18 Michigan Places We Visited for the First Time in 2018
As 2018 draws to a close, we decided to take a moment to reflect on all of the new places we were able to visit this year. One of our goals heading into each new year in Michigan is to try and visit places we’ve never been before, and we did a pretty good job on that quest again this year. As each new year comes, it has gotten a bit harder to find new and interesting things to see, but the challenge is part of what makes it even more rewarding. In 2018 we made it to some new museums, state parks we hadn’t been to before, roadside attractions we hadn’t seen, and breweries we hadn’t made it to yet. Looking ahead to next year we have our sights set on some waterfalls, lighthouses, and state parks we haven’t visited yet – for now you can enjoy our list of 18 New Michigan Places We Visited This Year:
Michigan’s Own Military and Space Heroes Museum, Frankenmuth – In April we visited this museum that honors Michigan residents who served in the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, and more in all foreign conflicts as well as all of our Michigan-born astronauts. We learned a lot about former Governor William G. Milliken, the Michigan “Polar Bears”, astronaut Roger B. Chaffee, and ace pilot Ivan Kincheloe. The museum also features a large exhibit of Michigan’s Medal of Honor recipients, the nation’s largest such exhibit. Michigan’s Own Military and Space Heroes Museum is located at 1250 Weiss St. in Frankenmuth.
Waiting sculpture by KAWS, Detroit – This 17 foot tall sculpture was installed in front of One Campus Martius in Detroit in May. The Detroit Free Press noted that this piece of art “created by Brooklyn-based artist Brian Donnelly under the alias Kaws, the statue features two figures known as “Companion” — a recurring character in the Kaws lexicon that represents the process of growing up and often reflects personal aspects pulled from the artist’s own life,” has been a popular spot for photography since its installation. We stopped by to check it out in June – it is a nice addition to an area of downtown that already has prominent art pieces like the Spirit of Detroit and the Joe Louis Fist on display.
William G. Milliken State Park, Detroit – One of Michigan’s newest state parks (opened in 2004 as Tri-Centennial State Park), Milliken State Park is located on Atwater St. next to the Detroit River. This park offers fishing opportunities, a 52-slip harbor, hiking and biking trails, picnic pavilions, and more. Its centerpiece is a 63 foot tall lighthouse, which is a scaled-down version of the Tawas Point Lighthouse.
Titanic Memorial (for Michigan-bound passengers), Marine City – 69 of the 1,500 passengers who died when the RMS Titanic sank in 1912 were headed for Michigan. A memorial placed in a park in Marine City in May lists the names and destinations of these passengers.
Sanilac Petroglyphs State Historic Site – While we had been to the Thumb area many times before, the timing had never quite worked out for us to visit Michigan’s only known Native American rock carvings. While the hiking trail at this historic site is open year round, to get inside the fenced off area and see the petroglyphs there is a much shorter window (Memorial Day to Labor Day, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The best-known carving, and one of the most prominent, is “the Bowman,” shown above.
Bay City State Recreation Area – A rainy day in the Thumb in June may have halted our plans for kayaking, but it gave us time to explore the Bay City Recreation Area instead. Home to a beach on Saginaw Bay, a splash pad, a campground, picnic pavilions, miles of hiking trails, and an interactive visitor center, this is a park with something for anyone who loves the outdoors. We especially enjoyed birdwatching along the Lagoon and Chickadee nature trails. The park is located at 3582 State Park Drive in Bay City.
Michigan Brewer’s Guild U.P Fall Beer Festival, Marquette – We’ve been fortunate to attend the past three years of the Michigan Brewers’ Guild’s Winter Beer Festival in Comstock Park and the last two years’ Detroit Fall Beer Festivals but this was our first year of attending the U.P. Fall Beer Festival in Marquette. The park along Lake Superior is a great location for this event, and the weather cooperated nicely for early September. Highlights of the day including trying beers from barrel + beam (Marquette) for the first time, as well as trying some new beers from Upper Peninsula favorites Upper Hand Brewery, Blackrocks Brewery, and Ore Dock Brewing.
Rockport State Recreation Area, Alpena – This stunning state park sits on the Lake Huron shoreline, and offers more outdoor adventure than you could possibly cram into just one day. At Rockport you’ll find sinkholes, remnants of a limestone quarry, fossils, hiking and biking trails, beaches, a protected harbor, and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities. The adjoining Besser Natural Area is home to the ghost town of Bell and a shipwreck that can be seen when kayaking. Rockport State Park is also a Dark Sky Preserve, perfect for stargazing! Head north of Alpena on US-23, then turn right onto Rockport Rd. and follow it to the parking area.
