Ann Arbor provides more than Entertainment and Educational experiences.  Great experiences require hitting what Pine & Gilmore describe as the “sweet spot.”  This means experiences that are also Escapist & Esthetic.  

First, a couple of definitions.  In an Escapist experience, you are active and fully engaged (think skydiving or downhill skying).  In an Esthetic experience, you just want to “be there” (think the standing on the edge of the Niagara Falls or sitting on a park bench).

Comet Coffee in Nickels Arcade, Ann Arbor - Photo by S. Sheridan

Ann Arbor is not Seattle, but we do have more than our share of coffee shops.  Thus, the iconic symbol of the Esthetic experience has to be Comet Coffee.  It is one of the best-kept secrets in Ann Arbor.  It has been nestled in the Nickels Arcade since 2009, hand brewing each cup to perfection.  This is not the place if you are in a hurry.  But if you love great coffee and want a place to “be” just off campus, this is it.  Slow down, sip, and let life slip by.

A close runner-up in this category is the Farmer’s Market.  Every Wednesday and Saturday morning you can have every one of your senses bombarded for no charge at all.  Just show up and breathe in the scents, listen to the sounds, feel the textures of food picked just before you woke up, let your eyes dance across the colors, and taste what fresh is.  You will be a better person for it.

U of M Stadium Opening - October 28, 1927. Original photo Kaufmann-Fabry. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I will argue that Ann Arbor’s most iconic Escapist experience is the hole in the ground that Fielding Yost build in 1927 … “The Big House.”  Some may debate that an escapist experience requires full immersion and engagement, thus only the players would qualify.  They have obviously not attended a game with 109,901 of their closest friends on a Saturday afternoon.  It is an experience that takes even the most cynical of spectators and transports them to a different place.

Why is it important that Ann Arbor has of all 4 types of experiences?  It is when all 4 are present … Entertainment, Educational, Esthetic, Escapist … that a place becomes one of those great and memorable places.  One of those places people return to, send their kids to, and tell stories about.

Where are the great places in your life?