20 Best Things to Do in Michigan For Ultimate Experience

There is no doubt that Michigan is one of the top tourist destinations in the United States. The state is home to some of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, including the world-famous Mackinac Island, the majestic Great Lakes, and the bustling metropolis of Detroit. And if you are planning a trip to this state, you will definitely want to check out some of the top attractions, activities, and things to do. To help you plan your trip, I have compiled a list of the 20 top tourist attractions and things to do in Michigan. Read on!

Things to Do in Michigan, Attractions, and Activities

1. Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is a popular tourist destination in Michigan that is best known for its Victorian-era architecture. The island is located in Lake Huron and can be reached by ferry from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.

One unique feature of Mackinac Island is that there are no motorized vehicles allowed, with the exception of emergency vehicles. This makes the island a great place to walk or ride a bike and enjoy the scenery.

There are several historical sites on Mackinac Island, including Fort Mackinac, which was built by the British during the Revolutionary War. This fort is one of the top Michigan attractions and is open to the public for tours. The island is also home to the Grand Hotel, which was featured in the 1980 film “Somewhere in Time.” 

The Mackinac Bridge is also a popular tourist destination. It is the longest suspension bridge in the world and offers stunning views of Lake Michigan. And if you want to learn more about the bridge, you can take a tour of the Mackinac Bridge Museum.

2. Ann Arbor

The best thing about Ann Arbor is that it looks like a small town, but it has all the best that a big city can offer: the best museums, theaters, music venues, restaurants, and the best shopping.

It is a very cultural city with several art galleries, but what stands out the most is the University of Michigan Museum, which has a collection of more than 20,000 works of art, including paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Diego Rivera. And if you like theater, the Michigan Theater is a must-see. It’s an old movie theater that was renovated and now hosts the best shows, music concerts, and movies. The best part is that all these attractions are concentrated in a central area, making it easy to get around on foot or by bike.

All in all, a visit to Ann Arbor should definitely be on your list of the best things to do in Michigan. This is a great place to visit no matter what time of year

3. Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac is a former British and American fort on the island of Mackinac. It is currently a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as a state park and an open museum.

The fort was built by the British during the American Revolution as a strategic foothold in the Great Lakes region. The British held onto the fort even after the United States gained independence, but it was finally ceded to them in 1796 under the terms of the Jay Treaty.

The Americans used the fort as a base during the War of 1812 with the British. The British briefly retook the fort before it was finally abandoned for good.

Today, the fort is one of the top attractions in Michigan, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It has several original buildings that have been preserved and restored, as well as a number of replica buildings. Highlights of the fort include the Officers’ Stone Quarters, the Soldier’s Barracks, the powder magazine, and the post Guardhouse.

You can explore the fort on your own or take a guided tour. But I definitely recommend taking a guided tour because it really brings the history of the fort to life.

4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

If you ask me, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful places in Michigan to visit. And why is that? Because this place has it all: forests, beaches, dunes, and hiking trails.

Although the dunes here attract most of the attention (and rightfully so), Sleeping Bear Dunes is much more than just that. In addition to the dunes, the lake’s islands also get a lot of traction. There are a few of them that you can visit by boat and they are really lovely. I recommend the Manitou Islands and Beaver Archipelago Island, which are the most popular ones.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can hike up the dunes. It’s a pretty strenuous hike, but the views from the top are definitely worth it.

The best time to visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes is in the summer when you can enjoy all the activities the park has to offer, from swimming and sunbathing on the beaches to hiking and camping in the backcountry. However, if you don’t mind a little cold weather, the Sleeping Bear Dunes are also a great place to visit in the winter for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.

5. Isle Royale National Park

Are you thinking of a place to disconnect from the world, enjoy nature in its purest state and do some hiking? Then Isle Royale is your best option here in Michigan.

Isle Royale is an archipelago made up of more than 400 islands, most of them uninhabited, in the middle of Lake Superior. To get to this national park, you have to take a boat or a seaplane from one of the ports on the shores of Lake Superior.

