Arbor, there are so many excellent places to eat. I literally had to tell Dan to slown down because he was so excited to talk about all of the amazing food here.

You might call Dan crazy, but he even said that there’s a place in Ann Arbor that has the best brisket outside of Austin, Texas. (Check out Noah’s tips for Austin).

Here are the places that Dan recommends you add to your list of the best places to eat in Ann Arbor.

  • Aventura (reviews) – Dan says they have great drinks and the tapas are incredible. His favorite is the chorizo stuffed bacon wrapped dates with romesco sauce.
Best places to eat in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Aventura Paella

Dan recommends the paella at Aventura.

  • Bill’s Beer Garden (reviews) – a favorite of Margaret of the Ann Arbor tourism bureau. It’s an outdoor garden in downtown Ann Arbor with awesome beer and an unbeatable atmosphere.
  • Blue Nile Restaurant (reviews) – serves Ethiopian food. Dan’s wife’s favorite restaurant. Offers a cool dating experience with their injera bread and full feast.
  • Conor O’Neill’s (reviews) – great food including Irish Boxty and fantastic brown bread. Also, the perfect place to watch a soccer match on TV.
  • Hello Faz Pizza (reviews) – Dan says they have the best pizza in Ann Arbor.
  • Ma Lou’s Fried Chicken (reviews) – another Frank Fejeran food concept. Make sure you get the Biscuit Donut and the Nashville Hot Chicken.
Best places to eat in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Ma Lou's Fried Chicken and Biscuit Donut

The donut biscuits and fried chicken are out of this world.

  • Mani Osteria and Bar (reviews) – this is Margaret’s pick for the best pepperoni pizza in Ann Arbor. Mani is a beautiful Italian restaurant with loads of natural light, incredible food, and the best flatbread pizza ever!
  • Miss Kim (reviews) – this is part of the Zingerman’s restaurant community. They serve Korean street food. Even though Dan has trouble pronouncing it, his favorite is the TTeokbokki.
Best places to eat in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Miss Kim Tteokbokki

Dan says to order the Tteokbokki.

  • Nick’s Original House Of Pancakes (reviews) – great place for breakfast. Fresh made corned beef hash, lemon poppyseed blueberry pancakes, and so much more!
  • Paesano Restaurant (reviews) – makes the best homemade pasta and changes their menu seasonally.
  • Pizza House (reviews) – the most famous pizza place in Ann Arbor. Was originally in a house, but now has the largest seating capacity of any restaurant in Michigan. You need to order the Chipatis and Pepperoni Sticks also!
  • PoCai (reviews) – this Frank Fejeran restaurant is for the health-conscious. With poke bowls and acai, you can eat here every day. Dan calls it “handheld healthy” food.
  • Ray’s Red Hots (reviews) – probably the best hot dog in the area. Chicago style dogs. Has been here since well before Dan started school. His son loves to go there and get a red-hot with barbecue sauce and celery salt.
Best places to eat in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Ray's Red Hots

Chicago-style hot dogs

  • Ricewood (reviews) – a restaurant by Frank Fejeran, this is Dan’s favorite place to eat. Dan says they have the best brisket outside of Austin. It’s a small food truck hidden behind Morgan & York. Opens at 11 and sells out within 90 minutes.
Best places to eat in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Ricewood Brisket Bowl

Doesn’t that brisket look delicious?

  • Seva (reviews) – offers tasty vegetarian food to a continually growing audience.
  • Zingerman’s Delicatessen (reviews) – world famous deli that has been visited by numerous Presidents of the United States. Best known for their Reuben sandwich.
Best places to eat in Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB Zingerman's Deli

Zingerman’s Deli, photo courtesy of Ann Arbor CVB.

Best places to stay in Ann Arbor

When you come to The Big House, here are the best places to stay in Ann Arbor.

AirBnB is also a great option. Use our referral link to get $40 off your first AirBnB stay.

For other hotel options and prices for the best places to stay in Ann Arbor, use, Expedia,, Priceline, Travelocity, or TripAdvisor.

If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.

Getting around Ann Arbor

The closest airport is Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), which is about 30 miles away from Ann Arbor. You can take the Air Ride for about $12 each way when you prepay or $15 for walk-ons.

Since this is a college town, Dan says that you’ll find plenty of college-aged students driving for Uber and Lyft for a little extra cash. He also says that Main Street and campus areas are very walkable, but you’d want a car if you’re exploring the outer edges of town.

If you need to rent a car, click here for the best offers from Avis, Budget, or Hertz.

Dan recommends downloading the ePark app (Apple, Google) if you’ll have a car when you visit Ann Arbor. You can pay for parking through the app and it reminds you when the time is about to run out.

If you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.

The Final Countdown

1) If a traveler could only have one meal in Ann Arbor – Dan’s recommendation would be eating the brisket at Ricewood (reviews) if you can make it there before they sell out. If that happens, then head over to Miss Kim (reviews) for the TTeokbokki.

2) Favorite memory of Ann Arbor – when Dan first stepped on campus at Michigan, it was a surreal moment for him. Seeing how vibrant and beautiful it was. Feeling a part of the community and how connected everything was. And, now that he’s older, Main Street feels like an extension of campus.

3) Happiest Happy Hour in Ann Arbor – Dan says you need to hit Aventura (reviews) for great drinks and incredible tapas. His favorite is the chorizo stuffed bacon wrapped dates with romesco sauce.

4) Best place for pepperoni pizza in Ann Arbor – although the Pizza House is more famous, Dan’s choice is Pizza House (reviews), he says the best pizza in town is at Hello Faz Pizza (reviews).

Who is Dan McPherson?

Dan McPherson is a business coach and consultant that helps creatives and entrepreneurs grow their profits. His company, Leaders Must Lead, runs mastermind groups to provide affordable opportunities for live professional coaching. For those who need it, Dan’s company also provides 1-on-1 coaching.

Ann Arbor Michigan Dan McPherson Pinstripe with Blue Tie

You can connect with Dan McPherson on his website and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Places we talked about on the podcast

Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Dan McPherson about Ann Arbor, Michigan. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.

  • Red dots = best places to eat in Ann Arbor
  • Green dots = best things to do in Ann Arbor
  • Yellow dots = best places to stay in Ann Arbor

Big thanks to today’s podcast sponsor – ZipCar

I avoid renting cars as much as possible when I travel, but sometimes you just need a car for a few hours. That’s where ZipCar comes in. You can rent their cars by the hour, or by the day… and both gas and insurance are included in one flat rate.

Use our link to join at to start out with $25 worth of credits in your bank.

Stay tuned for our next episode

Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii Doug Nordman Haleiwa Beach ParkJoin us in the next episode when Doug Nordman of The Military Guide shares his favorite spots to surf in Oahu, Hawaii. We hope to see you when We Travel There.

What’s your favorite part of Ann Arbor? Let us know in the comment section below or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!

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