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Weekend in Ann Arbor with a 2 year-old: suggestions?

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Hi everyone,

Hubby, 2 year-old daughter and I will be visiting Ann Arbor from Toronto May 17-19. We have never been to AA before. Not sure where we will be staying yet, but we will have a car so we are mobile :)

What places must we visit? I've read about Zingermans, but what else must we check out?

We'll be visiting the Children's museum and the Henry Ford museum (which I realize is in Dearborn) - any lunch recommendations nearby?

Where can we go for good third wave coffee? I've read about Comet and Lab so far.

What are some good walking neighbourhoods in terms of food, atmosphere, etc.?

Hubby is dying to go to Costco when we're there - is there one in particular that's recommended?

Wherever we go needs to be child-friendly. We don't need a kids' menu since our daughter is thankfully not a picky eater, but we do need places that welcome families :) We are not big drinkers, looking for moderately priced places (around $75 for dinner would be fine, not including alcohol).

Thanks!

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  1. Hey, $75 for a dinner for two with one in tow isn't bad at all. That's very easy to work with. Might I make a suggestion, and have you combine a two-fer? I would think that your budget would allow for a family of three at Zingerman's Roadhouse, and while it's not the original location, you can still experience their quality at this location, and it's very kid-friendly, especially in terms of their food.

    Ann Arbor is pretty walkable all around downtown (less so when it's rainy, of course, but that's anywhere), and I think Kerrytown is quite a nice little neighborhood to stroll.

    If you're going to Dearborn, you must, simply *must* have some quality Middle Eastern fare. You can't find anything like it outside of the Middle East, because Dearborn has the highest concentration of Middle Eastern people in the entire *world*...outside of the Middle East, of course. If you want to keep things low budget, stick to sandwiches like shwarma or tawook, and do indulge in some garlic sauce, hummus, tabbouli, baba ghannooj, or others. I really like La Pita, but there are lots of other places in Dearborn that do things well, too.

    I'm not a coffee drinker, so I'll stay out of that arena.

    If you're into pinball, or even if you *think* you might be, Vintage Flipper World in Brighton (www.vfwpinball.com) is having a showcase that weekend on May 16-18 that is geared toward families. Brighton isn't far from Ann Arbor, and the place has 200 pinball machines from all eras, including some very rare and old, right up to the newest of the new. They're only open to the public very rarely, so this is kind of a rare opportunity.

    Apparently, the best Costco is in Bloomfield Hills, MI, since that's where the CEO of Costco is nested, from what I hear. They get a better grade of merchandise from time to time (cashmere sweaters, for example), they're in a ritzier/spendier neighborhood, and they actually tore a newish store down to build a bigger one, one that had the new model that the CEO was wanting. It's strange, but true. I personally don't find it to be any better or different than any other Costco, but I'm told that it is. Your mileage/kilometerage may vary. I don't think it's worth the trip, honestly, but it's your call.

    Hope any of that was helpful!

    1. Do not skip Zingerman's! ;)
      I'd suggest eating at the original location. Very casual and the sandwich's are great. Be sure to get some Cheese, Bread, Pate, Magic Brownies ( The list really is endless ) for a picnic or snacking. The Roadhouse is nice as well.
      A2 is not that large so there's not a bunch of neighborhoods to walk with different ethnic areas like Toronto. Don't over look Monahan's Seafood market or for dinner Haab's in Ypsi.
      While there is plenty of Middle Eastern-fare in Dearborn I see no need to leave The Henry Ford/Greenfield village to chase a meal. The food at the Village/Museum is very good, locally sourced and frankly far better than many area restaurants.
      I'm assuming you are already Costco members. If not you will not be able to shop (aside from Rx and alcohol) although you can get a day pass at the front desk. There are several Costco's in the greater Detroit area. I've been to all many times and there really is not a single unit that's consistently "better" than the others. In short there's no reason to drive around the city when there's a Costco (Pittsfield Twp) right on the edge of A2.
      If you are looking for other suggestions in the greater Detroit area I'd suggest a visit to the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. The Tulips should be in full bloom when you are here.

      https://www.fordhouse.org/

      1. Downtown AA is sort of Saturday night date night territory for the entire metro Detroit area, and it's not terribly family oriented. I agree about Zingerman's (either location). Then walk it off on the Old West Side, just west of downtown—charming small Victorian houses built by German craftsmen in the late 19th century. End up at Washtenaw Dairy at the corner of Madison and First St., which is every kid's ice cream destination.

