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Blue is the dominant color in Michigan, a state hugged by four out of five Great Lakes. While Detroit’s industrial grittiness and automotive prowess (and subsequent decline) may pop up immediately when you think of this Midwest state, it offers much more. Comprised of two peninsulas connected by the spectacular Mackinac Bridge, it’s a land of incredible natural attractions, picturesque coastal towns, campgrounds and glamping spots, vibrant artistic neighborhoods, refreshing islands, and unlimited exploration. These fabulous cheap weekend getaways in Michigan will allow you to discover the state without spending a fortune.
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Traverse City is the cherry on top of the best cheap weekend getaways in Michigan. Quite literally. Located in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, it’s probably most well-known for its production of tart cherries and holds the record for being the largest supplier of this sour fruit in the U.S. Traverse City celebrates this fact by throwing an annual National Cherry Festival in July. Apart from that, this town is famous for its wine, boasting many wineries, including the Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, one of the best wineries in the Midwest. Traverse City is right at the center of the Old Mission Peninsula wine region. Add its fantastic location next to Lake Michigan’s blue expanse, the vibrant restaurant scene, and the abundance of historic architecture and there’s no doubt that this is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway in Michigan.
Millions of Tulips await you in Holland, a unique and beautiful Dutch culture outpost quite bizarrely found in western Michigan. Of course, the best time to visit and see the flowers in full bloom would be May, when the Tulip Time Festival takes place – one of the most fun things to do in Michigan in the Spring. But Holland is a fantastic and cheap weekend getaway any time of year. There are many cool sights to see and exciting things to do. Take a walk through the photogenic restaurant-filled Downtown for a quirky fusion of Midwest and Dutch styles, learn more about the town’s history at the Holland Museum, and enjoy a break in nature at the beautifully landscaped Centennial Park. The absolute must-visit is Windmill Island, where you can find the tulips and the picturesque De Zwaan, a traditional old Dutch windmill. For fresh air, head to scenic Holland State Park on Lake Michigan with its magnificent Ottawa Beach, a campground, and the iconic red Holland Harbor Lighthouse nearby.
When it comes to getting away on a budget in Michigan, there are some advantages to picking Grand Rapids for your trip. The prices are more affordable, the crowds are nonexistent, and you’re getting one of the most exciting cities in the Midwest. First and foremost, Grand Rapids has become the ultimate beer destination in recent years. The brew scene is fantastic; you can easily find a brewery for every budget. Some of them are truly exceptional, like The Mitten Brewing Company, set in a former Victorian firehouse, Brewery Vivant, inside a former historic funeral home, and Founders Brewing Co that produces a wide range of beers and serves them in a modern tap hall. The annual ArtPrize Festival takes place at the end of September, leaving locations throughout the city to the mercy of artists from all over the world. Finally, visit the magnificent Frederik Meijer Gardens with Rodin sculptures and pretty landscaping.
Lansing is always a great idea for a cheap family weekend getaway in Michigan, conveniently located in the heart of the state. Kids love the Impression 5 Science Center, filled with lots of interactive exhibits and fun. Potter Park Zoo is another city highlight inviting you on a tour of threatened and endangered animals where you can see everything from snow leopards and penguins to tigers. Also, you’ve got its fascinating attractions like the Michigan State Capitol with its impressive dome, the Lansing Art Gallery that houses works of Michigan artists, and the contemporary Michigan History Center that offers a thrilling tour of the state’s past.
Free to visit but no cars allowed, Mackinac Island State Park is one of the most striking and popular places to visit in Michigan. And that is for a good reason. This place is a fascinating combination of nature and history. The ferries from Mackinaw City and St Ignace take you to this marvelous Lake Huron island, boasting old forts, historic houses, and unlimited outdoor enjoyment opportunities. The transportation on the island is a part of the charm. You can either choose a horse-driven carriage or embark on a cycling journey around the island. Be sure to hike to the Arch Rock, a stunning limestone formation that provides a natural window to the emerald waters of Lake Huron.
