25 Best Things to Do in Michigan
Michigan is named for the Ojibwe indigenous word mishigamaa, which translates as “large water,” an appropriate name for a state where visitors are never more than six miles from a natural body of water. The state is the 10th most-populous state in America and is home to the city of Detroit, best known as the center of the American automobile industry, which offers a wide variety of historic and cultural attractions. More than 11,000 inland lakes are scattered across its mainland region and Upper Peninsula, which are connected by the Mackinac Bridge and offer the largest freshwater coastline of any American state. Photo: ostrows1/Fotolia
» Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is a 3.8-square-mile island within Lake Huron that has served as the indigenous home of the Odawa people, the site of a strategic fur trading center during North America’s colonial period, and a popular resort colony during the late 19th century. Today, much of the island is preserved within Mackinac Island State Park, though a variety of tourist attractions remain for year-round fun. The island is famously car-free and is listed as a National Historic Landmark, showcasing beautiful Victorian-style architecture at sites such as the Victorian Grand Hotel. Fort Mackinac preserves 14 buildings associated with a British and American military outpost, while the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum showcases works by local and indigenous artists. A variety of quaint tourist attractions are also located throughout the island, including boutique stores, fudge shops, and nightlife spots. Things to Do in Mackinac Island
»Belle Isle Park
Belle Isle Park is a Michigan State Park that has been a beloved Detroit gem since 1845. At 982 acres, the park is the largest city island park in the United States, located near the US-Canada border within the Detroit River. Three lakes are located within the park’s boundaries, along with 150 acres of wooded terrain and extensive shoreline offering spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor, Ontario skylines. Free-admission visitor attractions within the park include the Belle Island Aquarium, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the historic Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse. The park is also a favorite summer spot for boating and watercrafting, biking, and picnicking, with a full boat house and yacht club facility offered, and is home to the nine-acre Belle Island Golf Range.
Contact: 300 River Place Drive, Suite 2800, Detroit, MI 48207, Phone: 313-331-7760
»Boyne Mountain Resort
Boyne Mountain Resort has been in operation for over half a century within the village of Boyne Falls, founded in 1947 by Everett Kircher as the Boyne Ski Lodge. Today, the resort is easily accessible from Boyne Mountain Airport and offers a wide variety of year-round attractions, including more than 60 downhill skiing trails and 35 kilometers of cross-country skiing opportunities. Cozy hotel rooms, creekside condos, alpine-style chalets, private villas, and authentic log cabins are available for rental, offering amenities such as full kitchenettes, whirlpool tubs, and private dining and deck areas. In addition to skiing facilities, the resort is also home to Avalanche Bay, the state’s largest indoor water park, along with a 19,500-square-foot luxury spa, an 18-hole disc golf course, and zipline adventure courses. Family entertainment options offered on site include seasonal hayrides and movie night events.
Contact: One Boyne Mountain Rd, Boyne Falls, MI 49713, Phone: 855-688-7024
» The Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts, commonly referred to as the DIA, holds one of the most significant fine arts collections in America, considered to be one of the country’s top six art museums. More than 66,000 works valued at over $8 billion in total are showcased in the museum’s collections, with more than 100 galleries spread out over its 658,000-square-foot display space. The museum, which is located within the city’s Cultural Center Historic District, highlights works across time from Africa, Asia, indigenous and post-colonial North America, Oceania, and the Middle East. Its General Motors Center for African American Art also emphasizes works created by contemporary African-American artists. In addition to its collections, the museum also showcases 1,150 and 380-seat theaters, an art references library, a conservation services laboratory, and two casual service restaurants.
Contact: 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202, Phone: 313-833-7900
» Detroit Zoo
Detroit Zoo is one of the state’s most popular family attractions, receiving more than 1.5 million annual visitors. The 125-acre zoo was originally opened in 1883, reopening in its modern incarnation in 1928, and is known as the first zoo in America to implement barless animal habitats. More than 2,000 animals are showcased throughout the nonprofit zoo, representing over 240 species and housed within naturalistic habitats meant to mimic animals’ original ecosystems. Among the zoo’s most impressive exhibits is its Polk Penguin Conservation Center, a 326,000-gallon habitat that is home to more than 75 penguins. Other family attractions at the zoo include the historic Tauber Family Railroad, the Korman Tadpole and Rissman Playventure children’s playgrounds, a classic carousel, and a 4D theater and virtual-reality simulator ride.
