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Michigan offers something for just about everyone, from fascinating cultural attractions in its bustling cities to a myriad of outdoor adventures like skiing and snowboarding in some of the most stunning areas of the country. To experience the best it has to offer, consider visiting some of these standout places.
Munising and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Munising, a small town located on the southern shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s gorgeous Upper Peninsula, is the gateway to the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. If you’re looking for a romantic vacation destination to take tranquil strolls along moss-covered paths, listening to the thundering sound of falling water across a brilliant blue lake, this is one of the best destinations in the state to do just that. Munising is home to 15 waterfalls, five lighthouses and many beautiful recreation areas. In addition to hiking, visitors can enjoy kayaking, mountain biking and fishing. During the wintertime, it becomes a wonderland, receiving over 200 inches of snow for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
Glen Arbor and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Located in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the northwest region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula sits the quaint town of Glen Arbor. It is a great place to base your stay and enjoy all of the breathtaking scenery and activities the area has to offer. Named by “Good Morning America” as the “Most Beautiful Place in America,” you’ll find lush forests, picturesque beaches and giant sand dunes. In fact, there are no sand dunes like these to be found anywhere else. They tower over the glistening blue waters, some over 450 feet high, providing jaw-dropping views of the lakes and the islands from the top. Climbing up and then running or rolling down the sand mountains offers an experience you won’t soon forget. Glen Arbor itself is home to some of the best local, regional and nationally acclaimed artists, and their work is displayed in various venues throughout town.
Ann Arbor is a popular weekend getaway in Michigan, home to the University of Michigan. It offers magnificent views of the Huron River and during the warmer months, it provides a wealth of fun outdoor adventures like canoeing, hiking natural trails alongside the water, and picnics on its banks. The city’s Main Street is often ranked as one of the best in the country. It is lined with a wide variety of stores, boutiques and galleries, along with restaurants and cafes to suit every taste. If you’re looking for culture, the University Musical Society offers a range of dance, theater and music productions, while the Ark is internationally renowned for preserving American music and showcasing world music.
Mackinac Island looks like it came out of the pages of a storybook. This spot is where motorized vehicles are prohibited and folks get around on horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. Catch an art show, paddle a kayak out on the bay, get your groove on to live bands or just relax to the peaceful sounds of the waves that gently lap the shore. If you want to explore the lesser-known areas of the island with a local, consider taking a walking tour with Mackinac Revealed.
Set on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay in the northwest region of the state, this “coastal dream town,” as named by Coastal Living Magazine, is filled with locally-owned shops, gourmet eateries and a variety of attractions. It’s also famous for its magnificent architecture with Victorian-style homes and cottages. During the springtime, it’s not unusual to see people hunting at the local beaches for the Petoskey Stone, which is Michigan’s official state stone. But any time of year, you can see spectacular sunsets and mesmerizing views from the marina.
Muskegon is the largest city on the western shores of Lake Michigan, and it boasts 26 miles of sandy beach. The area is home to multiple historical lighthouses, along with two state parks, including Hoffmaster State Park. The park offers outdoor activities like dune climbing, hiking and camping. Muskegon also features multiple museums and historical attractions, like the Hackley & Hume Historic Site which is made up of restored mansions. Just a few miles outside of the city is the state’s largest amusement park, Michigan’s Adventure. Here, visitors can enjoy over 50 different rides, including roller coasters, a water park with wave pools and slides, as well as mini-golf and go-karts.
Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royal National Park includes Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior, as well as some 450 smaller surrounding islands. There are no permanent residents on Isle Royale unless you count the animals. Its diverse array of wildlife includes moose, wolves and a wide variety of other mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. The island is only open to the public during the warmer months of the year, typically between April and October, and to get there, you’ll need to take a ferry or seaplane. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in nature by hiking, kayaking, boating, fishing or camping.
Traverse City is a hub of arts entertainment, hosting the National Cherry Festival annually in July, as well as the Traverse City Film Festival, a six-day event held in July each year founded by Michael Moore that highlights documentaries, indie films and the people who work so hard to create them. Wine enthusiasts will appreciate the two peninsulas just north of the city that hosts nearly 30 wineries, while brew lovers will find a number of outstanding breweries for beer tasting. In town, there is a wealth of dining, shopping and nightlife opportunities too.
Marquette is located in the Upper Peninsula alongside Lake Superior and boasts many different parks, two popular beaches and the opportunity for lots of recreational activities like golf, biking and fishing in the warmer months, and skiing in the winter. The town has even been named the top biking destination in the country. Whether you’re a road or mountain enthusiast, it offers lots of trails, including the 17-mile Marquette City bike path, an urban gem that’s decidedly “un-urban,” the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a challenging route that offers a cross-section of Marquette County’s scenery, history and culture, as well as the Al Quaal’s Red and Blue Trails which afford views of rugged rock formations, dense forest glades, and Teal Lake.
Frankenmuth is known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” This captivating old-world German town hosts the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, and visitors can also enjoy its Franconian-style structures, a wealth of museums and attending festivals with a big German influence. Frankenmuth also plays host to Bavarian Fest, World Expo of Beer, Oktoberfest and Snowfest. The creatively crafted exhibits at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County reveal how a 19th-century French-style castle that once housed a post office became a fantastic place to find out about the area’s history.
The largest city in Michigan offers a wide variety of activities and attractions and is becoming an increasingly popular place to visit after experiencing a revival in recent years. Explore the Renaissance Center, the focal point of the Motor City skyline, which serves as the world headquarters for General Motors. You can take a tour of the seven interconnected skyscrapers to learn the history of this “city within the city,” which offers the chance to shop, dine, catch a movie or even stay overnight in the Detroit Marriott. If you want to delve more into the automobile industry, just outside of the city in Dearborn is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, and you can also tour the Ford Rouge Factory nearby.
Detroit’s museums offer a fascinating insight into the city’s history, including the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the world’s largest museum dedicated to black culture, the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Motown Museum, housed in the original Motown headquarters featuring recording studies, photographs, costumes, records and more from the label’s most successful era. For the most stunning views of Detroit, and neighboring Canada, take a stroll around the 3.5-mile RiverWalk.