If I were to make a list of “must see” spots in Ann Arbor (which I really should do :), Nichols Arboretum, or”The Arb” would be near the top. We went this past week as a family and I was reminded of how much I adore this lush spot.




Insider Info. 

Choose your own adventure. The Arb has something for everyone. If you feel like a long and vigorous hike, you can take trail after trial and staircase after staircase at a hurried speed, if you want more of a leisurely stroll, there is a path for you. Need some meditation time? Seat yourself on one of the many benches situated perfectly throughout the Arb. Want space to play? There are open grassy fields with plenty of room to throw and catch.

Discover the water. We always take the trail leading to the water first. My boys can’t wait to dip their toes into the Huron River. There are nice places to sit and picnic around the water and you can even swim if you are brave or rescue canoes and kayaks that get stuck in the more shallow spots if you feel like lending a hand.

Build a fairy house. One of the most charming parts of the Arb is Fairy Woods and Troll Hollow where kids and adults alike do their best to create makeshift homes for fairies and trolls. We have seen some especially creative ones in the past. Plan for a few (or a lot of) moments here.



Bring a ball. If you house loves sports like ours does, we don’t go many places without a ball. There are so many wide open grassy areas where few people stop and there is plenty of space for a game of catch or soccer.

Watch for wildlife. The Arb is full of beautiful, wild creatures and we love walking slowly enough to take them all in. On our last trip we saw 2 large red-tailed hawks eating their prey. They flew right at us! It was exhilarating. We also saw 2 huge groundhogs, spiders, ants, worms, and caterpillars. Last time we saw fish, frogs, and crayfish. Always something to discover.

Breathe in the beauty. There are so many trails, wildflowers, and green to take in and spots to stop and enjoy the view. Try to follow as many trails as you can and don’t forget to stand for a moment in wonder.

Come for a festival or event. There are beautiful gardens near the entrance to the Arb where they hold the peony festival. It’s a great time to visit, but it will be more crowded. Also, try Shakespeare in the Arb, a wonderful series of plays that happen in the summertime.

Shakespeare in the Arb: A Midsummer Night’s Dream | This version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins in the Peony Garden. Hippolyta and Theseus (Gail McCormick and Chris Harrison) watch on as Egeus (Rich Tolman) tries to force his daughter Hermia (Allison Stock) to marry Demetrius (Sean FitzGerald). But Hermia wants to marry her beloved Lysander.
Image via Relish…check out her blog. It is beautiful!! She is an amazing Ann Arbor photographer.


. Map, here.

If you go.

Wear the right shoes. If you think you might want to take a dip in the water and feel comfortable walking in flip flops, these are probably the best option. If you plan on more hiking…wear your exercise or hiking shoes.  The trails are nice but few are paved, so there are loose rocks and wood chips in some areas. There are also some tricky stairs and, of course, tree roots. For kids, whatever is most comfortable and most sturdy works best.

Bring a backpack. The Arb is shady and enjoyable, but if you have kids, it’s always nice to have your “stuff.” I would pack the essentials including water in a back pack so everyone can enjoy the hike. You can also bring in a picnic if you wish, but be sure to pack you mess out with you.

Spray mosquito repellent. You know this is a must by the water in Michigan. Don’t forget it!

Leave the stroller behind. If you have a very rugged stroller and really want to bring it, you can give it a shot and stay off the paths with stairs, but if you do have a baby, I would suggest wearing him or her in a front pack or backpack. The stroller can be very cumbersome. Our almost 2 year old had a wonderful time walking the whole thing for a couple of hours, slowly but surely. The world was so interesting to him, he didn’t realize much ground he was covering. Another option is to keep the younger ones up top while the older ones explore more.

Check a map. There is a map to and around the Arb HERE. Check it out and plan your trip. There are multiple entrances and trails, so be sure you end up at the same place you started.

Parking. This is the WORST part about visiting the Arb. Parking is hard to find, especially during weekdays. Bring quarters if you plan on using a meter. Click here for parking options and tips.

Cost. Free!