Exploring the Hidden Gems: Best Places to Travel in Michigan
Michigan, also known as the Great Lakes State, is home to a myriad of stunning destinations that offer something for every type of traveler. From serene national parks to vibrant cultural attractions, Michigan is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast seeking adventure or a history buff craving knowledge, this article will take you on a journey through the best places to visit in Michigan. So, get ready to discover the beauty and charm that this Midwestern state has to offer.
Isle Royale National Park, Upper Peninsula
Isle Royale National Park, located in the Upper Peninsula, is one of America's least-visited national parks. Its remote location, accessible only by ferry or seaplane, and its seasonal opening attract nature enthusiasts to its vast 571,790 acres of breathtaking landscapes. Visitors can enjoy backpacking, camping, kayaking, and hiking during the park's opening between Memorial Day and when it closes for the season. Those who prefer more comfortable accommodations can choose from two lodging options within the park: Rock Harbor Lodge and Windigo Camper Cabins.
Arab American National Museum, Dearborn
More than 40,000 Arab Americans call Dearborn home, making it an ideal location for the Arab American National Museum. This 35,000-square-foot museum, established in 2005, is not only the world's first but also the largest museum dedicated to Arab American history, culture, and the Arab American experience.
Graffiti Alley, Ann Arbor
Graffiti Alley in downtown Ann Arbor, just off East Liberty Street and a block northwest of the University of Michigan campus, is a vibrant and colorful collection of graffiti and street art. It's a must-visit for art enthusiasts and those who appreciate urban art.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids
Covering a total of 158 acres, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids is a globally renowned botanical and sculptural destination. Founded by the founder of Meijer grocery stores, this park boasts a 30-acre sculpture park with over 300 art pieces, including the famous "Iron Tree" by Ai Weiwei. Visitors can explore the impressive five-story Lena Meijer Conservatory, a serene Japanese Garden, and a delightful children's garden.
Mackinac Island, a picturesque resort town, offers a classic Americana experience. With no vehicles allowed and horse-drawn carriages as the primary mode of transportation, it takes visitors back in time. The iconic 95-room Grand Hotel, open since 1887, features the world's longest porch and offers a luxurious stay. Guests arrive by ferry, and in recent years, more hotels on the island have started to operate year-round, providing additional amenities such as cross-country skiing and cozy evenings by the fire.
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Dearborn
Located in Dearborn, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the United States. It showcases a remarkable collection that includes Thomas Edison's last breath captured in a sealed tube, the Montgomery, Alabama, bus on which Rosa Parks made her stand, and the car President John F. Kennedy was riding when he was assassinated in Dallas.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located in the northwest of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, is one of the state's most popular and picturesque destinations. This national lakeshore, established in 1970, covers diverse landscapes that include dramatic sand dunes, beautiful beaches, serene waterways, and isolated islands. It offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, kayaking, and camping. Visitors can also explore fascinating abandoned farms and villages within the park.
Windmill Island Gardens, Holland
Windmill Island Gardens is a 36-acre garden located in Holland, Michigan. It comes alive in spring with vibrant displays of tulips, creating a joyful and colorful spectacle. The highlight of the garden is an authentic working windmill that has stood for around 250 years. Visitors can also enjoy guided tours by individuals dressed in traditional Dutch costumes. While in Holland, explore the charming downtown area with its locally-owned boutiques and restaurants. Don't forget to visit Nelis' Dutch Village, where you can find traditional wooden shoes and Delft plates.
Waterfalls in Marquette County
Marquette County is the perfect destination in Michigan to experience the awe of waterfalls. There are numerous hikes available that allow visitors to get up close and personal with their favorite waterfalls. Some popular waterfalls in the area include Warner Creek Falls, Morgan Creek Falls, Cataract Dam Falls, Carp River Falls, and Yellow Dog Falls.
Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens, Midland
Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland offers a unique experience for nature lovers. Visitors can stroll along a 1,400-foot-long canopy walk that stands 40 feet above the ground, providing incredible views of the surrounding woodlands. The forest also features a playground and an apple orchard for additional exploration. The best time to visit is in September when the leaves change color, creating a magical atmosphere.
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
The Detroit Institute of Arts is a cultural institution spread across 658,000 square feet. It is home to a remarkable collection of over 65,000 art pieces, including Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" frescos and works by renowned French Impressionists such as Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt. The museum also houses a Vincent van Gogh self-portrait and Jan van Eyck's "Saint Jerome in His Study."
Motown Historical Museum, Detroit
Motown music was born in Detroit, thanks to legends like Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye. The Motown Historical Museum is housed in the former recording studio, record label, and administration building known as "Hitsville U.S.A." After relocating the label to Los Angeles in 1972, the building was transformed into a museum 13 years later. Visitors can embark on guided tours throughout the week to learn about the rich history of Motown music.
University of Michigan LSA Museum of Natural History, Ann Arbor
Located within the Biological Sciences Building of the University of Michigan, the University of Michigan LSA Museum of Natural History is an engaging and interactive museum that offers free admission. Visitors have the unique opportunity to observe researchers at work and explore the Planetarium & Dome Theater, where they can experience the wonders of constellations and the Northern Lights as if they were right above them. One of the museum's featured exhibits showcases the only place in the world where a male and female mastodon skeleton are displayed side by side.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park, situated in the untouched Upper Peninsula of Michigan, offers a magnificent natural experience centered around its stunning waterfalls. The park, established in 1970, protects diverse landscapes, including lush forests and reflective streams and lakes teeming with flora and fauna. While the highlight of the park is the immense Tahquamenon River with its impressive Upper and Lower Falls, visitors can also enjoy fishing, canoeing, and camping. Exploring the park may lead to the discovery of abandoned farms and villages tucked away within its boundaries.
Holland, situated on the scenic shores of Lake Michigan, is a charming city known for its unique Dutch heritage. It features picturesque parks adorned with beautiful tulips and gardens dotted with traditional windmills. Visit the Holland Museum to delve into Dutch history and culture in the United States. Don't miss the Dutch Village theme park, where you can explore traditional buildings and immerse yourself in Dutch traditions, including wooden shoes and Delft plates. The best times to visit Holland are during the Tulip Time Festival in May and the enchanting Christmas market in December. The city also offers excellent beaches and watersports for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.
Saugatuck & Douglas
Saugatuck and Douglas are twin towns located at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River on the glittering Gold Coast. These neighboring settlements, known for their friendly and relaxed atmosphere, attract visitors from Chicago, Detroit, and the Midwest's LGBT community. The area is famous for its exquisite art galleries, eclectic shops, and waterfront restaurants. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the beautiful beaches, such as Oval Beach, and leisurely stroll through the towns' charming downtown areas. Saugatuck and Douglas are also close to Holland and Grand Rapids, offering additional exploration opportunities.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, located along Lake Superior's breathtaking shoreline in the Upper Peninsula, was the first National Lakeshore established in the United States. The naming of the lakeshore is derived from the colorful sandstone cliffs that adorn the rugged coastline. The area is home to spectacular rock formations, waterfalls, and caves. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the towering cliffs, kayak or boat to explore the sea caves and rock arches up close, scuba dive to discover hidden shipwrecks, or partake in cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter months. Grand Sable Dunes, within the lakeshore, showcases epic sand dunes waiting to be explored.
Traverse City, located on the northwestern coast of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, is a charming city nestled at the end of the natural harbor of Grand Traverse Bay. Divided by the Old Mission Peninsula, this delightful city offers stunning landscapes and proximity to Lake Michigan. Traverse City is known as the "Cherry Capital of the World" and offers plenty of opportunities to explore wineries, charming downtown areas, and outdoor activities. Take a stroll through the shops in downtown Traverse City, visit the Dennos Museum Center to appreciate Inuit art, and indulge in the festivities of the National Cherry Festival in July.
