Michigan Places to Visit


Michigan is a beautiful and interesting state with many opportunities for visitors. Many attractions center around the Great Lakes because Michigan has approximately 2,000 miles of shoreline on four of the Great Lakes. The state is divided into Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The Lower Peninsula is where the majority of the population lives and is home to several metropolitan cities such as Detroit, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. The more remote, Upper Peninsula offers a wealth of opportunities for exploring the outdoors including many wildlife refuges, scenic lakeshores and what is perhaps the country’s most remote national park - Isle Royale National Park.

Traverse City

Traverse City is a small, scenic city located on the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. Traverse City is known as the Cherry Capital of the World as a large majority of the nation’s cherries are grown in the area. Visitors can purchase local cherries and cherry products such as jams, jellies, concentrate and homemade pies as well as other Michigan-made products at the Evergreen Market or the Farmers Markets of Downtown Traverse. The Old Mission Point Lighthouse also offers a range of activities on the water such as fishing charters, cruises, jet skis, wake boarding and more. Other activities in and around the city include golfing, casino gambling, the symphony, opera and more.

Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second largest city after Detroit. It has many cultural attractions including museums such as the Van Andel Museum Center, the Gerald R. Ford Museum, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The city has numerous public parks that offer hours of enjoyment and relaxation. Parks include the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park that features a number of outdoor nature trails, a boardwalk, world-class sculpture and a children’s garden. The city also has theater companies, opera houses and a symphony. Many shopping and dining opportunities also help make Grand Rapids an enjoyable place to spend a vacation.

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is a car-less resort island located in the Straits of Mackinac which connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The island is famous for its Victorian character. The Island features three different destinations for different types of travelers. The first, Grand Mackinac is the expensive and luxurious resort that is centered around the Grand Hotel. The second, Fudgie Mackinac is the historical and shopping destination that many come here on day trips via the ferry to experience. The last, Active Mackinac is the recreational side of the island and includes opportunities such as horseback riding, hiking and paddling. Most guests reach the island by ferry however there is is a small airport served by Great Lakes Air.

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is a city in southeastern Michigan that is centered around the University of Michigan. The city has a strong arts influence and a quaint, walkable downtown. Visitors come here for a large number of cultural opportunities such as museums, theaters and galleries as well as delightful sidewalk cafe dining and unique shopping. Ann Arbor is nicknamed Tree Town and is full of trees which provide shade and beautiful fall colors. Families who visit won’t want to miss the Ann Arbor Alpacas farm or the Domino’s Petting Farm located at the world headquarters of Domino’s Pizza. There are a number of city parks including the Nichols Arboretum, Matthew Botanical Gardens, Gallup Park and Buhr Park.

Lansing

Lansing is the state capital of Michigan and as the seat of government, is home to many government offices. There is an extensive riverwalk trail along the Grand River and Red Cedar River which provide a relaxing place to stroll along the river. It also passes by the Potter Park Zoo which is a great destination for families. There are a number of museums such as the Michigan Historic Center, the Impression 5 Science Center geared to young children, the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, and the Broad Art Museum. The 1873, Michigan State Capital has been beautifully restored and is open for visitors.

Detroit

Detroit is a major city and one of the midwest’s oldest. The city is known as the Motor City as its economy was largely built around the automotive industry.
Detroit has been hard hit by economic downturns in the past few years but it still has a lot to offer visitors. The city is known for it’s ethic diversity which can be seen in the Polish district, Hamtramck, as well as Mexicantown and Greektown. There are numerous world-class museums and theaters as well as plenty of places to watch a concert. There are three major casinos that are frequented by visitors as well as numerous clubs that make Detroit a fantastic night-life destination. There is plenty for families to do as well though, with zoos, parks and other family-friendly attractions providing entertainment for even the youngest traveler.

Holland

Holland is a small city in the western part of the state on the shore of Lake Michigan. It is known for it’s widely popular beaches and Dutch immigrant heritage. The city’s roots are showcased every spring during a festival called Tulip Time where many flowers line the city streets. During the winter time, the two-week long Dutch Winter Fest features a Christmas market complete with visits from Sinterklaas. The Veldheer Tulip Gardens offer a chance to view tulips and other flowers as well as purchase some to take home. Other attractions include the Dutch Village theme park, the DeGraaf Nature Center and Windmill Island.

