If you love Adventure, then you would love Michigan. We have everything here and it’s all within a short drive from wherever you are. There are the Great Lakes which I refer to as “Michigan’s Ocean”, Hiking or Snowmobile trails, tons of inland lakes, Wine and Ale Trails, and lots of other great activities. I probably sound like a Pure Michigan Ad!
Believe it or not, I moved away from Michigan to North Carolina for a time to be near my family. The 80’s were hard for Michigan because we were a largely automotive state. The economy went south and all the automotive plants started laying people off. My Dad was one of those people. My parents ended up in North Carolina because there was work there. North Carolina was a great state too, but it never really felt like home.
But as economies do, things picked back up for Michigan and she started reinventing herself. Agritourism became one of our leading industries in Michigan. Wine Trails started to develop across the state. Craft Breweries popped up everywhere. Adding to the abundance of farms and orchards in our state, we had found a new way to support ourselves here. I have been back in Good Old Michigan for over 20 years now. I missed the seasons, and all the that she has to offer. No regrets moving back!
Yesterday I got so excited when I went to the Mailbox because the Fall Edition of Pure Michigan Magazine was there. I love to go through it page by page searching for nuggets to plan a long weekend or day trip with Mark. I look for new hotels, fun activities, festivals or unique foodie experiences to try. Michigan never gets boring to me.
I also get excited in April when the new Michigan Wine Country Magazine comes out. It’s another great tool I use for planning little Adventures. We currently have 5 different wine trails throughout the state.
Fun Fact: I have worked part time at a local winery for over 8 years.
We Michiganders embrace the seasons and tend to be “Outdoors People.” There are so many things to do outside like snow skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, fishing, kayaking or just spending a day at one of our beautiful sandy beaches. We really get out there and do things all year long. You can explore ship wrecks, Lighthouses, go on “color tours” or follow one of the beer or wine trails any time for a day trip or long weekend adventure.
Top 10 Places I love in Michigan
#10 – Frankenmuth
Frankenmuth is referred to as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” The buildings all have that charming and ornate Bavarian style. There are endless festivals and activities here all year long including a 5K called the Lederhosen Run during their Oktoberfest. Many shops feature Bavarian foods including the famous Chicken Dinners served by Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn. Girls clad in Bavarian costumes serve you German style ale and all you can eat servings of the delicious chicken and sides. Don’t skip dessert!
Additionaly you will find Frankenmuth Brewery, St. Julian’s Winery, Horse Drawn Carriage Rides and Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Bronner’s boasts being the World’s Largest Christmas store. It is filled with room after room of ornaments and decor, and it really is a wonderland.
This is a really family friendly place to visit. The town becomes full of families any time there is a long weekend break in the school schedule. It is a Reasonably priced place that is easy to get to and full of activities for all ages. Some Hotels really cater to the kiddie crowd.
The Bavarian Inn – A Bavarian-themed family resort. 7 acres under one roof! Featuring 4 indoor pools, 2 indoor water slides, 3 whirlpools, 360 unique guest rooms located on the Cass River. We are connected to downtown Frankenmuth by Michigan’s largest wooden covered bridge. Enjoy the fun of indoor water park amenities & fun center amenities including indoor 18-hole mini golf; 150 video game arcade; children’s play village. The Lodge includes two lounges, two gift shops, nightly free entertainment, the Ratskeller Cafe and Oma’s Restaurant.
Zehnder’s Splash Village – Zehnder’s offers 178 deluxe accommodations and a Waterpark. Waterpark passes are included with all overnight stays.
#9 – The Upper Peninsula
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is filled with Hiking and ATV Trails, Waterfalls, Lighthouses, and is some of the most beautiful country you will ever see. The UP is nature at it’s best, surrounded by the Great Lakes and filled with tall trees, mountains and inland streams. Whatever your favorite outdoor activity is, this is the perfect place to do it.
Hint: You can find plenty of driving tour maps online. Make sure you plan ahead for your lodging since there aren’t a lot of hotels and they are pretty spread out.
Here are some of the top Sites to visit in the UP:
- Taquamenon Falls
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- Isle Royale National Park
- Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie
- Porcupine Mountains
Grab your backpack, your road map and some comfy shoes and head up to the UP to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in our great state.
#8 – Detroit
Detroit. The Motor City. The home of Motown. This city has a lot of very cool history. Unfortunately, what most people think of when they hear Detroit, is crime, poverty and crumbling buildings. Folks, there are areas like that in ALL big cities! That is NOT what Detroit is about.
The city has had some bad luck over the years with the strain on the auto industry, corrupt politicians, deteriorating schools and bankruptcy. But Forward thinking businessmen like Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and Mike Ilitch of Little Caesars Pizza (and owner of several of our Sports franchises) have really helped Detroit take steps to come back from adversity. The down town areas has been redevoloped and it is now quite beautiful.
Anthony Bourdain thought Detroit was beautiful and magnificent. He was working on a documentary of the city before he died. In 2013 he did a great job depicting the city’s climb back up from despair on Parts Unknown: Detroit. It was really moving.