Marquette, Michigan, situated on the coast of Lake Superior, is a quaint college town that offers a range of adventurous activities for travelers seeking excitement. Contrary to belief, Marquette attracts visitors year-round, as winter brings extraordinary snowfall and opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling, and ice climbing. Marquette Mountain offers downhill skiing, while the abundant trails are perfect for snowshoeing and fat biking. During the summer, visitors can enjoy Lake Superior's refreshing waters and take the famous plunge of the prehistoric Blackrocks rock formation at Presque Isle Park. The town also features breweries and food trucks, making it a perfect destination for relaxation and culinary exploration.
Midland, Michigan, may be a small town, but it is home to the globally recognized Dow Chemical Company. This connection has benefited the area, resulting in beautiful parks, a baseball field, outstanding botanical gardens, and the unique Tridge, a three-way walking bridge. Visit the Dow Botanical Gardens, Whiting Forest, and Canopy Walk, which feature 54 acres of woodlands, orchards, and streams. The Canopy Walk, the nation's longest, offers breathtaking views of Whiting Forest. Midland also offers a lovely downtown area with boutiques, patios, high-end restaurants at The H Hotel, and family-friendly entertainment at Dow Field, where the Minor League team, the Midland Loons, play.
Petoskey, located on Lake Michigan's shores in Little Traverse Bay, is a picturesque small-town destination for a relaxing Michigan vacation. Whether it's enjoying the beaches and cool breezes during the summer or experiencing the beautiful foliage in the fall, Petoskey offers a range of delights. Visitors can explore nearby wineries, such as Maple Moon, known as "America's first maple winery," or indulge in craft beer at Beards Brewery and TAP30 in downtown Petoskey. Strolling through downtown, make sure to visit American Spoon for delicious jams and preserves and Grandpa Shorter's for unique home decor. Petoskey is the perfect choice for those seeking a peaceful getaway surrounded by stunning scenery.
Warren Dunes and St. Joseph Michigan
By Kelly Johnson of Snap Travel Magic
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, St. Joseph is a charming city that offers a perfect summer vacation experience. With its cozy homes, exceptional cuisine, delightful breweries, and a plethora of outdoor activities, St. Joseph is an ideal destination. However, the biggest highlight of this city is its stunning beaches. During the summer months, visitors can indulge in various water activities and soak up the sun. Silver Beach County Park is a particularly popular spot, offering not only access to the sparkling water but also amenities such as volleyball courts, walkways for leisurely strolls, playgrounds for children, and even a beautifully restored carousel. Adjacent to Silver Beach, you'll find the St. Joseph lighthouse and pier, which provide a picturesque setting for a romantic evening walk. Apart from Silver Beach, other notable parks in the area include Jean Klock Park, Lion's Park, and Grand Mere State Park. For those who enjoy hiking, a visit to Warren Dunes State Park is a must. This expansive park offers miles of coastline and numerous hiking trails, including the famous 260-foot sand dune that rewards climbers with breathtaking views of the lake. St. Joseph River is also a great spot for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. In the afternoons, explore the city's attractions, such as the Curious Kid's Museum and The Box Factory for the Arts. For adults, the area boasts excellent wineries and breweries, including White Pine Winery, Baroda Founders Wine Cellar, Silver Harbor Brewing Company, and Buck Burgers and Brew.
End your day by treating yourself to a delicious meal at Plank's Tavern on the Water, where you can savor great food while enjoying a stunning view. Alternatively, indulge in a rooftop dining experience at RyeBelles Restaurant & Bar, which offers panoramic views of the area. Silver Beach Pizza provides not only delicious food but also a unique ambiance with its train views and occasional whistles. For a quick and scrumptious Mexican meal, head to Arriba! Taqueria.