        If you walked from Zingerman's to the west side, you would pass Mighty Good Coffee on Main, also good, as are Comet and Lab.

        The local pizza chain is Greek-owned Cottage Inn, with a big rectangular pie that's reasonably good, and you could certainly take kids of all ages there. But you could do better in Toronto.

        Drive out to Chela's at Liberty and Maple for simple Mexican dishes, or La Fiesta Mexicana in Ypsilanti.

        Middle Eastern, yes, yes. Dearborn is best, but PIta Pita in Ypsilanti near AA is pretty good.

        Costco on the south side of Ann Arbor is new and probably as good as any other. You might also enjoy the Trader Joe's chain; there is one here.

        Enjoy!

        1. Are you planning on hitting Greenfield Village as well as the Henry Ford museum? I hope you do, if the weather is decent.

          And while there, I would suggest a drive by of Henry's house, Fairlane, which is literally across the street (Michigan Ave.) from the Museum/Village. It's not currently open for tours, but it would still be worth the 5 - 10 minutes it would take to drive over there and drive by the house... the road goes right in front of the home.

          For many years, the house was owned by the University of Michigan, but fairly recently it was transferred to the foundation that operates the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. They are in process of eventually opening Fairlane Estate to the public once again.

          http://www.henryfordestate.org/#about

          Bob

          1. Take your daughter on the train ride at Greenfield Village. Eat Lebanese ice cream at Shaatila (cool locale too--indoor palm trees).
            When you go to Ann Arbor's Hands On Museum, you're 2 blocks from the best coffee: Might Good on Main St.
            Another kid-friendly thing is AA's Leslie Science Center--which as a toddler friendly Critter Room. And that gets you near a great Korean fried chicken place: Seoul Street.
            And then there's the Farmers Mkt (Saturday 7am-2 pm)--some reasonable snacking. Right by Zingermans Deli + Hands On + Mighty Good.

            1. I haven't tried Comet or Lab, but I enjoy the coffee at Sweetwater's Coffee. One location is in Kerrytown, very close to Zingerman's, and right next to the Farmer's Market, which will be open on Saturday.

              1. Oh my goodness, thank you everyone! So many great suggestions, I might run out of time before I try them all :)

                I was looking at Zingerman's Roadhouse and it sounds great - do we need reservations? Is it worth visiting the creamery as well? I would probably visit the deli even if we do go to Roadhouse :)

                Re: Costco, we'll probably just go to whichever one is on the way back to Toronto. Do they accept Amex like they do here? Also looking forward to Trader Joe's. I've never really grocery-shopped there, just picked up snacks once when I was in Portland years ago!

                It sounds like I'm not going to have a hard time finding a good coffee.

                Thanks for the suggestion to visit Greenfield Village, we are definitely going to check it out along with Henry Ford's house. Too bad we will miss Thomas the tank engine, the 2 year-old is a big fan :) But It looks like there's lots to keep her entertained in Greenfield Village!

                Looking forward to Shatila's ice cream. Sounds like pistachio is the way to go.

                The Critter Room at the science center sounds like another must! I think she will love that. Seoul street sounds great, are the waits as bad as some of the yelp reviews seem to suggest?

                Thanks again everyone, I'm looking so forward to this mini-getaway.

                4 Replies
                1. re: bunnylicious

                  Zingermans roadhouse is good (and expensive for what you get). But if you visit the deli AND zingermans south where the creamery, Bakehouse and roaster also are located, consider going to a non-zingermans place for dinner. I'd suggest Mani. It's busy but relatively kid friendly.