Frankenmuth

Frakenmuth is a small town in southeastern Michigan. The town was settled by Lutheran Germans in 1845 and today capitalizes on that German background to attract tourists. The town bills itself as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” and features a downtown styled after a 19th-century German village. Throughout the year Frankenmuth hosts several German-themed festivals including the Bavarian Festival in June and Oktoberfest in September. Frankenmuth is also home to the largest Christmas store in the world, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. The store has been operating since 1945 and features a huge variety of merchandise. Frankenmuth River Place features a wide range of attractions, more than 30 shops as well as shows and other types of entertainment. It is a fantastic destinations for families and any other type of traveler.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is situated on the northwestern edge of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The lakeshore encompasses 35 mile segment of Lake Michigan’s eastern coast and includes both South and North Manitou islands. The park was established to preserve natural features such as dune formations, forests, beaches and evidence of ancient glaciers. There are several historical features included within the park including the South Manitou Island Lighthouse, three decommissioned stations of the Life-Saving Service (now the U.S. Coast Guard), and an area of historic farms. Hiking, paddling, playing in the sand and snowshoeing in winter are all popular activities at the park.

Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo is a city in Southwestern Michigan. The city has several colleges and universities giving it a strong college-town vibe. The city was also home to the first downtown pedestrian mall in the United States giving it the nickname “Mall City.” Kalamazoo has a strong art and culture influence evidenced by the presence of the State Theater, The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Theatre Kalamazoo and the Arcadia Creek Festival Place. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum brings history to life through interactive and educational exhibits that are interesting for all ages. Other popular attractions include the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, the Gilmore Car Museum and Binder Park Zoo.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a beautiful and unique place on Lake Superior. The lakeshore offers visitors miles of scenic, untouched beaches and over 100 miles of hiking trails through serene northern hardwood forest. The shoreline has around 12 miles of beaches, 15 miles of cliffs and almost five miles of huge sand dunes. Most of these attractions can be reached by walking or hiking and many are reachable by car. The park has several light stations, as well as several former stations of the U.S. Life Saving Service, the predecessor of the Coast Guard. There are several well-preserved ship wrecks off the coast which can be explored by scuba diving or a cruise boat. Some are even visible from the shoreline.

Mackinac Island State Park

Mackinac Island State Park was the state’s first state park, established in 1895. The park encompasses over eighty percent of the island. Many natural wonders and historic treasures provide a wealth of attractions and recreational opportunities on the island. The park can be explored on foot, by bicycle, on horseback or by sightseeing carriage. The park has over 70 miles of roads and trails that feature interpretive signs. The Historic Downtown and Fort Mackinac are the most well known historic features in the park, however there are a wealth of other treasures throughout. The park is covered by rock formations and beautiful forests that offer ample wildlife viewing opportunities.

Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the Straits of Mackinac and connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of the state. The bridge is a part of Interstate 75 as well as the Great Lakes Circle Tours and the U.S. North Country National Scenic Trail. Travelers who cross the bridge can tune into a radio broadcast that tells current driving conditions as well as the history of the Mackinac Bridge. For those who are a bit nervous driving across the bridge, the Bridge Authority offers a service that provides drivers to take cars across the bridge. Each year locals and tourists participate in the Mackinac Bridge Walk where they cross the bridge on foot from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain is a mountain near Marquette that offers hiking and excellent views of the nearby area. The mountain has hiking trails that travel through ancient forests and rock formations to several scenic overlooks which offer some of the best views in the entire Upper Peninsula. The trailhead is located several miles from downtown Marquette along county road 550. Visitors can choose from two trail options when climbing the mountain. The shorter, more difficult route is a bit steeper but gets you to the top quicker. The view at the observation decks are located about 1,000 feet above sea level and offer three slightly different vantage points. The view includes Hogsback Mountain, Presque Isle Park, Lake Superior and more.

Great Lakes Bay Region

The Great Lakes Bay Region is a region in central Michigan, also known as the Greater Tri-Cities area. The region surrounds the cities of Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. Birch Run, Chesaning and Frankenmuth are also part of the region. These destinations offer a wide range of attractions including outdoor fun like hiking, camping and fishing. There are a wealth of shopping opportunities including specialty boutiques, antique stores and almost anything else you are looking for. There are art museums, galleries and other cultural attractions. Of course, the area also offers an extensive range of activities on the lake itself.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is one of the most popular ways to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The scenic drive travels 7.4 miles through the sand dunes and forest from a scenic covered bridge to a pine plantation which was planted before the land was made into a National Lakeshore. The drive offers some of the most scenic views of Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Glen Lakes. There are stops where you can take a dune hike such as the Cottonwood Trail. Other stops offer picnic areas where visitors can have a relaxing and scenic picnic. An free interpretive guide for the drive can be picked up in Empire at the Visitor Center.

