Michigan has been my home for most of my life, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. People often ask me what the number one place I recommend visiting within the United States, and I always give the same answer: Michigan! Known as The Great Lakes State, my home is surrounded by more than 20% of the world’s fresh water, which sits within the Great Lakes. Our lakes have been compared to the Caribbean Sea because they are so blue, crystal clear, and beautiful. They’re perfect for sailing on, swimming in, boating, or hiking along, and they’re shark free as we like to point out.
Colonizers and immigrants from all over the world came to Michigan, bringing their European, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures with them, and it has made Michigan a haven for delicious food, fantastic festivals, and experiencing other cultures. Dearborn has the largest Muslim population in the nation, and Novi has one of the largest Asian populations in America. “Mexican Town” in Detroit is home to a large and thriving Hispanic population, Holland, Michigan is famous for their Dutch heritage, and Frankenmuth, Michigan is known as “Little Bavaria” for its German cultural food and festivities. I’ve traveled all over the world, and some of the best food I’ve ever had have been right here in Michigan. This list of 50 of the Best Places to Eat in Michigan will show you just what I mean. With that said, where should a first time visitor to Michigan visit? Here is a list of my favorite towns, villages, and recreation areas in the state, in no particular order.
Ann Arbor is where I attended university, at the University of Michigan, so this city will always hold a special place in my heart. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy some of the best and most competitive collegiate sports like football, rugby, and soccer matches, and there is almost always some sort of concert or musical performance happening in town. There are also plenty of green spaces like Nichols Arboretum or the Matthaei Botanical Gardens which is both indoors and outdoors, and where some classes hold their lab sections, like my ecology classes!
Bay Harbor, Michigan is a beautiful town on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, and offers visitors picturesque views of the lake and sunsets, fine dining, world-class golfing, one of the world’s best marina’s, and it’s home to the Inn at Bay Harbor, which has been named one of the top 500 hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine, among other awards.
With a population of around 2,500 year round residents, Charlevoix is one of the most visited places in Northern Michigan due to its beautiful white sand beaches, fantastic opportunities for sailing, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, paddle boarding and recreating on the water, and because of the abundance of fun and sophisticated things to do in the area, like award-winning wine tastings, unique architecture, and many beautiful outdoor activities and events all year long.
The Motor City is where visitors and locals alike go for major concerts, sporting events, and fine dining. Visit the Detroit Institute of Art’s $9 Billion art collection including works from Picasso, Monet, and van Gogh, walk through the beautiful Anna Scripps Whitcomb Botanical Garden, stay at the beautiful Penthouse Suite of Shinola Hotel where J. Lo herself stayed during her time in Michigan, and check out the North American International Auto Show, if you time your visit to the state just right.
These ice caves form and melt every winter inside of Hiawatha National Forest, and are a beautiful sight to behold. We had the pleasure of hiking to and inside of this cave system, which was an excellent workout in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The farmers who generously open their property to make the hike significantly more convenient also sell snacks and offer restrooms to visitors.
Grand Rapids, home of the world’s largest international art festival, Art Prize, is the nation’s art & beer capital. Explore more than 80 breweries, dozens of museums, and my favorite public garden in the state, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Their Japanese Garden is a beautiful, and tranquil escape from day to day life, and a few times a year visitors can participate in Japanese tea ceremonies.
Harbor Springs is one of the prettiest places to travel within Michigan, and its proximity to incredible beaches, sand dunes, skiing, and sailing means there’s something to do in this charming Great Lakes coastal town all year long, no matter one’s interests.
Holland, Michigan’s Tulip Time Festival is one of my favorite festivals in the state and Holland is just gorgeous year-round. Prior to Tulip Time, the city plants more than 100,000 tulips annually, and during the festival they have a carnival with rides for all ages, and they even have a giant Dutch-style windmill outside of town surrounded by thousands of tulips! The city is located right on the water near a state park, they have great shopping, delicious foods, and the cutest places to stay.
One of my favorite places in Michigan, Mackinac Island was formerly populated by Ottawa people, and now is a major tourist destination. With beautiful views of the Mackinac Bridge and the Straits of Mackinac, incredible stargazing on clear nights, and an abundance of gorgeous hiking trails, bike paths, and fascinating history, the island has so much to offer visitors. Stay at Grand Hotel, with 397 uniquely decorated rooms, on the island for the ultimate island getaway.
My home town, the Petoskey Area, which includes Walloon Lake, Harbor Springs, Bay View, Bay Harbor, and the city of Petoskey itself, is situated on beautiful Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan near “the tip of the ring finger” when looking at your left hand as a map of the state. Home of million dollar sunsets, freshly caught Whitefish, beautiful white sand beaches, and stunning sand dunes and hiking, the Petoskey Area is one of the most beautiful places in the nation.
An hour outside of Traverse City, Michigan, the cherry capital of the world, lies magnificent, towering sand dunes unlike anywhere else in the United States. Good Morning America voted Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore the “Most Beautiful Place in the United States”, and the 72,000 acre preserve is home to some of the largest sand dunes in the world. My husband and I recently spent a day climbing the massive sand dunes at the Dune Climb, hiking along the winding sand paths that stretch for miles in every direction, and standing atop some of the highest and largest sand dunes in the world, all while overlooking gorgeous Lake Michigan.
This 50,000 acre state park is one of my very favorite hikes in the state. The gorgeous falls are reachable by a roughly 3 hour hike, and are roughly 200 feet wide, and is the second most voluminous waterfall in Eastern North America, just behind Niagara Falls! The water color is generally an orange-ish yellow/brown, as a result of tannins leached from cedar swamps at the mouth of the river. Some people even refer to it as the “rootbeer falls” because of the yellowy-brown color of the water and white foam at the base of the falls. Evidently, the water is really great for the skin, and it’s perfectly safe to swim in.
Located along Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes, this city is famous for its cherries and cherry flavored products, its white sugar sand beaches, and crystal clear waters. This is one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Michigan, in part due to its proximity to the Leelanau Peninsula and its wine trails, where many of the grapes and cherries used to make Michigan wines are grown.
This darling village is just outside of Petoskey, located on Walloon Lake, and home of Hotel Walloon. While this village is one of the smallest in the state and there isn’t much to do in the way of typical attractions, the “lack” of structured activities is part of its charm. Cozy up to the fire at Barrel Back restaurant and watch the sunset over the lake, soak in Hotel Walloon’s outdoor hot tub, enjoy beautiful lakeside hikes, and shop at the mini-pop-up shops that dot the village roadsides for a truly unique travel experience, perfect for travelers who enjoy slow traveling.
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