Picturesque Lake And Mountain Top Views: 16 Michigan Vacation Spots

As a relatively small state compared to places like Texas or California, all of the best places to visit in Michigan are within an easy day’s drive, even if you need to cross between the two parts of the state.

Here are our top choices for vacation destinations in Michigan.

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbour

Located in the southeastern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula (sometimes known simply as ‘The Glove’), Ann Arbor is a university town with a lot to enjoy.

If you’re interested in the arts, be sure to stop by the University of Michigan Museum of Art, one of the best galleries in the entire state.

If you have kids along, try the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum instead. Over 250 exhibits offer countless learning opportunities for children.

As a university town, most parts of Ann Arbor focus on educational experiences but don’t forget to check out the international food scene if you want to try something new.

Holland

Holland

You don’t need to travel overseas to see a faithful recreation of Dutch style and culture.

Holland is set on the shores of Lake Michigan and blends small-town charm with the amenities of a larger city, making it the perfect trip for couples.

Be sure to visit in early May so you can catch the Tulip Festival when millions of flowers are on display.

Kids can enjoy the Critter Barn, a place to pet and cuddle with numerous small and medium-sized animals. For kids who love animals, it’s paradise.

Holland has fun for the whole family, but it’s best as a romantic trip, so consider scheduling a vacation as a couple.

Traverse City

Traverse

Traverse City isn’t the largest city in the northeast, and it doesn’t try to be.

Instead, this lakeside locale sprawls across miles of sandy beaches, all supported by a thriving art and culinary scene.

If you have the time, be sure to stop by for a concert at the Traverse Symphony Orchestra. Many events start mid-afternoon, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the nightlife while you’re on vacation.

When you’re done walking the city or enjoying the music, stop by a restaurant like Apache Trout Grill for some of the best cuisine in the city.

Tecumseh

Tecumesh

If you want to explore some history at your own pace, stop by the little town of Tecumseh.

This pleasant area is one of the oldest settlements in what people once called the Michigan Territory, and it still oozes history and charm.

Thanks to efforts by the locals, Tecumseh is now home to an active social scene, with annual events including ice carving, harvest festivals, and art walks.

There’s always something to look forward to in Tecumseh, and that makes it one of the top places to visit in Michigan vacation spots at any time of year.

Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth

Originally settled by German immigrants who brought their distinctive architectural style along, Frankenmuth is a small Bavarian town that likes to do everything big.

If you’re visiting in the summer, make a plan to visit Zehnder’s Splash Village, which offers two indoor waterparks and a retractable roof.

Frankenmuth is known more for its winter festivities, though, including its year-round love of Christmas.

Even if it’s not December, you can enjoy some of that holiday charm by visiting the world’s largest Christmas store or seeing the lights that go on at night.

Frankenmuth is a great choice for families, couples, and groups, so put a pin on your map and start planning your trip today.

Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

Set on the lower west side of the Lower Peninsula, Grand Rapids is one of Michigan’s largest cities and a great place to visit for upscale entertainment.

If you want to make a full-day vacation in the city, consider getting one of the city’s Culture Passes. These offer entry to numerous attractions at no extra charge, as well as additional discounts.

There are plenty of restaurants around when you start feeling hungry but try to stop by Kitchen 67 if you’re in the neighborhood.

They use fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to make some of the best food in the city, and the burgers, in particular, are worth a little extra driving.

Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo

Sadly, Kalamazoo is not an enormous urbanized zoo environment, as cool as that would be.

However, it does have the Give A Craft Beer Trail, where you can collect points at each brewery along a path to redeem a prize. This is a great way to experience the local beer scene.

If you visit in winter, make sure to visit Echo Valley for top-quality tubing and tobogganing in the snow.

This is a particularly good activity for kids thanks to the pulse-pounding excitement of going down snow at high speeds, and it can help encourage a lifelong love of exercise.

No matter the time of year, Kalamazoo’s varied dining scene is a great way to enjoy your trip.

Start with a healthy Asian or Mediterranean meal mid-morning to give you energy for the day, then have an early dinner with a juicy burger or traditional American fare.

Kalamazoo has great pizza, too, which is sure to please the kids.

This city is perfect for family gatherings, but if you want to travel as a couple, do it when it’s snowy so you can enjoy one of Michigan’s finest wonderlands.

Mackinac Island State Park

Mackinac Island

Located in the middle of the state and famed as one of the best Michigan vacation spots, Mackinac Island State Park is filled with historic attractions and invites you to enjoy its calm, relaxed atmosphere.

Motor vehicles are banned on the island, helping to reduce noise and congestion, but you can travel dozens of miles of trails by bike, horseback, or carriage.

For some added fun, climb up a lighthouse or take a stroll through one of the forts on the island.

Finish off the day with a visit to the Treetop Discovery Tower, where a zip-line can send you hurtling through the air and provide lingering excitement for the trip home.

