Not to be overshadowed by its famous neighbor Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti also is a pleasantly offbeat college town with a lively art scene, delicious local eats and drinks, and unique shops in Southeast Michigan worth visiting during a day trip from Detroit or Ann Arbor.
In this guide, I share seven fun things to do in Ypsilanti, Michigan. From shopping for one-of-a-kind gifts to sipping locally-brewed craft beer, you’ll love spending a day in this multicultural, LGBTQ-friendly community with a funky and fun atmosphere.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Destination Ann Arbor, Ypsi Real, and Wanderful. Some of the foods and drinks featured in this guide to things to do in Ypsilanti were comped. Also, this post contains some affiliate links. When you click on one of these partner links and make a purchase, I may earn a commission.
Fun Things to Do in Ypsilanti, Michigan
If you live or travel in the United States, you’ve probably heard of Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the University of Michigan. But, did you know there is another college town only 7 miles east of the University of Michigan’s main campus?
Home to Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti shares quite a bit in common with its Washtenaw County neighbor.
Like Ann Arbor, both college towns are art-centric, multicultural, and LGBTQ-friendly Michigan destinations. Also like Ann Arbor, Ypsi — as we shorten it in Michigan — has fun annual festivals, local parks and trails, cool vintage and gift shops, and foodie-approved dining.
Yet, with a population of 20,648 as of the 2020 Census, Ypsilanti is considerably smaller than Ann Arbor. Perhaps that is why I felt such a strong sense of community among the local businesses and restaurants that I’ve visited in Ypsi.
I have to thank Ypsi Real for introducing me to Ypsilanti’s local small businesses. That was vital to the research put into this Ypsilanti travel guide, which has been created in partnership with Ypsi Real and the women’s travel network Wanderful.
As you read on, you’ll see Ypsilanti offers boutique and vintage shopping as well as mouthwatering food and craft beverages. You can click here for even more ideas for where to eat or things to do in Ypsilanti, but here are my suggestions of where to spend a day in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Things to Do in Depot Town
Anchored by East Cross Street, Ypsilanti’s historic Depot Town is a shopping and dining district that was first established in the mid-1800s. In addition to places to eat and drink, you’ll find local shops selling antiques, vintage clothes, and hand-crafted gifts among other items.
Brick & Mortar Modern General Store
This boutique shop is bringing back the old general store, but with an updated twist for the modern-day shopper.
Browsing the store, you’ll find home decor, bath and beauty products, clothing, jewelry, and items you’d have once found at a traditional general store. Don’t miss the 25-cent candy!
Additionally, the couple that owns the shop strives to stock goods from other small businesses and independent makers and artisans, so you’ll see some hand-crafted and locally-made items here, too.
Brick & Mortar Modern General Store is located at 21 East Cross Street.
Shopping in Downtown Ypsilanti
Novelty gifts, vintage clothing, antique home decor, and classic vinyl records are just a few things you’ll find at the downtown Ypsilanti shops.
One of the best times to shop in Downtown Ypsilanti is the first Friday evening of each month. During First Fridays Ypsilanti, many shops and restaurants will have live musical entertainment, an activity or craft, complimentary adult beverages, and/or hors d’oeuvres.
Below I’ve listed four shops you absolutely must browse during your visit!
Unicorn Feed & Supply
Fun for all ages and super nostalgic for those of us who grew up obsessed with Lisa Frank merchandise, Unicorn Feed & Supply celebrates all that is sparkly, colorful, and magical.
Need a fairy garden? PRIDE gear? Zany socks? Mermaid party decor? You will find it all in this wonderfully whimsical shop!
Unicorn Feed & Supply is located at 114 West Michigan Avenue.
Obscure novelty gifts, hilarious holiday cards, Michigan-themed merchandise (perfect for souvenirs), and a wide variety of candy are just some of the things you’ll find at The Rocket. Your senses may go into overdrive with so much to see in one store!
The Rocket is located at 122 West Michigan Avenue.
Salt City Antiques
Specializing in mid-century decor, Salt City Antiques is like a Mad Men set. For baby boomers like my mom — with whom I visited Salt City Antiques — seeing the store’s relics from the 1950s-1970s is a nostalgic walk down memory lane. Certainly, if you want to outfit your home in mid-century modern stylings, this is just the shop for you. You’ll also find some vintage clothing and accessories from that era, too.
Salt City Antiques is located at 115 West Michigan Avenue.
Collectable art, furniture, and vinyl records are what you’ll find at A2 Vintage. The collection of albums is unreal, and the owner will let you take a listen on the store’s record player, if you ask.
A2 Vintage is located at 109 West Michigan Avenue.
Best Places to Eat & Drink in Ypsilanti
Ma Lou’s Fried Chicken
A must for foodies visiting Ypsilanti is Ma Lou’s Fried Chicken. This Ypsilanti restaurant keeps its menu pretty simple, but with fried chicken as juicy as Ma Lou’s, you won’t need much else.
I recommend ordering a chicken sandwich. I selected the OG with a fried chicken breast (though you could opt for thigh), cheddar, smoked gouda, slaw, and pickles on an onion roll.
Like your chicken sandwich Nashville-style hot? Ma Lou’s can certainly bring the heat!
If hot and spicy is not for you, order your sandwich southern style like I did. Either way, you won’t go wrong.
Vegetarians, Ma Lou’s also offers marinated tofu as a protein option.
Next, we need to talk about the sides. The house potato salad and coleslaw are delicious, but you might also want to inquire about seasonal options. During the early fall, we got a pickled watermelon and cucumber salad that was really refreshing.
Not in the mood for a sandwich? That’s ok! Ma Lou’s also offers chicken and waffles, chicken by the piece, panko-breaded chicken fries, and wings.
No matter what you order, you must save room for a biscuit donut!
Ma Lou’s Fried Chicken is located at 15 West Michigan Avenue. Ma Lou’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
734 Brewing Company
Open from 4 p.m. until midnight daily, 734 Brewing Company is the place to sip a locally-brewed craft beer in Ypsilanti. Located in Depot Town, the brewery strives to make quality, unpretentious beers accessible to everyone (of legal drinking age, of course) — even in “forgotten communities.” Actually, even visitors not yet 21 can enjoy the root beer made in-house.
For those of us 21 and older, your tasting flight will be poured from a rainbow of tap handles shaped like the Ypsilanti Water Tower. During my visit, I thoroughly enjoyed the Cross Street Raspberry, a raspberry cream ale, and Oh Four!, an oatmeal stout.
In addition to beer and root beer, 734 Brewing Co. makes apple wine and spirits.
734 Brewing Company is located at 15 East Cross Street.
Where to Stay Near Ypsilanti
Ypsilanti is a fun day trip destination from Ann Arbor and the Detroit metro area. These are some hotels near Ypsilanti that I recommend:
- Graduate Ann Arbor, 8 miles from Downtown Ypsi
- Weber’s Boutique Hotel, 12.5 miles from Downtown Ypsi
- The Henry, Autograph Collection, 27 miles from Downtown Ypsi
- Detroit Foundation Hotel, 35 miles from Downtown Ypsi
How would you spend one day in Ypsilanti, Michigan?
When visiting Ann Arbor for a weekend getaway, I highly recommend you carve out a little time to explore the college town to the east.
In Ypsilanti, you’ll discover a destination a bit more off the beaten path, local businesses that are giving back to and supporting their community, and some darn good, delicious eats and drinks, my friends.
To read this Ypsilanti guide offline, download the GPSmyCity app. Then you can upgrade this article for GPS navigation, maps, and routes to all of the shops and foodie spots I’ve mentioned in this post.
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