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Where To Eat, Sleep And Channel Your Inner Wolverine

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In a mighty college town like Ann Arbor, where practically everyone either studies or works at The University of Michigan, it’s hard to define where campus ends and town begins. As a visitor, you just have to embrace the intersection. Whether it’s your bartender’s Wolverine face paint at the storied Brown Jug or walls of books by famous U-Mich professors at Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor lives and breathes for Michigan Maize and Blue.

Take it in, feel the thrall. Here’s how to enjoy the best of Ann Arbor on a visit to campus, whether you’re a prospective student or an old-time “Victor” back in town for a game in The Big House.

WHERE TO STAY

This one’s an easy A+. Graduate Ann Arbor is practically an extension of the school. Located across the street from campus and a couple blocks from Nickels Arcade, it is the ideal spot for tours, game day visits or class reunions, and cozy for coffee, dinner and cocktails, too. Like all Graduate properties, this one is tailored at every turn to capture the spirit of the school it serves. The chalkboard walls are done up with calculus equations. A 40-foot communal library table is perfect for smarty-pants conversations or focused study. Poindexter is a clubby old-school dinner joint, and the Allen Rumsey Cocktail Lounge is always hopping with Wolverine fans.

With 204 rooms on 14 floors, Graduate is big without feeling overwhelming, and views to campus and the Huron River Valley are as calming as a freshman orientation seminar is stressful. The design style is academic-chic, with library lounge chairs, preppy plaid throws and vintage U-Mich paintings and photos everywhere. That sounds stuffy but there’s just the right amount of winking sass to say, “We’re smart enough not to take ourselves too seriously.” Consider the guestroom key cards, which look like student IDs and feature faces of famous Michigan alums like James Earl Jones and Gilda Radner. The guest bicycles — painted in Michigan colors, naturally — are a nice way to get around campus. It’s comforting, too, knowing that it’s exactly 27 minutes by foot from the hotel entrance to Michigan Stadium, the largest in the United States. Let’s scream it all together: Go Blue!

WHERE TO EAT

Others fly to Ann Arbor for football. I would travel for the pastrami alone. Zingerman’s is one of America’s most delicious delis and after expanding into several buildings over 40 years in business is a sacred compound of corned beef and cole slaw. The popular #2 Zingerman’s Reuben piles corned beef with Swiss Emmental cheese, sauerkraut and housemade Russian dressing. I’m a fan of the sweets: The Magic Brownies with toasted walnuts; the Funky Chunky Chocolate cookies, and the banana cream pie. Yes, please!

Aventura is a Spanish paella restaurant in a historic 1870s brick building that brings big-pan love to this romantic setting. The must order: Fideau de Marisco, which mixes vermicelli pasta, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, piquillo pepper, peas, and saffron sofrito.

Around the corner from the Graduate hotel, Stray Hen Cafe is an excellent breakfast choice, with an oatmeal bar and an impressive menu of pancakes and waffles, including a “flight” of mini-waffles topped with blueberries, bananas, strawberries, cookie butter and apples.

WHAT TO DO

The University’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum is a 300-acre network of greenery and trails named for a former Michigan regent who donated much of the land over a century ago. Among many wild treasures at “The Arb,” there’s a 10,000-square-foot conservatory with bonsai trees, a labyrinth for walking meditation, cultivated hedgerows, a collection of native Michigan trees and a restored prairie. A majestic park within the campus.

The Huron River Water Trail isn’t just about walking. The greenbelt along Michigan’s Lower Peninsula follows the Huron River, with points of entry for kayakers, canoeists and rowers, and countless areas to camp and dine. In the winter, you can cross-country ski and snowshoe along trails that stretch for more than 100 miles through Michigan.

You really do need to visit the Big House. With a capacity of 107,601, Michigan Stadium is a modern wonder of the sporting world, and the pride of every Wolverine. To be in Michigan on game day, with a tailgate extended, and friends, new and old, in their U-M finery is to understand the true meaning of school spirit. Imagine it now: banners flying, in stalwart step they’re nighing, with shouts of vict’ry crying…Oops, now you’ve got me singing the Michigan fight song.

Here they come, hurrah!



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