When I told people I was going to Ann Arbor their predictable response was why would an international traveler want to go there? And as well traveled as I am, I thought the same thing until I read the incredibly diverse activities available in this international college town that boasts the University of Michigan. While many of us are dreaming of far-flung trips, let’s face it, the economy has curtailed extravagant oversea jaunts. Now Ann Arbor might not be your first….or fifth choice on paper, but if you’re looking for an engaging holiday where you can dig in, get your hands dirty and come out with an appreciation of the local culture, Ann Arbor is not to be missed.
Of all the places I’ve reported on this year, Ann Arbor stands out as the town to have a hands-on vacation. In Ann Arbor you don’t go to Museums and simply see the art, you go and create your own art. Touché for the bakery and the tile company.
Founded by Michigan grad Nawal Motawi, these handcrafted beauties are known for their rich glaze and American designs inspired by nature, art and architecture. Visitors can tour the Motawi Tile workshop and learn the many steps required to produce a picture perfect tile. But the best part is being able to take part in a group class where you make your own tile. Now, I’m the first to admit my artistic talent is limited to stick figures, but I was able to cobble together a snowflake motif. The tile is left at Motawi for its experts to glaze and fire and is sent to participants within several weeks. Classes are run intermitedly through the studio and the Ann Arbor Art Center. Contact Motawi directly to inquire about class opportunities.
Today, as the printed page seems to be becoming extinct,Hollander’s is a refreshing change. This family owned business located in Kerrytown is world-renowned for its bookbinding, book art, and printmaking and paper arts courses. Hollander’s offers multi-day seminars, but many of their offerings are several hours and perfect for the traveler. Tourists can learn the art of bookbinding, get an introduction to the letterpress or learn how to make a Japanese box.
In Ann Arbor, Zingerman’s is a true local business success. Growing from one deli, the Zingerman family of companies now encompasses some eight different ventures including Zingerman’s Bakehouse where I had the sheer delight of whipping up “fancy schmancy holiday cookies.” This normally four-hour class was abbreviated for my group so we focused on two cookies, a raspberry linzer and chocolate coconut macaroon. I loved that the staff had pre-measured the ingredients. As much as I know baking is a science, I’m a fiend for simply throwing ingredients in the pot and hoping for the best. The instructor, Shelby was upbeat and convinced our group that even the least Martha Stewart amongst us could produce presentable cookies, and you know what? He was right. The only challenge was in trying to stop eating our creations.
The Ann Arbor Art Center
This community art center is focused on bringing special art exhibits to Ann Arbor and exposing its citizens and tourists to art workshops. Travelers can drop by for painting classes, photography instruction, an introduction to textiles and ceramic workshops. If its artistic, there’s a good chance the Ann Arbor Art Center is offering a short class ready for you to experience.
Planning Your Trip
For information on the area, visit the Ann Arbor Visitor Center website.
The newest hotel in the area is the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites
Restaurant picks include:
Conor O’Neils Traditional Irish Pub
Grange Kitchen and Bar
Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant