When the days begin to grow longer and spring air moistens the breeze coursing between buildings of Ann Arbor’s downtown, no area bustles with more activity and foot traffic than the bazars down on Main Street.
“Ann Arbor is a really pretty town and Main Street is a great place to walk around,” said Audrey Garrett, a 24-year old resident. “Even if you don’t have a plan, it’s great to just wander around finding something to do. There are always people playing music and artwork to look at, and it’s nice to be able to sit outside at the restaurants.”
Among Garrett’s favorite spots to take in the allure of Main Street, the Jolly Pumpkin sits near the corner of Liberty and Main, like many restaurants in the area, it offers a wealth of street-side seating for the impending warm-weather crowds.
Traffic is heavy, but the sidewalks are even busier as citizens are out in flock to the numerous shops and restaurants, looking to further a pleasant day out. Others are headed to work, a tragedy in such lovely weather on one of America’s most renowned main streets.
But they all have one thing in common: they walk.
Peggy Lynch, a lawyer for Masco Corp., resides in the neighborhoods that generously outline downtown. She was glad when the weather took a turn for the warmth, now free to travel by foot throughout her hometown.
“I really like the walkability and the fact that there are little neighborhood businesses that I can walk to from my own home,” Lynch said. “It’s a nice little downtown and the key reason I live here.”
Lynch also appreciates a strong sense of community from the local business on Main Street. When people come down on Main Street and spend money, they are supporting the city itself, she noted.
A man from Denver, Joe Sokolowski, was found with a video camera enjoying the sights and taking in Main Street’s bustling atmosphere. The 58-year-old automotive service worker was in town for his niece’s graduation and feels optimistic as he watches the metropolis come to life.
Sokolowski said he visits Ann Arbor about every five years and that he is glad to see very little change over the years.
“They’ve kept it together really well. You can still see some 70s influence in the architecture,” Sokolowski said. “It stands out as holding its age.”
The longevity of Main Street’s look and its thriving business sector leaves a sense of economic optimism for Sokolowski to take back to Denver.
“I wouldn’t say it’s vibrant, but it is comfortable,” he said. “It feels like things are on the up-swing economically. It’s a nice time.”
Ryan White, a 22-year-old resident of Ann Arbor has attributed the city as his hometown his entire life. After traveling across Europe and many other parts of the world with his wife who is from Russia, the account executive never forgot the Main Street of his home.
“The sounds of the street, being downtown, and the aromas are soothing in their own right,” White said. “I’ve been all around the world, seen all different scenes and Ann Arbor’s got something special. It’s got that big city feel with small town qualities you couldn’t find anywhere else.”
Another passerby, Robin Sefton has lived in Ann Arbor since 1969. In the 40-plus years of her residence, the 42-year-old employee at the local Hands on Museum feels like she is around friends, soaking in the sidewalk rays on a sunny afternoon.
“I feel safe in this downtown,” Sefton said. “I don’t always feel that in other cities. I would say it’s a friendly town, especially downtown.”
Looking for a luxurious meal or drink? Hoping to catch a show or take a video home to watch? No matter what you plan to take from Ann Arbor’s Main Street, The Voice has got you covered.
We elected to spotlight a few of the most renowned spots on the street so that you’ll know where go this summer when your travels take you down on Main Street.
316 South Main Street
World renowned for the variety of acoustic musical acts to pass through its doors, The Ark sits on Main Street as the largest non-profit venue in town. With daily performances planned all summer, The Ark is a place to consider for the lover of live music.
The Chop House
322 South Main Street
A classy take on the steak house, The Chop House boasts a large dining hall and a menu specializing in prime-cut, USDA-certified beef.
A decorated establishment, The Chop House reigned as the sole recipient of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Award of Excellence from 1994 to 2003 and won Main Street Venture’s President’s Award in 2011. There are four locations nationally, with restaurants in Maryland and West Virginia as well as one in Grand Rapids.
215 North Main Street
A German-inspired pub and card hall, this restaurant is preferred for its wealth of international, especially German ales and spirits. With three different establishments within its walls the Heidelberg has something for everyone.
Drinkers can mosey into The Rathskellar for a multi-tap and other drink options, those looking to dine on traditional German fair should try the Alpine Dining Room and those looking to test lady luck can be found in the Heidelburg’s poker room.
Vault of Midnight
219 South Main Street
Offering a vast array of comics and videos, Vault of Midnight is a one-stop-shop for mediaphiles throughout Ann Arbor. It’s newly opened Ultralounge plays host to numerous rock concerts and movie screenings in the Vault’s basement.
The Real Seafood Company
341 South Main Street
Providing locals with authentic, New England seafood since 1975, The Real Seafood Company boasts a vast array of fresh catches, printing a new menu weekly to adhere to the tides of its prized seafood and respected fisherman.
The restaurant maintains close relationships with the experts that provide their delicacies, inspecting the New England facilities and having the fisherman inspect the restaurant’s kitchen to maintain the highest standards in seafood.
311 South Main Street
A local favorite for Ann Arborites looking for a tasty meal and nightcap, Jolly Pumpkin has been facilitating merriment on Main Street for a little more than two years. Despite its green status in the local bar scene, Jolly Pumpkin has an in-house micro-brew that commands the attention of even the most season craft beer drinker. They even craft their own spirits in-house.