Oh, what an amazing vacation destination the State of Michigan is! This article explores some of our favorite Michigan bucket list destinations. Come along on our tour of the great state of Michigan.
Some of these I’m sure you have heard of, and others maybe not. We hope you will like these fun, quirky, and downright awesome things to do in Michigan.
Before we get started on “the list” here are a few fun facts about the Mitten State. What?! You didn’t know that Michigan is known as the Mitten State.
So, if you’re born and bred in Michigan you always show people where you live by pointing to the area on your hand.
Michigan is also known as the Great Lakes State because it has over 3,000 miles of freshwater coastline, which is the longest in the United States.
The Great Lakes include Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Superior. So, pack your swimsuit, and get ready for tons of water sports activities.
Did you know that Michigan has an Upper and Lower Peninsula? The Mighty Mac (the Mackinac Bridge) spans the Straits of Mackinac, connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
The Mackinac Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges (5 miles long) in the world.
We don’t want to limit this to just summer vacation ideas because Michigan is a four-season vacation destination.
Don’t forget since it’s Michigan you can have all 4 seasons in one day! Sorry, had to add some humor there!
While this list is certainly not ALL the epic things you can do on a road trip, a weekend getaway, or a family vacation, hopefully, you will find somewhere new to visit.
Now, let’s get started with outdoor activities, museums and historic landmarks, attractions, must-visit restaurants, and quirky pitstops in the Great Lakes State.
These are just a few of the best Michigan bucket list destinations that you need to visit.
This list is in no order – they are just favorites from family and friends!
1 – Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
The Henry Ford Museum, located in Dearborn, is a world-renowned museum that showcases a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that highlight American innovation and ingenuity. The museum’s extensive collection includes everything from historic vehicles, such as Henry Ford’s Ford Model T and the Rosa Parks Bus, to iconic artifacts like the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
Greenfield Village, located adjacent to the museum, is an outdoor living history museum that was created by Henry Ford himself in the early 20th century.
Visitors to Greenfield Village can explore historic homes and buildings, watch skilled artisans at work and even ride in a Model T or on a vintage steam train.
For a unique dining experience, be sure to stop at the Eagle Tavern where you can enjoy a delicious meal in a historic setting dating back to the 1850s.
The tavern features a menu of seasonally inspired meals using recipes handed down from the cooks that made their homes in Michigan 175 years ago. All the food is Michigan grown, and some is even grown on the property.
Together, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village offer a unique and immersive way to experience American history and innovation.
2 – Grand Haven
Grand Haven is a charming community located on the shores of Lake Michigan on the western side of the state. Known for its sandy beaches, the historic Grand Haven South Pier & Lighthouses, charter fishing trips, the Coast Guard Festival, and the Musical Fountain.
The Coast Guard Festival is over a week long and is held mid-summer each year as a way to honor the men and women who’ve served our country through the Coast Guard. It’s chock full of parades, memorials, picnics, carnival rides, car shows and more!
The Musical Fountain is a one-of-a-kind synchronized water and light show held at dusk throughout the summer months. Each nightly show has its own theme. Many folks in Michigan will tell you Grand Haven’s Musical Fountain inspired the world-renowned water and light show at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Grand Haven is a perfect backdrop for a romantic weekend getaway.
3 – Kitch-iti-kipi Spring
A hidden gem in the Upper Peninsula is Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s largest natural freshwater spring lake.
The name comes from the Ojibwa Indians meaning “big cold spring.” The lake is fed by several natural springs that gush over 10,000 gallons per minute at a constant temperature of 45 degrees. Visitors can take a self-operated raft onto the lake.
Kitch-iti-kipi is in Palms Book State Park near Manistique. It’s adjacent to the larger Indian Lake and its many lakeshore campgrounds.
4 – The Gilmore Car Museum
The Gilmore Car Museum is an automotive museum located in Hickory Corners, not far from Kalamazoo.
It’s home to one of the largest collections of vintage and classic automobiles in the U.S. with over 400 vehicles on display.
Take a stroll through time from the early days of horseless carriages to modern-day muscle cars and beyond.
5 – Polish Art Center
If you’re in the Detroit metropolitan area, check out the Polish Art Center in Hamtramck. It’s a unique cultural destination that showcases the art, history and traditions of Poland and its people.
The center features an extensive collection of Polish folk art, pottery, textiles, jewelry and more.
Whether you’re of Polish heritage or just interested in learning about Polish culture, the Polish Art Center is a must-see Michigan destination.
6 – Mackinac Island
For a unique turn-back-the-clock experience, head to Mackinac Island in Lake Huron. It’s full of old-timey charm and cool things to check out.
You can wander around the downtown area, which is packed with cute shops, tasty fudge and some fascinating historical spots like Fort Mackinac and the Grand Hotel.
Over 80% of the island is part of the Mackinac Island State Park, making it a nature lovers paradise. Check out well-known sights such as Arch Rock and Devil’s Kitchen, as well as its beaches and over 70 miles of trails.
