Ann Arbor isn’t only home to the University of Michigan but also an art fair that’s unlike any other in the country.
Plan to spend the whole weekend taking in all the fantastic crafts and activities offered at the event. It seems impossible to cover the entire festival in a single day.
Join us as we discover what makes the Ann Arbor Art Fair so unique.
About the Ann Arbor Art Fair
The Ann Arbor Art Fair goes above and beyond most traditional festivals. Rather than viewing works from a few hundred artists, this fair brings together nearly 1,000 vendors displaying their handmade crafts.
If that seems like a lot for a single art fair, that’s because it’s actually three festivals in one. Covering an area of 30 city blocks, you’ll see a variety of mediums on display, including photography, ceramics, jewelry, and sculptures.
Walking among the artist booths, you’ll also be surrounded by the natural beauty. Ann Arbor has over 50,000 trees lining its streets and filling city parks. You’ll enjoy the shade they provide while perusing beautiful and unique artwork.
The 2023 event takes place on the weekend of July 20th, from Thursday to Saturday. While summers in Ann Arbor can be warm and humid, you’ll find plenty of ways to escape the sun as you wander the fair.
Three Fairs, One Event
Three independently juried non-profit festivals come together to create the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Each has a designated section that can be found on one of the event maps. We’ll get into the specifics of each one below.
Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original
As the name implies, this is the oldest of the three fairs. Established in 1960, the inaugural event drew 132 artists, mainly from the Ann Arbor area. Three years later, the number of crafters nearly doubled. And in 1965, it became the country’s first outdoor juried art show.
In addition, the Original Ann Arbor Street Art Fair also initiated annual events such as the Townie Street Party. This is a kick-off gathering held the Monday before the three-day festival begins.
Over the years, this fair received many awards and growing respect within the art world. It regularly ranks as one of the top events in industry publications such as Sunshine Arts Magazine and Art Fair Source Book.
State Street District Art Fair
This was the second annual art fair to pop up in Ann Arbor. In 1967, the business owners in the city’s State Street District joined forces to create a festival for the neighborhood. From the beginning, the State Street Area Association used its own funds and resources to run the event. The organization aims to bring vitality and diversity to Ann Arbor.
You’ll find vendors displaying a variety of fine art and hand-crafted items. While strolling through this section of the fair, you’ll also hear live music and have multiple food options to fill your hungry belly.
Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair
The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair began in 1970. A group of local artists wanted a way to spotlight emerging craftspeople and art students, so they started the Free Arts Festival. By the mid-70s, it became an official member of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
This loose-knit group of crafters eventually formed The Guild of Artists & Artisans. It’s one of the largest membership organizations of professional artists in North America.
The Guild runs a multi-week workshop series called the Emerging Artists Program. It occurs before the Summer Art Fair so potential participants can submit works for the jury process.
Where Is Ann Arbor?
Located in southeast Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Ann Arbor is a beautiful university town nicknamed Tree City. As we mentioned earlier, many tree-lined streets and urban areas provide a pleasant setting for outdoor activities.
Plenty of activities will keep you occupied at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. But give yourself time to explore the surrounding area. Various restaurants, locally-owned retail shops, museums, and entertainment options are available throughout the city.
Other Fun Things To Do Near the Ann Arbor Art Fair
You could spend a week in Ann Arbor and still have places left to explore on another trip. We’ll let you in on a few of our favorite places to check out while in the area.
Border to Border Trail
If you love the outdoors, grab a bike or your walking shoes and hit the Border to Border Trail. It’s a 35-mile-long series of paved pathways connecting you to various parks and destinations throughout the county.
The trail runs through Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter, and Chelsea. In addition, most of the path follows the Huron River, providing beautiful scenic views along the way.
An ADA-accessible trail with a ten-foot width allows everyone to enjoy the path together. It’s also perfect for running, bicycling, or rollerblading.
UM Museum of Natural History
Located on the University of Michigan’s campus, this museum is a great way to spend an afternoon. You’ll see everything from mastodon skeletons to microscopic DNA cells. In addition, they have a state-of-the-art Planetarium & Dome Theater. So grab a seat, and you’ll soon be up close and personal with our galaxy.
Admission is free, and the museum is open daily. Plan to spend an hour or two wandering through the various exhibits and checking out the interactive displays.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens
This 300-acre garden showcases everything from bonsai trees to rock gardens. It’s easy to walk a few miles along the trails while gazing at beautiful displays. Additionally, you’ll learn about various methods of climate-appropriate planting and ecologically sound horticulture.
There’s no charge for admission. However, they do require a minimal parking fee. In addition, all buildings and many of the paths are wheelchair accessible.
Best Places To Stay Near the Ann Arbor Art Fair
After all the walking at the Ann Arbor Art Fair and around the city, you’ll want a place to rest for the night. Luckily, there’s no shortage of lodging options. Here are a few locations to check out within a short distance of the fair.
Bruin Lake Campground
This campground is about a 30-minute drive from the fair. Most of the good options for RVers or tent campers will be about this same distance away. At Bruin Lake, you’ll have access to water for swimming, boating, or fishing. In addition, trees line the area providing ample shade while relaxing during the day.
Bruin Lake offers nearly 200 sites, with 20, 30, and 50-Amp hookups. Fire rings and picnic tables are also available at each spot. While the campsites don’t offer sewer connections, a dump station is available on-site. And drinking-water spigots are accessible throughout the campground. Nightly rates start around $30.
Stone Chalet Bed and Breakfast
The historic Stone Chalet might be a good choice if you’d rather stay in town and closer to the fair. Built in 1917, this unique 11-room bed and breakfast is close enough to downtown that you could walk to nearby restaurants and shopping areas.
Stone Chalet consists of four buildings with a Swiss-style home as the main centerpiece. So if you’re looking for a place to truly relax and feel like you’re miles away from a city, this is it. Prices for rooms begin at around $200 per night.
The Kensington Hotel
Another great place to stay in Ann Arbor and close to the fair is the 200-room Kensington Hotel. After walking all day, the heated pool or hot tub may be what you need. Afterward, you can enjoy a drink from the bar on their beautiful outdoor patio.
Reviewers give Kensington high marks for excellent customer service and comfortable rooms. Nightly rates start around $170.
Is a Road Trip to the Ann Arbor Art Fair Worth It?
With three award-winning art fairs in one, we think this Ann Arbor event is worth checking out. Not only will you see a variety of beautiful handmade crafts, but you’ll also be in a city with excellent places to explore.
If you have the time, plan to stay a few extra days in Ann Arbor to enjoy the surrounding area. You never know what gems you’ll find while walking around Tree City.
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