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Posted on Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5:45 a.m.

Editorial: Try to look at Ann Arbor through eyes of a visitor

By Staff

Summer in Ann Arbor brings a sigh of relief for many residents.

After all, in the weeks following the activity of Summer Fest and the Art Fairs, we’re able to take a deep breath, savor the season and brace for our population to swell again as the fall semester starts.

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Many of us use these weeks to travel. For’s newsroom staff, summer trips included visits to Chicago, New Orleans, Montana, Belize and Iceland, along with many Northern Michigan stops.

Yet every year, Ann Arbor also is a vacation destination for people who use our town for that same sense of discovery, relaxation and fun that we seek when we leave it for a trip.

It’s not by accident: The Convention and Visitors Bureau actively recruits travel interest to this area, including through a national Pure Michigan ad campaign. That joint effort with the state started with a $500,000 local investment, and it now totals $1 million for 2013.

Over the past week, this community was host to at least 2,000 visitors as part of the annual United Association training sessions held at Washtenaw Community College.

Those training sessions draw participants and their families to this area, generating an estimated $5 million in related spending.

And that’s just part of the benefit when people consider this area a tourist destination. In 2012, Ann Arbor led the Midwest’s hotel occupancy rebound, with this community recording some of the top percentages in several states - and that’s not just about football Saturdays.

With that backdrop, we thought this would be a good time to ask: What could you gain from living here if you spent a few days looking at this community through the eyes of a visitor?

Trip Advisor lists 420 dining options for Ann Arbor. When was the last time you tried a new restaurant?

It also gives 42 attractions - ranging from the Hands On Museum to the University of Michigan Law Quad. When was the last time you visited one?

And what about the shops — particularly the independent retailers that still make up a big part of our economy? If you haven’t stepped inside one of the stores where our neighbors are trying to make a living, it’s worth seeing what’s offered here. You may not need a “souvenir” from your hometown, but the delight that you feel from browsing stores in a new destination might be recreated just blocks from home.

If nothing else, considering something new about Ann Arbor could recommit us to what we want for our future — and why we consider this area home.


yuck yuck

Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 3:32 a.m.

How about some op-eds that are well-written and informed, by people who have something to say? For a town as well-educated as this one, is missing a huge opportunity to foster some actual conversation and self-reflection about ourselves as a community.

Kyle Mattson

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

Hi Yuck-Yuck, we do welcome feedback, if you happen to have any specific suggestions of issues you think worth a look at please feel free to shoot us an email. You can also submit a letter to the editor by emailing


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

I'm sure they will be asking where all the public art is? Plus when can they take the bus ride tour of the greenspace?


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

Why would anyone want to vacation in Ann Arbor? It's not relaxing; it's not beautiful. It does have great museums and culture, but as a vacation spot, no. I agree with others who commented on making Ann Arbor more beautiful for its own residents. We need to clean up and fix our streets, weed the town, plant flowers, clean up the trash and do it now, not wait around. Why aren't our ever increasing tax dollars being spent on truly making our city cleaner and more enjoyable for everyone? Everyone should be able to partake and enjoy the city more with its variety of activities from free to costly and do it in a pleasant environment, not a dump. The other cities people mention probably have their acts together. Please the residents first, then the rest will come. Ann Arbor needs to come into 2013 and modernize a bit. If I chose one word for the way Ann Arbor looks, I'd choose "dumpy." It has so much potential. Let's get to work on making it a better city.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

I agree with you 100%. But, it will never happen under our current city leadership. They would rather spend millions buying art made off shore.

An Arborigine

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

Ann Arbor should cater to the residents that pay the rediculously high taxes. Visitors, take us or leave us.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

We need shoeshine stands downtown, and a pinball parlor

lucinda walsh

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 7 p.m.

I just went to what Ypsi calls an Art Fair. More like a Junk Fair. Only true artist was from A2!

Nicholas Urfe

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

The majority of downtown businesses are owned by people who do not live in Ann Arbor. So I really couldn't care less about the out of towners and the businesses that profit from them.