Detroit has a lot to offer visitors like a Zoo, The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Museum, multiple Casinos, major concert and theater venues and so much more. It is a city that has come back to life. Trendy food joints have come to Detroit like Wahlburgers, Buddy’s Pizza and the Texas de Brazil Steakhouse and are worth exploring. It wouldn’t be Michigan without a few Breweries as well, like Atwater or Motor City Brewing.
Detroit’s Sports Teams:
- The Lions – Football
- The Tigers – Baseball
- The Red Wings – Hockey
- The Pistons – Basketball
So don’t let Detroit’s bad reputation keep you from coming for a visit and seeing what this city really has to offer. I don’t think it will disappoint you!
#7 – Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor is a vibrant and artsy city. Because it is home to the University of Michigan campus it has a young, multicultural community. Arts and entertainment flourish here and Ann Arbor is one of the trendiest places in Michigan. With a large and affluent population, small businesses really get a chance to grow and thrive here.
Since the population is very diverse, you can find restaurants featuring any ethnicity of food you can imagine. I personally have had Jamaican, Middle Eastern, Cuban, Tibetan, French and German meals all within the last year. I am a gastronomical explorer!
With the U of M being in Ann Arbor, there are plenty of sports to enjoy. But Ann Arbor also has beautiful parks, bike and walking trails, and ample outdoor space to enjoy. In addition because it is a college town, there are Funky Bars, Hipster Breweries, and a happening social scene after dark.
The Ann Arbor Art Fair takes over the streets annually for 3 days. People come from all over to check out this huge event. Ann Arbor also hosts a wide range of other festivals ranging from Greek Fest, Taste of Ann Arbor to the famous Hash Bash every year.
#6 – Mackinaw City, Mackinaw Island and the Mighty Mac
One thing these places all have in common….Fudge! So much fudge.
The Mackinaw Bridge – First opened to traffic in 1957 at 5 miles long, it was the longest suspension bridge in the WORLD. Now it is between Third and Fifth depending on who you ask. They host a Labor Day Bridge walk annually.
Mackinaw City – Tons of hotels with plenty of on site activities and views of the Mackinaw Bridge. Visit the Colonial Michilimackinac fur trading village, hop on a boat for a cruise under the Mackinaw Bridge, Play a round of mini golf and so much more. This place has all the Beach Holiday attractions you could ask for.
Mackinaw Island – Plan to get around via Horse and Buggy, Bicycle or on foot when staying on Mackinaw Island. Stay in the famous Grand Hotel, visit Fort Mackinac, play golf, shop or enjoy the nightlife.
The close proximity of these 3 sites would allow you to plan a vacation where you explore them all. Both Mackinaw Island and Mackinaw City have different things to offer vacationers.
#5 – Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids is a beautiful and very progressive city that offers a little bit of everything. They are known in Michigan as Beer City due to the large number of Breweries concentrated in the area.
Watch for my Grand Rapids Brewery Post 10/23!
Grand Rapids has Concert Venues, Museums, a Hockey Team, a zoo, wonderful Restaurants and trendy hotels. If you stay in a hotel downtown, you can easily walk to most anything you want to see or do. Great place for an overnight visit or long weekend.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is located is located in Grand Rapids.
#4 – Southwest Michigan
Berrien Springs –St Joseph -Coloma
So Michigan has two major roads, I-94 that runs East/West across the state and US 127 that runs North/South right up the middle. They intersect quite near me which makes Michigan travel a breeze. Hopping on I-94 West I can reach the Southwest corner of the state in about 90 minutes.
Since this area has many large scale fruit farms, I love to travel this way in the summer when the blueberries, cherries or peaches are in season. Being a country girl, I love to go out to the u-pick sites and harvest my own fruit. It’s not only more fun, but it’s cheaper that way too. It makes a nice pit stop on a day trip where we are heading to one of the beaches in St. Joseph or going wine tasting in Berrien Springs or Coloma. The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail offers an extensive list of wineries for people to explore.
Hint: If you stop in Coloma for fruit or wine tasting don’t miss the Chocolate Garden just down the road. They make amazing hand crafted chocolate creations. Yum!
Hint: A great place to visit is Round Barn Winery. They converted an old Round Barn that they moved to the property into a fabulous tasting room for their house made wines and spirits. You can also find a Beer Barn where they offer their own hand crafted beers on tap. In the summer they have entertainment on the lawn most weekends and you can get Wine Slushies!
#3 – Harbor Springs
Just north of Petoskey, you can wind your way along M-119’s famous Tunnel of Trees. Since it is one of Michigan’s best color tour drives, it’s best to plan your trip in the fall when the leaves are in full color.
Don’t miss having some of the best Polish food in Cross Village at the end of this gorgeous drive. Legs Inn has been family run restaurant for over 90 years and serves up great Polish Beer as well as a wonderful menu of Polish classics.
Hint: The wait time for a table can be a bit long so take a few minutes to go outside and enjoy the great view of the Lake or visit the Outpost for a little local shopping. Make sure you check their website before your trip because they close for the season in late October.
