Ann Arbor is a pretty college town that is famous for being the home to the sweeping University of Michigan campus which houses the city’s most well known museums. The city has been nicknamed “Tree Town” and for good reason. It is densely forested in and around town. The Huron River snakes its way through portions of Ann Arbor and contributes to its beautiful scenery overall.
There are two Ann Arbor, Michigan attractions in particular where I think you will appreciate the city’s natural beauty the most. They are the Nichols Arboretum and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. They are both under the University of Michigan umbrella.
The Nichols Arboretum is located on Washington Heights on the eastern side of the university campus. This is a nice park that is home to a variety of gardens, flowers, and plants. The most notable of them is the peony garden. The peonies glow nicely in pinks, whites, reds, and yellows, especially when they are in bloom which happens around mid May through to mid June.
Owing to its complex glacial past, the arboretum is hilly in terrain. As a result of this, you will be treated to gorgeous views from certain vantages. There are a handful of area to note of when it comes to the arboretum. First up is Alex Dow Field. This is where you can blend yourself into a sea of prairies. The prairies are known to attract many types of birds and insects. So, you may want to look out for them.
The second area is called the Main Valley. This area is considered to be the heart of the arboretum. On the sloped lawns in this area, you can have picnics, lay out in the sun, form and engage in lawn games, among other things. Also, in one section of the area, you will get to watch a live performance called Shakespeare in the Arb.
This area is surrounded by beautiful woodlands of native oaks, walnuts, and pines as well as tree types from other countries including Turkey, Japan, and China. Magnolia Glen is the next area of the arboretum. It is notable for the hardy magnolias which are trees with impressive large leaves. Native and Chinese tulip trees are also found in this area.
The Oak Openings area is a beautiful wooded area within the arboretum. At least one trail travels through this area, making for a peaceful hike. Oak openings is the name given to the quasi-open woodlands and prairies that were commonly found in southern Michigan and other Midwestern states centuries ago. Today, they are rare with less than one percent of the original oak openings remaining.
The River Landing area is where you can get down and personal with the Huron River. This is a popular area for bird-watching. Also, you may spot people canoeing on the river through this picturesque area. This is another great spot for picnics. There is also a hiking trail that passes by the river. Schoolgirls Glen is an interesting area in the arboretum.
It is a narrow valley with remnants of an earlier glacial deposit found beneath. As you hike the steep trail through this area, you will notice the bottom showing its severe erosion resulting from street run-offs. In total, there are nearly 3.5 miles worth of hiking trails that wind their way throughout the arboretum. There are also benches along the way too, should you want to sit down and enjoy the scenery.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens
The Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located on North Dixboro Road east of US Highway 23 in Ann Arbor. The beautifully designed botanical gardens is divided into eleven distinct gardens. The Bonsai and Penjing garden is known for its traditional Japanese and Chinese styles of trees. It also has a structure designed in the architectural style of these two countries.
The Great Lakes garden is, as the name indicates, focused on the habits and plants that are native to the Great Lakes region of the US which include the state of Michigan. Among the habitats showcased in this garden include dune, limestone plain, and prairie. This garden contains a series of accessible pathways, boardwalks, and overlooks.
The Gaffield Children’s garden is designed specifically with young children in mind. So, if you have any with you, be sure to visit this garden. It features a builder’s garden, a maze, a digging pit, and a mud garden. The Herb Knot garden is designed in the 16th century English Tudor garden style. It houses plants that are normally used in Asian, Native American, and European cooking and healing traditions.
The Gateway garden primarily focuses on ornamental plants originally native to North, Central, or South America. The Perennial garden is notable for its color-coordinated waves of bloom from plants that are appropriate for the local area. The Woodland Wildflower garden is home to more than one hundred native species of ferns, woody plants, and spring wildflowers from the southern Great Lakes region.
The Medicinal garden contains plants that are used in medicines meant to treat human disease. The Rock garden is primarily concerned with plants that are designed to thrive on exposed crevices and cliff faces. Succulents, tight cushions, creeping mats, and silvery foliage are all used to support plants in this garden. The Urban Pocket garden is notable for using rocks to tie up the plants and trees.
The garden is also notable for its curved bench that behaves like a fence around the garden. The Sitting garden is basically what it sounds like. It is a garden with seating designed to allow you to relax and enjoy the scenery. In addition to all these gardens, the botanical gardens is home to a conservatory. It is designed to house plants that wouldn’t be able to survive outdoor in the area.
It has three sections, each representing a different biome. They are tropical, temperate, and arid. A visitor’s center and gift shop called The Garden Store is also located onsite.
These are the two Ann Arbor, Michigan attractions I believe will help you get the most out of the area’s natural beauty. If you feel like you have not had enough of nature, you may want to head east to nearby Detroit and visit Belle Isle Park which is located in the middle of the scenic Detroit River.
Ann Arbor Hotel
If you are looking for a hotel to stay overnight at in Ann Arbor, I have got you covered. Here is a hotel I would suggest for you.
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Ann Arbor Univ. Mich Area
This hotel is located just north of the interchange of State Street and Interstate 94 in the southern portion of Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan campus is only five minutes away from the hotel via State Street. The hotel houses an onsite restaurant and bar called Mallet’s Creek Bar & Grille. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel.
If you are looking for somewhere to workout, there is a fitness center within the hotel. All of the hotel rooms and suites come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $94 to $179. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or check out some photos.
What are your thoughts? Are you looking to fall in love with nature in Ann Arbor? Feel free to leave a comment below.