Michigan's 23 Unbelievable Destinations to Explore (in 2023!)

2023-07-01 00:10:06 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of Vytravels.com, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Michigan offers a multitude of fantastic destinations to visit throughout the year, and we've compiled a diverse list of the top places to explore in this remarkable state. Whether you're an adrenaline-seeking adventurer or an avid history buff, Michigan has something for everyone in search of an unforgettable experience.

First on our list is the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, a haven for nature enthusiasts. This sanctuary boasts one of the few remaining ancient white pine forests in Michigan, providing a serene and picturesque backdrop for relaxation. Visitors can choose between two main trails, each offering its own unique charm. For those who prefer a longer hike, combining both trails will result in a satisfying 2.5-mile journey. The Cathedral Grove loop, the first trail, guides you through a mesmerizing display of giant white pines that have stood tall for centuries, stretching to heights of 125 feet. These ancient trees, approximately 300 years old, capture the essence of Michigan's natural beauty. The second trail, covering 1.2 miles, showcases a variety of tree species, such as majestic pines, maples, and oaks. Additionally, the sanctuary is home to over 85 bird species, including woodpeckers, hawks, and red crossbills, providing a captivating experience for birdwatchers.

Best places to visit in Michigan

Next up is Saugatuck, a vibrant coastal town bursting with artistic flair and culinary delights. This charming destination offers a plethora of farm-fresh food and delightful shopping opportunities. The best time to visit Saugatuck is during the summer, when the town comes alive with live music and an abundance of activities to make the most of your weekend getaway or vacation. For beach lovers, a visit to Oval Beach is a must. Its pristine shores and crystal-clear waters create the perfect setting for relaxation and enjoyment. If you're eager to explore beyond the beach, a river cruise is an excellent way to witness the breathtaking sunsets over Lake Michigan, leaving a lasting impression of natural beauty.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary

We hope this list of Michigan's finest destinations has sparked your wanderlust. If you have any recommendations or suggestions for other incredible locations in Michigan, please share them with us in the comments. Happy adventuring!

The Marvels of Traverse City

In case you're on the hunt for a captivating destination in Michigan, let us introduce you to the hidden gem that is Traverse City. This remarkable place offers a medley of white sandy beaches, charming vineyards, thrilling skiing spots, and awe-inspiring natural wonders.

Saugatuck

One aspect that truly distinguishes Traverse City is its abundance of activities throughout the year. The warmer months are a delight for adventurers who can indulge in invigorating hikes or bike rides, exploring the wonders of Miller Creek Nature Preserve or Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trail. As the winter sets in, Traverse City transforms into a colossal playground, offering endless opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, snow tubing, ice skating, ice fishing, and an array of exhilarating winter activities.

Additionally, Traverse City takes great pride in its delectable culinary scene, boasting an array of high-quality dining establishments. You won't want to miss out on the farm-to-table restaurants, where locally-sourced ingredients take center stage. Moreover, Traverse City is home to approximately 40 vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms, ensuring that wine enthusiasts are in for a treat.

Traverse City

The Unparalleled Allure of Petoskey Area

Prepare to be amazed by the sheer beauty and endless outdoor adventures that await you in Petoskey Area, not only in Michigan but throughout the entire United States!

The core essence of this captivating destination revolves around thrilling adventure sports, cycling expeditions, exceptional golf courses, and an array of water-centric recreational pursuits. Brace yourself for an adrenaline rush as you embark on ziplining adventures and county-wide escapades, and for the daredevils, skydiving is also on the menu.

When it comes to water-related activities, visitors are spoiled for choice. Embark on unforgettable canoe or kayak trips along the scenic Bear River, immersing yourself in nature's splendor. Winter enthusiasts will discover that Petoskey Area is a veritable wonderland. It boasts Michigan's premier ski areas, including Boyne Highlands, Nub's Nob, and Boyne Mountain. With a staggering 160 downhill runs, the area caters to the desires of every skiing enthusiast. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are also highly popular winter activities here.