One of the most inspirational destinations in Michigan, Saugatuck is filled with natural beauty and urban pleasantries. The crescendo of its allure is the Oval Beach, a scenic Lake Michigan beach that simply must be enjoyed. Get to the top of Mount Baldhead nearby for the best vistas over this charming Michigan corner. Ever since the 19th century, Saugatuck has enjoyed the fame of an artists’ colony, and today you can find many galleries dotting the cityscape. Explore the historic architecture of the Water Street and enjoy the many quaint cafes and eateries. For an even more authentic experience, take an old-school hand-cranked Saugatuck Chain Ferry across the Kalamazoo River.
The sight of sandy dunes meeting the blue-and-green waters of Lake Michigan is an unforgettable scene. One of the most gorgeous places to visit in Michigan and home to some of the best beaches in the Midwest, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an absolute must if you’re looking for a natural escape. You’ve got 32,500 acres of pure, unrestricted beauty with pristine beaches, countless hiking trails, camping grounds, dune climbs, and lighthouses. Come here for Lake Michigan swimming, kayaking, scenic cycling along the shore, challenging climbing to reach mind-blowing views, and lots of scuba diving opportunities. For even more beauty, you can take a ferry to the untouched North and South Manitou Islands that also form part of the national park.
“You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City” suggest the glam rockers KISS, and that’s a great ode to the legendary D. Detroit has a long list of achievements. It has lived through highs and lows, given birth to the Motown genre, developed a distinct techno sound, and reemerged from the industrial decline stronger than ever via a cultural renaissance. If you’re looking for a cheap getaway in Michigan, this city is here to offer its services. As a megalopolis, you’ve got a diverse mix of things to do between the city’s restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs, and museums. The breadth of options will allow you to choose the ones that fit your budget. Get to the heart of Detroit culture at Motown Museum, admire art masterpieces at Detroit Institute of Arts, see Federal architecture at Corktown (the city’s oldest neighborhood), and explore the endless culinary offerings and non-stop attitude of energetic Downtown Detroit.
The first and foremost natural attraction of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s literally one of the most drop-dead gorgeous places in America. An unforgettable display of pure beauty, the mighty waterfalls descend into the Lake Superior waters alongside otherworldly multicolored rock formations. The air is the freshest of the fresh, too. Paddle up and see the arches on a kayaking trip, arguably the most scenic way to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, go on a hiking trip to find the many park’s gorgeous falls, and don’t forget to take a dip in the Lake Superior waters. There are plenty of pristine beaches to choose from.
The biggest city of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and one of the best places to stay near Lake Superior, Marquette is also quite a tiny town of little more than 20,000 inhabitants. What it doesn’t have in size, it has in fantastic outdoors. Lake Superior, in all its blue freshwater glory, is there for you to enjoy. There are miles of walking trails next to the water in Marquette, as well as a fantastic local food and drinks scene to discover. Reach the top of Mount Marquette Overlook for sublime views of the surroundings and be sure to explore Presque Isle Park with dramatic cliffs and even more magnificent Lake Superior vistas.
There are U.S. national parks frequented by millions. And then there’s Isle Royal, holding a proud record of being the least-visited national park in the contiguous United States. It’s not because this place is not worth it. Quite the opposite, it’s overwhelmingly dazzling. The reason for such low popularity is that it’s one of the most remote national parks in the U.S., therefore reaching Isle Royal requires some time sailing by ferry through Lake Superior. Also, there’s not much civilization once you’ve reached the shore. Is it worth going to? Absolutely. Isle Royale is as wild as it gets, with miles of untouched forests, spectacular lake views, long hiking trails, and the true feeling of desolation. The latter is rarely found these days, so if it’s something you’re craving for a weekend trip, give it a shot. The nature is entirely free to enjoy. Be aware that the park closes during winter, and bikes are not allowed. Catch a ferry from Houghton and Copper Harbor in Michigan or Grand Portage and Grand Marais in Minnesota.
Plenty of pretty historic buildings, a youthful atmosphere, fantastic gastronomy, and forward-looking attitudes define Ann Arbor. But what else can you really expect from a college town? The University of Michigan is located here, and you definitely should tour its Central Campus Historic District for some amazing Late Victorian and Art Deco buildings. As one of the best college football towns in the U.S., football fans probably know Ann Arbor as home to The Big House, the biggest stadium in the United States with a whopping capacity of 107,601. Located only 40 miles from Detroit, this city is the perfect cheap weekend getaway for a relaxing small-town break.