By Sherry Trautman of Traveling Michigan
We absolutely adore spending time in Northport Michigan. This charming destination offers a beautiful marina and a pristine beach that is definitely worth a visit. Don't forget to explore the delightful shops in downtown Northport while you're there.
There is so much to see in Northport, including a scenic boardwalk, a picturesque coastal town, a bustling marina, and charming shops. On our walks along the boardwalk, we love gazing at the bobbing boats in the marina. Conveniently located between the beach and the marina, you'll find clean and well-maintained restrooms.
While in Northport, take a moment to appreciate its rich history. The cherry industry, which thrives in Northport today, began in 1853 on Reverend Smith's farm. Within a few years, farmers were producing such a bountiful cherry crop that the fruits were shipped to nearby cities. Today, Northport and Leelanau County boast one of the world's largest cherry industries.
Northport is also gaining a reputation as a haven for the rich and famous who seek a quiet and secluded lifestyle. Celebrity residents include Chef Mario Batali, who resides north of town at Cathead Point, as well as comedian and actor Tim Allen, who spends his summers in Northport. Additionally, Mark Spitznagel, a prominent hedge fund manager, owns a 150-acre ranch in Northport and enjoys his summers in the upscale community of Northport Point, just outside the village.
Leelanau State Park and Grand Traverse Lighthouse
Address: 15310 N. Lighthouse Point Road, Northport, MI
Restrooms: Pit Toilets across from the gift shop
Make sure to take the time to explore Leelanau State Park and have the opportunity to tour the iconic Grand Traverse Lighthouse (check their website for tour schedules). The park's grounds are truly breathtaking, offering magnificent views of Lake Michigan.
Leelanau State Park encompasses a vast area of 1519 acres, providing ample opportunities for exploration. Take leisurely walks along the short trails that lead to the water's edge, where you can appreciate the stunning vistas from peaceful benches. And don't forget to indulge in the simple joy of skipping rocks across the water!
Savor the natural beauty of this area and take a moment to appreciate the privilege of experiencing such magnificent views in the heart of Michigan. Leelanau State Park is also a haven for photography enthusiasts, offering numerous picturesque spots to capture memorable images.
Time Allotment: 1.5 hours depending on your interests, shopping, lunch!!
Restrooms: Public restrooms are at the top of the hill just as you arrive at the shanties.
Parking: Free, along the streets and there is a lot near the docks.
Leland Michigan offers a delightful array of shops and restaurants along its main road, but the true charm of this coastal village lies along the waterfront.
While exploring Leland, be sure to visit Carlson's, located at 205 River St. It's the perfect spot to try smoked Michigan whitefish or Lake Trout, a specialty you won't find anywhere else! Another must-visit is The Village Cheese Shanty, situated at 199 W River St. This beloved establishment offers over 60 different types of cheese and serves delicious sandwiches and lunch options. Don't miss the opportunity to explore the unique boutiques and shops that now occupy the historic shanties in Leland. Parking is free and plentiful.
For a memorable dining experience, consider The Cove, a popular restaurant located right along the waterfront with enchanting views of the dam. Alternatively, indulge in a mouthwatering meal at the Riverside Inn, which offers delightful river views.
While strolling along the docks, be sure to admire the nets hanging to dry, adding an authentic fishing village ambiance to the surroundings.
For more information, including captivating photos and a brief history of Leland, visit the Leland Michigan page.
Whether you're a nature enthusiast seeking serene landscapes, an art lover exploring galleries, or a history buff immersing yourself in cultural landmarks, Michigan offers an array of unforgettable experiences. From the stunning vistas of Mackinac Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to the vibrant urban art scene of Graffiti Alley in Ann Arbor, this diverse state has something for everyone. Discover the rich Arab American heritage at Dearborn's Arab American National Museum and delve into Detroit's vibrant music history at the Motown Historical Museum. Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and wander the charming streets of Saugatuck and Douglas. With its blend of natural wonders, cultural gems, and vibrant cities, Michigan truly emerges as an enticing destination for both locals and visitors alike.
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