There are endless ways to spend time in Michigan, so where do you begin? Well, what do you like? Do you enjoy kitesurfing, paddleboarding, or just lying in the sun? Hit one of the hundreds of miles of beaches. Do you like the untouched wilderness? Head to the Upper Peninsula. Do you want to take in the state’s art scene and drink some of the best beer in the world? Then the city of Grand Rapids is for you. Whatever your preference, Michigan will deliver. Here are five of our top locations to visit.
Frankenmuth: Michigan’s Little Bavaria
If you’re a fan of Greta Van Fleet, then you’re in luck! This is where the band grew up. The town of Frankenmuth carries a heavy German influence and is made to look like old-time Bavaria. It has the most authentic Octoberfest celebration outside of Munich, and on most evenings, you’ll find polka bands playing in the restaurants. One of the other truly unique claims Frankenmuth possesses is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, a retailer known as “the world’s largest Christmas store.” Then there is Zehnder’s Snowfest, which brings in snow sculptors from all over the world. Oh, and if all that isn’t enough, Zehnder’s Restaurant is home to world-famous chicken dinners. This place is always busy, though, so be sure to make reservations early.
There are 35,000 islands scattered throughout the five Great Lakes, but Mackinac Island is one of the most popular and idyllic. It’s a small, 8-mile diameter island firmly entrenched in the Victorian era—a lush 19th century resort community that is completely car free. Imagine waking up not to the sounds of beeping horns or the smell of exhaust, but to the soft clip-clop of horses’ hooves and manure. Trust me, you get used to the smell. Along with a quaint main street full of shops, the island is dominated by 70 miles of bike trails; the best fudge in the world (over 10,000 pounds of fudge leave the island daily); Fort Mackinac, an 18th century military outpost; and the historic Grand Hotel, which opened in 1887.
The Upper Peninsula is 90 percent forested, and it is an entirely different world than the Lower Peninsula. There are numerous wildlife and waterfowl refuges, 300 waterfalls, some of the best spots for viewing fall foliage in the United States, and old iron and copper mines to explore. But one of the Upper Peninsula’s main attractions is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Extending 37 miles from Munising to Grand Marais, this national lakeshore features 15 miles of beautiful multicolored sandstone cliffs. While you’re visiting, be sure to talk to the “yoopers” (what the inhabitants call themselves), try a pasty (a popular, yet flavorless, meat pie), and challenge someone to euchre (a card game Michiganders swear by).
Held every September for 19 days, ArtPrize is an international art competition that all but takes over downtown Grand Rapids. Two $200,000 dollar prizes are awarded from a public vote and a jury of art experts, so naturally this kind of prize money draws in artists across all mediums from all over the world. The competition attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year, making it the most attended art event in the world. You’ll find art in bars, public parks, restaurants, hotels, hanging from bridges, and even in the river. It’s like an art scavenger hunt with 500,000 of your closest friends.
Long considered dangerous and rundown, Detroit is rebounding and emerging as a must-visit city. Home to numerous sports venues, casinos, museums, concert venues, the world’s largest jazz festival, the Motown Museum, car shows, and too many delicious restaurants to name, Detroit is what National Geographic is calling “Cool Again.” Even The New York Times is getting in on the Detroit bandwagon, calling it “the most exciting city in America?” We’ll let you figure out why there’s a question mark. If you don’t believe us, just go try it for a night or two yourself; we think you’ll enjoy yourself.
Five Fun Facts
- The Detroit Red Wings made it to the playoffs for 25 consecutive years (1991–2016), the longest playoff streak in pro sports.
- Ask any Michigander where they’re from and they’ll point it out to you on their palm.
- Soda is called “pop.”
- If you straightened out Lake Superior’s shoreline alone, it would reach from Duluth, Minnesota, to the Bahamas.
- There is a community called Hell, Michigan, and yes, they embrace it enthusiastically
For more on Michigan, check out Beer City, USA, where to stay, and where to smoke! For more travel, check out Utah.