Contact: 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067, Phone: 248-541-5717
Fort Mackinac is a historic military outpost located on Mackinac Island that was originally constructed by British forces during the American Revolutionary War. It was later used in the 19th century as a United States Army outpost during conflicts such as the War of 1812. Following its 1895 closure, the fort was adapted as a living history museum and is located today within the grounds of Mackinac Island State Park, overlooking the beautiful Haldimand Bay. All of the fort’s original 14 buildings have been restored for visitor exploration, showcasing historic exhibits and period furnishings. A 20-minute documentary film is presented periodically at the fort’s Post Commissary, and a lucky daily guest is offered a chance to load and fire the fort’s canon for an upcharge fee. Dining options at the fort include the all-day Tea Room and grounds food carts.
Contact: 7127 Huron Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757, Phone: 906-847-3328
Fox Theatre is one of Detroit’s top historic attractions, opened in 1928 as the flagship movie theater of the eponymous theater chain. It was designed by architect C. Howard Crane and features 5,048 seats, the largest surviving historic movie palace of its kind, and remains one of the nation’s top-grossing theaters of its rank today. The theater forms the center of the District Detroit downtown business and cultural region, which showcases a wide variety of parks, restaurants, and entertainment options. Tours of the National Historic Landmark theater are offered for individuals and small groups, lasting approximately 45 minutes and showcasing the exquisite architecture and extensive history of the theater, which has hosted legendary performers such as Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and Frank Sinatra. Regular performances continue to bring in top international recording artists, bands, and Broadway musical tours.
Contact: 2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201, Phone: 313-471-6611
Photo: Raisa Kanareva/Fotolia
Frankenmuth is a city in Saginaw County that was originally settled in 1845 by German immigrants. The city retains its historic German character today, with a name that roughly translates as “the courage of the Bavarians.” The city is noted as the home of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas-themed store, and is renowned for its beautiful Bavarian-style architecture and historic and cultural attractions. Top tourist sites include the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, Michigan’s Military and Space Heroes Museum, the Lager Mill brewing museum, and the outdoor Heritage Park, which offers a pavilion hosting public special events. Families will enjoy the city’s Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark, Frankenmuth Aerial Park, and Grandpa’s Tiny Farm petting zoo, while couples will love its classic Art Deco cinema, historic riverboat tours, and romantic horse-drawn carriage rides. Things to Do in Frankenmuth
Contact: 635 South Main Street, Frankenmuth, MI 48734, Phone: 989-652-6106
» Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a 158-acre botanical garden and sculpture park facility that was opened to the public in 1995 by Frederik Meijer, the CEO of the Meijer supermarket chain. Since its opening, it has quickly become one of the most noted cultural parks in the American Midwest, named as one of the world’s top 30 must-see museums in 2009. As the state’s second most-visited tourist attraction, the Grand Rapids park showcases a variety of impressive indoor and outdoor gardens and sculpture galleries, including the eight-acre Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, and the noted Iron Tree sculpture by legendary designer Ai Weiwei. Summer concerts are held at the venue’s amphitheater, and seasonal exhibitions include the park’s Butterflies are Blooming free-flying exhibit and its Chrysanthemums and More! display.
Contact: 1000 East Beltline Avenue NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525, Phone: 888-957-1580
»Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is located in Grand Rapids near Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus and honors the United States’ 38th president. The museum is the only National Archives and Records Administration official presidential museum that is not connected to its partner presidential library, which is located in Ann Arbor. It serves as the final resting place for Ford and his wife, First Lady Betty Ford, and showcases a collection of more than 19,000 artifacts, including items connected to his 1976 election, important presidential gifts throughout his term, a collection of Betty’s notable formal gowns and dresses, and the president’s personal football collection. The museum’s permanent exhibit brings Ford’s campaign and presidency to life, encouraging visitors to engage in democractic citizenship practices. Public event programming is offered on a regular basis, including a periodic lecture series and family-friendly special events. Things to Do in Grand Rapids MI
Contact: 03 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504, Phone: 616-254-0400
Photo: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
»Great Lakes Bay Region
Great Lakes Bay Region is home to six cities along Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, a 1,143-square-mile bay on the state’s eastern side. The eclectic Bay City offers attractions such as the newly-designed City Mark, the spacious Bay City State Park, and entertaining river cruises aboard Bay City Boat Lines, while Birch Run offers one of the largest outlet malls in the Midwest, along with the family-friendly Alpine Mountain Adventure Park and Wilderness Trails Zoo. Cozy inns and historic attractions await in Chesaning, while museums and cultural attractions with a German flair abound in Frankenmuth. Midland is home to the United States’ longest canopy walk, located within Dow Gardens’ Whiting Forest, and Saginaw blends historic and modern attractions such as the 1927 Temple Theater, SVRC Marketplace, Saginaw Children’s Zoo, and Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House. Ample opportunities for outdoor fun are offered, including sailing excursions, ecotours, guided fishing charters, and state and national parks and wildlife refuges.
