- 1 Ann Arbor — The county seat, and home to the University of Michigan. It's a thriving town with lots of shops, restaurants, cultural activities and festivals.
- 2 Ypsilanti — Ann Arbor's smaller, poorer, uglier, and cooler sibling. Surrounded by pretentious neighbors, Ypsi residents tend to see their city as more relaxed and less yuppified. Ypsilanti was the birthplace of Iggy Pop and home of the Ypsilanti Water Tower, which was voted the most phallic building in the world by the nationally circulated Cabinet art and design magazine. The Depot Town area is the most walkable.
- 3 Chelsea — A quaint, touristy little town, home to Jeff Daniels' Purple Rose Theater and celebrated local restaurant The Common Grill. Has a small, lively downtown with several art galleries, eateries and shops.
- 4 Dexter — Small town between Ann Arbor and Chelsea with a walkable downtown. In the fall, visit the Dexter Cider Mill for fresh apple cider and doughnuts, and during nice times of the year stop in at the drive-in A&W outside of town.
- 5 Saline — Another pleasant small town with a walkable downtown full of shops and restaurants. Lots of people come for the Saline Celtic Festival that's held every July, with entertainment, food and vendors.
- The other two villages in the county are Manchester and Milan (which doesn't rhyme with the Italian town, but more so with "island"). Neither is very big, but both are worth a visit, especially if you enjoy drives through the country. Manchester has a little riverside downtown and an enormous annual chicken broil, while Milan has a carnival and lovely fireworks show over the water around the Fourth of July.
- Northwestern Washtenaw County is home to the Waterloo State Recreation Area and the Pinckney State Recreation Area, both large parks with several popular recreational lakes, like Silver Lake and Bruin Lake.
- The Huron River flows through Dexter, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti on its way to Lake Erie.
Ann Arbor (along with its neighbor Ypsilanti) is a university town with a large number of international students. This means a lot of international restaurants, ethnic grocery stores, and lots of non-native speakers of English. There are several language schools in the heart of downtown, so as you're walking down the street, you're highly likely to encounter groups of people speaking Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, or one of dozens of other languages. Of course, there are also native speakers from all over the country, and the rest of the English-speaking world, so you're liable to hear a wide variety of accents as well. For a small town, there's a surprising amount of cultural diversity.
Also recognize that you're not far from Dearborn, home to the largest Middle Eastern population in the United States. While the Arabic population of Ann Arbor isn't nearly as visible as its Asian (particularly Korean) population, you may have the opportunity to meet visitors from Arab countries or locals of Arab descent.
As for the native English speakers in the area, Michigan is situated in the middle of the Northern Cities vowel shift, which in some ways has made the local accents more similar to a Canadian accent. In particular, you're likely to notice a difference in the low front vowel a (as in "hat" and "ramp"), which is raised and highly nasalized, and the close-mid back vowel o (as in row and soap), which is fronted such that it resembles a Minnesota accent.
The only interstate in Washtenaw County is I-94, which goes west from Detroit, south of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, then past Dexter and Chelsea toward Jackson. US-23 goes north from Toledo, Ohio past Milan, between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, then toward Flint. Saline is on US-12 southwest of Ypsilanti, while Manchester is on M-52 south of Chelsea and north of Adrian.
- The nearest major airport is Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW IATA), in Detroit.
- Ann Arbor Airport (ARB IATA) (in Ann Arbor), ☎ . is a small 24-hour airport that handles business, corporate, public and private flights, air ambulance service, flight instruction and charter services.
- Amtrak, 325 Depot Street, Ann Arbor, ☎ , toll-free: . daily, 7AM-12AM; ticketing is available from 7:15AM-11:30PM. The station is located within walking distance of downtown Ann Arbor; there are also usually taxis waiting outside the station. The Ann Arbor stop is situated on the Wolverine line, which travels between Pontiac (north of Detroit) and Chicago. There are three westbound and three eastbound departures daily. Detroit is about 1 hour away by train, and costs $10 - 15 one-way. The train is about 4:45 hours from Chicago, and usually costs between $25 and $50 one-way. The train from Chicago generally arrives fifteen minutes to half an hour behind schedule.
Several intercity bus lines run to/from Ann Arbor.