#2 – Glen Arbor
Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore has won the title of “Good Morning America’s” Most Beautiful Place in America. I agree. This area is a great place to have an outdoors adventure for everybody. You will find something for everyone in Glen Arbor.
You will find sand dunes, canoe and kayak liveries, bicycling, inland lakes, and the most quaint little town. This seaside village offers clever shops and restaurants creating an inviting area to explore. The main Cherry Republic compound is found here boasting a Winery, Ice Cream Parlor, Cafe, Fudge Shop, and a General Store that features all of their Mail Order products displayed so that you can taste them. The compound is surrounded by lovely gardens and a cherry pit spitting contest area. You don’t get to be Cherry Republic without a few pits!
In addition to Lake Michigan, you will find Glen Lake here as well. It is a very large inland lake offering great opportunities for fishing, boating or kayaking. There are a variety of different Hiking Trails available nearby as well as my very favorite beach of all .
Hint: See if you can find this hidden gem of a beach when you visit Glen Arbor. Your State Park pass won’t be enough here, you will need a NATIONAL Park pass. Or you can fill out a form and put $5 cash in an envelope in the box at the entrance.
#1 – Traverse City Area
Wow. If you have never been to Traverse City, Michigan you have no idea what you have been missing. This is MY PLACE. Everyone has one. The place that thoroughly excites you when you start planning your trip there. We have been visiting TC for as long as I can remember. I know my way around like as if it were my own town.
That being said, I try not to stay in the same place every time we go, because they have so many different places all with different features. We also try to find at least new place to eat in addition to visiting our favorites. It helps keep that feeling of exploration alive. Traverse city is found at the top center of the mitten state and contains 2 peninsulas. The Leelenau and the Old Mission. You can’t choose wrong when taking a drive on either. The views of the lakes, orchards and vineyards are breathtaking.
Both peninsulas have their own wine trails. The Leelenau Peninsula Wine Trail and the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula. Wine is a booming industry in TC and new vineyards and wineries are always popping up. We try to visit a few of our old favorites and explore a new one or two on each of our trips. If you are on the Old Mission Peninsula, don’t miss a chance to have dinner at the Jolly Pumpkin or The Mission Table Restaurant. Both are located together on the West side of the Peninsula. Jolly Pumpkin offers a selection of their own line of craft beers served alongside great Entrees, Gourmet Pizzas and my favorite Pulled Pork Nachos.
The Leelenau Peninsula ends just above Northport at the Leelenau State Park which features one of Michigan’s many lighthouses. The winding drive up M-22 takes you alongside the West Bay of Lake Michigan and through some great towns like Suttons Bay. All along the way you will find Wineries, Cider houses, Breweries and fresh fruit in the summer.
Hint: A Wine trail map or guidebook is handy on the Leelenau Peninsula if you plan to explore the interior wineries. Even a seasoned traveler here can get turned around in the countryside here.
Traverse City’s downtown is amazing. It is a Foodie mecca. Any type of food you can imagine done as well as you will find it anywhere in our state. They even have a food truck lot with a seating area. Blocks and blocks of the most interesting shops to explore and the famous State Theater if you want to take in a movie. There is a great Ale Trail in TC and you can get a Beer Passport that they will stamp when you visit. After you get a certain number of stamps, you turn it in for a prize. They also offer Paddle For Pints a day trip involving kayaks (and or bicycles) and breweries. These book up fast so if you are interested make your reservation as soon as you reserve your hotel stay.
Outside of downtown are more areas filled with shopping, mini golf, breweries and a renovated Insane Asylum. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons was once an insane asylum that was refurbished and now houses Breweries, Wineries, Unique shops and Stella a premier dining venue.
When taking a drive (which is a must) in any direction in Traverse City, you will see why it is called The Cherry Capital of the World. TC offers many festivals all year long, but the most famous is the National Cherry Festival each year in July. Take a look at this link to see all the cherry shenanigans that happen over the course of a full week in the Bay area.
There are a lot of neighboring communities to visit from your TC base camp. We have talked about Harbor Springs and Glen Arbor, but Petoskey, Charlevoix and Bellaire are just a short drive north up the East Bay. If you make this drive, you will pass between Lake Michigan’s East Bay and Torch Lake. It is Michigan’s longest inland lake formed by a glacier. Since it has much surface area and many sandbars, it is a great party lake inviting flotillas of boats and rafts every summer. Right in the middle of the East side of Torch Lake is Bellaire. A lovely little town to explore buy most noted of late for one of Michigan’s premier Breweries. Shorts Brewing is one of my favorites because they make a lot of very creative small batch craft beers. They have expanded through 3 buildings and have great food and a gift shop as well as their amazing beer.
Hint: Watch for My Michigan Brewery and Winery Series Starting in October!
As you can see, I get a little enthusiastic when talking about Traverse City.
I put lots of links in this post to help you plan a Pure Michigan trip of your own.
Hope you do!