Drive through the quirky towns on Michigan's "Art Coast", visit the town of Hell for some unique photo opportunities, or head up into Canada to explore its southernmost parks and islands. If you're after more of a city experience, Cleveland, Lansing, and Chelsea are all conveniently located within driving distance.
1. Ann Arbor
Known for its beautiful tree-lined streets and its pedestrian-friendly downtown core, Ann Arbor is an artsy, liberal city centered around the University of Michigan.
The downtown streets are jam-packed with bookstores, free-trade coffee shops, and art galleries, and many of the restaurants and cafes have outdoor seating so patrons can enjoy their food and coffee al fresco.
There are also plenty of downtown craft breweries for beer lovers to explore, and a farmer's market is held once or twice a week year-round.
Visitors can also rent a canoe or kayak and paddle down the Huron River.
2. Day Trips from Detroit: Bay City
Named for its location near the base of picturesque Saginaw Bay, Bay City offers an endless variety of things to see and do.
Visitors can take a bike tour of the local breweries, sail the blue waters of Lake Huron on an Appledore Tall Ship, or browse the antique center, which covers an entire city block. If you're here at night, make sure to stop by the 3rd Street Star Bridge to admire the gleaming lights.
The city also provides easy access to approximately 100 miles of trails, which can be used for walking and cycling during the warmer months and snowshoeing in the winter.
3. Belle Isle Park
Only a few minutes away from Detroit's city center, Belle Isle Park encompasses the beautiful Belle Isle and several of the surrounding islets in the Detroit River.
The park boasts plenty of family-friendly attractions, including an aquarium, a nature center, and a conservatory, but there are also plenty of things to do if you'd rather stay outside and enjoy the island's natural beauty.
Jog along the six-mile road that encircles the park, rent a pedal boat or standup paddleboard and explore the waters around the island, or pack a picnic lunch and relax while admiring the views from Sunset Point.
4. Day Trips from Detroit, MI: Chelsea
Found in southeastern Michigan, Chelsea is a small city with a vibrant art scene and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The historic downtown area is full of charming Victorian buildings, and Main Street offers an excellent selection of restaurants, cafes, and specialty boutiques.
There is also a self-guided Sculpture Walk that leads through the downtown streets, and visitors can take a tour of the JIFFY mix factory or one of the local breweries and distilleries. The city also serves as the gateway to the Waterloo Recreation Area, a 20,000-acre park where visitors can hike, fish, picnic, and ski in the winter.
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Nestled up against Lake Erie, Cleveland is an appealing city with a bustling waterfront and a world-class culinary scene.
Perhaps the city's best-known attraction is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and while it's certainly worth a visit, it's far from being the only thing there is to do here.
The Cleveland Museum of Art boasts free admission and enough galleries to fill an entire afternoon, and sports lovers should try to catch a game at the Progressive Field stadium.
Visitors will also find an excellent array of beaches, including the resort-like Edgewater and the secluded stretches of coast in the Huntington Reservation.
6. Cuyahoga National Park
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Created to protect the beautiful land along the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park boasts more than 100 waterfalls, including the breathtaking Brandywine Falls, which tumbles over a 60-foot cliff into an incredible gorge. After viewing the falls, visitors will have the unique opportunity to take a two-and-a-half-hour train ride through the park on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Cyclists can opt to purchase a one-way ticket and cycle back to the station, but if you'd rather explore the park with your own two feet, it offers more than 125 miles of trails that meander through marshland, past sandstone gulches, and along the river.
15610 Vaughn Road, Brecksville, OH 44141, Phone: 330-657-2752
7. For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum
Formerly a working dairy farm, the For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum was donated to Genesee County by Forbes and Martha Merkley, who wanted to ensure that their beautiful property wasn't taken over by urban sprawl. Seven miles of trails wind their way through the gently rolling landscape, and snowshoes, walking sticks, and themed Discovery Backpacks can be borrowed from the Visitor's Center free of charge. The Visitor's Center also offers the opportunity to learn about the area's flora and fauna through information panels and interactive displays of live animals, and interesting naturalist programs are often held on the weekends.
2142 N Genesee Rd, Burton, MI 48509, Phone: 810-736-7100
8. Day Trips from Detroit: Frankenmuth
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If you want to get a taste of Bavarian hospitality and culture, Frankenmuth is the place to be. Often referred to as "Michigan's Little Bavaria", the quaint little city is known for its Bavarian architecture, its German-style shopping market, and its welcoming restaurants, which serve traditional family-style chicken dinners and Bavarian sweets. When it comes to shopping, highlights include an authentic German cuckoo clock shop and Bronners, the world's largest Christmas market. Visitors can also take a romantic carriage ride through the streets, get their adrenaline pumping at the Frankenmuth Aerial Park, or take a wine and chocolate cruise down the picturesque river.
