Travel the Mitten – Our 21 Michigan Travel Goals for 2021
The time has come to start planning for next year’s Travel the Mitten day trips and vacations, and we thought a fun way to do this was to set our 21 Michigan Travel Goals for 2021. This list is a mix of easy and hard things to complete next year, with the overall goal of expanding our coverage of the entire state. With a few weeklong vacations planned, and lots of free weekends in the spring and summer, we now have some specific areas and sites to focus our attention on. We will check back in and update this post at the end of June so we can see what kind of progress we have made at the halfway point of 2021.
Find 35 more Michigan Historical Markers – many of the interesting historical sites we have found in Michigan have been as a result of looking for Michigan’s historical markers. There are more than 1800 of these green plaques with gold text scattered across the state, and while we have visited more than 700 of them there is obviously some more work to be done. Some places where we can focus are Detroit, Flint, Jackson, Saginaw, and Ann Arbor.
Investigate 2 more shallow water shipwrecks – one of the highlight of this year’s Drummond Island vacation was the chance to kayak over two of the shallow water shipwrecks in Scammon Cove. We had previously only paddled over shipwrecks at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore while on our way to Au Sable Light Station, and seeing a few different kinds of vessels made us want to keep exploring. The new Michigan Shipwreck App will be helpful as we plan to check out more sites, as some are better than others for viewing from a kayak. Some great spots we can head to next year for other shipwrecks include Harbor Beach, Alpena, or South Manitou Island if the ferry service is back up and running.
Kayak 3 more Michigan rivers – One of the positives to come out of the pandemic and forced social distancing was that we spent a lot more time in our kayaks. While many of our trips took place locally on the Flat River, we also got out and explored the Pine River and the Platte River in Northern Michigan. Next year we look to add to our Michigan river experience while exploring some in the Upper Peninsula, or local favorites like the Grand River, Thornapple River, or the Muskegon River. We should have no problem exploring at least 3 more Michigan rivers in 2021!
Hike 25 more miles of the North Country Trail in Michigan – we are blessed with more miles (more than 1,100 of the 4,600 miles on the trail) than any other state, and while we have hiked close to 200 different miles of it there is still much more to explore! Next year we hope to tackle some of the trail miles in Barry County, Kalamazoo County, and maybe even some more of the Upper Peninsula segments.
Make it back to the Detroit Zoo – It has been way, way, way too long (20+ years) since we visited the Detroit Zoo. Many things have changed there since our last visit, as the zoo is now home to one of North America’s largest polar bear habitats and the Polk Penguin Conservation Center. Red pandas, river otters, tigers, lions, and giraffes are just a few of the other animals we are excited to see.
Visit 2 of the Michigan lighthouses we haven’t been to yet – this is another hard one, as most of the 15 lighthouses we still need to see are out on islands or in the middle of lakes. Three of those are near Isle Royale, while four others are on islands in Lake Michigan. Will 2021 be the year we finally make it out to the 14 Mile Point Lighthouse ruins or visit the Neebish Island Range Light? It was difficult to get on a Shepler’s lighthouse cruise this year, hopefully next year we will have better luck!
Find 5 more Michigan waterfalls that we haven’t been to – here’s a goal that could be easy or difficult depending on where our Upper Peninsula vacations take us. We’ve visited more than 150 Michigan waterfalls, sharing close to 100 of them with our readers. Some moderately easy ones we could knock off the list this year include Cascade Falls, Upper Montreal Falls, and Ecstasy/Slide/Kuckuck’s Falls on the Slate River. The Marquette area, Skanee area, and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park still have many waterfalls we haven’t visited, and while they will take some work to get to we have found that Michigan’s waterfalls are almost always worth the effort.
Visit 4 more Michigan Legal Milestones sites – 41 sites in Michigan have been honored with Michigan Legal Milestones plaques, denoting people and places that were responsible for notable changes in the law in Michigan and beyond. We have visited 13 of these sites and look forward to learning more at at least four more of these sites in 2021.
See a Michigan moose – this one has been on the bucket list for a long time, and it’s unfortunately one that we have little control over. I’ve been fortunate to see many moose in the wild while traveling through Ontario and Minnesota on the Lake Superior Circle Tour, but have yet to photograph the elusive mammals here in Michigan. Multiple trips to the Upper Peninsula and plenty of patience in the right places will give a better chance of success with this goal, but there are no guarantees.
See the Northern Lights – here’s another one that’s beyond our control, but with some planned trips to Copper Harbor and the western Upper Peninsula we should at least give ourselves a fighting chance. The Northern Lights have long fascinated Michigan residents. When conditions are right they are frequently spotted along the Upper Peninsula’s Lake Superior shoreline and sometimes even into the Northern Lower Peninsula.