Petoskey Area

The Enchanting Beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Prepare to be captivated by the enchanting landscape of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where tranquil inland lakes meet lush forests. This stunning destination spans an impressive 35 miles of pristine Lake Michigan beaches, encompassing two expansive islands and majestic sand dunes.

Bask in the hottest days of summer as you soak up the sun on the heavenly beaches or embark on a rejuvenating tube, raft, canoe, or kayak journey along the Platte River. For a delightful adventure on wheels, hop on a bike and explore the relatively flat terrain of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.

As you make your way to Glen Arbor, you will pass through the historic logging community of Glen Haven and the magnificent D.H. Day Campground, adding a touch of historical charm to your exploration.

Prepare to be mesmerized by the wonders that Traverse City, Petoskey Area, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore have to offer.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

6. Exploring Escanaba

Visit the vibrant city of Escanaba, also known as Esky, which is characterized by its bustling port and is home to approximately 12,000 residents.

Some notable attractions in Escanaba include the Escanaba Public Library, the renowned Drifters Family Restaurant, and the popular Upper Hand Brewery.

After immersing yourself in the city's charms, take some time to appreciate the beauty of nature. Stroll or snowshoe (if it's winter) along the scenic Haymeadow Falls and Trail.

Another trail worth exploring is the Peninsula Point Lighthouse and Interpretive Trail. Make sure to ascend to the top of the 40-foot Michigan lighthouse to revel in the breathtaking panoramic views!

Escanaba

History enthusiasts will be thrilled to visit Fayette Historic State Park and explore the well-preserved town sites, just a short distance from Escanaba. This historic gem is nestled in a picturesque oasis and boasts around 20 beautifully preserved buildings, a visitor center, captivating exhibits, guided tours, and more.

7. Marvel at Sugarloaf Mountain

Prepare to be captivated by the awe-inspiring vistas on Sugarloaf Mountain, offering some of the most breathtaking views in the Upper Peninsula. Ascending to the summit requires no special expertise as it entails an easy hike.

As you make your way to the top, you'll find yourself surrounded by a lush forest canopy adorned by century-old trees.

Upon reaching the peak, the trail transitions into wooden stairs, leading visitors to an exceptional observation deck.

From this vantage point, you'll be treated to magnificent views encompassing Lake Superior, Presque Isle Park, Marquette, Hogsback Mountain, and Little Presque Isle. Don't forget to admire the stone monument, a touching homage to assistant scoutmaster Bartlett King. Erected by his fellow troops, it was intended for his mother to gaze upon from her residence on Marquette's Arch Street.

Sugarloaf Mountain

8. Discover Enchanting Mackinac Island

Prepare for an unforgettable vacation experience on Mackinac Island, hailed as one of Michigan's most magnificent destinations. This charming town is renowned for its delectable Mackinac Island Fudge, historic Fort Mackinac, delightful bike tours, diverse shopping options, and abundant dining establishments.

Mackinac Island offers an array of attractions, including the exploration of historic forts, unique golf courses, and enchanting horse-drawn carriage tours.

Embark on a hike up to Fort Holmes, the island's highest point, to commence your adventures, or opt to discover the town's charming waterfront via a kayak, sailboat, or sunset cruise.

Mackinac Island

For an immersive experience into this car-free, history-steeped paradise, don't miss the opportunity to embark on a horse-drawn carriage tour that will transport you back in time.

When it comes to the history of Mackinac, there are a few must-visit attractions that should be on your list. The Biddle House, the two historical military forts, and stunning examples of Victorian architecture are all worth exploring during your visit.

Next up, we have the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4-mile drive takes you through the beautiful Beech-Maple Forest, sand dunes, and, most importantly, offers breathtaking views of Glen Lakes, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Lake Michigan. While on the drive, you can also embark on a dune trek along the Cottonwood Trail or enjoy a picnic at one of the designated spots.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Prepare to be amazed as you traverse the pathway and take in the world-class vistas that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on your Michigan journey. For those seeking a more educational experience, guided tours are available at no extra cost, allowing you to gain deeper insights into the area.