9. Harrisville State Park
Occupying a 107-acre property on the shores of Lake Huron, Harrisville State Park is one of the oldest state parks in Michigan. Much of the land is covered with cedar and pine trees crisscrossed with two miles of hiking trails, but there is also a sandy beach with a swimming area and a shady picnic pavilion. Other attractions and amenities include a metal detecting area, a horseshoe pit, and volleyball and basketball courts. Bike rentals are available in the park, and visitors can stroll or cycle into the town of Harrisville along a short, paved multi-use trail.
248 State Park Rd, Harrisville, MI 48740, Phone: 989-724-5126
It's not often you can say you went on a day trip to Hell, but you only need to travel an hour away from Detroit to do so. This unique town is nestled in the hills of the heavenly Livingston County, and it boasts all sorts of diabolical attractions to keep visitors entertained. Pop into the Hell Hole Diner for a pizza or burger, and if you're in the mood for ice cream, visit the Creamatory at Screams and order a Gravedigger Sundae. You can also snap a selfie or two at one of the cartoon demon cut-outs scattered throughout the town.
923 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201, Phone: 734-878-2233
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11. Day Trips from Detroit: Holly
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Situated in Central Michigan, Holly is a small village known for hosting the annual Dickens Old Fashioned Christmas Festival. However, it's worth a visit during the rest of the year as well; the historic Main Street features an eclectic collection of local restaurants and shops selling handcrafted goods, and the Hadley House Museum offers the chance to learn about the town's heritage. The nearby Seven Lakes State Park provides plenty of opportunities for hiking, hunting, and swimming during the warmer months, but when winter comes around, the most popular activities in the area are ice fishing and skiing at the Mt. Holly ski resort.
Whether you're drawn here by the city's unique name or its artsy reputation, Kalamazoo won't disappoint. The city has plenty to offer no matter where your interests lie; highlights include the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, the Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum, and the incredible collection of shops and restaurants downtown. There are more than a dozen downtown breweries located within walking distance of one another, but if you'd rather stretch your legs in nature than on the city streets, you can head to the Kalamazoo Nature Center or check out the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.
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As the capital of Michigan, Lansing is always a good choice for a day trip. There's something here for everyone; art lovers can admire the downtown murals and Sculpture Walk, history buffs can visit the Michigan History Museum, and anyone who wants to get some fresh air can explore the 16-mile-long Lansing River Trail. The city is also informally known as the "Festival Capital of Michigan", and lucky visitors will have the opportunity to catch one of the 60+ events that take place here throughout the year, with highlights including the Michigan Nordic Fire Festival and the Michigan BluesFest.
Not to be confused with the world-famous Kentucky city, Lexington is a small village with a laid-back atmosphere. Thanks to its location on the shore of Lake Huron, the village has long played a role in the lumber industry, but it also offers the sort of restaurants and shops you'd expect to find in a small resort town. Visitors often come here simply to stroll through the town and along the beach, but if you're looking for a bit more excitement, you can take a boat cruise on the lake, play a round of mini golf, or watch a show at the Barn Theater.
Michigan has no shortage of charming beach towns, but Ludington is easily one of the best. Set on the shore of Lake Michigan, the town boasts miles and miles of pristine sandy beaches, including the popular Stearns Park Beach, which offers amenities like mini golf, shuffleboard, and a children's playground. Visitors can also head to the nearby Ludington State Park to splash around in the warm, shallow waters of Hamlin Lake Beach. When you've had enough of the sun and sand, head into town to browse the specialty shops or enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants.
Salt Lick Township, OH 43730
16. Mackinac Island
If you're in the mood for an island getaway, consider making the trip out to Mackinac Island in Lake Huron. The beautiful island has been a popular vacation spot for generations, and there are plenty of historic sites for visitors to explore, including two forts that were captured by the British during the War of 1812. Visitors can also enjoy water activities like swimming, sailing, and fishing in the Straits of Mackinac. Cars are not permitted on the island, and although it's fairly easy to get around on foot, visitors can also rent a bike or take a horse-drawn carriage tour.
7274 Main Street Mackinac Island, MI 49757, Phone: 906-847-3783
17. Day Trips from Detroit: New Buffalo
The largest community in Harbor Country, New Buffalo is a welcoming beach town with plenty of excellent shops and restaurants as well as two world-class casinos. As you might expect, many of the activities here are water-related; local charter companies offer the opportunity to get out on the lake, while New Buffalo Beach boasts stunning sunrises and excellent swimming. Visitors can also stroll along the sand dunes in the beautiful Warren Dunes State Park or drive along the southern shore of the lake to explore the many wineries, breweries, and shops that call the area home.