The best way to explore Isle Royale is by hiking. The island has more than 165 miles of trails that go through forests, cliffs, and lakes. In addition, the island has a variety of wildlife, including moose, wolves, otters, and many bird species.

A trip to Isle Royale is the perfect option for those who want to disconnect from the world and enjoy nature. Therefore, be sure to include a visit to this national park in your list of the best things to do in Michigan.

6. Pictured Rock National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of those places where you look at the pictures and say: “I need to go there.” In fact, this place is on everyone’s list of top attractions in Michigan because it is one of the most beautiful places in the state.

This national park is located on the shores of Lake Superior and has some of the most beautiful landscapes. And as the name suggests, the place is famous for its rocks which have the colors of minerals such as copper, manganese oxide, and iron oxide. These rocks have been formed over the years by the erosion of glaciers and waves from Lake Superior.

The best way to see these rocks is by boat, and there are several companies that offer boat tours from the nearby town of Munising. These tours take you along the Pictured Rocks cliffs, through caves and arches formed by the rocks, and even allow you to swim in the waters of Lake Superior (if you’re brave enough).

You can also explore the place on foot, as there are several trails with different levels of difficulty. The best time to visit Pictured Rocks is in the summer when the weather is nicer, and you have more options for activities.

7. Holland State Park Beach

Looking for a place to cool off in the heat of summer? Then head over to Holland State Park Beach. This beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Michigan. The white sand and clear blue waters make it a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the summer sun. There is enough space on the beach for everyone to find their perfect spot. And if you’re looking for a little more excitement, you can play a game of volleyball or football on the sand. Boat launches are also available if you want to explore Lake Michigan by boat. 

8. The Michigan Historical Museum

Another of the best things to do in Michigan is to learn about the state’s history. And the best place to do that is the Michigan Historical Museum. This museum is located in Lansing, the state capital, and is one of the largest history museums in the country.

This museum consists of five floors providing time travel, starting with Michigan’s first-person, Anishinaabe, and ending in the mid-20th century. The special exhibitions are held each year to provide a deeper understanding of Michigan’s historical themes, which are certainly interesting to attend.

9. Traverse City

Traverse City is a must-visit when traveling to Michigan. This town, known as the Cherry Capital of the World, is home to the National Cherry Festival. This festival takes place each year between the last week of June and the first week of July, attracting over 500,000 people from around the world. The festival is intended to promote local agriculture and invite you to experience the region’s coastline.

In addition to cherries, Traverse City is also known for its wine. The area has over 50 wineries and produces some of the best Pinot Noir in the country. The Traverse City Wine Trail is a great way to sample the area’s best wines.

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Traverse City, make sure to check out the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. This resort is located a mile from the shores of Lake Michigan and offers a variety of amenities, including golf, spa services, and shopping.

10. Cheboygan

Looking to explore the inland waterway system? Then Cheboygan is your best bet. This Northeastern Michigan town is the access point for the Inland Waterway, a 42-mile water route connecting several lakes and rivers.

The best way to explore the inland waterways is by boat, and there are several ways to do that. You can take a narrated tour of the waterways on the Cheboygan River, take a cruise on one of the many boats that offer tours, or rent your own boat and explore on your own.

Cheboygan is also a great place to enjoy the outdoors. There are several parks in the area that offer hiking, biking, and nature trails. I recommend spending some time at Black Mountain Recreation Area and Cheboygan State Park for outdoor recreation opportunities.

Overall, Cheboygan is one of the best places in Michigan to experience the quiet solitude of Michigan’s wilderness. 

11. The Great Lakes Bay

A tour of the Great Lakes Bay is, without doubt, one of the best things to do in Michigan. After all, this region is the perfect destination for a summer getaway with family or a group of friends. 

