Ann Arbor is day-trip destination

All college towns are not created equal.

Though downtown Bowling Green boasts a modest amount of the independent and original shops and eateries that many campus cities are known for, the options pale in comparison to our neighbor to the north – Ann Arbor, Mich.

Students looking for a vacation destination that they can get to more quickly and cheaply than Cancun or Jamaica might be inclined to spend a day or two strolling the streets of downtown Ann Arbor during spring break.

The town is only an hour drive from Bowling Green, and because it’s home to 23,000 University of Michigan undergrads, its shopping, dining and nightlife cater to a population much like the University’s.

And while the thought of departing one college town for another may seem an unappealing vacation plan, students might want to take a look at what Ann Arbor offers that Bowling Green does not.

Stores like Urban Outfitters on South State Street, American Apparel and Poshh both on East Liberty and an assortment of other vintage and thrift clothing stores, attract high school and college students from throughout Michigan and Ohio.

Ann Arbor’s Urban Outfitters is one of only three in the state of Michigan and the closest location to Bowling Green. The shop specializes in selling the newest trends in apparel, shoes and accessories for both men and women. Its printed T-shirts tend to be among the most popular items with students.

Sisters Sarah and Jessica Rozk, both juniors at Brighton High School in the nearby suburb of Brighton, Mich., said they drive to Ann Arbor to shop at Urban Outfitters at least once a week.

“Brighton is a really small town, kind of rural,” Sarah said. “All we have are stores like Target, nothing like [Urban Outfitters].”

Jessica said that although the store can be pricey – women’s T-shirts typically run from $28-$32 – the originality of the styles found at Urban Outfitters makes paying the extra money worth it.

“We spend at least $80 together every time we come, just buying a couple shirts,” she said. “But I like their style of clothes, it’s not like stuff you normally see.”

University of Michigan sophomores Liz Decamp and Chris Powers said although they don’t frequent Urban Outfitters, they spend plenty of time in its vicinity, visiting other stores and restaurants and just hanging out.

Decamp said she likes eating at the Fleetwood Diner – a tiny local restaurant on Ashley Street that serves breakfast all day – and shopping at Wazoo Records on State Street.

Powers, who enjoys live music, said his favorite places to go in Ann Arbor are local concert venues like the Blind Pig and the Ark.

“There’s a lot of good places to see bands play in Ann Arbor,” he said.

The Ark, an ideal hangout for the person who prefers lighter music, showcases acts in genres such as folk, blues and jazz. The club, which is located on S. Main Street, seats only 400 people for an intimate concert experience.

The Blind Pig, located on South 1st Street, was started by two University of Michigan seniors in 1971 and according to its Web site, was named after “a Detroit slang term for police officers that had been bribed by speakeasy proprietors during the prohibition era of the 1920s.”

Today, the Blind Pig hosts all-age shows almost every night. During BGSU’s spring break, acts like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Of Montreal and Nomo are all scheduled to perform there.

Jacky Heckendorn, freshman, has never been to the Blind Pig, but said she “hears all the time how cool it is.”

But Heckendorn said she likes Ann Arbor not for its nightlife, but because of its great variety of places to dine and relax.

She and friend Erin Schubert, junior, frequent coffee shops like Amer’s and Beaner’s, where they can sit back and people-watch while selecting from an extensive menu of coffees and teas.

If they want to eat, the pair often hits Grizzley Peak Brewing Company on West Washington, described by as “mid-to-upscale dining” featuring items like “wood-fired pizzas, fresh pastas, wood-grilled steaks, burgers, and a variety of vegetarian, soup and salad entrees,” – though Heckendorn said she likes their seafood best.

The two friends also spend a lot of time traveling leisurely by foot downtown.

“Main Street and State Street are good for just walking around,” Schubert said. “I kind of like just looking around at the stores.”

Powers said “just walking around” to see what Ann Arbor has to offer has yet to become a chore for him.

“It definitely is a cool city, and it’s kind of overwhelming,” he said. “I still don’t feel like I know everywhere and I’ve been here a year and a half.”