Ann Arbor is close enough to my hometown of Fenton that I’m lucky enough to visit quite often, whether for photoshoots or, my favorite, brunch with my besties. Most importantly, Ann Arbor is a hub for artists to show off their artwork by splashing it on walls, buildings, and alleyways, including the iconic Graffiti Alley.
If you haven’t been to Ann Arbor in a bit, you are in for a treat! For the summer, some of the main streets and crossroads are closed off – this means expanded outdoor dining, lawn games, and cocktails to go while you walk the town. While these summer street closures are so fun, keep in mind that this can cause some confusion when trying to find parking.
My favorite place in Ann Arbor to park is the public Ashley Street lot. Why, you ask? Only because my favorite mural in the entire world is located right there. Part of the A2AC Murals Ann Arbor Public Art Project, this rainbow delight brightens up my day every time I see it.
Parking in most Ann Arbor public lots is free on the weekend! The Ashley Street lot is convenient because it leads to a beautiful brick-lined alley – be sure to check out West Side Book Shop, a used bookstore with tons of charm. I love looking through the stacks of books!
As I said, one of my favorite things about Ann Arbor is that there is so much art to see! The Ann Arbor Art Center has worked wonders in bringing these large-scale pieces to the city for everyone to enjoy.
Unfortunately, our girls’ brunch trip was meant to be a short one, so we didn’t get to experience the full Mural Walk, but I’ll be back another day to experience it!
The Ann Arbor Art Center has created an iPhone app to guide walkers through the different murals in the city and learn about their artists. You can also find the locations of the murals on Google Maps. How fun!
Ann Arbor’s Graffiti Alley
The real reason we made the short trek to Ann Arbor – to check out Graffiti Alley! This alley has long been a place where artists and vandalists alike have gathered to make their mark. Located on East Liberty Street, it’s an easy walk from the Ashley Street lot to the entrance of the alley.
4 Tips for Safely Exploring Graffiti Alley
I’ve been to Graffiti Alley a few times before and while it may seem disconcerting at first – I do have a few tips to help alleviate some of that discomfort and allow you to explore Graffiti Alley comfortably:
- Take a friend or two with you – the alley can get dark at certain times of day and is a bit long and winding, having a friend along is a safe idea.
- Visit mid-day – this is when the most light is going to be shining in the area.
- Keep an open mind and remember that this is graffiti – there are vulgarities on the walls, it happens. Just go in knowing it’s there and you won’t be surprised.
- Take lots of photos!
The walls of Graffiti Alley are ever-changing as new artists come and go. During our visit, there were a lot of anime representations that were really cool as well as a Pac-Man piece that I took a liking to. All of the bright colors together make for really amazing photos.
Graffiti Alley is the perfect spot for selfie lovers and Instagrammers. As a photographer, I knew I had to grab a cool photo of my friends and daughter before we left. My daughter and friends had never been to the alley before so I was happy to take them on a tour!
Don’t Forget Your Ann Arbor Treats!
We can never visit Ann Arbor without picking up brunch and a treat. We stopped by Avalon Cafe and ate outside in their street seating. The chorizo breakfast quesadillas were absolutely amazing. Other items we ordered to our table were potato cakes, potato tacos and a breakfast sandwich, all of which were delicious. My friends and I each had a mimosa (what’s brunch without mimosas?) to round out our meal.
After our trip down Graffiti Alley, we stopped at Le Bon Macaron and it felt like stepping straight into a cafe in France! My daughter had so much fun picking out 6 macarons to try – our favorites were violet, hazelnut and lemon-lavender.
Once we’d eaten our fill of macarons and gotten some extras to take home, we hopped across the street to Literati Bookstore. The staff at this store is incredibly helpful and kind. There’s a typewriter for anyone to write their anonymous thoughts on which is really cool. While we didn’t visit for books today, we did check out another one of my favorite wall art pieces. Literati created a piece inspired by notes left on their typewriter and I love it.
Make the most of your Ann Arbor trip:
- Grab a drink at one of Ann Arbor’s many breweries. Grizzly Peak is one of my favorites!
- Go on the Mural Walk – find the murals on Google Maps! I’m excited to return and do this walk myself.
- Check out the University of Michigan campus – the Diag and the Law Quad are a couple of my favorite spots! If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll love the Law Quad.
- Hang out in Nickels Arcade – a historic enclosed shopping center. This is also a great photo op spot!
- Visit the Matthei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. The botanical gardens are stunning. Nichols Arboretum (lovingly called “The Arb”) is perfect for hiking and checking out the peony blossoms in the Spring.