                  My favorite coffee place is Roos Roast. It's just off an unlovely stretch of road called south industrial but it is delicious and eclectic while keeping pretension to a minimum.

                  1. re: bunnylicious

                    Seoul Street is superb, but yes, they cook it from scratch and you do have to wait. And it's much better if you eat the chicken right there.

                    Zingerman's Roadhouse is quite large, and you can sometimes get in without a reservation if you wait a little while. But it's better to have one. If you want to have a picnic, the drive-up outside is fun and has some excellent sandwiches for less than you would pay inside or at the deli downtown—try the grilled chicken and green chile.

                    http://www.zingermansroadhouse.com/me...

                    The Creamery is in an industrial park in a different part of town. Maps don't exactly show you how to get there, but if you get close it's well signed. It's an interesting setup, and if you like local cheese it's worth a visit. (The gelato is available at the other places.) There's also a bakehouse outlet in the same strip of warehouses with simple, yet cheaper sandwiches and soups serving workers in the area; they also have pastries and bread.

                    I'm sure you don't have to come here to get good gelato, but there's another good place near the University of Michigan campus if you're in the area—Iorio's, on William between Maynard and Thompson.

                    I think the U-M campus is worth walking around although it's not really a famous landmark. It was designed by the industrial architect Albert Kahn, who also designed many of the auto factories. Check out the Law Quad and law library to the south of the main quadrangle.

                    1. re: Jim M

                      The other thing I would add is that Korean food here is unusually good. There are several cheap ones near campus that are all good (I think University Cafe is the best), and others scattered around town (Seoul Garden, Arirang, Bewon—you just can't miss). At Seoul Street specifically I would eat the fried chicken rather than the other Korean dishes. These places are always simple and kid-friendly.

                    2. re: bunnylicious

                      > pistachio

                      Do NOT miss Shatila's fruit ice creams.

                    3. Once again, thanks for all the great suggestions. Roos Roast seems like a gem. Will definitely try to fit in a visit to the UM campus, though at this point I already have a feeling we'll be making another trip to AA soon. :)

                      I will report back for sure!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: bunnylicious

                        Its mentioned above, but I wanted to reiterate that the Hands-on Museum is wonderful for kids, http://www.aahom.org/ If your daughter is a dinosaur fan the UofM Natural History museum has skeletons, as well as dioramas that fascinated me as a child. It may be too scary for a two-year old. On our visits to Ann Arbor we always try to hit both the Roadhouse and the deli. Haven't been to Zingerman's creamery yet, but if you go there is a Costco a stone's throw away. Have a wonderful time!

                        1. re: ebethsdad

                          BTW, the creamery is a shop, not a restaurant.

                          1. re: Jim M

                            Thanks! The hands-on museum is at the top of our list :) as is Zingerman's (all the Zingermans sites sound good in their own way, whether shop, deli, restaurant! :)

                      2. Another quick question... hubby has suggested he would like to go to the Mexican neighbourhood in Detroit for a cheap n cheerful lunch one day. Suggestions he was given were Lupitas and Taqueria el Rey, any thoughts? Thanks!

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: bunnylicious

                          I haven't been to El Rey, but most of the small taquerías are good. Lupita was sort of the original authentic one in the central Mexicantown business district, and it's fine. You can get sweets at the La Gloria bakery nearby. I also recommend Taquería Nuestra Familia and its joyous decor, way out on W. Vernor. Leave nothing in your car at these places. Just avoid the big Tex-Mex restaurants. We also now have good Mexican in Ann Arbor at Chela's, 693 S. Maple.

                          1. re: bunnylicious

                            I don't know what the Mexican food sitch is in TO, but if you're going to Mexicantown you might want to stop at La Colmena grocery store

                            If you eat at Los Galanes (less touristy than the big restaurants), they have guarded parking. You can run to the bakery across the street after you eat

                            1. re: coney with everything

                              Top 10 reasons to shop at the Honey Bee (i.e., La Colmena—warning: obscene, but funny:

                              http://soliddudeskitchen.com/?p=1518

                              Where else but Detroit, I ask you, would a food be praised in these terms? "You can curbstomp my mouth into that shit anytime."

