25 Best Things to Do in Michigan

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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If you love berries, beaches and forests then Michigan is the state for you.

The state boasts a number of beaches, more than half of Michigan is covered with forests and woods and an unfathomable amount of berries and cherries go into an incredible number of pies.

Its main city Detroit is an industrial legend in the United States and is gritty and raw in a good way.

The state is surrounded by great lakes including Superior and Michigan and peaceful and beautiful lake islands are a great place to enjoy nature at its most spectacular.

Nature and industry are perfectly combined in the state of Michigan and as a result there really is a varied mix of things to do and something to interest every traveler.

Here is our pick of the bunch and our list of the best things to do in Michigan:

1. Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island, MichiganSource: Ostrows2 / shutterstock
Mackinac Island, Michigan

Visiting this island, which is accessible by ferry, is like taking a trip in a time machine.

The island transports visitors back to a simpler time when there were no cars, buses or other motor vehicles.

Horse-drawn carriages or hiking are the chosen means of transport here for exploring the old town shops and visiting Fort Mackinac.

2. Isle Royale National Park

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park, MichiganSource: Steven Schremp / shutterstock
Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

The island of Isle Royale has an area of 430 square miles and was formed in the Ice Age by glaciers, which have created a stunning and spectacular natural landscape consisting of lakes, streams and forests.

The National Park is situated in north west Lake Superior and as well as abundant wildlife, including falcons and wolves, the park also offers hiking and boat trips.

The island can B reached either by seaplane or boat.

3. Michigan History Center

Michigan History Center, LansingSource: ehrlif / shutterstock
Michigan History Center

Housed in Lansing as part of the Historical Museum System, this museum tells the story of the state of Michigan from prehistoric settlers right up to the 20th Century.

Exhibits include how and why the first settlers came to Michigan and the state’s history of industry.

As well as these permanent exhibits there are also temporary galleries and exhibits which consistently of a high standard.

4. Pictured Rocks National Seashore

Pictured Rocks National Seashore, MichiganSource: Kenneth Keifer / shutterstock
Pictured Rocks National Seashore

This mysterious shore to on the south of Lake Superior owes its name to science and the copper and iron rocks that are found here.

Outdoor enthusiasts visit the area to hike through a mixed terrain of cliffs, forests and dunes.

There are also opportunities for camping and, in winter, skiing and snowmobiling.

The National Recreational Area of Grand Island is nearby and also has plenty to offer those who love the great outdoors.

5. Michigan State Capitol

Michigan State CapitolSource: Dmitriy Bryndin / shutterstock
Michigan State Capitol

The State Capitol in Michigan has been around since 1879 and was based on the Capitol building in Washington DC.

Like many other US Capitol buildings, it is still in governmental use today but can also be toured by visitors and is a great place to learn about the history of the building, its architecture and what goes on inside in the present day.

6. The Fisher Building

The Fisher Building, DetroitSource: Patricia Marks / shutterstock
The Fisher Building

One of Michigan’s architectural gems can be found in Detroit.

The Fisher Building was designed by an architect called Albert Kahn in 1928 and was originally intended to have a second tower but the Great Depression put an end to those plans.

A local paper said at the time that the tower would be to Detroit what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.

The first floor of the building houses a number of shops, cafes and even a theater.

The ornate ceiling in the lobby is well worth a look.

7. University of Michigan

University of MichiganSource: Dieon Roger / shutterstock
University Of Michigan

The University of Michigan takes up a whopping 2,800 acres in Ann Arbor and features a number of interesting and beautiful Gothic buildings.

As well as the historic buildings, there are also a number or great museums including the Kelsey Archaeology Museum, the Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History all of which have impressive and expansive collections.

Nearby but located away from the campus itself is the remarkable Matthaei Botanic Gardens which are also worth a visit.

8. Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac BridgeSource: Craig Sterken / shutterstock
Mackinac Bridge

Linking the Lower Peninsula of Mackinaw City to the Upper Peninsula of St Igance, the Mackinaw bridge (AKA the Mighty Mac) has one of the longest spans of any suspension bridge in the world.

Prior to its construction and opening in 1957, the number of vehicles waiting to cross the straits by ferry was a major problem.

