Peony Gardens at Nichols Arboretum

Peony Gardens at Nichols Arboretum

By Melissa Miller, Taking the Kids Correspondent

DAY 1 — Ann Arbor.

From the moment of arrival, the good old-fashioned Midwestern friendliness in Ann Arbor, Michigan is everywhere.  A stunning view of the University of Michigan campus welcomes me out my Campus Inn window, and the journey begins.  Ann Arbor is full of wonderful and unique food.  The day opened at Zola, originally started as a small Turkish gem, which still sticks to its roots.  Usually, I love sticking to my roots, treating myself to blintz and crepes for breakfast, but the waiter convinced me to try an artichoke omelet with plenty of veggies and hearty flavor.  The coffee and tea is served in true Turkish fashion, glass press-pots with honey and milk.  They had everything from waffles and oatmeal to more elaborate crepes and omelets.  Their Turkish eggs are a huge attraction. The restaurant also displays bold and beautiful local artwork. 

I was so excited to see the Nichols Arboretum, where the main attraction is the peony gardens.  The endless pink, white, red, and deep scarlet flowers fill the air with sweet scents.  There are numerous types of peonies planted here, all with their own unique fragrance. Behind the peonies, a neighboring yellowwood tree invites us to explore the forest   The trees appear to go on forever as they follow down to the river, where the trail leads. The area heading to the river includes a children’s play area, labeled Fairy Woods and Troll Hollow, where young hikers build teepees and forts out of logs and sticks. The beautiful lawn around the peonies is a strong attraction for folks in the area, especially college students.  You will often find hard workers out on the lawn enjoying the view and preparing for class and tests. 

The main street includes plenty of shopping.  There is a plethora of children’s clothing and toys, as well as some women’s clothing, artisan stores, and one of my personal favorites, a vinegar tasting room (and honey too!)  In many local shops children love looking for the Fairy Doors.  The installation art piece by local artists is a community effort in which many businesses participate.  Children can get a treasure hunt card and find all twelve throughout the town.  When they find them all, they can turn their card in to be entered for a drawing.   See here.

If you have ever been to Ann Arbor, or know of anyone in the area, you have probably heard of Zingerman’s Delicatessen.   They are known for their mouth-watering sandwiches, but have since partnered with other wholesale companies.  Although they are separate entities, they work together well and are even more profitable in their cooperation, benefiting the community.

Not only can you eat at the deli, but what they call the “South Side” has wholesale cooperative businesses.  One of the main attractions is Bake!  Zingerman’s Bakehouse.  I took a strudel making class and found my long-lost inner baker.   We learned how to make and knead the dough, pull it out, prepare the filling, and roll the strudel.  The instructor explained how the proteins of gluten help keep the dough together so it can be pulled thin in case we were interested, but I was more focused on creating and eating something delicious.  The class was perfect for kids of all ages.   Check out their website to find fun classes in cookies, cinnamon rolls, chocolate, cupcakes, cake decorating, bacon and more!

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