Lightnin' Bug

Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Your highly mistaken. Even most of the buildings are locally owned.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

I'm shocked--SHOCKED--to find that members of the local tea party brigade are out in force and am even more shocked to find they don't like Ann Arbor (or Boulder, either, as if they've ever been there). Why does Ann Arbor's popularity matter? Popularity means that people visit our city and spend there money here. Popularity means that people want to live here, driving up demand for housing, driving up property value. If you don't think popularity is important, talk to the residents of Ypsilanti about what it's like to live in a city that isn't seen by the public in a good light.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Only you could figure out a way to inject the tea party into this.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

*their, not there. Hate autocorrect. Hate even more that the Snooze does not permit editing.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Why would a tourist want to come to AA? To see the diag? Maybe see the art in front of city hall? See tag alley and the Michael Jackson impersonator? Admit it - we are not Frankenmuth. Go figure!


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

A fried chicken place with tacky decorations might be what the city needs to pack them in like Zender's. Ann Arbor has nothing to attract tourism of any scale. Compare Ann Arbor to Frankenmuth. Ann Arbor has dead trees, tall buildings casting many shadows, tacky expensive art and aggressive pan handlers. Frankenmuth has a high level of city beautification from plants, flowers, decent places to eat at affordable prices, a clean city area and no aggressive pan handlers to be found.

Basic Bob

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

No overpriced seasonal ornament stores or fried chicken restaurants here.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

As someone who works in the travel and tourism industry, I have to believe that the limited lodging options downtown have suppressed the tourism market from growing even further. While there are a few hotel options downtown (read: walking distance from everything else), they are all small, independent hotels that visitors not already familiar with the area would never find. Whether we like big brands or not, travelers tend to look for names they recognize when choosing a place to stay. I think allowing some tastefully-done brand-name properties to be built downtown (as has been done successfully in other small towns while preserving local character in architecture, etc.) would enable visitation (and it's corresponding positive impact on our economy) to grow.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

Also add to the fact that the town hotels are dumpy disgraces. Nice hotels like Four Seasons redecorate every few years. Ann Arbor hotels never redecorate; they seem to think mold and 70's style decor is inviting. Look at the one house that calls itself a B&B but looks more like an overgrown and unattended greenhouse. How about some nice boutique hotels? I think nice hotels like those are afraid of Ann Arbor because of it's dumpy reputation.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Why would a tourist want to come to AA? To see the diag? Maybe see the art in front of city hall? See tag alley and the Michael Jackson impersonator? Admit it - we are not Frankenmuth. Go figure!


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Even the editorials read like press releases.

Paula Gardner

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Hmm. It's a start. Let us all know if you come up with something else.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

The professionalism of the journalists.

Paula Gardner

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5 p.m.

Tell us one thing that you really like about Ann Arbor. I'll bet there's something!


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

One reason Ann Arbor is a great place to live is that there are so many free or cheap things to do and see, especially for families. I would not count dining among them, however. The cost of taking a family someplace decent to 'eat out' is too much. We went to a new place near our neighborhood for lunch and it was a rip-off, $7 for a small sandwich with a half a pickle side, $9 for two tiny 'sliders' ? Who sets these prices, Zingermans? I thought the local food movement was supposed to reduce the cost of eating out by eliminating transportation and marketing costs from the supply chain. My wish for the future of Ann Arbor- a steady reduction in the price of eating out (as if that will ever happen).


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Food costs are up pretty much across the board over the past decade, as part of a generalized commodity price inflation. There are many reasons for this, but it sure has pushed-up the price of restaurant meals - and not just here. Just because the government decides not to count it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Maybe Benny and Feds will print some more money to cover it... oops!


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.

zingermans and the other places uptown have done their homework and know their clientele . They charge those prices because they know they will get it

An Arborigine

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

Too many Zing zealots in the Zingdom and too many "upscale dining experiences" for reasonable prices to prevail!

Major Groove

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

On that point I agree with goober. Zingermans, a place that has been riding their laurels for a couple decades too long. I think many of our visitors come to that sneaking suspicion soon enough. They just not want to be the ones to say it ; )


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Oops. I meant Zingerman's. :)


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

It will never happen. Too many here love Zingerdings.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

As a visitor I find Ann Arbor a vibrant community with a plethora of activities, parks, and bike paths. Your restaurants are top notch. Your community members are cordial and welcoming. BUT... Your roads are the worst I've seen and that is what I share with everyone regarding your community. Please spend some money on road improvements and improve a guest's lasting impression.