The bridge also has its own museum, which contains a number of exhibits and information on the construction of the bridge.

9. Colonial Michilimackinac

Colonial MichilimackinacSource: Svetlana Foote / shutterstock
Colonial Michilimackinac

This village, found in Mackinaw City, was formerly a hotspot for the French fur-trading industry in the 18th century. It also served as a military outpost before being burned down.

Visitors to the site now, have the opportunity to explore a total of thirteen reconstructed buildings and watch re-enactments from the American Revolution and the era when the British occupied the village.

10. The Outdoor Discovery Centre

Golden EagleSource: Denisa Mikesova / shutterstock
Golden Eagle

The Outdoor Discovery Centre project, situated in Holland, has taken on the immense task of converting 130 acres of farmland back into natural landscape.

They have largely succeeded and, as a result, the area now contains a total of six different ecosystems.

As well as providing ample opportunities to learn about the differing environments and ecosystems, the area is also a great place to hike along walking trails and view wildlife.

11. Windmill Island

Windmill Island, Holland, MichiganSource: Thomas Barrat / shutterstock
Windmill Island

This 36 acre park in the city of Holland is a great place to sample Dutch architecture as well as a large variety of flora.

Spring and summer are particularly stunning times to view the garden in all its splendor.

The buildings of interest here include DeZwaan, a Dutch windmill that dates back to the mid 18th century.

The windmill, which is well over 100 feet tall, was exported to America from the Netherlands and is still used to produce ground flour today.

12. Soo Locks Boat Tours

Soo Locks Boat ToursSource: ehrlif / shutterstock
Soo Locks Boat Tours

The town of Soo, also known as Sault Ste Marie is a twin town of America and Canada.

The St Mary River is used to transport over 100 million tonnes of goods every year and includes, in this area, two massive locks, one of the Canadian side and one on the US side of town.

The boat tours are well narrated and informative, including information on the history and functions of the locks as well as other sights along the way including the rapids and Algoma Steel Plant.

13. Detroit Institute of Arts

Detroit Institute of ArtsSource: Nagel Photography / shutterstock
Detroit Institute Of Arts

Opened in 1927, this institute is the city of Detroit’s pride and joy.

It was opened in the auto-industry boom that followed the First World War and is home to the Beaux Arts building, which houses over 100 galleries.

A condensed itinerary to the museum should include seeing the works of Degas and Cezanne and would last around two hours.

Another stand out piece is the mural by Diego Rivera known as “Detroit Industry”.

14. Michigan Central Station

Abandoned Michigan Central StationSource: Sean Chen / shutterstock
Michigan Central Station

This station in Detroit is a symbol for many residents of the rise and fall of Detroit. It was built in the early 20th Century as a so-called gateway to the Midwest of the United States.

It is now closed with almost all of its windows smashed and all of its walls covered in graffiti.

The building has been used for several Hollywood blockbusters including Transformers but its future is uncertain and in 2009 the government made moves to demolish it.

15. Belle Isle

Belle Isle ConservatorySource: Rachel Goad / shutterstock
Belle Isle Conservatory

Belle Isle is an island situated in the Detroit River between Canada and the United States.

The island was bought by Detroit in the early 19th Century and a zoo and an aquarium were built although, due to budget cuts in the city, the aquarium is now closed.

The island is a great location to marvel at the fancy vessels in the Yacht Club or to witness stunning panoramic views of Windsor and Detroit.

The island can be reached via the MacArthur Bridge.

16. Ford Rouge Factory Tour

Ford Rouge Factory TourSource: JHVEPhoto / shutterstock
Ford Rouge Factory Tour

Ford, and the auto industry in general remains a key factor in Detroit’s history and identity.

Henry Ford built the factory on the Rouge River and tours include assembly lines for classic vehicles including the 1965 Ford Mustang.

There are also informative films about the building’s history and the history of the plant’s workers and American unions including the infamous Battle of the Overpass.

Book tours in advance during summer months, as they are very popular.

17. Detroit’s Eastern Market

Detroit Eastern MarketSource: alisafarov / shutterstock
Detroit Eastern Market

The Detroit Eastern Market is a great place to see the wide range of fresh produce harvested by Michigan’s hard working farmers.

