Skip to:

Slightly Odd Things to Do in Southeast Michigan

As the summer approaches, I will once more be headed to Greece to do my fieldwork. But for those who will be in Ann Arbor and will (hopefully) have a bit more free time than usual, here are some delightful-yet-quirky things to do I have discovered over the past year. I suspect fellow international students will get a special kick out of these, but even Americans might find some novel experiences on the list.

Inside the Diamondback Saloon

Diamondback Saloon.

Diamondback Saloon is only a 20-minute drive away but feels like you’ve reached the heartlands of the country. Cowboy hats and boots are worn unironically, and Bud Light is the drink of choice. The Saloon is worth checking out just to see a very different side of Michigan when compared to Ann Arbor, but there are line-dancing and two-step lessons there most days, followed by live music and an opportunity to show off your newly-learned moves.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills is, indeed, a marvel. It’s actually a game arcade, but one stuffed literally floor to ceiling with games that are antique, retro, or just plain odd. Many of them spew out tickets that you can cash in for prizes like bouncy balls or plastic spider-shaped rings.

Chelsea Lanes Bowling. I mean, Revel ‘n Roll is cool and all, but for those who miss the kinds of bowling lanes you see in the “Big Lebowski” or who think bowling shouldn’t cost $40 an hour, Chelsea Lanes is where it’s at. While you’re there, check out the nearby antiques store that has everything from actual antiques to cool retro curiosities to defunct light-up ads and other things your grandfather might have hoarded in his garage.

Tapping sap at Hudson Mills.

Tapping sap at Hudson Mills

Hudson Mills Metropark summer programming has not been announced yet, but if it’s anything like their spring events, it’s worth a visit. I went there to have a wonderfully enthusiastic Parks and Rec employee teach me how to identify and tap maple trees. They also had a pancake buffet!

Hamtramck Disneyland To my deep shame, I must admit I’ve never visited Hamtramck Disneyland, but now is the time to go: the lot it’s on is for sale, with its future uncertain. The hipster-ville Disneyland is the creation of Dmytro Szylak, a retired (and now late) GM assembly line worker, and is a wild cacophony of mechanical figures and gadgets piled one on top of the other.

Post your favorite oddities or pieces of Americana in the comments!