Ypsilanti, Michigan, is a hidden gem of the state, offering a range of qualities that include beautiful parks and gardens, local culture, shopping opportunities, and much more. Where is Ypsilanti, Michigan? Roughly eight miles southeast of central Ann Arbor. From its historic and enticing Depot Town shopping district to a range of museums, parks, and more, you’ll find something for everyone when you visit Ypsilanti.
Here at McKinley Apartments, we’re all about finding out the best things to do in town, as well as the best apartments in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Here are 10 of our favorite things to do in Ypsilanti, recommended by locals.
Learn Ypsilanti History at the Historical Museum and Archives
If you’re looking to start your journey in Ypsilanti off right, why not begin by learning about the history of the town itself? Presented as an authentic home from the 1860s, the Ypsilanti Historical Society Museum & Archives is a must-visit for history buffs.
Not only will you find access to historical archives, photography, and more relating to the city’s century-long history, but you can also browse the authentically decorated rooms of the house, including bedrooms, a costume room, a traditional toy room, a formal parlor, and more.
There are also regularly scheduled Ypsilanti events at the museum, where you can learn more about the history and take in art and other creations by locals. It’s one of the best things to do in Ypsilanti.
220 N Huron St, Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Visit the Creature Conservancy
Next, take a small detour outside of the Ypsilanti city limits to nearby Ann Arbor, where you’ll find a fascinating collection of furry and scaly neighbors. Concerned citizens led to the Creature Conservancy’s launch years ago when they began approaching local authorities about stray exotic animals. Many of them were kept illegally and then set loose. Slowly, the conservancy began to expand and become more official.
Today, the Creature Conservancy features a wide range of animals, including alligators, eagles, parrots, snakes, lizards, porcupines, warthogs, mountain lions, and more. Visitors can get up close and personal with the animals and learn more about them thanks to teaching programs at the Conservancy.
4940 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Check Out Depot Town
Another one of the best things to do in Ypsilanti involves getting some retail therapy. Historic Depot Town is located smack dab in Ypsilanti. Quaint, historical, and bustling on any day of the week, the Depot Town shopping district offers a range of interesting shops for you to peruse. From antiques and collectibles to delicious restaurants, gourmet cafes, and everything in-between, you’ll find something for everyone to love. If you’re looking to get your shopping fix, you’ll also find plenty of boutiques and clothing stores where you can browse the latest styles.
Recognized by its iconic clock, you’ll love immersing yourself in Ypsilanti’s local vibe in Depot Town.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Dine Like it’s 1950
No list of the best things to do in Ypsilanti would be complete without talking about food. Ypsi (as locals call it) has a few delicious period-style diners that are straight out of the 1950s. But one of our favorites is the Chick Inn Drive-In, an authentic drive-in that’s been in continuous operation since 1953. To this day, carhops will deliver meals directly to your vehicle—meals that include delicious shakes, iconic curly fries, juicy and mouthwatering burgers, and much more.
You’ll feel as if you’re in George Lucas’ “American Graffiti.”
106 W. Michigan Avenue
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Pay Respect at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Situated on the grounds of the Ypsilanti Township Civic Center, the Vietnam War Memorial is a touching and inspiring tribute to soldiers from the local area who gave their lives in service during the Vietnam War. The memorial is divided into five sections to represent the five branches of the military. This eight-foot-tall and twenty-two-foot-wide memorial is reminiscent of the famous, larger one in D.C. in both design and what it represents. There’s a great deal of symbolism designed into the monument. For example, designers placed benches 21 feet from the wall—the average age of soldiers in the war.
Dedicated in 1991 a day before Veterans Day, the memorial quickly became a local place of reverence and respect. Today, it’s visited by history buffs and those wanting to pay their respects to those who paid the ultimate price for their willingness to serve.
7200 S Huron River Dr
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Go Wild at Rolling Hills Water Park
If you’re in Ypsilanti during the summer, then a visit to the Rolling Hills Water Park is an absolute must—and one of the most fun things to do in Ypsilanti. Here you’ll find so many attractions that everyone in your family or group will find something for them. The park includes a massive lazy river, a state-of-the-art wave pool, and multiple thrilling water slides that you’ll want to ride again and again.
