My 5 Favorite Places in Michigan: Chris Katje
One of the ideas Jon and I have been working on for this site is to try and get some Michigan born or based celebrities to do short interviews sharing what they love about this great state. To help format that, we’re each going to share our five favorite places first and take things from there. Feel free to share in the comments what some of your favorite places in Michigan are, or any ideas of whose list you’d like to see – we have quite a list put together already but are always looking for more ideas.
My name is Chris Katje and I am the co-founder of travelthemitten.com and a lifelong Michigan resident. I was born in Hastings in 1986 and have lived in Grand Rapids since 2005. For years, family vacations consisted of traveling across the Midwest to visit relatives and also see unique landmarks. Those vacations shifted into father son trips that consisted of lighthouses, waterfalls, and camping. Much of this list is owed to those early family vacations. Here are my five favorite places in Michigan:
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – The natural wonder of Sleeping Bear Dunes is no longer a secret to much of the state or even the nation after the national attention it has received. In 2011, Good Morning America named Sleeping Bear Dunes “The Most Beautiful Place in America”. I have to absolutely agree with this and the area continues to be one of my favorite places to visit in the state.
One of the best parts of Sleeping Bear Dunes is the windy Platte River. Visitors to the area should consider bringing their own rafts or kayaks, or rent them. A float down the river takes between one and two hours and is one of the most relaxing parts of vacation. The water moves pretty slow and you really don’t have to hand paddle a lot, except if there are a lot of kayakers out that day. The river flows right into Lake Michigan, where you can enjoy a sandy beach and great dunes.
Back in 1970, the area was declared a National Park to preserve the “Third Coast”. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most visited areas in Michigan, and if you haven’t been it should absolutely be on your list for the near future.
There are two campgrounds where visitors can stay within the area. The Platte River Campground and DH Day Campground are both options for visitors. Both are extremely busy in the summer and offer limited online reservations. The rest of sites are booked on a first come first serve basis, that includes people waiting outside at 6am.
Other key areas include the Manitou Islands, which I visited once, and Point Betsie Lighthouse. The Point Betsie Lighthouse remains one of my favorites in the entire state and also one of the lighthouses I can say I have been to the most through all four seasons.
Lake of the Clouds – Michigan has some breathtaking views that keep visitors coming back and travelling across the state. Lake of the Clouds, in Ontonagon County, is one of these said places. Located in the Porcupine Mountains, Lake of the Clouds is the highlight of this natural wilderness area.
Located at an elevation of 1076 feet, Lake of the Clouds features breathtaking views that include a lake and the two ridges of the Porcupine Mountains. I can honestly say that the overlook is one of the greatest places to view the outdoors in the entire state. The photos, which are amazing, do limited justice to this place in real life.
Lake of the Clouds has also become an amazing place to stargaze and is listed as a top place in Michigan to view Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. Each year, the annual Snowburst Winter Carnival is also held in the region, which includes winter events like snowshoe hiking.
Mackinaw City/Mackinac Bridge/Mackinac Island – Spell it how you want, say it how you want, but the city and surrounding areas of Mackinac are a great piece of Michigan history. Perhaps the most visited vacation destination in Michigan, the city and island of Mackinac are an essential place for Michigander (or Michiganians) and out of state residents to visit.
I have been going to Mackinaw since I was a little boy and have made so many trips back there that I have lost count. I remember going to the island while young and driving across the peninsula connecting Mackinac Bridge as part of my Learner’s Permit parent-chaperoned hours on the road.
Some of my most fond memories in this area are the annual races on Mackinac Island. The longest race I ever ran was the annual Half Marathon held on the island. I also ran the 8 mile run three times. This 8 mile run is essentially one lap around the entire island and provides competitors with breathtaking views of the lake and mainland from the island and also shows off the back half of the island with resident’s houses and natural wonders that tourists don’t always get to see.
Despite many visits to the Mackinac area and trips across the bridge, I have yet to attend the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk, which should be in my short term plans now given the recently announced Mighty Mac Swim.
Detroit Sports Stadiums – There’s not many states where you can go to a Major League Baseball game, National Football League game, National Basketball Association game, and National Hockey League game. Michigan, and more specifically the Detroit area, is one of the few areas that can be proud to say they give residents to chance to experience all four major sports.
Three of the sporting stadiums are located in close proximity. Ford Field and Comerica Park are across the street from each other. Joe Louis Arena will only be the home of the Detroit Red Wings for another season, before a new arena heads closer to Ford Field and Comerica Park.
I had the chance to pull what I refer to as the “Sports Double” last season by attending a Detroit Lions and Detroit Red Wings game on the same day. I will save more details from that day for a future article, but think residents of our Mitten State have a great opportunity to attend at least one professional sporting event each year.
I will miss Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings since 1979, as it is the only place I have known for Red Wings games in the state. I have been attending Red Wings game since a young boy and as hockey is my favorite sport, couldn’t be happier to be able to attend events in “Hockeytown” each season.
As a season ticket holder for the Detroit Lions, I make several trips to Ford Field each year. These trips normally involve tailgating and taking in one of the greatest sports traditions of waking up early Sunday morning and grilling before going into a NFL game.
Ludington/Big Sable Lighthouse – I have seen almost every lighthouse in the state of Michigan. Two of my favorites are already listed above with Mackinaw and Point Betsie. Another favorite of mine is the Big Sable Lighthouse, located in one of my favorite Michigan cities Ludington.
Ludington is located on Lake Michigan and has a huge state park and a large 352-site campground. Ludington is a popular tourist destination due to its large beach, location, and dunes. Antique shops and an old fashioned city feel also help attract tourists to the city.
The city of Ludington has its own namesake lighthouse, but also has the 112 foot Big Sable Lighthouse, which is one of the most well known in the state. The tough part is visiting the lighthouse involves a two mile walk along the Ludington State Park beach. That is also the good news as the walk provides you with a picturesque view of Lake Michigan and the state’s natural beauty culminating in seeing the tall black tower over the dunes when you are approaching the target.
See Jon’s Top 5 Michigan Places Here