Are you seeking amazing things to do in Michigan? Of course, there is! Michigan is full of beautiful beaches, wild forests, plenty of lighthouses, and the freshest berries in the summer.
Michigan is known as the ‘Great Lakes State’ and the ‘Mitten State.’ I bet you could guess why if you looked at a map too! Michigan’s mitten shape is surrounded by four Great Lakes: Huron, Superior, Erie, and Michigan.
Even the Ojibwa word for Michigan is Michi Gami, a large lake. So any visit to Michigan should include a visit to one of the great lakes. Aside from digging toes on the beach, there are many other things to do in Michigan.
MICHIGAN AT A GLANCE
- When is the best time to visit: Summertime in Michigan cannot be beaten. Plan your trip between June and September. Although fall in Michigan during October is like something out of a movie scene.
- What are some of the top things to do in Michigan: Christmas in Frankenmuth, enjoy the beach in Grand Haven, wander the boutiques in Saugatuck.
- How to get around: Like most states, you’ll need your own car for any intercity travel in Michigan. Having an RV or campervan is also a popular way to explore in the summer. Outdoorsy is a fantastic website to search for van rentals.
- Beaches to visit: Mackinaw City Beach Access and Cheboygan State Park.
- Movies set in Michigan: It Follows (horror), 8 Mile, Detroit, and Gran Torino.
- Books set in Michigan: Song of Solomon, My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island, and Middlesex.
The Best Things to do in Michigan
Starting off this list of best places to visit in Michigan is the beautiful town of Petoskey! Petoskey is in northwestern Michigan and sits right on Lake Michigan. It’s about three hours away from the capital, so it makes for a great weekend destination for those in the city.
Petoskey is a popular vacation destination as it is one of the most charming small towns in Michigan, with plenty of things to do for everyone. In the summer, the town particularly comes alive when strolling downtown, and having a drink on a patio is a popular pastime.
Some of the best things to do in Petoskey include searching for the famous Petoskey Stone, which is unique to the shores around the Great Lakes and is what the town is named after. It’s also fun to taste local wines of the Petoskey wine region or hang out on the beach!
Traverse City sits at the southern end of Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. It was founded in 1852 and is home to just 15,000 residents. It’s a charming town in Michigan and one of the most popular places to visit in the state!
Traverse City is well known in Michigan for its fresh produce, farms, and Michigan cherry! They even have a huge cherry pie pan on Cass Road, 18 feet wide and 26 feet deep.
Traverse City has some of the best restaurants in the entire state, making it a romantic place to head in Michigan. There are plenty of fun things to do in Traverse City, like climb the steps of Mission Point Lighthouse and enjoying a show at the retro Traverse City State Theatre.
Frankenmuth is known throughout Michigan for two things. A quirky Bavarian-inspired town and home to Bronner’s, the largest Christmas store.
Honestly, either one is a reason in itself to visit Frankenmuth. It’s one of the best places to spend Christmas in Michigan as the Bronners area Covers more than seven acres; the shop is in a building that resembles an alpine chalet.
A gigantic snowman and Santa Claus statue stand guard at the entrance, and thousands of twinkling lights are switched on every nighttime along the lane. The grounds are also home to a beautiful replica of the Austrian chapel where “Silent Night” was first sung.
While shopping at the Frankenmuth River Place Shops and drinking at a Michigan brewery will make you feel like you are in a small German village! Of course, there are other fun things to do in Frankenmuth year round! We particularly love seeing the town from a horse-drawn carriage and having a glass of wine at St. Julian Winery.
Marquette is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and sits on the shores of Lake Superior. It was once a hotspot for the iron ore industry; it has since blossomed into a cultural mecca of art and history, and has some of the best beaches in the US!
Visitors head to Marquette in winter and summer as it’s truly a year-round destination. In the fall, the colors in this area indeed come alive with reds, oranges, and yellows! It’s an outdoor lover’s dream as there are plenty of hiking opportunities, mountain bike opportunities, and Michigan waterfalls to chase!
When many people think of Michigan, they think of Detroit. Most often assume that Detroit is the capital of the mitten state. While it’s not the capital, it is Michigan’s largest city and is widely underrated.
Detroit is a diamond in the rough and has plenty of things to do, restaurants to eat at, and sports games to see. It’s also the birthplace of many musical genres. It offers an iconic arts scene, riverfront scenery, rich history, diverse culture, art deco architecture, and unique character you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Ludington is located in western Michigan along the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s well known for its beautiful beaches and Ludington State Park. The state park is home to rolling dunes and a beautiful lighthouse.
Ludington is a bit sleepy in the winter, but many Michiganders love to camp here and enjoy the marina, brewery, and restaurants in the summer! The best things to do in Ludington is about history at the Port Of Ludington Maritime Museum and chill out at Stearns Park Beach.
Grand Haven is one of the best places to visit in Michigan and very popular in the summer! Nestled on the eastern shore of the vast Lake Michigan, Grand Haven is where many Michiganders head for their beach vacations.
It’s the home of the annual Coast Guard Festival, which is a fun time for all. There are plenty of great restaurants here and boutique shops to enjoy. One of the best things to do in Grand Haven is to walk the Grand Haven Boardwalk and see the Grand Haven Lighthouse.
Mackinac Island is a treasured American vacation destination where Americans flock from all over to take a step back in time. Visiting here is one of the things to do in Michigan! Mackinac Island is a car-free island that you’ll have to catch a ferry to reach. Honestly, one of the only things you need to do here is walking around the historic town.
Mackinac is where you should head with the family or lover to enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride or bike around the town streets. The best things to do on Mackinac Island are travel back in time at Fort Mackinac or sail around Lake Huron on the 90-foot Isle Royale Queen III yacht.
Saugatuck was initially a lumber port town but now is considered the most artistic town in Michigan. Just strolling its downtown area will take you to many art galleries and fantastic healthy restaurants. It is the most gay-friendly town in Michigan and overall has an amiable vibe!
Popular things to do in Saugatuck include enjoying the Saugatuck Dunes State Park and having a beer at the Saugatuck Brewing Company. We particularly love heading to Saugatuck on the weekends in the summer! If you are looking for a unique place to stay, consider The Peterson Mill!
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will surely blow your socks off. Come here in the summer for fantastic hiking opportunities among sand and bright blue water, without all the heat and humidity you get in the southern states.
The park’s highlight is the towering dunes that are a trek to hike up, with beautiful lakeside views and the crisp air. Many people choose to camp around here in the summer months. There are plenty of things to cycle along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and paddle on beautiful Lake Michigan!
Charlevoix is a small northern Michigan town that is one of the best places to see the Northern lights in the state. Given its lack of light pollution, you have a terrific chance of seeing the aurora from Fisherman’s Island State Park.
It’s best to look for clear skies and check the Kp index before seeing the northern lights. The best chance to see the Northern lights is between December and March. One of our favorite things to do in Charlevoix in the summer is photograph the Charlevoix South Pier Head!
Escanaba is another city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a fantastic place to visit in Michigan in the summer and winter. With Escanaba as a base, visitors will access over 200 miles of coastline, beaches, and wetlands.
Some of the best things to do in Escanaba are photographing the Sand Point Light House or going for a hike on the Bays de Noc—Grand Island Trail!
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Close to Munising and home to some of the best waterfalls in Michigan, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning place to visit to see some of the most amazing Michigan landscapes. Here the rugged coastlines contrast the shimmering waters of Lake Superior, which will surely leave all visitors satisfied with their journey here.
There is an abundance of hiking opportunities, fishing excursions, and mountain biking along the lakeshore! All are some of the best things to do in Michigan.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
After traveling through most of Michigan, you may be forgiven for asking, “where are the mountains?” Even I, a Michigan native, was surprised to find them on the west side of Michigan’sUpper Peninsula, where the Porcupine Mountains rise above Lake Superior.
In the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, there are jaw-dropping waterfalls, thick hardwood forests coated with orange and red colors along the stunning viewpoint, Lake of the Clouds. This view arguably provides the best all photos in Michigan. Looking down at the turquoise lake, you will capture a mix of bright blues framed by the colors of fall.
Saint Ignace City
Saint Ignace is the first town you’ll get to after crossing over the Mackinac Bridge. It’s a beautiful place to visit in the Upper Peninsula and provides many fun things to do during the summer months.
Popular activities include seeing Castle Rock, a geological limestone stack nearby. Or settle in with a beer and listen to live music in front of the Mackinac Bridge. Saint Ignace is a popular jumping-off point for Mackinaw Island. In the winter, the town comes alive with lights and horse-drawn sleighs; it’s easily one of the most magical places to spend Christmas in Michigan.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is not too far from Saint Ignace. This giant park encompasses nearly 50,000 acres stretching over 13 miles, with the Tahquamenon River stealing the show. Its showstopper is the Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi and has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is over 200 feet wide!
Greenfield Village In Dearborn
Greenfield Village is a living history museum complex in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. It’s a fabulous place to come for a day trip and for those who want to learn more about Henry Ford and see how Americans have lived and worked since the founding of the country. Greenfield Village is part of the larger Henry Ford complex.
The Henry Ford Museum is one of Michigan’s best things to do. It is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the United States and is visited by over 1.7 million every year! They have many historical artifacts like the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’sTheatre, and the Rosa Parks bus.