18. Pinery Provincial Park
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Pinery Provincial Park is revered for its incredible natural beauty, but you'll need to bring your passport; the park is located on the Canadian side of Lake Huron. It was established to protect the unique Coastal Dune and Oak Savanna ecosystems, but in addition to providing a home for more than 300 species of birds and 800 species of plants, it offers wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities year-round. Hiking trails lead through the forest, along the Old Ausable Channel, and to the top of large sand dunes, and the ten kilometers of shoreline are the perfect place to swim on a hot summer day.
9526 Lakeshore Rd, Grand Bend, ON N0M 1T0, Canada
19. Point Pelee National Park
Perched on the southernmost tip of Canada's mainland, Point Pelee National Park is mostly comprised of a marshy peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie. The best way to explore the park is by canoeing or kayaking through the marshes; if you don't have your own boat, you can rent one on the boardwalk or join a guided canoe tour. There are also plenty of excellent hiking trails that lead through the forest, but if you're not feeling up to a big walk, you can take a complimentary shuttle out to the tip of the peninsula to admire the views.
1118 Point Pelee Dr, Leamington, ON N8H 3V4, Canada
20. Port Austin
Fondly known as the "Thumb of Michigan", Port Austin is a friendly little village located in the Blue Water Area of Lake Huron. The town boasts plenty of wonderful attractions, including a large farmers' market, a bustling Village Green, and a break wall that offers stunning views of a nearby lighthouse, but it's best known as the home of a gravity-defying rock formation called Turnip Rock. Perched precariously in the waters of Lake Huron, the rock can only be reached by canoe or kayak, and there are several local outfitters offering rentals for visitors who don't have their own.
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Sitting on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, Put-in-Bay is a fun island getaway sometimes called the "Key West of Ohio". South Bass Island State Park is the best place to swim, but there are plenty of other attractions on the island as well, including wineries, a butterfly house, and a fascinating chocolate museum. The primary way to get here is by ferry; only one of the ferries takes vehicle, but visitors should be aware that parking is extremely limited. It's much better to rent a bike or a golf cart for your visit, and both are available right at the ferry terminal.
470 Loraine Ave #267 Put-in-Bay, Ohio 43456, Phone: 419-351-5166
22. Rondeau Provincial Park
The last of the Canadian attractions on this list, Rondeau Provincial Park is Ontario's second oldest provincial park. The park sits on a crescent-shaped sand spit that stretches out into Lake Erie to create Rondeau Bay, and the waters on both sides of the spit are excellent for swimming, fishing, and boating. On dry land, there are a handful of easy hiking trails that are excellent for bird watching. Cyclists are welcome on the island's beautiful paved roads, but there are also three trails dedicated to bike traffic, which allow visitors to explore the peaceful Carolinian forest and the unique Oak Savanna.
18050 Rondeau Park Road, Morpeth, ON N0P 1X0, Canada, Phone: 800-668-2746
23. Day Trips from Detroit: Saugatuck
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Located on a piece of shoreline known as the "art coast", the city of Saugatuck is known for its bustling creative scene, and it's home to the Saugatuck Center for the Arts as well as to dozens of artists and their spectacular galleries. Of course, a day trip here wouldn't be complete without spending some time at the beach as well; the city's 10-mile stretch of sandy coastline has been called one of the "Top 25 Beaches in the World" by Conde' Nast Traveler, and it boasts breathtaking views, silky sand, and endless opportunities to swim, boat, and sunbathe.
24. Silver Lake State Park
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Stretching for four miles along the shore of Lake Michigan, Silver Lake State Park is a large park that offers plenty of recreational opportunities both on and off the water. The park boasts more than 2,000 acres of sand dunes, 450 of which are open to off-road vehicles, and people come from all over the world to scramble around the dunes on their ORVs. Visitors are welcome to swim, boat, and fish in both Lake Michigan and Silver Lake, and there are several day-use areas where visitors can park to explore the dunes by foot.
9679 W State Park Rd, Mears, MI 49436, Phone: 231-873-3083
25. Van Buren State Park
Surrounded by the rolling fields of northwestern Ohio's farmland, Van Buren State Park is a wonderful woodland retreat just off the shore of Lake Michigan. There are 12 miles of trails in the park, including a 2-mile interpretive trail, and visitors can swim on the mile-long stretch of Lake Michigan beachfront. The park is also home to its own 45-acre lake, which is ideally suited for anyone who wants a peaceful place to fish or canoe. Visitors are also welcome to enjoy the day use area, which offers a small pavilion, public restrooms, and picnic areas equipped with tables and barbecue grills.
23960 Ruggles Rd, South Haven, MI 49090, Phone: 269-637-2788
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