Margo Nichols

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

I'm afraid I would see the crumbling, ankle busting crosswalks around Main Street and west. I would wonder how a major traffic route like Jackson, Huron could be in such bad condition. Many wonderful amenities, lots of fun stuff to do, but we can't fix the streets and sidewalks? Seems kind of basic.

Dog Guy

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

Those tourists are mostly U. of M. alumni showing their kids where things used to be. Let's spend that annual $million on a My Old Professor Wax Museum or put the Kelsey Museum mummy and Ruthven Museum dioramas back on display.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

And we have a convention and visitor's bureau which is closed on weekends, when most visitors are in town and looking for information.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5 p.m.

The ones in Canada are really nice and open on weekends with really nice hours as well. Out west they have nice weekend hours as well. As for Ann Arbor? Good luck getting any information.

Thinkin' it Over

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

If visitors knew how negative the comments about bicycling, green space, public art, and public schools are regularly on this site, they would likely see our town differently and head to Boulder or Madison where these things are embraced. These kinds of things need to be encouraged and to flourish if Ann Arbor is to remain a city others rave about and that we can continue to be proud of. It takes more than just good restaurants and interesting places to shop. It is my sincere hope that there will indeed be more positive interest in continuously improving Ann Arbor and less sarcastic negativity. Also, I hope there will be better bike paths, and a bike park (like there is in Boulder) more green space for hiking and enjoyment of nature, more interesting, affordable (donated?) and LOCALLY CREATED public art, and enthusiastically supported public schools. The places, activities, and beauty that have kept us here should be cherished, protected, and enhanced. And more of our young people may want to remain in Ann Arbor, or at least in Michigan instead of heading west to find a better place to live.


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

The first question most people ask me when visiting for the first time is "Why can't you people fix your streets???"


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

@ordmad - yes, it's the trolls that are also voting council people out of office at a rapidly increasing rate.


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

Because I know I choose which town to visit by how friendly it is to bicycling, how much green space they have, what art is in front of the city hall, and how good the public school are. Oh wait, no one visits any town for those reasons. The visit for things to do, people they know, and sights to be seen.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Don't let the trolls here get you down. Most people support the type of things you speak of and most of our city leaders simply rolls their eyes and smirk when someone raises what the prevailing opinion is on this board knowing full well that it means little.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

Move to Boulder if you like it so well!!!


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Art? We got lots of art. Why, the uom is erecting a new (3rd in 2 years ) black metal fence around the red lot at the E.Stadium bridges. What more do you want? And it even has a gate so parkers can wander the Ann Arbor RR greenway.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

I don't think too many visitors are bicycling around town. Those who complain about the use of a public money bucket for art have a point when one considers the state of the streets around here. I suspect those Boulder residents have a bunch of concerns about their town, too.

Thinkin' it Over

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

The negative comments are disappointing but sadly they are not surprising. The places, activities, and beauty that have kept us here should be cherished, protected, and enhanced. And more of our young people may want to remain in Ann Arbor, or at least in Michigan instead of heading west to find a better place to live.

Sam S Smith

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

I agree with you somewhat however I'd like Ann Arbor to be more than just a nice place to visit! We can start by making it more affordable to actually live here!


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

And can we add holding up Boulder as an example to the list of things that violate the commenting guidelines? Sheesh.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

I couldn't care less about being "a city that others rave about". We should be totally focused on being a city that the *residents* rave about, not the tourists. Get some self-esteem, people.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 11:27 a.m.

Find a way to reduce the pan handler population which is ruining the downtown experience.


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

Michigan Man...let me guess...just north of the State Theater over by the clothing store and before CVS?

Michigan Man

Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

Got hassled by three (3) deadbeats last weekend on State Street - called the A2 police to move em on out of the area - Every other word I heard was the F word - throwing scrap and leftover food on the sidewalk and just being major losers - Not doing anybody an good that they are allowed to hang out and hassle/beg and generally disrupt those who are in interested in commerce, civic accountability and quality of life issues in and around Ann Arbor.

Major Groove

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

It's actually the "small town problems" around here that bother me more, if you know what I'm sayin...

Nic F.

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

Uh lets sweep those poor people in to some other corner (sips wine)


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

how about replacing all the snaggely dead and dying street rees in the downdotwn!!


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

"... the people here sure talk about Ypsilanti a lot..."


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

The best place on Earth.