Moving on to Manistee, a destination that boasts 25 miles of sandy Lake Michigan beachfront, three harbors, inland lakes, and over 270 miles of rivers. Although known for its thriving agriculture and farming, Manistee has plenty to offer its visitors. Nature lovers will find themselves in paradise as they explore the Arcania Marsh Boardwalk, Bullfrog Highway, Magoon Creek Park, and First Street Beach. In addition, the Arcadia Area Historical Museum and the Iron Fish Distillery, Michigan's first farm distillery, provide opportunities for further exploration and education about the area's history and natural beauty.

Manistee

Last but certainly not least, we have Frankenmuth. This vibrant town is known for its fantastic festivals, events, restaurants, shopping, and endless fun. Immerse yourself in Frankenmuth's Bavarian culture, indulging in authentic German cuisine and reveling in the architectural charm of River Place Shops. Don't forget to visit Frankenmuth Brewery and Prost Wine Bar & Charcuterie for a taste of German delights that will transport you back to the heart of Germany. And for those seeking a magical Christmas experience, look no further than Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the largest Christmas store in the world, right here in Frankenmuth.

So, whether you're a history buff, nature enthusiast, or food lover, there's something for everyone in Mackinac, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Manistee, and Frankenmuth. Explore, indulge, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Visitors can also amuse themselves by venturing to the Cass River for an exciting kayaking experience or a delightful boat tour, indulging in a delectable meal at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, having an exhilarating time at the waterpark or zip lines, and much more.

Frankenmuth, MI - T-I - Shutterstock

12. Isle Royale National Park

If your ultimate desire is to escape the hustle and bustle of bustling cities, then Isle Royale should be your topmost priority.

This enchanting natural enclave is encompassed by the majestic Lake Superior and provides an ideal setting for engaging in recreational pursuits such as invigorating hikes, invigorating boating excursions, captivating kayaking expeditions, exhilarating backpacking trips, enthralling canoeing experiences, and captivating scuba diving explorations.

Those who revel in the delights of camping will find themselves spoiled for choice, with 36 well-appointed campgrounds equipped with tent sites, a reliable water source, and conveniently located outhouses. Hiking enthusiasts will also discover a vast array of trails ranging between 1 and 10 miles, ensuring an unforgettable experience.

Isle Royale National Park

Among the most frequented trails are the picturesque Grace Creek Overlook, the captivating hike to Suzy's Cave, and the iconic Stoll Memorial.

Lastly, another wonderful way to spend a day here is to embark on a journey to Rock Harbor, which offers endless delights such as breathtaking hikes, exhilarating paddling adventures, thrilling fishing expeditions, enlightening guided tours, and engaging ranger programs.

13. St. Ignace

Steeped in a long-standing history of Native American heritage and once a thriving hub for the fur trade in the 17th century, St. Ignace beckons with its allure.

In the present day, this charming town in northern Michigan enchantingly presents a seasonal farmers' market, an array of remarkable shops and dining establishments, intriguing day trips, and captivating cruises, all of which create an atmosphere of fun and relaxation.

Isle Royale National Park

The abundant opportunities for enjoyment in St. Ignace are divided between delightful outdoor activities and a plethora of cultural sites. Begin your exploration by visiting the esteemed Straits State Park, which serves as an excellent entry point. The main trail leads to the awe-inspiring viewpoint of the magnificent Mackinac Bridge, a sight that simply cannot be missed.

Other noteworthy attractions in the area include the breathtaking Castle Rock, the culturally significant Fort de Buade Museum, the historic Biddle house with its intriguing tales of the fur trade, and the Mackinac Island State Park, where an assortment of gardens and museums await your discovery.

14. Ann Arbor

Renowned as a vibrant university town and a culinary haven, Ann Arbor seamlessly combines its tech-focused atmosphere with a rich tapestry of arts and culture.

Moreover, Ann Arbor hosts numerous captivating festivals and events throughout the year, with each celebration celebrating various themes encompassing art, culture, theater, sports, and music. Prior to your visit, make sure to consult the official events page to undergo an enthralling experience tailored to your interests.