Contact: 515 N. Washington Avenue, 2nd Floor, Saginaw, MI 48607, Phone: 800-444-9979
»Hiawatha National Forest
Hiawatha National Forest is located within Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region, offering more than 100 miles of overlooking Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior. The 894,836-acre forest was named after famed Mohawk chief Hiawatha and is managed by the United States Forest Service, showcasing six designated wilderness areas that are home to species such as timer wolves, golden eagles, black bears, moose, and white-tailed deer. Six historic lighthouse are located within the forest’s grounds and may be toured by the public, including the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, which is operated as a living history museum open to the public for tours. A segment of the 4,600-mile North Country Trail cuts through the forest, along with five National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Popular visitor activities include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, canoeing, horseback riding, and camping.
Contact: 820 Rains Drive, Gladstone, MI 49837, Phone: 906-428-5800
»Holland State Park
Holland State Park is a 142-acre park within Ottawa County that is one of the state’s most-visited state parks, overlooking the beautiful Lake Michigan near the city of Holland. The park features expansive beachfront that is accessible for day pass holders for swimming and sunbathing. Fishing is also permitted, with a boat launch available for visitor use. The historic Big Red Lighthouse is visible from the park, which offers a variety of trails and beachfront areas for visitor exploration. Camping is permitted at the Lake Macatawa and Beach Campgrounds, which offer a combined 340 tent and RV hookup campsites, and the Whitetail camper cabin offers indoor accommodations for groups of up to six people. Other visitor amenities include a children’s playground and a concession stand. Things to Do in Holland, Michigan
Contact: 2215 Ottawa Beach Road, Holland, MI 49424, Phone: 800-447-2757
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»Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National Park is an 894-square-mile national park located on islands within Lake Superior near the United States-Canada border, centered on the large Isle Royale. The park was established in 1940 and has been declared as a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. The car-free reserve is only accessible via seaplane or ferry and offers a wide variety of outdoor activities for visitors, including the historic Rock Harbor Lighthouse, which has been converted into a living history museum, and the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which offers exploration of Windigo and Rock Harbors. Dive sites provide access to several notable shipwrecks, while 36 campgrounds offer overnight accommodations. Other popular activities include canoeing, kayaking, fishing, boating, and wildlife watching for animals such as moose and timber wolves. Ranger-led programming and a visitor center restaurant and grill are offered seasonally during the summer months.
Contact: 800 East Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, Phone: 906-482-0984
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Keweenaw Peninsula is the uppermost part of the state’s Upper Peninsula and is the only site on Earth where large-scale pure native copper is found, which is believed to have been mined by prehistoric aboriginal North Americans and traded as far away as Alabama. Today, the peninsula is home to a population of more than 43,000 people and offers a wide variety of outdoor activities within its serenely breathtaking biosphere, best known for its winter activities such as skiing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling. Museums explore the region’s copper boom history in the 19th century, while preserved ghost towns showcase the life and culture of boom town pioneers. For further exploration of the region’s copper mining history, the Copper Country Trail National Byway connects 47 miles of sites associated with the highlights of the region’s mining history. Other major attractions include the Copper Country Quilt Block Trail, the Keweenaw Underwater Preserve, and eight historic lighthouses located along the Peninsula’s shoreline.
Contact: 56638 Calumet Avenue, Calumet, MI 49913, Phone: 800-338-7982
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»Lake of the Clouds
Lake of the Clouds is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula within Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, showcasing pristine blue waters within a beautiful mountain valley forest. The lake is the state park’s most-photographed natural attraction and one of the top attractions within the Upper Peninsula, accessible via an ADA-compliant overlook or two hiking trails. It is known as a prime bass fishing spot for catch-and-release fishing from light watercraft or the lake’s shorelines. Nearby within the state park, more than 80 miles of hiking trails are offered, along with the Summit Peak Observation Tower, which provides amazing panoramic views. Popular winter activities include cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and several fine dining restaurants are located near the park’s boundaries.