For those with younger children, the water park also offers an activity pool that features zero-depth entry, a gentle bubbler, fun geysers, and even a waterslide. There’s also a kid-friendly side for small children, and you can relax in the nearby lounges—soaking up the sun while your kids soak up the excitement.
Rolling Hills Water Park is complete with all the amenities you’d hope for, including first aid, bathhouses and restrooms, showers, lockers, and rentable life jackets.
Come for the thrill or come for the chill— Rolling Hills Water Park has something for everyone.
2230 Platt Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Add Some Strange to Your Shopping
You might have done some shopping in Depot Town, but what if you want to enjoy a shopping experience that’s just a little bit…different? After all, you might have found some stylish clothes and a delicious meal— but did you stock up on banana-shaped tree ornaments and candy canes that taste like macaroni and cheese?
If that’s right up your alley, then you’ll want to check out The Rocket— Ypsilanti’s strangest and most popular gift shop. A store that prides itself on offering items you won’t find anywhere else, The Rocket has been a Ypsilanti destination for years. They specialize in the unusual and one-of-a-kind, so browsing the shelves is a constant adventure. Here’s a book of magic spells, and there’s a pair of socks with Pomeranian puppies on them. From comic books to candy, straightforward gifts to head-scratching oddities, you’ll find absolutely everything at The Rocket. Who knows, you might find something a lot more exciting than a postcard to send back home.
23147 Woodward Ave
Ferndale, Michigan 48220
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Check Out the Automotive Heritage Museum
Love cars? You’re in the right place. Ypsilanti is situated right in the middle of Michigan’s storied history of automobile manufacturing. The automotive history is on full display at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 1-4 pm, the Automotive Heritage Museum features a series of sections that take you through the stories of some of history’s most influential cars. From the Chevrolet Corvair to the General Motors Hydra-Matic, you’ll find a fascinating range of vintage vehicles—each with a story to tell. Even cooler, each vehicle has a direct connection to Ypsilanti’s past.
Opened in 1927 as an automobile dealership and repair shop, the shop went through several different iterations and ownership changes—producing thousands of vehicles—and was still going strong in 1958. Soon after that, it was converted into an automotive museum. Today, it’s one of the most iconic Ypsilanti things to do.
100 East Cross Street, Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Enjoy Sun and Culture at the Ypsilanti District Library Park
Looking for more fun things to do in Ypsilanti? Ypsilanti is known for some of its beautiful public spaces, and one of the most beloved is the Ypsilanti District Library Park. This lovely park, situated outside of the library, features a range of attractions. A casual stroll will take you past the library plaza, featuring a tile fountain and statue of Civil Rights icon Harriet Tubman. You’ll then pass the lovely community gardens, learning about the history of the building and surrounding area along the way.
Once you head inside, you’ll be greeted by a constantly evolving display of art from both professional and amateur artists, bringing color and inspiration to the library and surrounding park. If you want to experience the big-city culture with a small city vibe, the Ypsilanti District Library Park is the perfect place to find it.
229 W Michigan Avenue
Browse the Michigan Firehouse Museum
Have you ever wondered how the modern firefighting community came to exist? Ypsilanti’s Michigan Firehouse Museum and Education Center’s purpose is to ‘enhance the appreciation of firefighting history through engaging and informative exhibits, as well as teaching and promoting fire safety and prevention.’
The museum is actually a fascinating look into the history of the profession, featuring 26,000 square feet of displays—including a full, original 1898 firehouse paired with a fully modernized exhibit display area.
Visitors can check out an authentic fire engine steamer (once pulled by horses), as well as a rotating exhibition of antique fire trucks, fire rigs, and historic artifacts. The best part? The museum is located right in Depot Town, so you can enjoy it right in the middle of a busy day of exploring the main street.
110 W. Cross St. Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Want to check out more Ypsilanti events? Riverside Park Ypsilanti events are always a must-visit. And if you’re looking to make Ypsilanti your home, check out our roomy apartments located in some of the best Ypsilanti neighborhoods.