22 Michigan Places We Visited For The First Time In 2022
Every year we set out to explore more of Michigan and we never seem to run out of new places to visit. 2022 was a busy year full of vacations, day trips, and long weekends as we visited new landmarks, roadside attractions, cities, parks, family attractions, and more. Like we have done for the past few years (see the 2021 list and the 2020 list), we put together a list of our favorite “new to us” places for the year, choosing 22 Michigan places we visited in 2022. This has become one of my favorite projects to work on each year as it shows that even after three-plus decades of exploring Michigan there are still so many places left to experience for the first time! Check out the list below and follow the link in each section if you want to learn more!
Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm & Boutique (Frankfort) – In June we made a weekend trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We stayed at the Betsie River Campsite in one of their great mini cabins, and had a blast near Lake Michigan. On Saturday we were looking for something to do that would take us out of direct sun for a bit, and we found this awesome Alpaca farm just a few miles down the road from the campground. The Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm & Boutique features a shop full of awesome items and even offers the chance to feed some of the alpacas. This is a great stop for the whole family!
DeTour Botanical Gardens – We actually visited the DeTour Botanical Gardens twice, the first time on a rainy day in June and the second in September as we made our way to Drummond Island. “DeTour Village Botanical Gardens consists of many individual garden beds designed in memory of a loved on by residents of DeTour Village. Each individual memorial garden is maintained by the family or loved ones.” It was neat to see all the different flowers and plants here along the shore of Lake Huron.
Alligator Hill Trail (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park) – While we’ve visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore more than 20 times, there are still areas of the park that we have yet to explore. One spot we visited for the first time this year was the Alligator Hill Trail, a 1.5 mile trail near the D.H. Day Campground that offers some scenic vistas overlooking Lake Michigan. The trail starts by passing the charcoal kilns shown above, which are remnants from the 1950s when Pierce Stocking used them to turn sawmill waste into charcoal that could be sold at stores.
Newaygo State Park – While we didn’t quite reach the big goal of visiting every Michigan state park (13 remain) we hadn’t been to yet, we were able to make it to a handful for the first time in 2022. In October we stopped at Newaygo State Park, taking in the scenery provided by the start of fall color season. This state park has a rustic campground and is popular with those who enjoy fishing and boating on the Hardy Dam Pond.
Tri-State Marker – It took a little bit of work to find this monument in Hillsdale County, but how cool is it to say that you’re standing in three states at once? The Tri State Marker denotes the point where Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio meet and was a roadside attraction that had been on our bucket list for awhile.
Giant Sequoias at Lake Bluff Farms – Another bucket list item we were able to cross off this year was seeing the Giant Sequoia trees at Lake Bluff Farms north of Manistee. Until a year ago we didn’t even know there were any of these tall, majestic trees typically found in California here in the Mitten State, but we knew we had to go see them. Lake Bluff Farms has many other trees and a few trails, as well as beach frontage on Lake Michigan. If you’re in the Manistee area be sure to stop by and check out Lake Bluff Farms!
Cambridge Junction Historic State Park – Another first-time state park visit for us was Cambridge Junction Historic State Park in Brooklyn. The historic Walker Tavern was not open when we visited but we were still able to stroll the park grounds and see all of the restored historic buildings at this important travel stop on what is now U.S. 12. Be sure to check out the events schedule for Cambridge Junction each summer as we were intrigued to learn about the vintage baseball games that are played there.
Arcadia Dunes (C.S. Mott Preserve) – If you love the beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore but want to get away from the crowds, head to Arcadia Dunes and take on the one-mile long Baldy Dune Trail for some amazing views. This was my absolute favorite hike of the entire year! There are more than 15 miles of trails to explore here at the C.S. Mott Preserve, including the ADA-accessible Overlook Trail that ends at a viewing platform overlooking Lake Michigan.
L.M. Wise Preserve (Hopkins) – A beautiful nature preserve that is used for a variety of educational purposes by Hopkins schools and local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, the L.M. Wise Preserve offers trails and birdwatching opportunities. Located just a short distance from U.S. 131, this is definitely the kind of park we’ll find ourselves coming back to a few more times.
Mayfield Pond Park – On our way up to Traverse City in May we took some back roads and ended up finding a great park in Mayfield. Mayfield Pond Park has trails, fishing opportunities, and historical information about the creation of the Adams Fly. Local fisherman Leonard Halladay “created the first Adams dry fly near his home on the banks of Mayfield pond. He named it in honor of hid good friend, Judge Charles F. Adams, another enthusiastic angler who loved to fly fish for brook and brown trout in the nearby Boardman River. The Adams fly combines brown and grizzly hackles; many trout anglers claim it is the best fly ever made.”
Adrian – We spent a weekend in May exploring Adrian and the surrounding area, searching out Michigan historical markers, visiting breweries, and checking out the campuses of Adrian College and Siena Heights University. Downtown Adrian was full of beautiful buildings like the Lenawee County Courthouse pictured above, and we also learned about Laura Smith Haviland, an abolitionist and suffragist from Adrian.
Ludington Pumped Storage Plant – Ludington has long been a favorite summer stop for us, but despite all the visits to the state park, lighthouses, breweries, and other attractions we had never made the quick trip south of town to see the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant. During the day, water is released down the hill through turbines to create electricity. At night when there is less demand for electricity, water is pumped up from Lake Michigan to fill the reservoir. This is how the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant is able to quickly step up when there is high demand for energy in Michigan. The reservoir holds 27 billion gallons and is capable of generating more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity. This civil engineering landmark was quite impressive to see in person!
