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Charming Ypsilanti

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One of the great things about visiting Ann Arbor, Michigan–located about 40 miles from downtown Detroit—is that visitors will find a wealth of great things to see, do, eat and enjoy within just a few minutes’ drive in its quaint and historic surrounding cities. Among them are, of course, Detroit, Manchester, Chelsea, Dexter, Saline and Milan. Another is in the charming town of Ypsilanti.

Situated only about five miles east of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti (pronounced Ǐp’-sǐ-lǎn-tē) was founded in the early 1800s by three Detroit entrepreneurs who, following a government commission to establish an easier route of transportation from Detroit to Chicago, chose the area because of its prime location along the Huron River near an old Native American trail (some refer it as the Old Michigan Trail). They chose the name in honor of Greek war hero Demetrius Ypsilanti, who is said to have triumphed over a might Turkish army with a mere fraction of that many men.

“Ypsi,” as it is now adoringly referred to by the locals, eventually grew to play a pivotal role in the area’s commerce, railroad and auto history, and today maintains a great deal of that early history melded with a progressive and vibrant dining, shopping, entertainment and recreation landscape. Yet, it manages to maintain an intimate, small town ambiance among the 22,000 denizens that call it home.

Preserving History

There are several entities here where visitors can learn about the town’s early history.

Located in the “Depot Town” district, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum & Miller Motors Hudson ties into the history of the Ford Generator and Willow Run Bomber Plants formerly located here, and shares the history of the Hudson, Corvair, Apex Motors, Kaiser Frazer, Hydramatic and Tucker vehicles that once dominated the Detroit and American auto landscape. The museum is home to numerous vintage automobiles, motors, artifacts, memorabilia and other items, and draws visitors from across the country as well as internationally.

The largest collection of fire truck bells in the U.S., antique fire trucks, early fire rigs, a fire engine steamer, historical artifacts, and more are part of the experience at the Michigan Firehouse Museum. This original 1898 firehouse has been lovingly restored and now encompasses over 26,000 square feet of multi-level exhibit and gallery spaces.

Period furniture, antiques, 19th Century toys and costumes are among the collection found at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum and Archives. Situated in a 12-room, Italianate mansion built in 1860, the museum also serves as a repository for a wide array of genealogical, historical and archival publications, documents, photographs and other materials. 

Cultural Affairs

The arts and culture are woven into the fabric of the Ypsilanti community, and both residents and visitors alike take full advantage of the myriad of organizations that support this.

Among them are the Riverside Arts Center, featuring an art gallery, performance theater, dance studio and special classes, as well as the Dreamland Theater, home of the Dreamland Puppet Troupe presenting original, classic marionette puppet shows for adults and children, film festivals, experimental theater, cabaret and burlesque shows, live music, and comedy events.

Classic, symphonic, themed and outdoor concert performances (from September through May) are the focus of the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra, while a wide variety of artistic performances are presented at and through Eastern Michigan University.

Favorite annual events in Ypsilanti include Thunder Over Michigan, an air show event featuring the Blue Angels and presented by the Yankee Air Museum (in nearby Belleville), a living, flying museum with area and historic aircraft and WWII memorabilia; Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Fest, an outdoor event held at Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park featuring over 800 different beers from 80-plus Michigan craft breweries; and the Michigan Elvis Festival. This Graceland-sanctioned event encompasses Fantastic Legend Impersonators, a car show, a Candlelight Vigil to commemorate the anniversary of Elvis’ death, a tribute concert (reportedly the largest in North America) and other events.

Outdoor recreation includes over 23,000+ acres of public park and recreation areas, numerous golf courses, hiking, water sports facilities, walking and mountain biking trails, athletic fields, boating, fishing and the like.

Stay, Shop and Dine

Downtown Ypsilanti is a boutique area encompassing area only about a dozen square blocks, coupled with the surrounding, larger Ypsilanti Township. Together they are awash with a bounty of unique, non-chain, distinctive shops, restaurants, bars, bookstores, coffee houses, antique boutiques and other entities that reflect the talents, passions and interests of this close-knit community.

To satisfy your culinary desires try Ayse’s Turkish Café for authentic Turkish and Middle Eastern fare (the food here is absolutely amazing!); Sidetrack Bar and Grill, named after its unique setting along the railroad tracks in historic Depot Town and serving the community for over 60 years; and Haab’s Restaurant, a former gentleman-only saloon now frequented for its delicious steaks, prime rib and seafood. Other popular eateries include The Bomber Restaurant, Wolverine Restaurant, Beezy’s Coffee & Café, Bill’s Drive-in, Woodstone Grill, Aki Sushi Bar and Grill, and Roy’s Squeeze Inn, just to name a few.

Unique shops include Salt City Antiques, offering merchandise from over a dozen antique dealers; Materials Unlimited, an amazing 15,000 square foot showroom specializing in lighting but also representing one of the nation’s oldest architectural salvage companies, and others like World of Rocks, Bowerbird Mongo, Kim’s Resale Shop, White Raven Books, and Stony Creek Bead Shop.

Ypsilanti is just one of the wonderful, welcoming communities found in the Ann Arbor area, which is a true Michigan gem and a great travel destination. 

Check out these great things to see, do and eat in and around Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor!

Welcome to Ann Arbor

A Taste of Ann Arbor

Out and About in Ann Arbor


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