leave your inhibitions at the door
This week the world converges on our town for the annual Ann Arbor Art Fairs. That isn’t a typo – it’s actually four separate fairs on the same dates, right next to each other. Combined, it’s one of the largest in North America – to the tune of 500,000 visitors each year. What do locals think of it?
It seems every year, I hear a lot of them dreading it. Stuff like – “We just got rid of the students, now our town is getting invaded by fat tourists with fanny packs and white sneakers.” “Streets and parking lots are all clogged.” “It’s impossible to get a table at a restaurant.” “It’s too crowded.” “Most of the art is too expensive and I wouldn’t want to put THAT on my wall.”
All very true, and that’s why I love it. When the students are here the town is buzzing with energy and that energy comes back for four days to break the monotony. Sure there are a lot of fat people, but at least we’re getting tourists! (And admit it, it feels good when you see someone fatter or uglier than you) As for the art, yes there’s crap like this…
But there’s also amazing stuff like this…
The biggest reason Art Fair Week rocks is that it gives Ann Arbor a chance to shine. Sure, we’ll always have the University of Michigan as our greatest claim to fame. But honestly, most people only know it as “the Harvard of the Midwest” or “Ohio State’s football doormats”. On the west coast, it’s referred to as “Who?” Ann Arbor needs more than the U to distinguish itself from Champaign, Bloomington, Columbus or any other small town with a big university. And being the home of a national bookstore chain isn’t going to cut it, either. Oops.
Way back when we were deciding whether to move here, Boom Boom and I visited during Art Fair Week and it sealed the deal. We wanted somewhere that had culture and was full of life, and this week exemplifies both.
But what about the food and wine scene? There are a few food courts but, unfortunately, they are mostly filled with the usual traveling carnie food.
Your best bet is to visit the local restaurants who set-up beer gardens on the streets. Here are my recommendations, many of which will be subjects of future Ann Arbor Rocks posts:
– Ashley’s – Good bar food and over 100 beers.
– Tomukun – Best casual pan-Asian noodle shop in the city.
– Jolly Pumpkin – Gastropub featuring Belgian-style beers that in tastings beat out actual Belgian beers.
– Mani – Awesome wood-fired pizzas
– Vinology – great menu, long wine list
– Palio (upstairs only) – al fresco Italian