Michigan is a land of glacially carved, Caribbean blue lakes and rolling hills of forests inhabited by man for thousands of years. It’s as gorgeous as it is fascinating.
I’ve spent time in the U.P. (Upper Pennisula) in all it’s forested glory by Lake Michigan and I’ve spent time in major cities like Detroit. All have their merits and lend to the unique qualities that Michigan possesses, to be one of the most diversified states that I have visited.
So let’s see what makes this state so interesting and beautiful by exploring the great state of “Pure Michigan”.
Read on for a list of my favorite interesting and beautiful places to visit in Michigan.
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Detroit has got to be one of the most underrated cities in America. Right there on the Detroit River with all the culture and intrigue that you would expect from a world class destination. Why doesn’t anyone know this?
The last 75 years have been a rough road for the city. When automobile factories shut down, people moved out, interstates were built and it made it easier to leave and move to more rural areas. Crime worsened in Detroit and it became a depressed image of its former self.
Fast forward to the turn of the present century and Detroit is making a comeback. New Housing is on the upswing and jobs are increasing. With these changes, you are seeing a vibrancy in the city that hasn’t been seen in 75 years.
The Detroit Riverfront is alive and well and it bustling with things to do. The Motown Museum and the Ford Museum are a must when visiting this up and coming city. The neighborhoods of East English Village and Bagley are up and coming and being modernized and have a fabulous foodie scene on the rise. There is so much explore in this “Motor City”! Come see Detroit and its rise to greatness.
This sweet little island brings me back to watching my favorite movie, “Somewhere In Time”, with my mom when I was little. Such a romantic movie and I vowed that I needed to one day visit this gorgeous place in the U.P.!
Mackinac Island, pronounced Mac-kin-aw is just as beautiful in person as it is in the movies. It’s as if nothing has changed in 150 years. With the horse drawn carriages and the gorgeous 19th century architecture surrounding you, you really do feel like you’ve gone back in time.
The Grand Hotel anchors this beautiful spot, but there is so much more to explore. For instance, you can hike out to the gorgeous overlooks of Fort Holmes or if you’d like to be pulled by a four legged locomotive, take a tour by carriage.
You can also walk down Main Street and enjoy one of the fudge factories concocting delicious treats.
Whether you’re a lover of the outdoors or of food, Mackinac Island is truly one of the best vacation spots in Michigan, with something to offer everyone.
Traverse City is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Michigan. Being a lakeside town, there is no shortage of things to do. Do you like beaches? Traverse City has them. How about wine? Traverse City has that, too!
In fact, Traverse City has 1.5 miles of shoreline waiting for you to enjoy in the downtown area and over 180 miles of shoreline throughout the city. Sand dunes and gorgeous sunsets might fool your retinas into thinking you’re staring at the ocean, but you don’t need the ocean when you have Lake Michigan.
The wine in Traverse City will also surprise you. Rivaling the likes of Sonoma and Napa, Traverse City’s microclimate provides the perfect balance for grapes to realize their full potential and become a delicious nectar for the masses.
Give Traverse City a try this summer instead of battling the crowds at the ocean and see what many already know. Traverse City is wonderful!
Everyone loves a German inspired Bavarian town. With the beer flowing and the polka music, what’s not to love. But Frankenmuth is more than just German sausage and schnitzel (although it has that, too).
Frankenmuth is a town that can be a destination in any season.
Located on the Cass River, you can start your holiday with a riverboat cruise. The Bavarian Belle Riverboat Tour is a great way to get to know the history of this quaint town as well as enjoy a beverage or two.
If you want to know more about the city, visit the Frankenmuth Historical Museum and learn about the people, food and culture that brought another part of the world to a beautiful little spot on the banks of the Cass River.
In winter, the town turns into a winter wonderland with Zehnder’s Snowfest. Ice carving is the featured act of this festival and is amazing to see. If you have time, see what it’s like to ice skate under the night sky at the Frankenmuth Ice Rink.
If you’re looking for a fun escape in Michigan, Frankenmuth is a great pick no matter the season.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes was a fabulous surprise while touring the Upper Peninsula and turned out to be one of my favorite places to see in Michigan.
We were so lucky to see this already gorgeous place, bursting with color in the Fall time. Even though it was cold and a little rainy and snowy, we still had an amazing time exploring.
Lake Michigan couldn’t get more beautiful than it is on the dunes of this stunning national park. You can see all 100 miles of trails by taking the 13 hiking paths that cover the lakeshore and woodland areas. These are also open in winter for snow shoeing and cross country skiing so the fun doesn’t have to stop because the temperature drops.
Don’t leave this beautiful place without driving the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to see some of the best views in Michigan. Enjoy a one way loop that will take you through covered bridges and old growth forests and by the fabulous scenes of the crystal azure waters of Lake Michigan.
