26 Things To Do In Michigan This Summer: Travel The Mitten’s A To Z Guide
First off, we’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone who has checked out our website so far. The response has been beyond what we hoped for in these first five months, and we look forward to providing you with even more great travel tips and ideas for years to come! Our “26 Things To Do In Michigan This Spring: An A to Z Guide” was one of our most successful posts yet, so we decided to put out another list for the summer months. With great weather expected, there will be many outdoor options across our state from June to August. There are also countless festivals, museums, zoos, and state parks worth checking out. Enjoy this list as you start to plan your vacations and day trips, and keep checking back here for even more ideas.
Air Zoo, Kalamazoo – A prime destination for aviation enthusiasts of all ages, the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo features more than 50 rare and historic planes, educational and interactive activities and rides, and traveling exhibits. Find out more details at http://www.airzoo.org/.
Beer – Chances are that wherever your Michigan summer vacation takes you, there’s a brewery not far away. Consider sipping an Oberon at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo or an All Day IPA at Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, or visit one of the many newer breweries within a short drive of scenic Lake Michigan beaches – Petoskey Brewing, Odd Side Ales (Grand Haven), Stormcloud Brewing Company (Frankfort) or Hop Lot Brewing Co. (Suttons Bay). We’ve made some additions to our beer/breweries page recently, and it also features links to our reviews.
Camping – Michigan has more than 140 state park campgrounds and more than 130 state forest campgrounds, offering everything from rustic backcountry camping to sites with modern amenities. Countless other privately-owned campgrounds offer everything from wi-fi to petting zoos, so chances are there’s a place to pop up a tent or park the RV nearby whatever Michigan destination(s) you choose to visit this summer. Campgrounds at Sleeping Bear Dunes or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore also offer a range of options, as well as easy access to scenic dunes and the waters of Lakes Michigan and Superior.
Dune Rides – Two sets of dunes on the Lake Michigan coast offer visitors a chance to experience the stunning sands without a strenuous hike. Mac Wood’s Dune Rides in Silver Lake offers a 7-mile, 40-minute tour on a modified four-wheel-drive vehicle. Head over to http://www.macwoodsdunerides.com/ for more details. To the south, Saugatuck Dune Rides offers a 40-minute tour that shows off the areas dunes and vegetation while providing history of the former town of Singapore and the filming of Road to Perdition (2001 film starring Tom Hanks) in the surrounding area. Head over to their website (http://www.saugatuckduneride.com/home.html) for details on hours and pricing.
Eastern Market, Detroit – This historical commercial district is listed as both a Michigan Historic Site and on the National Register of Historic Places. One mile north of downtown Detroit, this area has more than 150 food and specialty businesses as well as one of the largest open-air flowerbeds in the country. Saturday is typically the busiest day of the week, with countless options for fresh meat and produce. Renovations in 2006 helped solidify the future of this historic marketplace, which is also a popular tailgating location for Detroit Lions football games.
Farmers Picnic, Sunfield – From August 13-16 the small Eaton County village of Sunfield comes alive with a Farmers Picnic that includes fireworks, a parade, wiffleball and softball tournaments, a talent show, craft show, game booths, live entertainment, and plenty of food. Keep up on details on their Facebook page.
Great Lakes Beaches – When the sun is out this summer, there’s a Michigan beach that can provide whatever you’re looking for when it comes to recreation and/or relaxing. Take in the scenic dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, check out sandy state parks at Muskegon or Grand Haven, or find a more secluded spot at Negwegon State Park on Lake Huron or Muskallonge Lake in the Upper Peninsula. Pictured above is P.J. Hoffmaster State Park on Lake Michigan.
Hiking – Michigan is home to one of the most extensive and beautiful trail networks in the entire country. The North Country Trail, Iron Ore Heritage Trail, North Central State Trail, Fred Meijer White Pine Trail, Kal Haven Trail, and the Pere Marquette State Trail are just a few of the larger trails worth checking out. Head over to http://trailsmichigan.com/ for more information, or pick up a copy of Jim DuFresne’s book 50 Hikes in Michigan. Most state parks have hiking trails of some kind, and cities like Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Detroit are a few of the leaders in establishing trails that cover both urban and rural areas.