Finish visiting all the Kent County Parks – most of our favorite local parks are part of Kent County Parks (Pickerel Lake Park, Fallasburg Park, Lepard Preserve), yet we have only visited less than half of the 41 sites in the county in the nearly two decades we’ve called Grand Rapids home. This year we made it to a few that we hadn’t been to before (bringing our total to 19 out of 41), and this should be a pretty attainable goal in 2021.
Strengthen our coverage in Southeast Michigan – one thing we are guilty of when we have time to explore Michigan is we usually head west to Lake Michigan or head north to the Upper Peninsula. In 2021 we hope to spend more time in Jackson, Ann Arbor, Detroit and other Southeast Michigan locations to expand our coverage of historical sites, breweries, family friendly attractions, trails, state parks, and more.
Explore 4 “new to us” trails in Michigan – you may have heard Michigan referred to as the “Great Trails State” and there is good reason for that. We have long trails like the North Country Trail and the Iron Belle Trail, but we also have many great shorter trails in local parks. Some trips that are on our radar are the Manistee River Loop Trail, the Nordhouse Dunes Trail, the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary, and more trails at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Make it out to Turnip Rock – on two different vacations, we had plans to visit Turnip Rock, which is quite possibly the most unique natural formation on the Lake Huron shoreline. One way or another we will reach it in 2021, whether we kayak out to it ourselves, rent from Port Austin kayak, or take a charter boat trip out.
Visit 2 Michigan Museums that we haven’t been to – there are hundreds of museums in Michigan, focusing on things like Military and Space Heroes (Frankenmuth), President Gerald R. Ford (Grand Rapids), Motown (Detroit), rocks and minerals (Houghton’s A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum), and the Upper Peninsula’s Iron Industry (Negaunee). Marshall is home to eight museums within its city limits! I’d love to finally see the inside of the American Museum of Magic (Marshall) or the Yankee Air Museum (Belleville). This should be a pretty attainable goal!
Find 5 more Michigan roadside attractions – one of our favorite things to bring to this site are the weird, wild, wacky, and historical roadside attractions that are spread throughout the state. This year alone we were able to feature the World’s Largest Brown Trout Sculpture in Baldwin, a 1930s pierhead light in Onekama, a unique airport in Leelanau County, and fish head sculptures at a park in Newaygo. What will we find in 2021? We have a few ideas but don’t want to spoil the surprise, so be sure to check back and see what we find!
Finish visiting all the Ottawa County Parks – just like the Kent County Parks that we haven’t made it to close to home, I also want to make sure 2021 sees us visiting the remaining parks one county to our west that we haven’t been to. Out of the 40 parks, we have visited 13. This goal may seem a little ambitious, but with some good mapping and planning and good use of our weekends, it should be easily attainable. Eastmanville Farm, Ottawa Sands, and Johnson Street Forest are at the top of our list, and we’re sure to knock out some great new Michigan trails while working on this goal!
Visit Midland – if there’s one specific city left that we haven’t spent enough time in, it’s Midland. We look forward to visiting Dow Gardens, checking out the famous “tridge,” the Chippewa Nature Center, and maybe even taking in a baseball game at Dow Diamond. Midland Brewing Company, four Michigan historical markers, and a Michigan Legal Milestone marker will also help us work on some of the other goals on this list. More ideas: https://www.gogreat.com/cities/midland/.
Make it to 10 more Michigan State Parks – our love for Michigan state parks is no secret if you’ve been reading our posts for any length of time, and next year we hope to strengthen our coverage of them even more. We have been to more than 60 of these wonderful sites, and want to add at least 10 more next year. The southeastern side of the state is a place that needs some attention (Meridian-Baseline, Maybury, Cambridge Junction) and we have plans to visit Warren Woods State Park and Fisherman’s Island State Park as well.
Check out 2 more quilt barn trails – there are many quilt barn trails in the Lower Peninsula, and our goal for next year is to visit at least two more of them. Will we head to Alcona County or check out the Thumb Quilt Trail? Do we try and find barns while visiting the Copper Country, or should we head south and check out Vicksburg’s trail? There are plenty of options and we should soon be able to add more photos like the ones we have from the Old Mission Quilt Barn Trail near Traverse City (find out more at http://barnquiltinfo.com/map-MI.html)
Have a beer at 7 more Michigan breweries – this is a fun one for me, since to date I have been able to visit 193 Michigan breweries. This was a much slower year for brewery trips due to the pandemic and the ever-changing guidelines for indoor dining. Another 7 breweries would get me to an even 200, and based on previous history I’d say there’s a good chance this goal can be accomplished.