PS: Have you heard about the Dune Climb? Yes, you can climb a huge dune to the top and see Lake Michigan. This climb will definitely get your heart pounding, but you will be rewarded with an exhilarating run all the way down the dune. Trust me, it’s something you have to do!
Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore
If you love water and exquisite scenery, then you have to take a kayak tour to Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore and see one of the best places to go in Michigan up close.
You don’t have to go to the Atlantic or Pacific ocean to see beautiful sandstone formations and windswept sand dunes. Here, on Lake Superior, you will find all of that and more without the deep ocean, tides and the unpredictable aquatic life.
But, just because it isn’t the ocean doesn’t mean the waters have always been calm. You can also take a glass bottom boat ride to the many shipwrecks that dot the coastline. The most notable being a ship that sank in 1856.
There are also wonderful lighthouses along the coast to explore.
There’s so much to see at Pictured Rocks any time of year. In Fall, you have the added beauty of the leaves changing and the cooler weather bringing a welcomed change to this amazing place to see… so if you happen to be visiting Michigan, be sure to add this impressive spot to your list!
You know a city that is named after a fossilized stone has got to be a cool place to visit… and the Petoskey Stone has done just that for the town of Petoskey.
Many have come from all parts of the globe to try their hand at finding the pretty little pebbles of fossilized coral that have proven so valuable.
You can take home up to 25 pounds per year of Petoskey stone on state lands. However, if you are in a national park like Sleeping Bear Dunes it is strictly prohibited.
So, come to Petoskey and sift through the pebbles, then spend the afternoon at the Gaslight District perusing the shops and grabbing a bite at the Palette Bistro and taking in the magnificent view from your table. Then, top it off with a wine tasting to round out the perfect day in Petoskey.
The Ford House
This was one of those unexpected surprises that you just stumble upon when you an avid traveler without set plans. The kids were in need of some history, so we toured the Ford Museum and then came to the place where it all started, The Ford House.
To my surprise, there were no other visitors at Edsel and Eleanor’s fantastic home when we arrived and we got a private tour of one of the most prestigious addresses in America!
Edsel, Henry Ford’s son, has a collection of art and antiques that are exquisite and it was a joy for me and my children to witness. The home itself is of Tudor Revival architecture and you feel like you are touring a castle when inside.
Sitting on a lush forested property of 87 acres on Lake St. Claire, it is one of the most stunning estates I have ever seen. It will be well worth your time to tour this unique place to visit in Michigan. Who knows, maybe you’ll luck out and get a private tour, too!
Isle Royal National Park
Do you really need an island vacation? Then, you should come to one of the best places to visit in Michigan, Isle Royal National Park, one of the park service’s best kept secrets.
Yes, you just read, Michigan. You don’t have to scoot off to the Caribbean to have an amazing island vacation right here in the states.
Take a ferry or a seaplane to the island and begin your adventure. Once there, you will see the island as it has been for thousands of years in all its pristine beauty. Of course, you can have your pick of things to do such as hiking, spelunking, paddle boarding, kayaking or just gazing at the astonishing views surrounding you.
There are ample places to stay on the island including a lodge, cabins and camping. For the true outdoorsy adventurer, bring your backpack and do some back country camping. Spending time in nature without all the “noise” of life, might be just what you need to recharge those batteries.
Isle Royal is gorgeous, but remote. Plan on a unique chance to explore nature like you never have before in this interesting and unique Michigan destination.
Holland is one of the best places to go in Michigan any time of year, but the spring has the market cornered on absolute beauty.
What brings thousands flocking to Holland every spring? You guessed it, tulips! When Dutch settlers brought their infatuation for the flower to this country, a love affair began with the public that convenes every spring when the flower blooms between late April and Mid-May.
Come see downtown Holland in all its spring glory as you browse the shops overlooking Lake Michigan. Then make sure you go to Windmill Island Gardens and take in the sight of more than 100,000 tulips that spring up every year over 36 acres. Make sure you also get plenty of pictures of the only Dutch working windmill in the United States.
A day is Holland is amazing and one of my favorite spots in Michigan.
Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary
Just like the great groves of sequoias in Yosemite and the Redwoods of Northern California, the Pines in Michigan bring the same feel of awe and wonder. Saved from deforestation, 500 acres still remain from what was 2,400 acres originally owned by Edward Estivant of Paris.
Today, you can walk through the pines using the one mile Cathedral Loop Trail or the 1.2 mile Bertha Daubendiek Trail. Both are gorgeous in their own right. The Cathedral Loop winds past old growth pine, some 300 years old, while the other trail includes other hardwood trees such as maple and oak, making a lovely fall time stroll.
All you bird watchers will enjoy the more than 85 species of birds that call the sanctuary their home. In spring, don’t miss the wildflowers that grace the park with every color of the rainbow. Estivant Pines Sanctuary is a great way to get out in nature and enjoy an untouched part of Michigan.
Did we miss any of your favorite places in Michigan?
Let us know in the comments if there are anymore places in Michigan you’d like to see on our list!