Ann Arbor

If your timing aligns with the enchanting fall season or the blossoming spring, consider yourself lucky, as locations such as Nichols Arboretum on the University of Michigan's campus, the Scio Woods Preserve, and the Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter offer awe-inspiring panoramas teeming with vibrant colors.

To further immerse yourself in the wonders of nature, embark on a serene journey down the captivating Huron River, where thrilling opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding await you.

In conclusion, a multitude of individuals revel in the breweries and eateries present in this location. Some highly regarded establishments include Corner Brewery, Arbor Brewing Company, Seva, Le Dog, and Monahan’s.

15. Grand Rapids

Formerly recognized as the Furniture Capital of America, this city now stands as the epicenter of culture and finance in West Michigan. It offers a convenient day trip option for those originating from Chicago and other neighboring cities!

Grand Rapids

The inventory of activities to engage in within Grand Rapids commences with the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, a haven boasting countless gardens and galleries.

Additionally, tourists can explore the Downtown Market, replete with farmer's markets, as well as museums such as the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, and the Grand Rapids Public Museum, all of which narrate Michigan's history and its people.

Grand Rapids is equally renowned for its delectable restaurants and eateries, making it a haven for food enthusiasts. Popular options among visitors include The Sovengard, The B.O.B., and Butcher's Union.

History aficionados will also find solace in visiting the Meyer May House, a masterpiece designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and constructed in 1908, as well as the Heritage Hill Historic District, considered the city's inaugural neighborhood.

Kalamazoo

16. Kalamazoo

Whether one's interests lie in cuisine, culture, or the mesmerizing downtown ambiance, Kalamazoo proudly boasts the ability to fulfill these desires.

Commence your vacation in the heart of downtown, which encompasses six distinct districts, including the open-air Kalamazoo Mall, an array of restaurants, nightclubs, breweries, and specialty shops.

Vintage car enthusiasts must not pass up the opportunity to visit the Gilmore Car Museum, a 90-acre historic campus where automotive history is brought to life before your very eyes.

Nature enthusiasts can immerse themselves in picturesque bicycle rides or pay a visit to the esteemed Kalamazoo Nature Center, recognized as one of the finest nature centers in the nation.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

After traversing the region, take a break at one of the esteemed eateries such as Artisan Sandwich Company, Canal Street Cafe, or Burger Bros.

17. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

If you strive for an authentic natural retreat, rejoice! Your search ends here!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore presents a haven of exquisite beaches, towering sandstone cliffs, verdant northern forests, and an extensive network of trails.

Throughout the year, visitors can partake in a wide range of outdoor activities. Pictured Rocks boasts some of the state's premier hiking opportunities.

Notable trails to explore include the Sand Point Marsh Trail, which meanders through the park's stunning wetlands, and the Grand Sable Forest Trail, where one can amble amidst a maple woodland and past abandoned agricultural fields.

Apart from hiking, there exist 14 designated areas for backpacking-camping, enthralling boating tours, as well as various fishing options. Additionally, it is essential not to overlook the abundant opportunities for swimming and diving.

Detroit

The refreshing waters of Lake Superior offer a delightful experience for swimmers, although they can be quite chilly at times.

Don't miss out on visiting this area during the winter season. You'll find a wide range of winter activities to enjoy, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, witnessing ice formations, winter camping, and ice fishing.

18. Detroit

No trip to Michigan would be complete without a visit to Detroit. This lively, culturally rich, and captivating city offers something for everyone. Whether you're seeking artsy coffee shops, cultural museums, or exciting festivals, Detroit has got you covered.

Embark on your journey by exploring the various museums that Detroit has to offer. Marvel at the Motown Museum, showcasing the legendary figures of R&B, and immerse yourself in contemporary art at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Detroit is also a hub for major sports, including hockey, football, basketball, and baseball, guaranteeing an abundance of thrilling games.

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Make sure to pay a visit to Comerica Park during baseball season, where you can not only catch a game but also enjoy a ride on their Ferris wheel!

For nature enthusiasts, Belle Isle Park is a must-visit destination. This expansive 1,000-acre park, surrounded by the Detroit River, provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and enjoyment.

