August, 2016 – Ann Arbor to Detroit, MI Our route out of Michigan would take us right through Ann Arbor so I suggested to Jim that we stop for a couple nights to check out this town where I was born. My family moved to Missouri when I was about 4 and I only recall one brief return visit when I was around 15. I thought it would be nice to have a better sense of where I came from. As far as I know, we don’t have family in the area any longer.
Ann Arbor turned out to be a nice college town. The University of Michigan offers many free attractions. You do have to pay for parking but it was very reasonable. Our first stop was the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
It was a magical place with beautiful things to photograph. So many blooms…
and the most gorgeous fish I have ever seen. I kept going back to watch it swim back and forth and try to capture its exquisite fins.
Jim and I were both fascinated by this huge kaleidoscope.
The lovely plant made a perfect backdrop for the kaleidoscope to work its magic.
The gardens contained plenty of nature’s weirder inhabitants as well: a Venus flytrap, the corpse flower plant (not blooming, thankfully), and this sausage tree. What?!
The day had started out a bit drizzly so we barely even touched on their extensive outdoor gardens. Thankfully the rain stopped on our way to the university’s main campus. We first stopped at the Museum of Natural History. It had 3 floors of rocks, stuffed animals, and such but the first floor full of dinosaur bones was the highlight.
Then we wandered the campus gawking at the amazing old architecture. Our favorite place was the law school quadrangle. It was built in the 1920’s in the English Gothic style. Extraordinary!
The details were stunning.
The only building we stepped inside was the law library and it was incredible. There were few students around since it was between semesters.
We debated whether there was anything in nearby Detroit we cared to see and Jim, being a car enthusiast, requested a visit to the Henry Ford museum. Tickets were a hard to swallow $20 for the museum and we decided to add the Rouge factory tour, usually $17 but only an additional $10 when purchased in combination with the museum ticket. Another $20 would have gotten us into Greenfield Village as well, an 80 acre outdoor museum, but we thought the two tours were all we could manage in one day.
The museum had an amazing collection of cars, just about every car you can imagine. Here is the Cadillac President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in. I just finished a very interesting book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir, so I found this car, which was described in detail in the book, especially interesting.
There were also trains, airplanes, a few RVs, and lots of neon signs.
I was entertained and Jim was in heaven. I’m glad we arrived at 9am when they opened as it was getting pretty crowded when we left shortly after enjoying our sack lunch in their movie theatre. We chose to head to the factory tour in part because I was cold. It was a refrigerator in the museum and despite wearing a jacket I was freezing.
We enjoyed the factory tour very much. You could walk at your own pace around a second floor mezzanine that ran around the outside of the main factory floor. You watched the actual assembly of Ford trucks. The hundreds of workers and all the automation were extremely interesting. Of course, no pictures were allowed.
We planned to return to the museum but were just too worn out by the time we finished the factory tour. While chatting with one of the tour guides I was told that you can actually buy the combo tickets and then use them separate days. If I could do it over again knowing what I now know, how much there is to see and that the drive from our campsite was a breeze, I would have added the village museum and returned 3 separate days to tour each place separately. But we were very pleased with our visit and satisfied that we got our money’s worth.
We camped between Ann Arbor and Detroit in Ypsilanti. The Wayne County RV Park and Fairgrounds had reasonable rates ($30 water & electric), were conveniently located, and since they had no events going on it was far from crowded.
We spent one afternoon visiting the town of Ypsilanti. It has a charming downtown they’ve nicknamed Depot Town because of its proximately to the tracks. It has many restaurants and a few fun shops.
A short walk across the river there are neighborhoods full of big, beautiful old houses and buildings. That is also the location of the Michigan Firehouse Museum.
For a $5 admission fee we enjoyed a couple hours learning about early firefighting techniques and equipment. Sadly they wouldn’t allow me to slide down the fireman’s pole. But it was fun and informative anyway.
We seriously enjoyed our visit to Michigan and will definitely consider visiting again.