Manistee

Manistee is a historic town on the Lake Michigan coast. The town is located at the mouth of the Manistee River. The charming small town offers many historical Victorian homes and other buildings from a time when the town was a busy logging and manufacturing center. The town has three major factories today including Morton Salt. The lakeshore features stunning beaches and quality fishing. The lake can be accessed by both the city marina and the deep-draft harbor. Visitors can relaxingly stroll the Riverwalk for good views of the river and access to downtown Manistee. The town also has a casino, golf courses, a nearby national forest and a restored railroad car ferry that can be toured.

Petoskey Area

Petoskey is a city and resort community on the shores of Little Traverse Bay in the Northwestern part of the state. The city is often rated among the best small towns in America and is known for it’s beautiful lakeshore, shopping and golfing. Downtown Petoskey’s Gaslight District offers charming restaurants, shops and parks. The area has several popular beaches including the Petoskey State Park. The town also has a a theater and pottery studio among other cultural attractions. The area has several ski areas which make Petoskey a popular jumping-off point for winter-time ski enthusiasts who flock to the area.

Escanaba

Escanaba is one of the largest cities on Michigan’s Upper Pennisula. The city is perhaps most famous for being the location of Michigan’s only annual state fair which is held in mid-August at the Escanaba Fair Grounds. The city is located on the Bay of Green Bay which boasts some of the best freshwater fishing in the entire state. The city has a historic downtown with wide sidewalks flanked with shops, restaurants, bars and antique stores. Escanaba has several parks including Ludington Park which surrounds the town’s natural harbor. The nearby Sand Point Lighthouse was built in 1867 and today stands as a historic symbol of the city’s past.

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is a wilderness preserve in the northwest region of Lake Superior. The park contains Isle Royale, several smaller islands and the surrounding waters. As the park is primarily a wildlife preserve, the animals and plants in the park are all protected. Visitors must be mindful of this and follow leave-no-trace principles. Modern amenities and services are quite limited in the park which is fairly isolated and rugged. The park is the only one in the U.S. National Park system that is closed for the winter. The park offers many potential wildlife encounters including moose, wolves, foxes, beavers, hares and many species of birds.

St. Ignace

St. Ignace is located on the straits of Mackinac at the northern terminal of the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The city has a beautiful waterfront boardwalk nearby popular beaches. There is also a park with an observation center for viewing the straits and the Mackinac Bridge. The city’s Museum of Ojibwa Culture celebrates and the regions original inhabitants, the Ojibwa people. The museum is home to the Father Marquette Mission Chapel as well as reconstructed Native American long houses. Father Marquette himself is thought to be buried in an unmarked gravesite on the property. Fort de Buade is another interesting historic attraction with a large collection of Aboriginal artifacts.

Grass River Natural Area

The Grass River Natural Area is a 1492 acre nature preserve in Bellaire that was created by a community initiative. The preserve has seven miles of boardwalks and trails that pass through several different ecosystems and habitats including upland forest, cedar swamp and sedge meadow. The park has a beautiful welcome center called the Grass River Center that provides a learning space for visitors and the community. Some of the most popular residents of the park are the river otters that live in the waterways. Visitors can see otters in their natural habitat as well as other wildlife and interesting plants.

Estivant Pines

Estivant Pines is a 508-acre nature sanctuary in Keweenaw County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The park is notable for having some of the last virgin pine forests in Michigan. The park’s trees are massively tall. Visitors start their walk on a boardwalk over a marshy section, and then can choose from a few different hiking loops to explore the park. The Cathedral Loop and the Memorial Loop are both maintained trails that are do-able for most visitors. The Fallen Giant Trail on the other hand is unmaintained and is recommended only for hikers who have a bit of experience and have brought along proper gear.

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve is a 30-acre nature preserve in Harbor Springs. The preserve includes 950 feet of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, with 300 feet of this section operating as a public beach. The preserve grounds include both lowland cedar swamp and upland dunes. The park has 1.5 miles of trails that feature observation platforms to view both the dunes and the ponds. The park’s Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center provides exhibits and programming as well as orientation information about the park. Thorne Swift Preserve is open seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day when weather is most conducive to exploring the outdoors.

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is a 9,870-acre wildlife refuge in Michigan’s Saginaw County. Hunting and fishing are popular activities in the park. The annual Canada goose hunt at the refuge is a popular event each year for lucky hunters who win the lottery. There are many species of wildlife that can be viewed in the park through the four hiking trails as well as the seasonal automobile tour - the Wildlife Drive. The park has observation decks with spotting scopes at several locations. The refuge offers educational programing for students, local groups and the public. Each year several kid-friendly programs are offered as well.