Dinosaur Gardens, Ossineke – Family fun awaits south of Alpena at Dinosaur Gardens! Take a stroll through the woods here and see more than 25 life-size dinosaurs that were sculpted by former owner Paul Domke. Dinosaur Gardens is also home to a mini-golf course, ice cream bar, gift shop, and fossil dig area. Check out our Dinosaur Gardens Photo Gallery for more. You’ll find Dinosaur Gardens in Ossineke at 11160 US-23 South.
Blackrocks Brewery, Marquette – In all of our trips to the Marquette area, we’d somehow never visited Blackrocks Brewery. While in town for this year’s U.P. Fall Beer Fest we made a point to finally visit this neighborhood brewery. While it looks deceptively small from the street, there’s plenty of room inside and outside here. I loved the layout of the outdoor area and look forward to going back next summer. We enjoyed trying their Trenary Toast beer (a collaboration with Rockford Brewing) and the Frood Noops IPA. Blackrocks Brewery is located at 424 N. Third St.
Cheboygan Lighthouse Ruins, Cheboygan State Park – If you’ve been following us for awhile, you probably already know that we’re a bit obsessed with Michigan lighthouses. There are very few we haven’t been to or seen from a boat, and this year we got to check one more off of the list. In previous attempts to hike out to the lighthouse ruins at Cheboygan State Park we had been turned away by bad weather and mosquitos, but this time we powered our way through and were finally able to see what remains of the 1850s Cheboygan Lighthouse. While walking the beach on the way out we were treated to views of the Poe Reef Light, Fourteen Foot Shoal Light, and the Mackinac Bridge. This mile-long hike is a must for any Michigan lighthouse enthusiast! Cheboygan State Park is located at 4490 Beach Rd. in Cheboygan (off of US-23 east of downtown).
Michigan’s CCC Museum, North Higgins Lake State Park – In early June, we visited several state parks for the first time while on our way to Alpena. While the beach and campground at North Higgins Lake looked amazing, we especially enjoyed learning about all of Michigan’s Civilian Conservations Corps camps at the CCC Museum. This free museum features building set up in the way that camps were designed, with lots of historic information about CC efforts statewide (including reforestation in the immediate area). You can visit this historical museum for yourself at 11747 N. Higgins Lake Dr. near Roscommon.
Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling – Another state park that we visited for the first time in 2018 was Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling. Home to one of the last untouched old-growth pine forests in Michigan, this park also has a logging museum, miles of nature trails, a campground, and the Michigan Forest Visitor Center. Hartwick Pines State Park is located off of M-93, east of I-75.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Paradise – While we had been to Whitefish Point many times to see the lighthouse, we had never been inside the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum until this September. In addition to the bell recovered from the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the museum houses artifacts from many other Great Lakes shipwrecks. Admission to the museum also gets visitors in to the 1923 surf boat house, the 1861 keeper’s quarters, the shipwreck video theatre, and for an additional fee the Whitefish Point Lighthouse tower. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located at 18335 Whitefish Point Rd. in Paradise.
Ypsilanti Water Tower – We’ve seen many of Michigan’s roadside attractions and landmarks and are always looking for more that we haven’t seen. This year we visited a truly unique water tower in Ypsilanti that was built in 1890. The Ypsilanti Water Tower is 147 feet tall and holds a 250,000 gallon steel tank. The outside is Joliet limestone, and in front of the tower is a statue honoring the city’s namesake – Demetrio Ypsilantis. You can find this local icon at the intersection of Cross St. and Summit St.
Monocle Lake Recreation Area, Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway – While exploring the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway this fall we stopped in to check out Monocle Lake Recreation Area for the first time. We were blown away by the amazing fall color around the lake! There is a rustic campground, a beach, opportunities to fish and boat on the lake, great spots for picnics, and some trails to explore. This would be a great base camp for U.P. adventure due to its close location to Sault Ste. Marie, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and Whitefish Point. You can find the campground off of Lakeshore Dr., about a mile west of Bay Mills.
Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit – In February we had the chance to visit the brand new Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit for a Red Wings game. This new, incredibly modern arena houses the Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons and can fit more than 19,500 fans for game. It was certainly different after making many trips to Joe Louis Arena over the years, but it was good to see that great efforts were made to incorporate the team’s history into the new facility. Little Caesar’s Arena is located at 2645 Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
Transient Artisan Ales, Bridgman – It was hard to pick just a couple breweries for this list, as we visited more than 40 that were new to us this year. We loved the laid-back vibe at Transient Artisan Ales in Bridgman, and the beer was great. The Juice is Loose is an amazing New England IPA, and we also enjoyed Wake and Cake (bourbon barrel aged imperial stout) and Obelus (oak fermented saison). Stay up-to-date with the tap list and hours at https://www.facebook.com/transientartisanales/. Transient Artisan Ales is located on Lake St. in downtown Bridgman.