Many residents of Detroit claim to do their entire grocery shop at the market. It is a great place to witness a gathering of Detroit dwellers whilst stocking up on some high quality produce and supporting an honest way of life.

One of the most popular traders is the Russell Street Deli, where breakfast proves to be extremely popular at the weekend.

18. Motown Historical Museum

Motown Historical MuseumSource: Atomazul / shutterstock
Motown Historical Museum

The state of Michigan, and Detroit in particular, has produced some truly memorable music acts of the years including Aretha Franklin, Madonna and Dianna Ross.

The Motown Museum, which is located near downtown Detroit, allows visitors to see the first ever Motown recording studio as well as various artifacts and objects relating to Motown music.

19. Palmer Woods

Dorothy Turkel House, DetroitSource: Andre Carrotflower / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Dorothy Turkel House, Detroit

This historic district in Detroit is home to around 300 Tudor Revival and neo-Georgian style buildings, which were built in the area by entrepreneurs profiting of the auto-industry boom in the area during the early 20th Century.

The area is still lived in and is also home to Dorothy Turkel House, a huge 4,000 square foot house, which is currently being renovated by two Detroit businessmen.

20. Greektown

Greektown, DetroitSource: BC Images / shutterstock

Greektown in Detroit gets its name from the influx of Greek immigrants that arrived in the area during the 20th Century.

It is a lively area and well worth a visit when traveling to the state of Michigan. Visitors will be spoilt for choice with the abundance of casinos, including the popular Greektown Casino, bars and restaurants in the area.

21. American Coney Island

American Coney IslandSource: Cynthia longhair Douglas / shutterstock
American Coney Island

Arguably the best place in Michigan to try one of the state’s favorite snacks is at the friendly and family run American Coney Island restaurant.

The “Coney” is essentially a hot dog but is legendary among residents of Detroit and must be sampled by visitors to Michigan.

The name of this fodder is apparently not related to Coney Island in New York and the fact that Coney Island is also known for its hot dogs is a mere coincidence.

22. Henry Ford Museum

Henry Ford Museum, DearbornSource: James R. Martin / shutterstock
Henry Ford Museum

Located in Dearborn, the Henry Ford Museum is a large museum complex that takes place both indoors and outside.

The museum is a National Historic Landmark and focuses on a wide range of objects and artifacts from American culture and history.

There are, of course, a large number of vintage cars to see also. Standout objects in the museum include the bus on which Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat and the chair in which Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated.

23. Detroit Zoo

Detroit ZooSource: Craig Hensley / shutterstock
Brown Bear, Detroit Zoo

Detroit Zoo is located about two miles from the city limits of Detroit.

The zoo is home to a large variety of animals and boasts the world’s largest arctic exhibit called “The Arctic Ring of Life”.

Here you will find polar bears swimming above you and learn more about the culture of Inuits.

24. Michigan’s Adventure

Michigan’s Adventure ParkSource: Anne Kitzman / shutterstock
Michigan’s Adventure Park

Michigan’s Adventure is the top amusement park in the state of Michigan. It has a wide variety of rides for all ages and levels of daring.

There is also a water park; Wild Water Adventure.

The park is situated just North of Muskegon and is easily found.

25. Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Great Lakes Shipwreck MuseumSource: ehrlif / shutterstock
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

This museum can be found in the Whitefish Point Light Station in Chippewa County, which is also home to the oldest active lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

The museum was founded in 1976 by a group of divers and features information and exhibits on the perils of traveling the waters of the great lakes.

25 Best Things to Do in Michigan:

  • Mackinac Island
  • Isle Royale National Park
  • Michigan History Center
  • Pictured Rocks National Seashore
  • Michigan State Capitol
  • The Fisher Building
  • University of Michigan
  • Mackinac Bridge
  • Colonial Michilimackinac
  • The Outdoor Discovery Centre
  • Windmill Island
  • Soo Locks Boat Tours
  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Michigan Central Station
  • Belle Isle
  • Ford Rouge Factory Tour
  • Detroit’s Eastern Market
  • Motown Historical Museum
  • Palmer Woods
  • Greektown
  • American Coney Island
  • Henry Ford Museum
  • Detroit Zoo
  • Michigan’s Adventure
  • Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum