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Although its population just tops 100,000, ANN ARBOR offers a greater choice of restaurants, live music venues and cultural activities than most towns ten times its size. The University of Michigan has shaped the economy and character of the town ever since it was moved here from Detroit in 1837, providing the city with a very conspicuous radical edge.

The best thing to do in Ann Arbor is to stroll round downtown and the campus, which meet at South State and Liberty streets. Downtown's twelve blocks of brightly painted shops and sidewalk cafés offer all you would expect from a college town, with forty bookshops and more than a dozen record stores. Don't miss the huge flagship store of Border's Books at 612 E Liberty St or Encore Recordings, 417 E Liberty St (tel 313/994-8031).

Though the huge university campus doesn't look particularly appealing, it does emanate a sense of excitement, especially around the central meeting place of the Diag . Worth a look are the Museum of Natural History, 1109 Geddes Ave (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun noon-5pm; free), packed with huge dinosaur skeletons, rare Native American artifacts and a planetarium, and the small but eclectic Museum of Art, 525 S State St (Tues-Sat 10am-4pm, Thurs until 9pm, Sun noon-5pm; free).

DETROIT, the birthplace of the mass-production car industry and the Motown sound, has long had an image problem. It boasts a billion-dollar downtown development, ultramodern motor-manufacturing plants, some excellent museums and one of the nation's biggest art galleries.

The Detroit Tigers opened Comerica Park, and Ford Field was opened in August 2002 for the pro football Lions. Three big-time casinos opened and plans are afoot to enhance the waterfront.

Founded in 1701 by Antoine de Mothe Cadillac, as a trading post for the French to do business with the Chippewa, Detroit was no more than a medium-sized port two hundred years later. Then FordOlds, the Chevrolets and the Dodge brothers began to build their automobile empires. Thanks to the introduction of the mass assembly line, Detroit sped into high gear in the 1920s, expanding into the countryside and booming like a mining town.

New businesses and theaters have opened downtown, and suburban residents have started to return to its festivals, theaters, clubs and restaurants. However, it makes more sense to think of Detroit as a region rather than a European-style city and, so long as you plan your time and don't mind driving, it holds plenty to see and do. For the moment, downtown is not so much the heart of the giant as just another segment. Other segments include the huge Cultural Center, freewheeling Royal Oak, posh Birmingham, the Ford-town of Dearborn and even nearby Windsor, Ontario, and Ann Arbor, a short drive west.

Kellogg's new Cereal City USA, (tel 616/962-6230), in Battle Creek is a fun diversion that traces the history of cereal - and of course, magnate Kellogg's impact on it (summer Mon-Fri 9.30am-5pm, Sat 9.30am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm; call for winter hours; $7.95). Further west, St Joseph is just the first of many small ports on the 350-mile trip north, the northwest reaches of the peninsula attracting sportspeople and tourists from all over the Midwest. Within striking distance of Traverse City are the beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes and the charming towns of Charlevoix and Petoskey. At the northern tip, a revitalized Mackinaw City is the departure point for the state's major tour-bus attraction, old-world Mackinac Island.

From a map, it would seem logical for the Upper Peninsula, separated from the rest of the state by the Mackinac Straits, to be part of Wisconsin.

Father Jacques Marquette and other missionaries made peace with the native people and established settlements, including the port of Sault Ste Marie in 1688. The French hoped to press further south, but before they could get much past Detroit, the British inflicted a severe military defeat in 1763.

Vast, lonesome and wild, the Upper Peninsula is full of stunning landmarks, exemplified by the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore . Most of the eastern section is marked by low-lying, sometimes swampy land in between softly undulating limestone hills. The northwest corner is the most desolate, especially the rough and broken Keewanaw Peninsula , and Isle Royale National Park fifty miles offshore. The UP's only real city is Marquette, a college town with a quiet buzz - a good base from which to explore the UP's rugged terrain. Until 1957 you could get to the UP only by ferry. Today, the five-mile Mackinac Bridge ($1.50 toll), lit up beautifully at night, stretches elegantly across the bottleneck Straits of Mackinac.
Michigan Airports:

Battlecreek BTL
Detroit Metropolitan Airport DTW
Detroit DET
Flint FNT
Grand Rapids GRR
Creek International Airport AZO
Lansing LAN
Saginaw MBS
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It's easy to be daunted by the sheer size of the state.  Greyhound buses run regularly throughout the south, but services elsewhere are less frequent, and those few buses that serve the remote Upper Peninsula travel through at night. Amtrak trains between New York and Chicago stop at Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor; trains into Canada leave from Windsor, just over the river from Detroit. Michigan's principal airport, a hub for Northwest Airlines, is just outside Detroit. Cycling is both feasible and rewarding, particularly with the abundance of bike paths in and around Traverse City
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