Holland is a city in Southwestern Michigan near the shorts of Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. It’s a trendy tourist destination and makes one of the most romantic places to visit in Michigan in the summer. People head here for one very distinct aspect, and that is that it’s like the miniature Netherlands. I bet you didn’t know that Michigan has a German city and a Dutch city!
That’s right, Holland, Michigan, is famous for its tulips and Dutch culture. It’s named one of America’s prettiest towns. It would be hard for us to disagree with windmills in the distance and red, pink, and white tulips everywhere.
Near Manistique in the Upper Peninsula, Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s most prominent natural freshwater spring; the name comes from the Ojibwe language and means “cold spring.” But it’s also often referred to as the Mirror of Heaven.
A beautiful boathouse sits in the middle of the spring and is where many visitors can enjoy the natural surroundings.
Les Cheneaux Islands
The Les Cheneaux Islands are a group of 36 small islands along 12 miles of Lake Huron shoreline. The sheltered bays, channels, and coves make for the perfect place to go sailing as it is well protected from the Great Lake winds. If you enjoy a Northern Michigan road trip, it would be wise to put these on your Michigan bucket list!
Leland is a tiny village near Traverse City, an excellent place for a day trip! Leland is a quaint town on the water. One of the best things to do in Leland is to enjoy Fishtown. Fishtown is a 150-year-old fishing village and one of Michigan’s only fishing villages left.
Every visitor to Leland should make sure to visit Fishtown and see the smokehouses, drying fish racks, and fishing huts. It’s an iconic part of the town, and mandatory every visitor tries the smoked fish!
Tawas Point State Park
Tawas Point State Park is known as the “Cape Cod of Michigan.” Once you arrive and see the beautiful lighthouse on the coast of Lake Huron, you’ll be able to see why. It’s located in Northeastern Michigan and is just over an hour from the Tri-Cities and only three hours from the Detroit area.
Tawas Bay is known as one of the best sailing areas in the entire country, thanks to its winds and protected waters!
South Haven is easily one of the most beautiful places in Michigan. It’s a small town known for its spectacular scenery, earning a reputation as a resort hotspot for those in the know.
South Haven is commonly referred to as ‘the Catskills of the Midwest’ for its abundance of natural wonders; it’s set along the shores of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the beautiful Black River. One of the best things to do in South Haven is spend the day at the North And South Beach, after go for a sunset walk on the famous South Haven Lighthouse.
Lansing is the charming capital city of Michigan, and while many may not think visiting is one of the best things to do in Michigan, we can assure you Lansing is a special place for culture in the Midwest. There’s an array of museums, galleries, fantastic restaurants, and natural wonders to explore throughout the lively town.
It’s located right in “the middle of the mitten” and is often affectionately referred to as L-Town. The sprawling metropolis has a cosmopolitan atmosphere, and the Grand River flows right through its center, adding a lovely scenic setting to its bustling city streets.
One of our favorite things to do is enjoy a baseball game at the Lugnuts Stadium before having a beer at one of the best Lansing breweries!
Best Things to do in Michigan Map
When is the Best Time to visit Michigan?
The best time to visit Michigan is easily the summer months. I may be biased growing up in Michigan, but there is truly nothing better than a Michigan summer. Between June to September the weather is perfect. It never gets too hot or cold and temperatures range from 70-80°F degrees with low humidity.
What is Michigan famous for?
Michigan is famous for a few things. The first is that it’s famously called the “Great Lakes State” because Michigan touches four out of the five great lakes (Erie, Superior, Lake Michigan, and Huron). Thanks to over 3000 miles of freshwater coastline (the longest freshwater coastline in the US), Michigan is prominent on fishing and lake life. Michigan is also very forested, with over 90% of the Upper Peninsula covered in dense forest.
Where Does the Name Michigan Come From?
Michigan gets its name from an Ojibwa, also called Chippewa, meaning “large lake ” because of its geography.
What is the prettiest place in Michigan?
There are too many beautiful places in Michigan to name, but in my opinion, I always love visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore.
What is the nickname of Michigan?
Michigan has three main nicknames. The first is “the mitten state,” thanks to its mittenly shape. The second is “the Wolverine State,” and the third is the “Great Lake State.”
What are Five Interesting Facts About Michigan?
- The capital of Michigan is Lansing, despite popular belief that the capital of Michigan is Detroit.
- Motown Records was founded in Detroit in 1959.
- Celebrities you may not know are from Michigan are Larry Page, Burt Reynolds, Kate Upton, John Hughs, Francis Ford Coppola, Jerry Bruckheimer, Kristen Bell, Serena Williams, and Eminem (but you might have known that one).
- Michigan has over 10,000 lakes.
- Michigan is the only state that is divided by two peninsulas.
READ MORE MICHIGAN TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on the best things to do in Michigan. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Michigan.