Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ten Tips for Conquering the Ann Arbor Art Fair

The Ann Arbor Art Fair, which begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday, brings art from all around the country to Ann Arbor. With four fairs to explore downtown, short of dedicating the entire rest of this week to browsing through blocks and blocks of art booths- which really isn’t a bad idea- you’ll want a plan for enjoying every minute of the delightful zaniness that is the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Whether you are one of many visitors coming from far-away lands or a native A2’er living in a downtown Ann Arbor Condo, these tips for enjoying the fair will help you navigate this week with ease and enjoyment.

1. Wear comfortable shoes. Shuttle buses are being offered from nearby Briarwood Mall and Pioneer High School parking lots, but you’ll still do quite a good bit of walking once you get downtown. Leave your Jimmy Choos at home and wear some sensible walking shoes.

2. Plan ahead for parking. Check the Art Fair’s website for a map of the fair location and available parking places. If you have friends who live in an Ann Arbor home near the Art Fair, invite them to go with you. Hey- their house would be a great spot to park your car!

3. Stay hydrated. This week promises to be warm and sunny, so make sure you’re drinking enough water to keep you body cool. Sports drinks and fruits and vegetables full of water, such as watermelon and cucumber, are other tasty ways to stay hydrated.

4. Bring a shopping tote. Toss a small, expandable tote into your pocket or purse, and use it to carry home all the treasures you found that day. Not only is there amazing art for sale, but many downtown retailers offer special sales during the event. Pop into stores downtown to take advantage of their air conditioning and to browse the merchandise as well.

5. Pace yourself. Don’t try to visit every single booth in the first hour. Browse for a few hours, then take a break at a restaurant or café, enjoy a cool drink and a bite to eat, and get rejuvenated before you head back out. If you can swing it, enjoy the fair over a couple of days. Come one evening and browse the booths after an early dinner downtown. Come in the morning one day and enjoy lighter crowds.

6. Wear comfortable clothes. Light colored clothes are going to keep you cooler than dark clothes. Check the forecast before you go, and pack an umbrella or a lightweight plastic poncho if clouds are slated to roll through. If you do encounter a sprinkle, duck into a café or downtown shop for a coffee and some indoors shopping until the sun peeks back out. Wear a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. Don’t forget sunscreen.

7. Don’t be surprised by the crowds. The fair annually draws about 50,000 attendees, so there will be a lot of people milling around the booths. Try visiting in the morning when crowds are generally a bit lighter. If you’re bringing a baby or small child, consider the logistics of navigating a stroller versus using a baby carrier.

8. Keep your kids entertained by visiting the Imagination Stations and the Kid Zone, which all offer fun crafts to give your children a hands-on approach to art. Check out a fun band or dance performance, then top of the day with a stop for ice cream or a cupcake from Cake Nouveau.

9. Set a meeting place in case you split up from your friends. Preferably someplace with shade and cool drinks, setting a meeting time and place gives you the flexibility to browse one block while your friend checks out another block, and you can rendezvous with them to check out each other’s purchases and compare notes over lunch.

10. Stash a bit of cash in your pocket, along with your checkbook and credit card, so you’ll be prepared when you stumble across that absolute must-have piece of artwork that is going to look amazing on your wall.

Image courtesy Flickr: Ifmuth


  1. Your observation was very interesting and informative. I enjoyed reading it.