The Smallest Large City: The City of Trees. - My Family Travels

By the end of this adventure you’ll love my city. But first, I’ll give you directions.

You are looking at quite a nice solar system. Nine planets – oops, I mean eight – orbit a young yellow star. You’re looking at this majestic timepiece of years and ages, and a little dot catches your attention. It is blue and green, with swirly wisps of white. Earth! The little guy isn’t as big as Jupiter, but there’s just something about Earth, something magical. You zoom in on this exceptional planet.


Hey – there are lights on the dark side! There’s liquid water! Most of it is salty though. . . aha! Five huge lakes of freshwater! Looking for life, you zoom in further. The lower peninsula of Michigan fills your whole vision now. Wow! So much forest in the west. So much metal and brick in the far east.

But in between, you see something. A city of trees. Metal, brick, and tree coexist. You peer deeper through your telescope, and see coffee shops.

They say city life is measured in coffee-shop density. For such shops are spaces where people can talk, and have ideas, and generally live. The more coffee shops, the more vibrant, fun, and diverse the city – that’s my travel writer’s rule. And Ann Arbor has a lot* of coffee shops.

OK, so you travel from Plant X to Ann Arbor. What’s new? What should I show you?

Well, let’s say you land in Gallup Park, a beautiful location, especially in summer. You look around and people picnicking, children paddle-boating in the Huron River, and trees. There’s a mini-Zingerman’s, where you can order a snack. Do so. You need nourishment after your interstellar journey.

Where to next? Do you want to learn more about this planet’s culture? The world-class University of Michigan is located in Ann Arbor, just a biking distance from Gallup Park – visit its Art Museum for free! In fact, if you’re into art, please check out our summer Ann Arbor Art Fair, which attracts artists from all over the country, and beyond!

We also have a Museum of Natural History and the Hands-On Museum, and many other resources for the culturally curious. The Hands-On Museum is excellent for younger travelers.

What else? I could talk about Ann Arbor’s sensational sights and shops – the indoor Briarwood Mall is a must-go for shoppers, the Nichols Arboretum, a must-go for nature-walkers – but I’m getting hungry again.

Food. Ann Arbor, being the ten-cities-in-one that it is, offers travelers flavorful nourishment ranging from spicy Somalian samosas to “nutrilicious” Indian street food. Here is a small sample of the restaurants you’ll find in Ann Arbor:

  • Hut-K Chaats (Indian) – Try “Shanu Chaats”, a mix of sweet plants and savory, crunchy grains. The meal is warm and earthy, but nevertheless light.
  • Haifa Falafel (Israeli) – I usually get “Haifa Falafel Pita” and “Haifa Falafel Balls”.
  • Taquiera La Fiesta (Mexican) – This isn’t like Taco Bell or Chipotle. Taquiera La Fiesta serves authentic homemade Mexican food, meaning “Prickly Pear Cactus” and “Huevos con Chorizo” (a breakfast item).

I’m so sorry I couldn’t show you more. You’ve explored and dined and shopped so little of our city. But I’m running out of time. I leave you my love of Ann Arbor in a corny but heartfelt poem:

O Ann Arbor, O City of Trees,

smaller than The Big Cities,

as Earth is smaller than Jupiter.

Land meets freshwater and drinks;

city meets tree and finds shade.

I meet you and live.

You are ten cities in one.


*About 80 inside, with an additional 60 nearby, according to

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