- Greyhound, 116 W Huron St, ☎ . M-F 9AM-6PM, Sa-Su 9AM-4:30PM. The bus station is located in downtown Ann Arbor. Detroit is a little over 1 hour away via bus; a one-way ticket costs $7 - $8, round-trip is $13 - $15. Chicago is 5 to 6.5 hours away; a one-way ticket is $34 - $37, round-trip is $65 - $70. (Tickets booked in advance are much cheaper)
- Megabus, toll-free: . Service available to Ann Arbor from Chicago and Toledo; fares start at $1. Buses arrive and depart at the University of Michigan's State Street Commuter Park & Ride lot. The lot is on the west side of South State Street about 0.5 mile north of Eisenhower Parkway. The bus stop is on the east side of the parking lot between the entrance and exit.
- Michigan Flyer, toll-free: . Bus service from Detroit Metro to Lansing MI via Jackson MI. Connects with the Ann Arbor Transit Authority 36 route at the Sheraton.
Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti are linked by the Ann Arbor Transit Authority (AATA), which provides routes all over Ann Arbor, between the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti town centers, and limited routes within Ypsi. To reach any of the other towns and villages, you'll probably need a car.
The Border-to-Border (B2B) Trail is a partially constructed non-motorized trail, which is planned to cover approximately 35 miles from Livingston County to Wayne County along the Huron River. At present a marked trail runs from the Wayne County border through Ypsilanti Township, Ypsilanti, Superior Township, and Ann Arbor, ending in northwestern Ann Arbor, with an additional short segment north of Dexter.
- The "most phallic" building in the world, apparently, according to readers of Cabinet magazine in 2003: the water tower in Ypsilanti, at the corner of Cross and Washtenaw, also locally called the "brick dick" or the "aquacock".
- The Chelsea Milling Company, manufacturers of nationally-beloved "Jiffy" Mix baking mixes since 1930, is located in Chelsea. You can call ahead to schedule a tour of their facilities.
- Attend a movie, play, concert or comedy show at one of the many venues in Ann Arbor. Alternatively, actor Jeff Daniels has established a popular not-for-profit professional theatre, the Purple Rose, in his hometown of Chelsea.
- Literally every town and village in the area has a quaint downtown area with pleasant dining and shopping. Ann Arbor's is by far the largest, but if you don't have time to meander through the entire county to see all the others, you should at least be sure to check out the historic Depot Town in Ypsilanti.
- If you like to drive, there are some scenic paths along back roads in the county, particularly Huron River Drive between Ann Arbor and Dexter, which (unsurprisingly) follows the banks of the Huron River.
- Go canoeing or kayaking on the Huron River in Ann Arbor.
- The Saline Celtic Festival is held in mid-July, with Highland athletics, bagpipes, music, dancing and food.
- If you're an art lover, don't miss the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, also in mid-July, or if your tastes run more toward experimental and avant-garde, check out the Shadow Art Fair held in Ypsilanti around the same time.
- Ann Arbor has a number of locally celebrated restaurants, and a wide variety of ethnic cuisines, but if you want to visit one of the most famous restaurants in the county, you'll want to check out the Common Grill in downtown Chelsea.
- Saline, sister city to Brecon in mid-Wales and host of the annual Celtic Festival, is a good place to stop if you want a British pub experience or some local Michigan pasties.
- Fresh apple cider is popular in the autumn, and locals go to the cider mill in Dexter during the apple season between August and November.
- Being college towns, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have plenty of brewpubs and bars if you want to slake your thirst with something a bit punchier.
Beginning in 2004, Washtenaw County embarked on a plan to provide free or lower-cost high-speed wireless Internet access to everyone in the county, regardless of their location or economic status. Although the project has been held up by funding issues, the goal is for all urban and rural areas to have wireless connectivity within the next few years; 84KB low-speed access will be free, and higher-speed access will be available for a monthly charge of $35 and up. As of January 2008, 30 square miles in the county have wireless coverage.
Crime rates in Washtenaw County remain relatively low, although violent crime is more common in Ypsilanti. In Ann Arbor and the smaller towns, at least, it's generally quite safe to walk through town even late at night. As always, though, be circumspect, and don't take unnecessary risks.
Washtenaw County tends to have a few cases of West Nile virus each year. If you're going to be out after dark, particularly in wooded areas, be sure to take mosquito-repellent precautions, like dousing yourself in bug spray and wearing clothes that cover your bare skin.
To the north, Flint is about an hour away on US-23.