Isle Royale National Park – Michigan’s only National Park is located on an island in Lake Superior more than 50 miles from land (that land being the Keweenaw Peninsula). The only ways to get there are by boat or plane, which makes this one of the least-visited national parks in the country. Those looking for an amazing experience away from civilization will find it here with more than 170 miles of hiking trails and countless chances for backcountry camping. Those wishing for some modern convenience can stay in cabins or at Rock Harbor Lodge. Additional draws to the area include historic lighthouse as well as fishing and kayaking opportunities. A significant moose population exists on the island, while only three wolves remain from what was once a much bigger herd. Find out details on getting to Isle Royale at http://www.nps.gov/isro/index.htm.
J.W. Wells State Park – Tucked away in the southeast corner of the Upper Peninsula, Wells State Park offers scenic campsites on Green Bay as well as recreational activities for all ages and abilities. Hiking trails, a day-use beach, sports facilities, and a handicap-accessible playground are all popular features, and the park is within a short drive of the bigger cities of Escanaba (north) and Menominee (south). Check out our review of the park here.
Kayaking – Michigan’s unique situation of being surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes makes our state a kayaker’s paradise during the summer. Popular destinations like Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are even more beautiful from the water, but many inland lakes and rivers can be fun to visit as well. On the Lake Huron side, a trip to Turnip Rock is an unforgettable experience. In the Upper Peninsula, kayak trips on the Manistique River or at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offer great chances to see wildlife. For those looking for whitewater adventure, the Menominee River at Piers Gorge State Park is a true adventure.
Lilac Festival, Mackinac Island – From June 5-14, Mackinac Island will come alive with the sights and sounds of the 66th annual Lilac Festival. Music, a 10K race, a parade, a dog and pony show and countless other activities await visitors. Head over to http://www.mackinacisland.org/event/lilacfestival/ for a full schedule of events.
Michigan’s Adventure – The largest amusement park in the state boasts more 50 rides, including the 125-foot-tall wooden roller coaster Shivering Timbers. Other rides include Thunderhawk (a steel inverted coaster), Corkscrew, and the Wolverine Wildcat (85-foot-tall wooden coaster). Water rides include Adventure Falls, Grand Rapids, the HydroBlaster water slide, and Logger’s Run. A slogan of “2 parks for the price of 1″ references the Wildwater Adventure water park, as gate admission covers both parks for the day. Additional attractions include carnival-style games and miniature golf (additional charges).
Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor – The University of Michigan operates this 123-acre collection of trees, flowers and more. Rare trees from Asia and Europe can be found here, and so can the Peony Collection, Centennial Shrub Collection, Heathdale Collection, and Dow Prairie. This a popular spot for walking/hiking and jogging/running. The arboretum is located at 1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor.
Ocqueoc Falls – It isn’t hard to find a waterfall in the Upper Peninsula, but Ocqueoc Falls near Onaway is the only named waterfall in the Lower Peninsula. Hiking trails, fishing, a picnic area and a handicap-accessible trail are a few of the draws for visitors, while the waterfall itself is a gradual drop of about 10 feet on a rushing river in a forested setting. There is also a state forest campground just down the road. Check out our post from February for more details.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – There’s something for everyone at Pictured Rocks, and countless ways to experience some of the most beautiful scenery in the state. Hiking trails range from short to long and from easy to challenging, with the North Country Trail passing through the park. Waterfalls are abundant, and the tall, colored cliffs are great to see from the hiking trails, boat cruises, or on a sea kayak trip. Check out our photo gallery for more great scenic views.
Quake-on-the-Lake, Waterford – The 15th annual Quake-on-the-Lake will feature nine classes of APBA hydroplane boat racing on Pontiac Lake in Waterford. Saturday, June 18th is the date for this year’s event, which will also feature a 5k race, classic car show, craft show, and concert from Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys. Find more information at http://www.quakeonthelake.org/ or on Facebook.
Road Races – RunMichigan.com has compliled an extensive list of runs in Michigan over the course of the summer. There are races scheduled every weekend this summer (and a few during the week), with highlights being the Reeds Lake Run (East Grand Rapids, June 6), CRIM Festival of Races (Flint, Aug. 21-22), Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 10K (June 6), Run Thru Hell (Pinckney, August 8), and the Ludington Lakestride (June 13). Whether you’re a beginner looking to try out a short run or an experienced runner looking for a challenge, there’s a race in Michigan for you!
