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Ann Arbor, Michigan is largely known as being a ‘college town’, but it’s also a great city to visit outside of the University. Whether it’s taking a walk in the Arb, kayaking down the river, or checking out boutiques in downtown Ann Arbor, there’s never a shortage of activities to do. However, this blog post is dedicated to one of our personal favourite Ann Arbor activities – bar hopping! For being a relatively small city, Ann Arbor definitely has its fair share of bars. Here are our picks for the top 8 best bars in Ann Arbor.
1. Good Time Charley’s
Charley’s first opened in 1979 and has been both a local icon and a staple in every Michigan student’s college experience since. Unlike many of the other bars on this list, Charley’s is located right in the middle of campus and sees a predominantly college-aged crowd. They have both an indoor and an outdoor section, making it perfect for the (limited) patio season. Try one of the many delicious Charley’s fishbowls, or make a selection from their list of 140+ shooters. If you’re hungry, they also have classic pub food and a hefty selection of burgers.
If you’re in town for an extended period of time and feeling overly ambitious, you can do as the college kids do and try completing the Charley’s challenge (finishing the list of shooters). You can also participate in Mug Club Mondays, where you can purchase a reusable 25 oz. Charley’s beer mug for $10, and get $2.50 domestic refills and $4.50 crafts/imports refills.
Sunday All Day
2. The Grotto
The Grotto is a must visit for all beer lovers, as they feature a menu of 36 rotating taps from the US and worldwide. If beer isn’t for you, they also have long menus of scotch, spirits, wine, and craft cocktails. The Grotto has both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a partially-outdoor section covered by a clear tarp during colder weather. It’s located downtown, further off campus, so this is a good choice for those looking to escape the college crowds!
Although The Grotto doesn’t offer food, they do have a ‘Bring Your Own Food’ policy, in which customers are welcome to either bring their own food or order off one of the delivery menus The Grotto offers.
Mash is an underground bar with a chill atmosphere and amazing live music. There is live music on most nights of the week, and the bands that play are usually from around the area. If you want to jive along to the band, there’s a dance floor in front of where they perform. If you prefer to sit and chat instead, there are also plenty of areas for that. The drinks at Mash mostly revolve around bourbon, whiskey, and beer, but they also have a selection of wine and mixed drinks. Make sure you try one of Mash’s pickle back shots! Mash also offers a food selection of bar snacks, but make sure you order before the kitchen closes (10pm on Sundays, 11pm Mon-Thu, & midnight Fri-Sat).
Babs is a downtown bar with a speakeasy vibe that’s been around since 2004. Finding the bar can sometimes be challenging, as it’s hidden away in a building with a bunch of offices and businesses. You need to first enter the building, and then you’ll see a sign leading you downstairs to Babs. Once there, you can select from an extensive menu of cocktails, malts, bourbons, and craft beers. You can also help yourself to a game of pool on one of the two pool tables, make use of the photobooth, or play arcade games and pinball.
5. The Last Word
The Last Word is also trickier to find (although more visible than Babs). It is located inside an inconspicuous door and doesn’t have great signage outside. Once inside, the atmosphere feels intimate and personable, and there is often live music playing. The Last Word has an amazing selection of wine, beer, cocktails, and whiskeys, as well as a diverse menu of plates to share (or to enjoy by yourself!)
6. Bill’s Beer Garden
Bill’s Beer Garden is a seasonal beer garden open from March to October and is located entirely outdoors. Unfortunately, this means that Bill’s is susceptible to changes in weather, and may be closed on rainy days. By day, the venue is a parking lot next to a gardening store. By night, the parking lot closes and becomes an outdoor patio where people can enjoy their drinks. There is a great selection of beer to choose from, but there are also other drinks ranging from wine, to mead, to cider for non-beer lovers. If you need any more reason to go, on Sundays they offer free hotdogs (until they run out)!
March – April
May – June
July – September
Ashley’s is a bar and grill that has been in Ann Arbor since 1983. However, their trademark is their extensive beer menu. Ashley’s made our list of top 8 best bars in Ann Arbor for having one of the biggest beer menus in Ann Arbor. They have constantly rotating taps, and they also offer pre-selected flights of four 5oz. beers, organized by type of beer. While Ashley’s is located closer to campus, it doesn’t see a ton of traffic from college students (except on trivia night Thursdays). They also have a ‘Beer Tour’ membership program, where you get rewarded for trying different types of beers at both the Ann Arbor and Westland locations. If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere, good beer, and a slightly older crowd, Ashley’s is the place for you!
Mon-Thu: 3pm-6pm, 10pm-Close
Sun: All day
Dom’s is the oldest bar on our list of top 8 best bars in Ann Arbor, having been open since 1960. It’s also a seasonal bar, opening after the University’s spring break (around early/mid March), and closing after the last Michigan football home game (around November). Dom’s is classified as a tapas bar, but it has just about every type of cuisine you could imagine. You can grab anything from pizzas and pastas, to Asian snacks, to Tex-Mex dishes. Dom’s does have some indoor seating, but also an extensive patio/porch area. They’re well known for having amazing sangrias, all served in aesthetically pleasing mason jars (do it for the gram!). If the weather is nice, Dom’s is definitely a solid bar to hit up.
There are plenty more bars than what was mentioned on this list, and you really can’t go wrong with any. However, this list of top 8 best bars in Ann Arbor are our personal favourites. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments!
Are you a beer lover like us? Then you might want to check out these posts:
- A Local’s Guide to the 15 Best Breweries in Chicago
- Best Bars in NYC’s East Village
- Best Happy Hour Spots in NYC’s Lower East Side
- First Timer’s Guide to Oktoberfest
- Where to Stay in Prague and Beer Spa Prague Review
- Discover Slovenia’s Best Craft Beers With a Beer Lover’s Experience of Ljubljana
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These sound like some great spots to hang out and have fun with friends. If ever I am in the area, I will keep these in mind. Thanks for sharing!
It’s interesting that two of them are seasonal, but they’re still open after all these years. So, business must be good! I’m not a beer drinker/bar hopper, but it looks like outside sitting is better than inside. I can imagine Uber is high in demand every weekend here.
That’s a great list of some very cool bars in Ann Arbor. I already love the Grotto, Ashley’s, and Babs. Such cool places. Would love to chill there.
I have a friend of mine from Ann Arbor, and it sounds like such a great town to visit. Love the look of these eight bars, especially Ashley’s (love a restaurant bar combo), and my husband would love the 36 taps at The Grotto!
Loved reading this. Kinda reminds me of Leeds where I am pursuing my Masters from. Leeds being a student city primarily, has a lot of amazing eat out joints, which after reading your article, I feel should cover too.
As you’ve mentioned, I always thought of this city as a college town. It’s great to know that there are some really cool places where people can hang out and have fun. Thanks for sharing!
While going through your post I had ‘I know where this is’ moment for all most all the bars you have listed. But out of all the bars you have listed I have only visited The Last Word, and can totally vouch for their cocktails. Hopefully I get to visit the other, the next time i am there! 🙂
Mash sounds like a great place because I love live music, and underground pubs are pretty cool. But I also love outdoor seating, so Grotto also sounds like a great place to try out, though I am not a beer drinker (if one were, it’d be amazing to be able to choose from 36 beers on tap!) but as you say, they have a decent wine menu, which is my poison! Always great to have a list of places to try the food and drinks in a city before visiting.