Start your visit with the town of Frankenmuth, which is one of the best known in the Great Lakes Bay. This is the perfect destination for a family getaway with its Bavarian-style shops, kids’ museums, and indoor water parks. Frankenmuth is also known for its festivals, chicken dinners at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, and the world-famous Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland Store. To stay in the center of it all, the Bavarian Inn Lodge is a popular choice because it keeps you close to everything.

Continuing your tour of the Great Lakes Bay, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Midland, which is known as the City of Modern Explorers. This is where you’ll find the Midland Center for the Arts, which offers rotating art exhibitions and performances throughout the year. And if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, you can’t miss the Chippewa Nature Center, which has more than 1,500 acres of woods, wetlands, and farmland to explore.

There are also many things to do in Bay City, which is located on the Saginaw River and offers visitors a chance to experience Michigan’s maritime history. The Bay City State Recreation Area is perfect for a day of hiking, biking, picnicking, or swimming, and the Bay City Town Center is perfect for shopping and dining.

12. Petoskey

Petoskey is one of those little Michigan towns that everyone should know about. It is located in the region known as little traverse, a beautiful place in terms of nature, especially during summer and autumn. 

In the summer, the tip is to enjoy the beach at Petoskey State Park, stroll in the late afternoon at Bayfront Park, have ice cream in the center, and have dinner at one of the charming restaurants in town. In autumn, a must-see is to drive along the stretch of the M119 road between Harbor Springs and Cross Village known as the “Tunnel of Trees.” It’s beautiful, especially if you can catch the peak season of autumn colors (the first half of October). Be sure to stop by Pond Hill Farm, which is dotted with pumpkins in autumn, and you can enjoy cinnamon donuts with apple juice around the fire or a glass of locally produced wine.

During the winter, for those who enjoy snow sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, the Boyne Mountain Resort is very close to Petoskey, and there is the Avalanche Waterpark, considered the largest indoor water park in Michigan.

As always, plan your trip in advance to guarantee accommodation in the region. Don’t forget to stroll around Charlevoix, which is also cute, and “hunt” for its Petoskey stone.

13. Tour the Detroit Institute of Arts

If you are in or near Detroit, a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts should be on your list of things to do in Michigan. And why do I say this? Because the Detroit Institute of Arts is an incredible museum that has a collection of works by some of the most famous painters in the world.

In the museum, you will find paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and many others. These are paintings that you would normally have to travel to New York or Europe to see, but they are right here in Detroit. In addition to the paintings, the museum has a large collection of sculptures, drawings, and prints spread over 100 galleries.

So, if you are looking for places to visit in Michigan, why not include the Detroit Institute of Arts on your list? After all, it is one of the best museums in the world.

14. Silver lake

Dunes in Michigan? Yes, there are several, by the way. And one of the coolest places with dunes around here is Silver Lake.

Every year, thousands of people visit Silver Lake for its dunes, which are among the tallest in Michigan. But Silver Lake is not only about dunes but also has activities for all tastes and ages. There is a little beach with a playground practically on the sand for children, a beach with waves, several cool options for campgrounds, and a lighthouse facing Lake Michigan.

You can’t leave Silver Lake without riding a dune buggy or an ATV on the sand. There are several companies that offer this service, which can be hired for an hour or a full day.

15. Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located on Whitefish Point, the southernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The museum is dedicated to maritime history, with a focus on shipwrecks of the Great Lakes.

The museum is home to the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in Lake Superior in 1975. The bell is on display in the museum’s Great Hall, along with other artifacts from the shipwreck. The museum also has a research library, which is open to the public. The library contains books, documents, and photographs related to maritime history.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is open daily from May to October. Admission is free for children under the age of 5, and discounts are available for seniors, students, and military personnel.

16. Ypsilanti

Lying 30 miles west of Detroit, Ypsilanti is a small city full of surprises, with an eclectic mix of art, culture, history, and outdoor activities. The city is mostly known for its aviation history, as it is home to the Yankee Air Museum, one of the largest aviation museums in the country. The museum is located at the Willow Run Airport, where B-24 Liberator bombers were manufactured during World War II. Today, the airport is also home to the famous “WWII B-17 Flying Fortress“, which offers rides to the public.