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – In 2011, Good Morning America voted Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore the “Most Beautiful Place in America.” It won’t take a long visit to see why this amazing area earned such a distinction. The Platte River is a haven for kayakers and tubers, and it empties into Lake Michigan after a long, slow, winding journey. North and South Manitou Islands are a dream destination for backpackers and backcountry campers, with miles of trails and historic lighthouses. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive takes visitors past some of the best scenic sites, including great views of the dunes and Lake Michigan. History buffs will enjoy the maritime museum and many restored historic sites like the Glen Haven General Store and Cannery Boathouse.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park – The roaring waters of the Tahquamenon River continue to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each summer to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The Upper Falls is 200 x 50 foot drop (second largest east of the Mississippi) known for its copper color, while the Lower Falls is a collection of several waterfalls that surround an island. Check out our photo gallery for more great views from this park, as well as our article about taking a rowboat out to the Lower Falls. Five campgrounds combine to offer more than 350 campsites, and there are 22 miles of hiking trails within the park. Handicap accessible viewing areas for both falls are also present.
US-12 Garage Sale – Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale takes place August 7-9 this year, with more than 180 miles of sales stretching from New Buffalo to Detroit. Local businesses and historic attractions along the route also get involved in this event, stay tuned to http://www.us12heritagetrail.org/garage_sale.asp for details and exact locations as the event gets closer.
Vermilion “Ghost Town” on Lake Superior – The Little Traverse Conservancy keeps a nature preserve open to the public for quiet recreation at this remote spot on Lake Superior. The area was once well-known for its cranberry bogs and was home to a Coast Guard Life Saving Station from 1877 to 1944. After the station was abandoned, much damage was done to the buildings left behind and this was one of the state’s “ghost towns.” Today, there is still the feeling of stepping back in time, but a few of the larger buildings have been restored. The piping plover has successfully nested here on a regular basis, so visit with caution and obey all posted signs and restrictions. From Whitefish Point Rd. north of Paradise/M-123, head west on Vermilion Point Rd.
Whitefish Point – For maritime enthusiasts in Michigan, there may be no better place to visit than Whitefish Point on the shores of Lake Superior. The historic Whitefish Point Lighthouse still stands guard over this treacherous stretch of shoreline, and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum offers exhibits and artifacts from notable shipwrecks from the area, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Wildlife enthusiasts will find the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory fascinating, as hundreds of different kinds of birds travel through this area – be on the lookout for owls, hawks, woodpeckers, grouse and more! More imnformation can be found at: http://www.wpbo.org/ or https://www.shipwreckmuseum.com/.
X Games Master Craft Throwdown, Millenium Park/Grand Rapids – ESPN World of X Games and Master Craft have teamed up to bring a wakeboarding event to Millennium Park in Grand Rapids on August 8 that will be broadcast live on ABC. An attempt at a world record for ski flying as well at this invitation only event that will also feature live music. Find more info and tickets at http://www.mastercraftthrowdown.com/.
Yankee Springs State Recreation Area – This state recreation area covers 5,200 acres in Barry County and offers 30 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of mountain biking trails, and 9 miles of equestrian trails. The North Country Trail passes through this amazing park, which includes the Graves Hill scenic overlook and Devil’s Soupbowl, a glacially formed kettle formation. There are 200 modern campsites, 120 rustic campsites, 25 equestrian campsites and several cabins. Fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities are plentiful at Gun Lake, where there is a day-use area.
Zoos – Michigan is home to some fabulous and ever-improving zoos, including the Detroit Zoo, John Ball Zoo (Grand Rapids), Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park (Alto), Potter Park Zoo (Lansing) and Binder Park Zoo (Battle Creek) in the Lower Peninsula, as well as Oswald’s Bear Ranch (Newberry), DeYoung Family Zoo (Wallace), and GarLyn Zoo (Naubinway) in the Upper Peninsula. Summer is a great time to see all of the rare and exotic animals these zoos have to offer, as they are typically more active now than during the fall and summer months.