Contact: 412 South Boundary Road, Ontonagon, MI 49953, Phone: 906-884-2047
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Michigan’s Adventure is the state’s largest amusement park, offering 53 high, mild, and family thrill rides and a full water park. The park is operated by amusement corporation Cedar Fair and is home to seven roller coasters, including the Shivering Timbers wooden coaster, the Thunderhawk inverted steel coaster, and the Big Dipper family coaster. Classic midway rides include a scrambler, a tilt-a-whirl, a Matterhorn ride, a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and wave swings, while water rides include the Adventure Falls flatboat ride and the Grand Rapids whitewater rapid raft ride. The park’s WildWater Adventure Park is the state’s largest outdoor water park, offering 15 water attractions from extreme water slides to the family-friendly Half Pint Paradise play area.
Contact: 4750 Whitehall Road, Muskegon, MI 49445, Phone: 231-766-3377
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Mount Bohemia is an 1,100-acre all-inclusive resort that was named one of the top 10 ski resorts in North America in 2016 by Unofficial Networks. The Lake Lac Labelle resort is located less than two miles from Lake Superior and is the perfect destination for true outdoor enthusiasts. A number of skiing areas are available on the resort’s eponymous mountain, which offers 585 acres of skiiable terrain. During the summer months, the resort is a hot spot for activities such as mountain biking and kayaking. All-inclusive stays at the Inn on Lac Labelle or within one of the resort’s Aqua or Marina log cabins include meals and guided excursions to see the region’s natural sights and experience its top outdoor activities year-round.
Contact: 6532 Gay Lac La Belle Rd, Mohawk, MI 49950, Phone: 906-289-4105
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»Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore extends for 42 miles along the Upper Peninsula shoreline of Lake Superior, covering a total area of more than 73,000 acres. The shore was designated as the United States’ first national lakeshore in 1966 and receives more than 476,000 annual visitors today, known for its unique colorful Pictured Rocks cliff shores and sandstone formations such as Chapel Rock and Miners Castle. The wild shoreline offers opportunities for a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking along more than 100 miles of trails, backcountry camping, boating, fishing, swimming, and hunting. Other major attractions include the 19th-century lighthouse at Au Sable Point, which is surrounded by remnants of various historic shipwrecks.
Contact: P.O. Box 40 , Munising, MI 49862, Phone: 906-387-3700
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»Silver Lake State Park
Silver Lake State Park spans nearly 3,000 acres within Oceana County along Lake Michigan, offering public recreation opportunities around its eponymous lake. More than 2,000 acres of sand dunes ar showcased throughout the park, along with vast expanses of mature forest and more than four miles of Great Lakes shoreline. The multi-use park is a popular spot for activities such as fishing, hunting, boating, swimming, and picnicking. Its 450-acre off-road vehicle area is one of the most popular off-road spots in the Midwest, and its campgrounds offer more than 200 RV and tent hookup areas with modern amenities such as restrooms.
Contact: 9679 W State Park Rd, Mears, MI 49436, Phone: 231-873-3083
Photo: Kenneth Keifer/Fotolia
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»Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established in 1970 to protect unique natural features such as glacial and dune formations and was named as the Most Beautiful Place in America by Good Morning America in 2011. The 35-mile lakeshore spans Lake Michigan’s eastern coastline and includes nearby North and South Manitou Islands, showcasing 450-foot bluffs, lush forested regions, inland lakes, and a wide variety of native Michigan flora and fauna. Popular outdoor activities include coastal swimming, sunbathing, hiking, fishing, and kayaking at sites such as Loon Lake and the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. A variety of cultural attractions also abound, including the 1871 South Manitou Island Lighthouse, three preserved historic United States Life-Saving Service stations, the Port Oneida Rural Historic District, and the Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum.
Contact: 9922 Front Street, Empire, MI 49630, Phone: 231-326-4700
Photo: Alexey Stiop/Fotolia
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»Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is Michigan’s second-largest state park, following the path of the Tahquamenon River to Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay. The 46,179-acre park is located within Whitefish and McMillan Townships near the city of Paradise and receives approximately half a million annual visitors. It is named for the spectacular Tahquamenon Falls, the eastern United States’ second most voluminous waterfall after famed Niagara Falls, which showcases a much-photographed 50-foot single drop. 22 miles of hiking trails provide access to a variety of undeveloped habitats, and outdoor recreation opportunities include fishing, canoeing, wildlife watching, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Four campgrounds, a restaurant, and a gift shop are also located near the falls.
