Free Fun For All at the Metroparks

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The Huron-Clinton Metroparks are saying thank you to you with free entry and free boat launching at all parks on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, Nov. 28. What a great way to trot off the pumpkin pie, get the kids outside and get a last look at fall colors. Hudson Mills and Dexter Huron offer trails, playgrounds, riverside fishing, and plenty of nature watching.

Experience Fall Colors without Driving to the UP

Nichols ArboretumNichols Arboretum

Want to experience the changing of colors in the trees without travelling to northern Michigan? The University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum is right here in Ann Arbor and features the annual transformation among its array of foliage. Even if you have visited “The Arb” before, it can become an entirely new landscape in the autumn season. They suggest visiting during the early morning or late afternoon to take a stroll through this parkland that has been around since 1907. Of the three entries into the Arboretum, the Geddes Avenue entrance incorporates the highest elevation in the area with the park’s “ceremonial gates” to provide a breathtaking panoramic view.
To learn more about autumn’s annual transformation, check out Autumn leaves: a guide to the fall colors of the northwoods. For the Arboretum’s hours of operation, take a look their website or call (734) 647-7600. Nichols Arboretum, 1600 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Bandemer Park -- More Than Just Trees

Bandemer ParkBandemer Park

Bandemer Park, on the north side of town, is a hidden gem of Ann Arbor. This forty acre park borders a beautiful turn of the Huron River and provides access to a paved bike path on the west side of the river, and a wooden bridge on the east side of the river. With ample parking and convenient access off Route 14 or Barton Road, getting there is easy. Once you've arrived, take advantage of the opportunities for adventure, including a dirt bike jump course, a nine hole disc golf course, the Ann Arbor Rowing Club, and canoeing and kayaking on the river. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the Argo livery, just a mile away. For a relaxing afternoon, there are picnic benches, pavilions (must be reserved), fishing spots, scenic walking paths, and pleasant vistas for observing wildlife. For more activities on the river, check out the Huron River Report, and The Fly Fisher's Huron available at the AADL.

Terrible Beauty Underfoot

It's a great time of year for hiking at any of the delightful Ann Arbor city parks, as the leaves are changing color and the blood-thirsty insects finally die off. But don't forget about the terrible beauty underfoot: poison ivy, oak, and sumac. These silent pests are some of the first plants to change color, and they thrive where many a "step had trodden black." You can find poison ivy at the edge of footpaths, on the barks of trees, along fences, or at its most vicious, as autonomous shrubs that branch out laterally.

Although not everyone is allergic to the urushiol oil that causes the weepy, itchy blisters, it's important to be able to recognize the three leaf plants on sight, for the oil can seep into the skin within three minutes of contact. All parts of the plant -- including the roots and berries -- contain the poisonous oil, so be careful when digging in the garden as well. If you do make that unfortunate contact, it's best to wash the area immediately with plenty of soap and water. For more information on the poisonous trio, try the Health and Wellness Resource Center database available on aadl.org.

Rowing on the River

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What a great way to spend a fall day: paddling down the Huron at the River Ecology Paddle this Saturday, Sept. 27, 12:30 p.m. ~ 4 p.m. The tour starts at Dexter-Huron Metropark and includes a stop at the Dexter Cider Mill, home of the greatest donuts in the world and the oldest continuously operating Cider Mill in Michigan. To register for the paddle call 1-800-477-3191 or 734-426-8211.

Tractors! Pulling! Heavy! Loads!

Tractor pullTractor pull

Tractors: we see them hard at work in the fields; we try to pass them on country highways. But how fast can they really go and how much weight can they pull while burnin' rubber?

At the Michigan Tractor Pullers Association upcoming Tractor Pull you can find out! Three classes will definitely "pull their weight"--farm stock, classic, and antique. The sport of tractor pulling has something of a long history--the first tractor pulls date from the 1860s.

If you'd like to see for yourself what these motorized beasts of burden can do, then head to the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds on Sunday, September 28. 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. According to the event listing on Arbor Web, admission is free.

Discourse on Disc Golf

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Want a say in the redesign of the Disc Golf Course? Then head over to Cobblestone Park, Wednesday, September 10, 6:30 p.m. City and County staff will discuss the improvements planned and the limitations involved in reconfiguring the park. If you can't attend or would like to submit additional comments, please email Jeff Dehring, City of Ann Arbor Parks Planner, jdehring@a2gov.org or call 734.994.1913.

All Doggies in the Pool!

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Time for the annual Buhr Park Dog Swim. Bring your doggies (swimsuits optional) on Tuesday, Sept. 2 and Wednesday, Sept. 3, 3-8 p.m., and they can splish and splash to their heart's content. Pre-registration is required so call 734.971.3228 right away. Dogma-Catmantoo, Arbor Dog Day Care, Pet Emporium and Ann Arbor Biscuit Co. have donated prizes so this will be the premiere canine event this year.

1,000 Ultimate Travel Experiences

Whether you are a well-seasoned traveller with a mangled passport, or someone who rarely leaves your spot on the couch, it's likely you will find inspiration in A Rough guide to the world : Make the most of your time on earth. This hefty book is crammed full of amazing travel experiences grouped according to global areas, starting with Britain & Ireland, and finishing with The Polar Regions (you didn't think they'd forget the North and South Pole, did you?). Seeking a natural miracle? Visit Iguazu Falls in Argentina - more than two hundred cascades thundering over an eighty meter cliff, all surrounded by lush tropical forest. Seeking an event to remember? Try April 30th/Queen's Day in Amsterdam (police are forbidden to interfere with any activity, no matter how outrageous). Seeking a wonder of the ancient world? Try the unparalleled Roman archaeological site of Baalbek in Lebanon. (In the words of Robert Byron, it "dwarfs New York into a home of ants".) Seeking a journey closer to home? Grab your bike and ride the Slickrock in Moab, Utah. Personally, I am inspired to plan a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lalibela in Ethiopia. I'll share my injera with you if you'll pay for my plane ticket!

Ypsilanti Heritage Festival

Summer is almost over. We're all out of money, unable to travel out of town, and classes will be starting again soon. But don't despair! There are plenty of cheap if not completely free options for fun coming up. For example, this weekend the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival is here and admission will cost you nothing. The festival features many fun events such as a soccer tournament, an ugliest car contest, a pie-eating contest, Native American artifact viewing, and a "vintage baseball" game. If you are interested in festivals, take a look at Arborweb.com's list of annual local events as well as the library's wide variety of resources on local attractions.

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