Though we may be biased, Michigan is truly a state unlike any other. Whether you're looking for a getaway with your best friends or a family-friendly adventure, these quintessential Michigan destinations are a great way to see all that the Great Lakes State has to offer.
Whether you know it best as the Motor City, Motown or simply The D, Detroit and its spirit are irreplicable. Head to the Detroit Institute of Arts to appreciate world class works of art; feel the soul at Hitsville U.S.A. and the Motown Museum; see priceless historic artifacts at the Henry Ford in nearby Dearborn; stroll the RiverWalk downtown; visit the Belle Isle Aquarium; and more.
Be sure to dine in Mexicantown and grab a coney from Lafayette or American Coney Island (which is best remains a hot topic). Don't leave without sipping a cocktail at the remarkably styled Candy Bar inside of the equally as fashionable Siren Hotel—trust us.
Less than 100 miles north, all the Bavarian vibes could be found in Frankenmuth. While the city is mostly top of mind around the holidays (thanks to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland), Frankenmuth has plenty to offer all year round. From early May through mid-October, hop aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat for a relaxing cruise along the Cass River; marvel at the more than 25 colorful hot air balloons in the sky for Balloons Over Bavarian Inn in late May; and take in all the German heritage at the annual Frankenmuth Oktoberfest in September.
If shopping is your thing, be sure to peruse the quaint stores and boutiques of River Place Shops before refueling with a world-famous chicken dinner at Zehnder's or enjoying a craft brew and brat at Frankenmuth Brewery. Don't forget after-dinner drinks at Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie.
Venture a couple hours west to Holland, home to the stunning beaches of Holland State Park and the iconic "Big Red" lighthouse. Spend the night camping there, or make your way downtown where you'll find locally owned establishments like the Holland Peanut Store, which offers everything you could want in the form of freshly roasted nuts, sweet confections and nostalgic treats.
Of course, we have to mention Holland's Tulip Time Festival, which is attended by over 400,000 people annually in early May. The eight-day festival that's been around for over 90 years is known for celebrating the area's Dutch heritage through a variety of events, in addition to the visual beauty that is six million tulips in bloom at once. Continue exploring Holland's Dutch heritage with stops at Windmill Island Gardens and Nelis' Dutch Village.
Head north along the coast of Lake Michigan—including on the delightful M-22 Scenic Highway—to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a stunning and rare natural wonder that never fails to impress. From hiking the hilly (yet supremely rewarding) Empire Bluff Trail 400 feet above Lake Michigan and stargazing at night to hunting for morels and stand-up paddle boarding, there's plenty of outdoor fun to discover. You could even take it all in from above with a helicopter tour! In addition to several lighthouses, don't forget to take in some of the area's history with stops at the Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum in Glen Haven and the Empire Area Museum Center.
Continue east for less than 30 miles and you'll end up in Traverse City, a can't-miss Michigan staple. Because this well loved destination is situated along the 45th parallel (same as Italy's Piedmont region and Bordeaux, France) wine is the name of the game here, as evidenced by the area's over 40 award-winning wineries. Tours and tasting opportunities abound!
Stay and play at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, where you can tee off at one of three first-class golf courses before booking yourself one (or several) relaxing spa treatments; fat bike and cross-country ski outdoors in the wintertime; attend the National Cherry Festival celebrating the area's abundant crop in early July; and much more.
Continue about 100 miles north to visit Michigan's crown jewel, Mackinac Island. Hop on the ferry from Mackinaw City, and upon arrival, purchase some rich Mackinac Island fudge, dine on the patio at Pink Pony, and admire the beauty of the live insects found inside the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House.
Remember: No cars allowed! Take a horse-drawn carriage landmark tour; bike the perimeter of the island and see Arch Rock; plan your stay during the annual Lilac Festival in June; and more. Staying overnight? Popular choices include the stately Grand Hotel—home to the world's longest porch—and Mission Point Resort, which recently underwent several renovations this past winter.
Take the ferry—this time to St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula—to venture to the north coast along Lake Superior to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It's here visitors can appreciate miles of colorful sandstone cliffs that tower 50 to 200 feet above the water, in addition to landmarks such as Miner's Castle and Chapel Rock. Go kayaking to see the shoreline from a new perspective and even see some shipwrecks below, thanks to Lake Superior's supremely clear water.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Apr/May '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.
Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan.