Whether your tastes run more toward outdoor adventures, sports and recreation or music, culture and the arts, Michigan wows visitors of all stripes with a diverse range of offerings to enjoy. Here’s a solid dozen of the best destinations all across the state to consider including on your Michigan travel itinerary.
The Motown Museum
If you’re a Motown fan (and really, who isn’t?), make a pilgrimage to Detroit and immerse yourself in the stories of this legendary recording studio. Hot on the heels of its 60thanniversary in 2019, Hitsville U.S.A. packs a world-class musical experience into its surprisingly humble Grand Boulevard setting. Founded in 1985, the museum is currently in the middle of a major campus expansion project that will bring its total footprint up to 50,000 square feet, updating the existing spaces and adding innovative new features. The list of illustrious artists who’ve passed through these hallowed halls reads like a who’s who list of music history, including the Supremes, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and the Jackson 5. Standing in Studio A, you can still hear echoes of the iconic songs that defined the Motown era. Strike your own “Stop in the Name of Love” pose by the sign out front.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Road trippers from across the Midwest visit—and revisit—Sleeping Bear Dunes at the northwestern tip of the Michigan mainland to drink in the stunning natural scenery from way up on high. The 7.4-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive loop reveals peeks of pristine Glen Lake through deep forest, but the sight of Lake Michigan as it comes into view from the 450-foot-high overlook is the one that will truly take your breath away. Elsewhere within the expansive park site, challenge your leg muscles on the Dune Climb, canoe the Crystal or Platte rivers, and bike the multi-use Heritage Trail from one of a handful of trailheads stationed throughout the park. While you’re there, cruise on up M22 to Leland’s historic Fishtown village, where you can hunt for Petoskey stones on the beach.
Take a step back in time by crossing the Mighty Mac bridge between the upper and lower Michigan peninsulas and then catching a ferry over to beguiling Mackinac Island. No need to worry about bringing a car; motor vehicles are strictly forbidden on the island, preserving a sense of tradition that harks back to long-ago days of leisurely strolls, easy bike journeys, and horse-drawn carriage rides. Surrounded by the picture-perfect waters of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is home to a spectacular display of seasonal blooming lilacs, the gorgeous historic Grand Hotel with the world’s longest front porch (memorialized in the 1980 cult classic “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour), the Revolutionary War-era Fort Mackinac, award-winning restaurants and fudge shops that still make delicious candy the old-fashioned way.
The Big House
Big Ten college football fans should plan to visit Michigan in the fall to cheer on the Wolverines at the Big House in Ann Arbor. With a seating capacity of more than 107,601, the stadium holds rank as the biggest venue of its kind in the entire country, and the third-largest in the world, trailing only behind North Korea’s May Day Stadium and the Motera Stadium in India. Can’t get there for a game? Guided tours of the stadium are offered year-round, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the field, the press box, the locker rooms, and other intriguing nooks and crannies. Afterward, order up a gut-busting, soul-satisfying Reuben or pastrami sandwich at Zingerman’s Deli.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Chase some waterfalls across the Upper Peninsula; there are more than 300 beauties to observe here! Defined by stunning beaches and lakes, this north-border section of the state is famous for its outdoor recreation, from breathtaking hikes, snowmobiling adventures, and thrilling bike trails to horseback riding, camping, skiing, golfing, and winter ice climbing. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. Tahquamenon Falls State Park proposes 50,000 acres to explore studded with picturesque cascades. The photogenic Upper Falls are nearly 50 feet and 200 feet across, making them the biggest in the state.
Life is sweet in the Cherry Capital of the World. The Caribbean-blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay invite guests to enjoy seasonal sporty pursuits like boating, swimming, paddle-boarding, and kayaking. At the same time, the idyllic local terrain feeds orchards, wineries, and a booming culinary scene. Check out tasty snacks and dishes at Little Fleet, a corner-sited group of stationary food trucks; feast on a slice of the signature offering at the Grand Traverse Pie Company for dessert; and propose a toast with a cherry whiskey-based cocktail at the Traverse City Whiskey Co. Stillhouse.
Perched on the banks of Lake Michigan, pretty Holland lives and breathes its namesake heritage with windmills, gardens, wooden shoes, Delft pottery, authentic fare, and other Dutch treats. Tulip Time in May is the most popular time of year to visit if you want to see the flowers in bloom. Still, this friendly town buzzes year-round with a series of festivals and activities that include farmers markets, outdoor summer concerts, the annual Latin American United for Progress (LAUP) Fiesta, art fairs, beachfront fun, parades, and the Dutch WinterFest.
The fine arts are alive and well in Grand Rapids, one of Michigan’s most thriving cultural scenes spanning museums, theater, music, dance, and spoken word performances. The international ArtPrize competition in the fall attracts a whopping 400,000 attendees to town to admire and appreciate entries displayed at venues all across the city. In the meantime, visitors can explore the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum all year long.
The Iron Belle Trail
Saddle up your bike or lace up your hiking boots to explore the longest state-designated trail in the country. The Iron Belle Trail offers two paths to follow starting from the northernmost trailhead in Ironwood, both concluding at a southern terminus in Belle Isle, Detroit, an ambitious 1,259-mile hiking route that includes the North Country National Scenic Trail and the 774-mile bike trail. All told, the 48 counties you’ll discover along the way reveal a diverse cross-section sampling of some of the best scenery, food, and amenities Michigan has to offer.
The Henry Ford
For an immersive look at the Motor City’s proud automotive culture and a whole lot more, plan on allotting at least one full day to cover the grounds at the Henry Ford in Dearborn. Between the Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, this comprehensive facility offers three distinct visitor experiences on its expansive 250-acre campus. A few museum highlights include the Rosa Parks bus, Presidential motorcade vehicles, various planes, trains, automobiles, race cars, and a circular Dymaxion house. Greenfield Village brings history to life with 80 acres of recreated 19th-century structures and four working farm sites. Wrap things up with a nuts-and-bolts look at how the iconic Ford 150 truck takes shape from factory floor to showroom.
Its location just across the Indiana state line makes South Haven an attractive, easily accessible introduction to Michigan’s string of western beach towns for travelers driving in from points south. Highlighted with sugary sand beaches, wineries, family-friendly parks, golf courses, inland lakes, craft breweries, maritime attractions, bike trails, and restaurants, South Haven holds all the trappings of an ideal long weekend.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Another Upper Peninsula treasure, this Lake Superior stretch near Munising features 42 miles of unique natural landscapes and water views rooted in multi-hued sandstone cliffs, soaring dunes, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks. Hike through the northern woodlands, canoe the clear waters of the deepest Great Lake, camp in the rustic backcountry, and test your ice climbing legs in the winter. Must-see spots and photo ops include the Chapel Rock formation and Chapel Falls, Grand Portal Point, Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Munising Falls, and the East Channel Lighthouse.