With so much to offer, Detroit ensures that every traveler's itinerary will be filled with exciting experiences!

19. Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Nature lovers will find the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve to be a true gem. It boasts a variety of attractions, including 950 feet of picturesque Lake Michigan coastline with 300 feet of public beaches, the Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center, boardwalk trails, a dune observation platform, and guided tours during specific seasons.

Lansing

Two prominent trails await exploration: the Balsam Trail and the Beach Trail. The Balsam Trail spans half a mile and features a walkway leading to the Dune Observation Deck.

Witnessing the sunsets here is an indescribably beautiful experience.

In contrast, the Beach Trail stretches a quarter-mile from the Nature Center to 300 feet of exquisite beach. Swimmers and picnickers often flock to this secluded beach.

The preserve operates from 10 am until half an hour after sunset, welcoming visitors daily.

20. Lansing

Lansing, renowned for its automotive heritage, may not be a sprawling metropolis, but it encompasses everything you could desire. This welcoming town brims with culture, history, and a multitude of captivating activities.

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the local culture at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum or the Michigan History Museum, where intriguing exhibits highlight Prehistoric Native American tales and Michigan's significant role in the nation's history.

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

While exploring Lansing, be sure to indulge in its vibrant public art scene and murals. The city boasts four distinct arts districts, each with its own array of galleries and sculpture walks that span from traditional to avant-garde.

Lansing boasts a plethora of noteworthy features, but its events truly stand out. Throughout the year, Lansing hosts over 60 diverse and captivating events, showcasing a wide range of themes such as the Nordic Fire Festival and the Michigan Blues Fest.

21. Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Discover the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, an expansive and thriving wetland ecosystem that ranks among Michigan's largest and most productive. Situated at the confluence of the Bad, Flint, and Cass Rivers, this refuge provides a serene escape for those seeking complete relaxation.

The refuge is a haven for wildlife, attracting migratory fowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. Wildlife enthusiasts can immerse themselves in captivating close-ups of bald eagles and white-tail deer by utilizing the wildlife viewing tower and platforms, complete with advanced spotting scopes.

Tecumseh, MI - Barbara Kalbfleisch - Shutterstock

For those in search of recreational activities, the refuge offers 12 miles of trails suitable for mountain biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing. Additionally, hunting, fishing, and boating are popular pastimes cherished by many visitors.

22. Tecumseh

Explore Tecumseh, one of the original pioneer settlements in Michigan Territory, imbued with profound historical significance. Begin your exploration with a delightful food tour, accompanied by the Taste Experience of Tecumseh, where four culinary spots unite to tantalize your taste buds.

Golfing enthusiasts will find solace in Tecumseh's exceptional golf courses that promise an unparalleled experience. Hantz Golf Club of Tecumseh, Raisin Valley Golf Club, and Stone Mountain Family Fun Center are renowned destinations for avid golfers.

Once you've delved into the charm of the town, take a short trip to visit captivating places like Hidden Lake Gardens, a scenic conservatory and botanical garden inviting visitors to revel in nature's splendor. Another must-visit is the Southern Michigan Railroad, particularly enchanting during the mesmerizing fall foliage.

Saginaw

23. Saginaw

Saginaw harbors a wealth of attractions, including the famed Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and Saginaw Valley Rail Trail. However, its offerings extend far beyond these renowned sites. Immerse yourself in a city brimming with opportunities, cultural treasures, and art museums.

Indulge in a one-of-a-kind experience with a visit to the Midwest's most authentic Japanese tea houses, the Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House. Marvel at the breathtaking boat tours that unveil stunning vistas of the town and its surrounding natural beauty.

Lastly, ensure you explore Saginaw's prominent historical and cultural landmarks. The Saginaw Art Museum, an architectural gem with Italianate grounds, houses a permanent collection spanning an impressive 4,500 years of history. Don't miss the Gingerblue Gallery, where both local and international artists showcase their talents across a myriad of mediums.

If we overlooked any astonishing destinations to explore in Michigan, please share them with us! We would love to hear about your favorite places in Michigan in the comments below. Thank you!

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