Michigan is one of the most diverse and beautiful places to visit in the United States. The beautiful ‘Mitten State’ offers unparalleled opportunities to hike, bike, explore, eat and photograph throughout all four seasons of the year. Below are four of our favorite things to do in Michigan today, or really any day!
Explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes, located along the scenic west side of the state, boasts unparalleled views of Lake Michigan and heart-pounding dune climbs. The dunes offer several hiking trails, scenic drives, unbelievable photographic opportunities and fun for everyone. To reach the dunes, you will travel along route M-22, voted “America’s Number One Best Scenic Autumn Drive” by USA Today.
Inspiration Point, located in Arcadia, is one of the best (and easiest) ways to see jaw-dropping views of Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. There are several stairs leading up to the boardwalk vantage point but it is definitely worth the effort. The stop is free with plenty of parking and great views even if you don’t climb the stairs.
Point Betsie Lighthouse, located in Frankfort, is another fantastic not-to-be-missed attraction along Sleeping Bear Dunes. The views from the lighthouse are just spectacular as you can sit along the break wall and watch the crystal-clear blue waves crash along the shoreline. Point Betsie Lighthouse was built in 1858 at the southern entrance to the Manitou Passage.
Traverse City is an outdoor adventurers’ and foodie haven as the vibrant city is home to scenic beaches on Grand Traverse Bay, exciting Tall Ship excursions, vast hiking and biking trails, and world-class restaurants. Traverse City’s claim to fame is the breathtaking sight of over two million bright red cherry trees covering the countryside each May. During this time, a month-long celebration invites wine lovers to enjoy tastings and winery events across the city.
If you wish to see the exquisite cherry blossoms, we recommend exploring the Leelanau region as some of the best areas are north and west of Suttons Bay, where the curving roads are very scenic and perfect for bicycling. The Leelanau Trail, which connects Traverse City to Suttons Bay will take you past several beautiful cherry orchards. If you didn’t bring a bike, there are several bike shops in town that will rent them for your excursion.
If you love cherries, the National Cherry Festival is an event you will not want to miss. The festival draws over 500,000 people each July to watch exciting air shows, see NASA exhibits, explore the region and of course, eat everything cherry.
Traverse City is also the heart of wine country as it is the gateway to Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas. Iron Chef Mario Batali owns a scenic lakeside home on the Leelanau Peninsula. After a day of wine tasting, we love exploring the Old Mission Lighthouse and park, and later dining on locally caught buttery whitefish.
Mackinac Island, located at the northernmost tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula is the perfect destination for adventurers, nature lovers and photographers. The island is rich in history, hiking trails, scenic views, nostalgic churches and natural wonders. Visitors to the island enjoy exploring the downtown area filled with entertainment, restaurants and novelty stores. Don’t forget to try the famous Mackinac Island Fudge!
Mackinac island can only be reached by boat or ferry which adds to the excitement of visiting. The ride is only 20 minutes long and special rides, usually the early morning excursions, will take you under the famous Mackinaw Bridge. We always get there early to make sure we can enjoy one-of-a-kind views under the bridge.
Upon arriving at the island, we always eat at the Pink Pony, an iconic restaurant with outside seating and great views of the ferries coming in and out of the port. Their salads and burgers are excellently and quickly prepared. After an early lunch, we like to grab some snacks at the downtown grocery store and bike around the perimeter of the island.
Every inch of the 8.3-mile perimeter offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, the Mackinaw Bridge and crashing beach waves. We love eating snacks of cheese sticks and carrots while sitting in a tree-lined secluded spot on the beach. Nothing beats the feeling of fresh air, sun on your skin and the sound of waves lapping along the shoreline.
Another must-see on Mackinac Island is Fort Mackinac, which served as a military outpost and homes for soldiers and their families. There are fourteen buildings that were meticulously restored that can be toured by the public. My favorite building is the barracks which demonstrates how good we have it in our own homes!
Fort Mackinac is an awesome way to learn about the history of the fort and the island. Be sure to check the schedule so you don’t miss the daily demonstrations. As an added bonus, the views from the fort are the best on the island!
If you love pretzels and all things Bavarian, you will love visiting Frankenmuth. One of the top Michigan attractions located on the southeast side of Michigan, this quaint town is like stepping back in time. Keep your eyes open for quaint leather shops, taffy stores, breweries and glockenspiels.
We love that you can park once and explore the entire town by foot. Be sure to visit Bronners, the World’s Largest Christmas store for amazing handmade ornaments and decorations for your home. Another must-do while visiting Frankenmuth is taking a ride on the Bavarian Belle Riverboat, a family-owned boating company that will wow you with amazing wildlife and views along the Cass River.
Before you leave Frankenmuth, be sure to explore the River Place Shops for popcorn, sample some bourbon, find gifts for your pets and indulge in delicious cupcakes. Speaking of cupcakes, SugarHigh Bakery was the winner of Season 7 Cupcake Wars on Food Network! Be sure to stop in for a delicious sweat treat.
Of course, Frankenmuth’s claim to fame is their world-famous fried chicken. You can’t go wrong choosing either the Bavarian Inn or Zehnder’s of Frankemuth restaurants (across the street from each other) for a fantastic meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, tender noodles and oodles of side dishes. The servers are dressed in traditional Bavarian outfits, adding to the charm and Bavarian experience.