You might want to do some exploring this winter. Getting out can provide novelty and help reduce “cabin fever.”
Admittedly, exploration this winter is a bit harder than usual due to COVID, but you can still do it while wearing masks and social distancing.
Worried you'll be miserable if you go out? According to How to Retain Your Heat and Stay Upbeat While Socializing in Winter, you could adopt the Friluftsliv mentality, which means "free, outdoor life" in Norwegian, where they apparently say, "There is no such thing as bad weather. It's only if you have bad clothes." So bundle up and also learn how to prevent and respond to frostbite and hypothermia -- see Tips for Low Temps.
Walking has lots of benefits including:
- It helps you get “the lay of the land” and feel more connected to a place
- It exercises your body and helps counteract a sedentary lifestyle
- It exposes you to daylight, assuming you walk in the day, which can help counteract seasonal affective disorder
- It takes no special equipment and can be done even in the cold of winter -- just wear more layers as recommended in How to Retain Your Heat and Stay Upbeat While Socializing in Winter
Outdoor walks on or near campus and FREE!
- Central Campus walking tour and video -- there’s always more to discover on campus
- U-M Nichols Arboretum (AKA the Arb):
- U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens offers lots of trails to explore. It's located about 6 miles from central campus. Buses do not travel to the U-M Botanical Gardens at this time. The Conservatory building is not open now.
- Fairy Doors - Kids in particular will enjoy discovering the homes of these tiny legendary creatures, mostly located downtown.
- Self-guided architectural tour with accompanying audio tour highlights interesting structures in Ann Arbor, mostly located downtown.
Outdoor walks in Ann Arbor city parks near campus - There is no cost for walking in these parks.
You may want to drive by car or travel by U-M Blue Bus or Ann Arbor city bus. If you are planning a bus trip, please be sure to consider the weather and holiday schedule changes. For the most current information:
- See Ann Arbor City AATA The Ride routes or call 734-996-0400 for route information
- See U-M Blue Bus Routes and Schedules, the Holiday Schedule, or the Trip Planner
Ann Arbor city park walks:
- Leslie Science Center and Nature Center offers trails that wind through the Black Pond Woods, and you can see rescued raptors and birds of prey in outdoor enclosures, unless the temperature dips below 0°F. (Outdoor attractions are open, but the indoor Science Center is closed at this time.) See map. The Ann Arbor The Ride bus route #23 (Plymouth Road) stops on Plymouth Road at Barton Road, then walk to the Leslie Science Center.
- Follow the Huron River from the Cascades and Argo dam, to Bandemer Park, where you cross the river and return on the other side - 2.2 miles, see map. The Ann Arbor The Ride bus route #23 (Plymouth Road) stops on Plymouth Road near the Cascades.
- Gallup Park and Furstenberg Nature Area are connected and both have great trails, so you can walk as much or as little as you like - see map. The Ann Arbor The Ride bus route #3 (Huron River) stops near Gallup Park.
- Island Park to Cedar Bend Nature Area to Broadway loop - 2 miles. Kids may enjoy these activity sheets. The U-M Wall Street Express and Winter Break Wall Street Express (PDF) and U-M Wall Street-NIB routes stop on Maiden Lane, near Island Drive.
In Washtenaw County, MI:
- The Best Scenic Drives around Ann Arbor: The Huron River Drive is easy and fun. Most of these drives are in Washtenaw County, but some are farther away.
- Heritage Tours in Washtenaw County offer multiple self-guided tours, such as beautiful barns.
- Take a self-guided tour of South Adams Street in Ypsilanti to see points of interest in this vibrant community and important stop on the Underground Railroad. Ypsilanti is located about 13 miles east of Ann Arbor. An alternative to driving is to take the The Ann Arbor The Ride bus route #3 (Huron River), which stops at the Ypsilanti Transit Center (220 Pearl Street, Ypsilanti), then walk to South Adams Street. See If you are planning a bus trip above.
Belleville, MI is located about 20 minutes east of Ann Arbor by car.
- Visit the Yankee Air Museum to learn about the Willow Run Bomber Plant, which Henry Ford built from an auto manufacturing plant. At the time it was the world’s largest aircraft plant. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays. Purchase tickets in advance. You can watch a video about this important location in Michigan’s history. Detroit is located about an hour east by car. This city with a rich history is experiencing a renaissance.
Detroit, MI is located about an hour east of Ann Arbor by car.
- Take a walking tour of downtown Detroit, with new and old buildings, and wave hello to Canada across the Detroit River. Download the free GPSMyCity to access a tour.
- Belle Isle is a crown jewel of Detroit! Download an app for a self-guided audio tour as well as a map. (Note also the special holiday tour of Belle Isle above.)
- A Designer’s Guide to Detroit offers fun destinations, although some indoor locations may be closed due to COVID. Get a guide via an app.
- Detroit Institute of Arts is just amazing. Purchase tickets in advance.
- Visit Eastern Market in Detroit on Saturdays, 6 AM - 4 PM.
Bloomfield Hills, MI is about 45 minutes northeast of Ann Arbor by car:
- Explore Cranbrook House and Gardens - there’s no cost to walk the grounds, and you don’t have to register in advance.
- The Cranbrook Art Museum is also a gem. Purchase tickets in advance.
Dearborn, MI is located about 45 minutes east of Ann Arbor by car. It’s the hometown of Henry Ford, who was a formidable inventor and industrialist who built the Ford automobile company and much more. The city also has the largest proportion of Arab Americans in the US. Learn Why You Should Visit Dearborn.
- Fairlane is the Henry and Clara Ford Estate, and it’s located at U-M Dearborn. You can walk the gardens and around the buildings at no cost.
- Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village is a world renown museum. Purchase tickets in advance.
- Henry Ford Self-Guided Tour - this tour uses the free GPSmycity app
- Dearborn Historical Walking Tour - follow a map for this walk
- Dearborn's bakeries are well known and for good reason - you can purchase some to take home
Toledo, Ohio is about an hour south of Ann Arbor by car.
- The Toledo Institute of Art including the Glass Pavillion, which traces the history of glass and displays pieces from antiquity through current famous glass artists. The museum will reopen on Wed, Dec 16, and admission is free.
Muskegon, MI is located about 2.5 hours west of Ann Arbor by car, on Lake Michigan.
- The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers luge, cross-country skiing, skating and snowshoeing. Check weather and trail conditions before you go, because these outdoor sports are weather-dependent. Purchase tickets in advance.
Throughout Michigan, State Parks offer winter activities. Pinckney State Park and Lake Island State Park in Brighton are both within 30-40 minutes from campus by car. State parks charge entry fees, although sometimes not in winter.
University Musical Society (UMS) virtual performances are free.
Detroit Experience Factory offers free virtual tours (register in advance):
- Jan 10: A brief history of urban planning in Detroit
- Jan 16: Detroit in Context: Assets, History and Challenges
Famous museums are offering virutal tours, including museums in Europe, Brazil, Mexico City, and the US. You can get a "private tour" and see priceless artwork, without the crowds!
This Getting to Know Ann Arbor video by Rackham Graduate School can help you discover that there’s a lot more to this place than you may know. Not everything mentioned in this video is available, but they should be available
not if but WHEN the pandemic comes to an end.
See also Winter Survival Tips.