                              1. re: Jim M

                                LOL, funny stuff on the rest of this blog as well!

                                "I know I’m beating a dead horse but Guy Fieri is the Kid Rock of food culture and the blood is on our hands for his creation."

                            2. re: bunnylicious

                              I don't know what happened to El Rey (it seems to change hands or change active participants from time to time) but I stopped by for some tacos a few weeks back and they were just bad-- leathery yellow corn shells, overcooked chorizo, dried out cilantro, only one not-good salsa choice. That is sad to me because I've really loved the place previously-- both the food and just the look if it. I did not try their grilled chicken so I don't know whether quality has declined there as well.

                              Mentions of Lupita's always amuse me because Los Altos is the same owner, same recipes, etc. but a larger place, more extensive menu and I think far more comfortable. Los Altos has adjacent paved, fenced parking, and now accepts credit cards and has a liquor license. Here's an interview with the owner of both.

                              http://www2.metrotimes.com/food/story...

                              Taqueria Nuestra Familia is absolutely my favorite place for Mexican in Detroit. The food, the service and the decor are all great, and it is very common to see small children dining with their families in here. They also have adjacent, fenced parking.

                              http://www.yelp.com/biz/taqueria-nues...

                              I like Mexicantown Bakery better than LaGloria, perhaps mostly because I think it is a far cuter place, plus I like their flan and their Mexican cheesecake. I think the bakery counters at E & L and Prince Valley markets both have better empanadas than the bakeries though, and PV's tres leche cakes are both delicious and showy.

                              1. re: bunnylicious

                                Thanks everyone... I can't deny that I was a bit surprised by the comments about guarded/fenced parking lots... good to know I guess. Obviously we always try to be aware and cautious.

                                I've shortlisted Chela's, Los Altos and Nuestra Familia, will let hubby choose :)

                                Once again, thanks for all the great tips! Looking forward to it!

                                1. re: bunnylicious

                                  Just one note-- Los Altos is mostly (? all) booths, Nuestra Familia is tables. I think high chairs work better with tables, by far, but FYI either way.

                                  1. re: ak994

                                    And those tables at Nuestra Familia are the coolest ones in town!

                                    Be aware of your surroundings and leave nothing in your car, and you'll be fine.

                              2. I'll add that when my son was little we regularly visited the U-M Natural History museum. It's relatively small, compared to similar museums I've been to like the FIeld, so easy for a small child.

                                Lots of fun dinosaur and animal exhibits (the dioramas fascinated my son!), and a nice respite on a hot summer day (let's hope we actually HAVE some hot summer days!)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: coney with everything

                                  I don't want to get killed for saying this, but I think 2y.o. is too young for the Hands On museum...even for the water tables. Could be a costly mistake. Greenfield Village is a can't miss, though, regardless of cost.
                                  PS-- yes, even the Natural History museum in AA would be better for my kid when he was that age.

                                  1. re: VTB

                                    Totally disagree. Been taking my 3 and 4 year old to the hands on museum since we moved here - 3 years ago. Lots of activities for even the smallest kids. You could easily spend a whole afternoon in the toddler/preschool room.

                                    I had heard that the Natural history museum was being moved to a new science building and that a lot of the exhibits have already been moved to storage/new building. Is this true?.

                                    1. re: jmax

                                      ah jeez. Since my son is now 26, we don't go so often :) but that is apparently true.

                                      I love that old building, it's just a beautiful place with so much architectural detail. They don't build them like that anymore. Hope they don't decide it's not "modern" enough to preserve, but I'm not optimistic.

                                      1. re: coney with everything

                                        I'm going to take my chances with the Hands On museum. My daughter really enjoyed the children's museums in Boston and Chicago last year, and her little friend who's the same age apparently really enjoyed the HOM a couple of months ago.