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

While you’re visiting Mackinac Island State Park, take some extra time to experience Mackinac Bridge.

We recommend visiting in September for the annual bridge walk, where you can join hundreds of other people traversing one of the largest suspension bridges in the country.

The bridge isn’t quite a vacation spot on its own unless you particularly love bridges, but it’s impressive enough to be worth a stop if you’re passing through.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Sometimes it’s nice to stay in your car for a vacation, and that gets a lot easier when you take routes like the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

Located in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area, this 7.4-mile drive offers some of the best views in the state.

The scenic drive is best in autumn when the leaves are changing colors, but it still offers gorgeous sights for the rest of the year.

If you’d like to spend more time in the park, visit in winter and go on a ranger-led snowshoe hike.

Stay until sundown at the Lake Michigan Overlook in the park, and you might just get a great photograph of the sunset. That’s always worth the wait.

The scenic drive is a romantic getaway for couples, so consider leaving kids behind for this part of a vacation.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Michigan has more coastline as a percent of its borders than almost any other state (Hawaii doesn’t count), so it’s no surprise that many of the best Michigan vacation spots include a trip down to the water.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the northern side of the Upper Peninsula, immediately adjacent to Lake Superior. Its central location makes it easy to access, too.

This park includes sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, sand dunes, and plenty of beaches.

The park changes throughout the year, too, so it’s a great four-seasons location for outdoor fun.

Be sure to pick up a park map when you enter. GPS isn’t very reliable in the park, so the physical map works better.

Detroit

Detroit

The big city hardly needs to be mentioned, but Detroit has all the food, art, and entertainment anyone needs.

From the largest bowling alley in the country to great dining options near the sports parks, there’s always food and fun to be had in the Motor City.

While you’re downtown, check out The District, one of the city’s most up-and-coming areas. Construction is still happening in earnest, so if you visit regularly, chances are it will be different every time you come!

If you’re visiting from the North Peninsula, consider taking a small, private flight into one of the many airports dotting the city.

Without the long drive back, it’s easier to enjoy the big city to the fullest.

Detroit has activities for everyone, so visit in groups of any size.

Most entertainment opportunities don’t require reservations but consider calling ahead if you want to visit one of the fancier restaurants.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary (EPNS)

Estivant

EPNS is the last stand of old-growth white pine trees in the state of Michigan, which makes it one of the most popular destinations in the state for nature-lovers.

Two trails offer a gentle hike of up to 2.5 miles, while dozens of bird species offer sightseeing opportunities for bird watchers.

We recommend visiting during summer when you can see all of the trees in their full growth.

St. Ignace

St Ignance

St. Ignace is one of the oldest settlements in Michigan, and it’s easily one of the best vacation spots in Michigan north of Mackinac Bridge.

This small town has water on three sides, giving ample opportunities to enjoy sports out on the lake.

If you can stay until nightfall on Saturday in July or August, be sure to catch a ride on the fireworks cruise where you can enjoy some of the most spectacular stellar visuals in the state.

Lansing

Lansing

Detroit may be the largest and most populated city in the area, but the state capital of Lansing has plenty of fun in its own right.

One thing that particularly stands out is Lansing’s commitment to sensory-friendly attractions and locations. The city maintains an ongoing list of sensory-friendly events, too.

This is relatively rare in entertainment areas of any type, so neurodiverse individuals in your family may find Lansing much nicer than many of the other vacation destinations on this list.

If you’re confident in your knowledge, be sure to stick around long enough for trivia night at one of the city’s dining establishments. 

For adults, Lansing offers access to a variety of breweries and distilleries, including many with flavors you probably haven’t tried before.

Whether you come alone, with your family, or in a group of friends, Lansing offers authentic city experiences without all the crowds.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf

Taking the prize for “tastiest name on this list,” Sugarloaf Mountain is a gentle hiking trail that offers some of the best views in the state.

The hike up takes 15-30 minutes, depending on the path you choose, with easy and difficult options available.

The difficult route is not genuinely hard, but it is noticeably tougher than the longer, gentler path.

The trail paths feature a stroll through a gentle forest canopy, and this alone makes the trip a great experience for anyone who loves nature.

Be sure to come when the trees are green and leafy to get the full experience of the canopy.

The three viewing decks are about 1000 feet above sea level and offer different vantage points if you want to take pictures.

Visit Sugarloaf Mountain with a group of nature enthusiasts for the best experience. Your children may prefer some other activities.

Conclusion

All of the best places to visit in Michigan are easily accessible in a short drive by car.

In fact, several are close enough that you can visit all of them as part of a single, longer trip with time to spare.

Whether you’re looking for boutique shopping and fine arts or you want to see the sights and get back to nature, all of the vacation destinations on this list are top-rated options.

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