Contact: 1382 West M-123, Paradise, MI 49768, Phone: 906-492-3415
Photo: Mary Lynn Strand/Fotolia
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»The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford is located in Detroit suburb Dearborn and is home to an expansive indoor and outdoor museum complex, the largest of its kind in the United States. The museum complex receives more than 1.7 million annual visitors and showcases attractions such as the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, which chronicles the story of famed American automobile entrepreneur Henry Ford and his historic car company. A variety of exhibits also focus on American heroes and entrepreneurs of the 19th century that defined the country’s spirit of exceptionalism, ingenuity, and individualism. Highlights of the museum collection include Abraham Lincoln’s chair from his assassination at Ford’s Theatre, the Wright Brothers’ famous bicycle shop, and the bus from Rosa Parks’ famous American Civil Rights Movement action. Outdoor exhibits are showcased at Greenfield Village, and 4K digital projection films are shown at the Giant Screen Experience.
Contact: 20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, MI 48124-5029, Phone: 313-982-6001
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»University of Michigan Museum of Art
University of Michigan Museum of Art is one of the United States’ largest and oldest university art museums, originally constructed in 1909 as a war memorial for fallen Civil War soldiers. The museum’s collections have been in development for more than a century and a half, showcasing over 21,000 significant works of art today from around the world. Galleries highlight African, Asian, European, and indigenous and modern American works, highlighting internationally-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Andy Warhol. 20 special exhibitions are showcased at the museum annually, and a variety of public special events are held at the Helmut Stern Auditorium, including the Mark Webster Reading Series and the Zell Visiting Writers’ Series. An education center also presents public workshops and study cases. Things to Do in Ann Arbor
Contact: 525 South State Street, Ann Arbor 48109-1354, Phone: 734-764-0395
Photo: University of Michigan Museum of Art
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»Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park is located in Berrien County and showcases more than 1,950 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline, including significant stretches of impressive sand dunes. The park was originally privately owned by businessman Edward K. Warren and was taken over by the Michigan state parks department in 1930. Today, more than one million annual visitors travel to experience its three miles of shoreline and six miles of hiking trails, showcasing sights such as the 240-foot Tower Hill dune, the park’s highest peak. Other dunes such as Mount Fuller, Mount Edwards, and Pikes Peak offer ample opportunity for sandboarding. Popular summer activities include swimming, camping, clay painting and picnicking, while wintertime visitors enjoy cross-country skiing.
Contact: 12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer, MI 49125, Phone: 269-426-4013
Photo: Gerald Bernard/Fotolia
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25 Best Things to Do in Michigan
- Mackinac Island, Photo: Courtesy of Michael - Fotolia.com
- Belle Isle Park, Photo: Courtesy of Molly - Fotolia.com
- Boyne Mountain Resort, Photo: Courtesy of helgidinson - Fotolia.com
- The Detroit Institute of Arts, Photo: Courtesy of naokit - Fotolia.com
- Detroit Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Shadia - Fotolia.com
- Fort Mackinac, Photo: Courtesy of SNEHIT - Fotolia.com
- Fox Theatre, Photo: Courtesy of Raisa Kanareva - Fotolia.com
- Frankenmuth, Photo: Courtesy of helgidinson - Fotolia.com
- Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Photo: Courtesy of miammaria - Fotolia.com
- Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Photo: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
- Great Lakes Bay Region, Photo: Courtesy of Mosto - Fotolia.com
- Hiawatha National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of dmodlin01 - Fotolia.com
- Holland State Park, Photo: Courtesy of bwolski - Fotolia.com
- Isle Royale National Park, Photo: Courtesy of sschremp - Fotolia.com
- Keweenaw Peninsula, Photo: Courtesy of Wirepec - Fotolia.com
- Lake of the Clouds, Photo: Courtesy of Amy - Fotolia.com
- Michigan's Adventure, Photo: Courtesy of soupstock - Fotolia.com
- Mount Bohemia, Photo: Courtesy of h368k742 - Fotolia.com
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Photo: Courtesy of baluzek - Fotolia.com
- Silver Lake State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Keifer - Fotolia.com
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Photo: Courtesy of Alexey Stiop - Fotolia.com
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Mary Lynn Strand - Fotolia.com
- The Henry Ford, Photo: Courtesy of andreas - Fotolia.com
- University of Michigan Museum of Art, Photo: University of Michigan Museum of Art
- Warren Dunes State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Gerald Bernard - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of ostrows1 - Fotolia.com
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