In addition to its aviation history, Ypsilanti is also home to a number of art galleries, museums, and historical sites. The Fire House Museum is another nice place to see, with a large collection of historic firefighting equipment. This is a fun museum for children, as they can explore a fire truck and learn about the history of firefighting. This makes it one of the best things to do in Michigan if you are visiting with family. The Riverside Arts Center is also worth a visit, as it is home to a number of art galleries, studios, and performance spaces. 

And if you’re interested in the city’s automotive history, the Depot Town district is the place to be. Every summer, this district comes alive with classic car shows that commemorate the city’s rich automotive heritage.

17. Belle Isle Park

For a different experience, how about an island park in the middle of a big city? Belle Isle Park is located in Detroit, Michigan, on an island in the Detroit River. This 982-acre state park is one of the largest city parks in the United States.

The island park offers a wide variety of activities and attractions for visitors. One of the most popular attractions is Belle Isle Aquarium, which is the oldest public aquarium in North America. This 10,000-square-foot facility features more than 150 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Another popular attraction is the Anna Scrips Whitcomb Conservatory, a Victorian-style greenhouse that features flowers, palms, cacti, and more. This conservatory is also one of the oldest public conservatories in the United States.

Other attractions on Belle Isle Park include a Nature Center, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Detroit Yacht Club, and more. The island park also offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, bicycling, and walking trails.

As you can see, Belle Isle Park is home to some of the top Michigan attractions. This makes this park a great destination for a day trip or weekend getaway.

18. Detroit Zoo

Zoos are great places to take your family, especially if you have small children. And if you live in or are visiting Michigan, the best zoo to visit is the Detroit Zoo.

One of the best features of the Detroit Zoo is that it is divided into different sections, this makes exploring the zoo easier and finding the animals you want to see. Some of the sections you’ll find include the Arctic Ring of Life, which is home to polar bears, seals, and arctic foxes; the African Grasslands, where you can see lions, zebras, and elephants; and the Australian Outback, where you’ll find kangaroos, wallabies, and emus.

In addition to being able to see all these amazing animals, the Detroit Zoo also offers a number of educational programs, making it one of the best places to visit in Michigan for families and animal lovers alike.

19. Kitch-iti-Kipi

This is one of those places that simply cannot be missed on a trip to Michigan. This natural spring, also known as the “Mirror of Heaven,” is located in Manistique, specifically in Palms Book State Park. And today, this is the largest freshwater spring in the United States, measuring an impressive 300ft in diameter and 40ft in depth. The temperature of the spring water remains a constant 45 degrees Fahrenheit, no matter the season.

There is an observation craft that allows you to have unobstructed views of the aquatic life and old tree branches below the surface. It’s an incredible sight and definitely one of the best things to see in Michigan.

20. The Henry Ford Museum

The Henry Ford Museum is another top attraction in Michigan dedicated to the history of transportation and innovation. Located in Dearborn, just outside of Detroit, this massive museum complex includes an indoor and outdoor area with over 300 historical artifacts on display.

Take a journey through time as you explore the Greenfield Village, a living history museum with over 85 historic buildings that have been transported from their original locations around the United States. Highlights of the village include a working farm, a train station, and a working restaurant that serves traditional American fare.

After exploring the village, head indoors to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. This museum chronicles the history of American innovation and includes exhibits on the Wright brothers, the automobile industry, and Rosa Parks.

Finish your visit with a stop at the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, where you can see how Ford vehicles are made. The tour includes a stop at the observation deck, where you can watch the final stages of production. Advance tickets are required for the factory tour.

In summary

These are just a few attractions, activities, and things to do in Michigan. Of course, there are many more places to visit, but these are a good start. And if you’re not sure where to start, I suggest you begin with Mackinac Island. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Michigan, full of history, natural beauty, and plenty of things to do. Otherwise, have fun and enjoy your stay in Michigan.