Every summer, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the downtown area for the Ann Arbor Art Fair — one of the largest art events in the country. This year’s fair runs from Thursday, July 18 through Sunday, July 21 and features over 1,000 artists, live music, and other activities. With so many bars and restaurants in the area, it’s a great opportunity to visit an old friend or scout out a new favorite.
Whether it’s a place to take in all the action, catch a quick refresher, or step away from the crowds, here are some places to check out during Art Fair.
Stay in the Action
Even with all the different works of art around, it can be just as to fun to people watch. Here are some of the best vantage points.
216 S State St. | Website
Grab a seat in the chic, street-side tent or get a table in the Butter Room, an airy corner section with giant windows with great views of the action outside. The globally influenced menu at Sava’s includes several lighter items that pair well with the bar’s many rosés.
226 S Main St. | Website
Situated on a corner in the heart of the Main Street area, Pretzel Bell’s ample sidewalk seating puts diners in the middle of the festival. A menu full of burgers, sandwiches, and other pub favorites is a great way to cap off a long day of shopping.
338 S State St. | Website
Ashley’s beer tent is a great spot to relax and listen to some live music while taking in the scene at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. If you can’t catch a spot in the tent, head to the bar where customers can choose from 100 beers and over 60 whiskeys from around the world.
Good Time Charley’s
1140 S University Ave. | Website
This large patio is usually a popular spot for the younger college crowd, but with summer in session it’s a little more diverse. Charley’s sweet, crushable cocktails served in fishbowls and its collection of Long Island iced teas are still available for hot weather drinking.
Take a Refreshing Break
Summer in Michigan means healthy doses of heat and humidity and walking on steaming asphalt among crowds of people only makes things hotter. Here are some options to keep cool at Art Fair.
522 E William St. | Website
Iorio’s will be servings its house-made gelato — ice cream’s smoother and silkier Italian cousin — from a cart on the street and in its humble shop during the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Classic Italian flavors like pistachio and stracciatella are joined by eclectic ones such as pomegranate champagne, Earl Grey tea, and turtle cheesecake.
340 Maynard St. | Website
This Taiwan-based chain is the world’s largest tea franchises, serving bubble tea and coffee drinks. The Ann Arbor location is its first in Michigan and is situated in the town’s tallest building — centrally located and easy to find. Patrons can customize Chatime’s refreshing milk teas to their preferred sweetness levels. On a what’s expected to be an extra hot Art Fair weekend, make sure to ask for extra ice.
1213 S University Ave. | Website
Hand-rolled ice cream is one of the hottest — actually, make that coldest — trends, and Sweeting serves it at its South U location. A thin layer of milk is mixed with different ingredients on a frigid griddle until creamy and then rolled-up into a cup. Choose a flavor like Monkey Love (bananas and Nutella) and Sweetheart (strawberry and graham cracker) and add additional toppings for a decadent way to cool down.
100 S 4th Ave #110 | Website
Bløm starts with locally-grown honey and fruit to create its line of meads and ciders. The varieties change based on what ingredients are in-season, but the taproom’s honey wines are always a refreshing, gluten-free way to enjoy an adult beverage in the summer heat.
Leave the crowds behind
Many attendees are focused on shopping and don’t want to leave the Art Fair action or just don’t know about the possibilities just a couple blocks away. Even with all the people flooding the downtown area, these places don’t see that much of an increase in traffic.
Just one block north of Liberty is Washington Street, where hungry Art Fair-goers can find a wide range of dining establishments. Whether it’s Wilma’s fancy toast, Blue Tractor’s barbecue, Aventura’s Spanish tapas, or Blue Nile’s Ethiopian specialties, there’s something for every palate and price range.
A couple blocks north is Kerrytown, where Miss Kim’s inspired Korean street food, Loomi Cafe’s global fare, and the Lunch Room’s vegan menu are go-to spots for Ann Arborites in the know. Across the street is Ann Arbor’s famous haven for food lover’s, Zingerman’s Deli, and, while it’s still busy, it’s not any more crowded than usual.
812 Monroe St.
Just a block south of Art Fair is Dominick’s, the local favorite with a big front porch and even larger back patio area. Pizzas and other Italian favorites are available as well as the restaurant’s legendary sangria served in huge mason jars.
• All Ann Arbor Coverage [ED]