This is an excerpt from the Daily’s 2014 Orientation Issue. To read the rest of the issue, click here.
As a first-year student at the University, you’ve got an entire new world to splash through. Whether you’re swirling your fork through chicken Parmesan at North Quad, or coaxing the Diag squirrels with chunks of sesame bagel, one terrifying fact remains. Beyond the blue dining hall trays, plush seats of the lecture hall, and shelves of thick UgLi books, there’s the new world of Ann Arbor — and to survive as a first-year college student at the University of Michigan, you’ve got to learn the city, too.
Ann Arbor isn’t the simplest city to navigate with a map. This city has sass, grilled Reuben sandwiches, farmers’ markets, magnolia, whirring bicyclists and a tangle of trees and secrets. Yet despite its bulk of one-way streets and overconfident jaywalkers, the city carries some pretty intricate spaces worth delving into.
If you’re looking for a way to begin exploring the city, start by trekking over to the Arb. Shorthand for Nichols Arboretum, the Arb is a span of woods, running trails, flower fields and wildlife. In the early fall, when leaves begin to spew out their vibrant reds and browns, you’ll find the Arb a prime spot for a game of ultimate Frisbee, a picnic or a stress-relieving bike ride up and down hills. If you find yourself craving a walk by the river, hit up the Huron River, or take a canoe down the water itself to spot the occasional flickering fish.
Walk a few blocks from Central Campus to reach Kerrytown’s Historic Market District, which will satisfy all your fancy foodie cravings. The Kerrytown market — near the intersection of North Fifth Avenue and East Kingsley Street — is home to various treasure troves for one’s taste buds, such as The Lunch Room, where you can find completely vegan sushi rolls, and Monahan’s Seafood Market, where a fresh, sizzling salmon burger will later groove into your dreams. Also located within the district is the world-famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen, where you can choose between dozens of mouth-watering sandwiches — including the Zingerman’s Reuben, which President Obama sampled during his visit to Ann Arbor last spring. On top of these restaurants, each Saturday morning and Wednesday evening, Kerrytown is home to the Ann Arbor Famers Market — offering fresh produce, homemade pastries and, in the fall season, glamorous pitchers of freshly-squeezed apple cider.
Looking for a wild, funky Ann Arborite treat to show your friends back home? The Gum Wall, located in the mural graffiti alleyway down East Liberty Street, is a fresh spot to document with your Instagram account. Whip out your camera phone to snap a photo of the fossilized hunks of multi-colored chewing gum that have studded the walls for years. If you’re feeling ultra-wild, spit out your own wad and add it to the mix. A similarly weird Ann Arbor attraction is The Rock, on Washtenaw Avenue, which, for years, students, townies and visitors alike have adorned with spray-painted messages of love, angst and late-night adventure.
Music fans, you’ve got a wealth of options in Ann Arbor. The Blind Pig hosts dozens of concerts each month, and on Main Street, The Ark is another performance venue with spacious lighting and seating. And for all entertainment-seekers, don’t forget about The Michigan Theater, which sprouts new and off-the-beaten-path films every week, along with an offering of the occasional organ-player and plentiful bowls of buttery popcorn.
If you’re seeking some out-of-classroom learning, make sure to check out the UMMA, the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The UMMA not only holds a rich collection of artistic artifacts from numerous centuries, but also features special collections and events each month. The Museum of Natural History is another prime spot to frequent, as it holds a planetarium, stargazing shows and dinosaur bones.
Feeling fancy? Main Street offers a slew of high-class, sleek restaurants and establishments. Must-sees include Cherry Republic — where you can sample (and buy) dark chocolate covered cherries and cherry salsa, and Vault of Midnight, a comic book cavern filled with dashing board games and the newest volumes of comics.
If you want a nice place to study, The Law Quad not only looks majestic, but holds a majestic silence both within and outside of the building. Grab a picnic blanket and curl up beneath the sun in the Law Quad’s yard this fall, and prepare to let your brain soak in the serenity.
Despite the concentration of attractions on Central Campus, North Campus also contains a wide array of cool sights. The Wave Field is a series of tiny waves built into the grass. Make sure you run, skip or find people to sled down the small hills with in the winter. What’s more, listen for the North Campus Lurie Tower carillon bells, which chime out dainty tunes on the hour.
While overwhelmingly full, Ann Arbor remains teeming with fascinating places to dip into. Rather than shy away from all the off-campus adventure, place your foot off the beaten path. Explore the city. Meet a townie. Who knows? You might find even newer treasure.