Looking for weekend plans? Uncover the charm and excitement of Ann Arbor’s hidden gems and vibrant attractions!

Ann Arbor provides abundant opportunities for college students on a budget to fully experience the vibrant college life without breaking the bank. From free cultural events to budget-friendly activities, there’s something for everyone. With its lively atmosphere and student-friendly options, Ann Arbor ensures that every college student can make the most of their experience without straining their budget.

#1 Visit the Umma or Natural History Museum

The museum features both permanent exhibits and regularly changing displays across its premises. The Natural History Museum offers an ideal escape for cold or rainy days. Exploring both the consistent and rotating exhibits makes for a perfect day out, especially since admission is free! Extend the experience by enjoying a meal in downtown Ann Arbor.

Fall and Winter Hours:

Tuesday—Sunday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

#2 Search for Fairy Doors

As of October 2023 there are 14 fairy doors located in downtown Ann Arbor. These whimsical, tiny attractions bring joy to every seeker lucky enough to find them. What adds a unique twist to this free, DIY scavenger hunt is that many doors are located inside various establishments, turning it into an indoor adventure.

Possible Locations of the Fairy Doors:

  1. The Ann Arbor District Library
  2. The Hidden King Cafe & Bar
  3. The Michigan Theater
  4. The Ark
  5. Red Shoes
  6. Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea
  7. Found Gallery
  8. Mott Children’s Hospital
  9. Nicola’s Books
  10. The Himalayan Bazaar
  11. Blank State Creamery
  12. Shinola
  13. The Fairy Village
  14. FordLabs

#3 Graffiti Alley

Graffiti Alley, situated just off East Liberty Street, offers a free and fantastic opportunity for photo enthusiasts. This unique spot is an alley adorned with ever-changing graffiti, showcasing a dynamic canvas as new artists contribute to its vibrant transformation. Tucked away yet easily accessible, Graffiti Alley is a must-visit attraction for anyone seeking a captivating visual experience.

#4 Matthaei Botanical Gardens

The Matthaei Gardens boast 11 captivating outdoor spaces adorned with bonsai, medicinal plants, and ever-changing seasonal blooms. Extending the allure, approximately 3 miles of picturesque trails wind through the landscape. For those seeking respite during Michigan’s frosty months, the Gardens offer an inviting year-round indoor conservatory, providing an ideal escape to a lush, vibrant environment. The admission is free, but metered parking is available for $2.20 per hour, with a $6 daily maximum charge.


10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Wednesday
Closed Mondays

#5 Pinball Pete’s

Situated at 1214 South University, Pinball Pete’s welcomes visitors with free admission. Game prices vary, operating on a quarter system with some games costing a dollar or more. It’s advisable to come prepared with quarters or bills for exchanging. Boasting a diverse selection, Pinball Pete’s offers pinball games, air hockey, pool tables, classic arcade shooters, and beloved classics such as Frogger and Galaga, ensuring a delightful experience for all. Operating until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and midnight on other days, Pinball Pete’s accommodates late-night enthusiasts.

#6 Ann Arbor Farmers Market

Every Saturday, the Ann Arbor Farmers Market happens from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at 315 Detroit Street and admission is free. With a rich history spanning 105 years, the market remains exclusively producer-only, showcasing a diverse array of offerings from 125 vendors across Michigan. Immerse yourself in a vibrant marketplace featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, farm-fresh eggs, pastured meat, poultry, flowers, plants, seedlings, and an assortment of other locally sourced delights.

Jan-April Hours and Days:

Saturdays 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

#7 Hole in the Wall Food

In Ann Arbor, savor a rich tapestry of international flavors within our vibrant food scene, boasting a collection of over 400 restaurants. Explore the authenticity of Ethiopian cuisine, delight in scrumptious Eastern European dishes, experience award-winning Italian dining, and relish delicious American classics. Treat yourself to gourmet desserts and hand-crafted ice cream conveniently located near local parks and public playgrounds.

Restaurants to Try:

  1. Blank Slate Creamery
  2. RoosRoast Coffee Works
  3. Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger
  4. Chela’s Restaurant and Taqueria
  5. Jerusalem Garden
  6. Bomber Restaurant

#8 Nickels Arcade

Nickels Arcade, an alluring indoor shopping destination in downtown Ann Arbor, boasts a timeless ambiance with its mosaic tiles adorning a long corridor beneath a lofty ceiling, positioned between Maynard Street and State Street. Hosting a variety of businesses for over a century, the arcade invites a leisurely stroll. The enduring aesthetic of the mall itself is captivating, even if you choose not to explore individual stores. Nestled in the lively State Street District, Nickels Arcade is the exclusive home to distinctive establishments like Arcadian Antiques, The Caravan Gift Shop, and Van Boven Shoes, offering a unique and charming experience.

#9 Check out Year Round Events

All year round, Ann Arbor plays host to a variety of events that joyfully celebrate life and culture. The city excels at catering to diverse interests, whether in art, theater, music, history, or beyond, creating the ideal fusion of small-town charm and vibrant city life to satisfy everyone’s passions Look here for all the upcoming events!

#10 Go Bowling

Revel & Roll hosts 27 lanes and offers unlimited bowling for $20.99 Sunday-Thursday! Go to their website here to see the exact times unlimited bowling starts!

—This story is written by Keara Chaperon, Social Media Manager for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at keara.chaperon@cuaa.edu.