Arcadia Marsh – One of the coolest new places we found for wildlife watching this year was the Arcadia Marsh, which is located close to the Arcadia Dunes on M-22. The Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve is managed by the Grand Traverse Land Conservancy and features a boardwalk trail through the marsh where visitors can see ducks, swans, eagles, cranes, fish, turtles, muskrats, and more. We ended up stopping here again a couple more times after our initial visit in May.
LSSU Center for Freshwater Research and Education (Sault Ste. Marie) – June saw us make a trip to Canada and the Upper Peninsula and we made sure to check out Sault Ste. Marie’s newest family-friendly attraction. The LSSU Center for Freshwater Research and Education is home to the Great Lakes Discovery Center, where visitors can learn about the waters that surround us and the dangers that face them. The highlight of visiting was getting to touch a lake sturgeon, an iconic Michigan fish often referred to as a “living fossil.” Families will find this to be both a fun and educational stop when visiting Michigan’s oldest city.
Outdoor Discovery Center (Holland) – Another great family-friendly place for animal encounters ended up being a half hour away from us. Holland’s Outdoor Discovery Center blew us away with how much it has to offer: miles of trails, a playground, a visitor center with hands-on exhibits, art, animals, and more! Our favorite part of visiting was the DeWitt Birds of Prey Center, where we got to see eagles, hawks, owls, and more up close. It’s hard to believe a place like this is FREE and many people in the area don’t even know it exists!
Irish Hills Towers – When we visited Southeast Michigan in May we had a chance to see one of Michigan’s original roadside attractions – the Irish Hills Towers. Now essentially abandoned, these landmarks once drew in visitors from all over the state. In the 1920s, anticipating change, two long-time neighbors erected competing observation towers to attract visitors to the spectacular views of area lakes and hills. The towers spawned a thriving mix of roadside attractions that included inns, a campground, restaurants, dance halls, a picnic grove, a small zoo, carnival rides and a golf course. It wasn’t until 1957 that the towers’ ownership was unified, and eight years later a bridge connected their tops.
Nara Nature Trail Boardwalk (Houghton) – We love the Copper Country and we also love the fact that we have places we have yet to explore when we make the long trip up to the Keweenaw Peninsula. In June we enjoyed a morning walk along the Nara Nature Trail boardwalk in Houghton, where we saw many different birds, a few deer, and even a beaver. It was so quiet and peaceful here and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. We can’t wait to go back and do some more birdwatching!
Portland Shipwreck (Besser Natural Area) – Kayaking has become a big part of our travels in the last five years, and we are always looking for new places to get out on the water. In July we spent a weekend at Cheboygan State Park, and made a day trip down to the Alpena area. We launched the kayaks at Besser Natural Area and had calm waters as we approached the shipwreck of the Portland, a wooden two-masted schooner that sank in 1877. The wreckage lies in six foot deep water in Lake Huron but can easily be reached by kayakers of any skill level (when weather conditions allow). This was an awesome experience and we have more Lake Huron shipwrecks to explore in the future.
Fisherman’s Island State Park (Charlevoix) – Without a doubt, our favorite “new to us” Michigan state park of the year was Fisherman’s Island State Park in Charlevoix. This 2,678 acre park may not have an actual island, but it does have a campground and miles of Lake Michigan beach. We had heard that this was the place to go to search for Petoskey stones, and that was incredibly accurate. We couldn’t believe the number of Petoskey and Charlevoix stones that were just sitting on the beach or in the shallow water, including the absolutely beautiful specimens seen above. This has now become a go-to spot for day trips for rockhounding and relaxing.
Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo (New Era) – How had we never been to Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo before this year? This absolutely amazing place for the whole family has lots of animals, rides, games, flowers, fruit, food, and more fun than you can pack into one visit. For our September visit we elected to do the Zookeeper Experience, which let us feed and pet kangaroos, capybaras, and lemurs. This was one of the most fun experiences of the entire year and will definitely be a repeat visit!
Michigan Legacy Art Park (Thompsonville) – While most people visit Crystal Mountain to ski or golf, there is actually an awesome art park tucked in the hills as well. The Michigan Legacy Art Park has several beautiful walking trails that wind through the woods past 50 sculptures. Admission is only $5 and helps with the upkeep of the grounds, and special events are frequently held here in the summer months.
Tecumseh Brewing – Our time at Michigan breweries has dropped a bit over the last two years, and we don’t make it to new ones as often as we used to. In May we had the chance to visit Tecumseh Brewing, and our stop there reminded me why we used to go out of our way to seek out new Michigan breweries. Located in a beautiful building in downtown Tecumseh, this brewery has been open for almost a decade and they make some incredible beers. We sampled nine different ones, with favorites being Mr. Blonde (golden ale with coffee and habanero), Doc’s Hard Cider (think Hi-C Ecto Cooler), Rainbow Sherbet (sour), Irish Cream Stout, and Raspberry Java Sour. The food was tasty, the service was great, and this ended up being the perfect spot for a break after a day of exploring in the Irish Hills area. We brought some of these great beers home to share with friends, and would encourage anyone visiting the area to stop in and try this place out!
Gilmore Car Museum (Hickory Corners) – The most recently visited place on this list is one that we should have visited a long time ago. In October we finally made it to Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, and after visiting I don’t know why we waited so long. If you love cars or history this is a must-visit. With more than 400 vehicle on display there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. You will see Corvettes and other sports cars and learn how Lincoln, Cadillac, and Ford cars developed over the years. Other collections show off automobile mascots, toy cars, and even Disney memorabilia. There are some truly stunning vehicles in the Classic Car Club of America barn, and the museum has a handful of activities for the kids as well. This museum draws in visitors from all over the country and with it being an hour or less away from Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Lansing, and Kalamazoo there’s no reason more Michigan residents shouldn’t be visiting.