                                        With regards to the Natural History museum, I read some info about the move on their website, but to what extent would that affect the visit? They seem to be open and there seem to be many interesting exhibits.

                                        1. re: bunnylicious

                                          I don't think it would affect it at all as yet. Just another Borg-like move from a Borg-like university, coming up later.

                                          You might try barbecue in this area too. We have a decent place in AA that would be totally kid-friendly, Satchel's on Washtenaw, near U.S. 23. It's a bit inconsistent but generally good, sometimes great.

                                2. Regarding The Henry Ford (museum and the village), if you think you might be back again within a year and think you might like to hit the museum or village again, I'd recommend at least looking at getting a membership rather than buying individual tickets.It's quite a bargain unless you're only going to visit once within a year.

                                  In addition to the unlimited visits that you get to both the museum and the village, you'll also save $5 on parking, as well as getting discounts at the IMAX theater (the largest screen in Michigan I believe).

                                  Just a thought.

                                  Bob

                                  1. A bit late, but I want to report back... thank you for all your wonderful suggestions! We really didn't have time to do everything we wanted to do, so I guess we're going to have to go back :)

                                    Saturday, we crossed the border just in time for lunch at Nuestra Familia. We enjoyed the friendly, colourful atmosphere and the homey cooking. Portions were gigantic and we ended up taking a lot of stuff to the hotel for later snacking. We then headed to the Hands On museum. My daughter had a blast! We spent about 2.5 hours there, she didn't want to leave. We drove around Kerrytown for a bit (we missed the farmer's market :( ) and then headed to Seoul street for supper around 600. We were amongst the first people there, and the chicken was a 30 minute wait. My husband passed despite my encouragement to order this famous chicken so we ordered kimchi fries and bibimbap with bulgogi. Right after we ordered, there was a sudden deluge of people, all ordering the fried chicken. All of a sudden my hubby decided he did want the chicken, but by then it was 1hr+ wait so he passed again. We enjoyed the food that we ordered though next time we'll try the chicken!

                                    Sunday morning, we headed to Lab for coffee, but their website turned out to be inaccurate and they weren't open. So we got a coffee at Mighty Good instead. It hit the spot, and they did an excellent job with my daughter's steamed milk :) We then went to the Henry Ford museum and Greenfield Village. We loved the museum! What an incredibly fun place. We also enjoyed the village, though our visit was shortened by a toddler in need of a nap. We grabbed a quick and enjoyable bite at the village. We then headed to Shatila for some ice cream. Yum! The apricot ice cream was so creamy and fruity.
                                    We wanted to go to the Museum of Natural History too, but because of construction our GPS wasn't getting us there so easily and we were too late :( We had dinner at Zingermans roadhouse. I liked this place a lot.

                                    But the highlight for me was definitely Zingermans deli. We went there on Monday morning to pick up some food for the road. what a great place! They gave us tons of samples, wrapped everything up so nicely for us, were super friendly, and even gave my daughter some crayons. I am dying to go back. We got a few sandwiches, salads, and treats, and everything was delicious and satisfying. We ended up eating our food around lunchtime and didn't need to eat supper :)

                                    We also ended up hitting trader joe's and costco. I enjoyed trader joe's though most of the items that interested me weren't necessarily well-suited for a long drive. costco was good, prices are comparable but the selection is a bit greater there.

                                    So all in all we had a great time, and enjoyed some great food. Thanks again!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: bunnylicious

                                      Good report—Mighty Good Coffee is probably a better choice for a family anyway. Very friendly staff. Lab has very little space and a haughty hipster vibe.

                                    2. Great feedback / trip report, thanks! Your comments are so kind to our area.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: VTB

                                        +1--glad you had a good time! Maybe you need to make a return visit :)

                                        You had courage, trying to do the Henry Ford AND Greenfield Village in the same day, esp. with a toddler!

                                        1. re: coney with everything

                                          Yes definitely need a return visit :) craving another zingermans sandwich fix already :)