The island is also famous for being car-free, so enjoy getting around by bike or horse-drawn carriage (guided tours are available).
7 – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes is a stunningly beautiful natural area (35-mile long coastline) along Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline.
If you want to enjoy outdoor activities and water sports while on your Michigan vacation then Sleeping Bear Dunes is just what you are looking for.
At this National Park Service location, you’ll enjoy climbing sand dunes which tower nearly 500 feet above the lake, walking on pristine beaches, and watching stunning sunsets. Visitors can hike, swim and kayak, among other activities at this inspiring place.
8 – Grand Rapids Public Museum
Have you checked out the Grand Rapids Public Museum yet? It’s a great place to explore and learn! They have all sorts of exhibits that cover everything from history and science to culture and art.
You can walk through an old-time street scene and see what life was like back in the day, or dive into the wonders of the natural world at their interactive exhibits. They even have a planetarium where you can gaze at the stars and learn about the universe.
Take a spin on the enchanting 1928 carousel that’s right inside the Grand Rapids Public Museum! It’s a nostalgic ride that’ll transport you back in time with its beautifully hand-carved animals and whimsical music.
It’s a delightful experience for both kids and adults alike, and a perfect way to add some extra magic to your museum visit. Next time you’re in Grand Rapids, make sure to swing by the Public Museum for a fun and educational experience!
9 – Mackinaw City and St. Ignace
Mackinaw City is a fantastic destination in Michigan that offers a blend of natural beauty and rich history. Located at the tip of the Lower Peninsula, Mackinaw City is home to the iconic Mackinac Bridge and ferries to Mackinac Island.
It’s a vibrant hub with plenty of shops, restaurants and attractions to explore. Fudge shops are on every corner so try a few out. Alice’s Kandy & Korn has quite the following for fudge and caramel corn lovers who keep coming back every year.
One of the family-friendly attractions in the area is the Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, a historic landmark in Mackinaw City. Mill Creek dates back to the early 19th century and provides a glimpse into the region’s timber milling history. For thrill-seekers, the park also has the Forest Adventure Experience. It features the Forest Canopy Bridge, Eagle’s Flight Zip Line and the Treetop Discovery Tower.
St. Ignace, situated just across the Mackinac Bridge, is known for its picturesque views of Lake Huron and the Mighty Mac (from a different perspective). It has a charming downtown and is the gateway to the Upper Peninsula.
You can catch a ferry to Mackinac Island, visit the Straits State Park, Father Marquette National Memorial, discover Castle Rock, and much more.
10 – Kalamazoo Air Zoo
The Kalamazoo Air Zoo is an exciting aviation attraction in Kalamazoo, Michigan. With its impressive collection of aircraft, interactive exhibits and flight simulators, it offers a captivating experience for aviation enthusiasts of all ages.
Visitors can get up close to vintage warplanes, explore the principles of flight through hands-on activities and even pilot aircraft in realistic virtual environments.
The Air Zoo also features amusement park-style rides, special events and educational programs, making it a thrilling and educational destination for anyone interested in the world of aviation.
11 – Frankfort And The Gwen Frostic Studio
Frankfort is another hidden gem along Michigan’s vibrant western coastline that offers a range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. It’s not far from its larger, more well-known neighbor, Traverse City.
Visit Frankfort Beach, Point Betsie Lighthouse, and discover local artwork and handcrafted goods at the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts. And don’t miss the chance to visit Gwen Frostic Prints in nearby Benzonia and explore the studio and works of the iconic Michigan artist, author and lecturer.
Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, delicious dining experiences, or a glimpse into the local arts scene, you’ll find something here for every interest.
12 – Michigan Lavender Farms and Festivals
If you’re planning a visit to Michigan in July or August be sure to add a Lavender Farm or Festival to your itinerary. It will make your visit Scent-sational!
There are numerous farms located around the state, so find one along your route. Whether you seek tranquility, a chance to indulge in lavender-infused delights, or simply want to marvel at the captivating allure of these purple blossoms, a farm visit is a must for the soul.
Michigan’s lavender farms are sure to captivate your senses and leave you with lasting memories.
13 – Bonus stops that we will explore later in Michigan Bucket List Destinations Part 2
Legs Inn in Cross Village is a wonderful Polish cuisine seasonal restaurant. In fact, it’s been voted the “2nd most iconic” restaurant in the entire state of Michigan! Stroll through the gardens while you wait for a table, enjoy the view of Lake Michigan and learn the history of Legs Inn.
Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie boasts some of the best boat watching on the Great Lakes. Situated on the Upper Peninsula and the Canadian border, The Visitor Center provides information about the locks, shipping on the Great Lakes and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Final Thoughts On The Best Michigan Bucket List Destinations
There are so many things to do in Michigan that you won’t be able to see it all in a single trip. For more resources, check out Pure Michigan.
When it comes to planning your Michigan itinerary, keep in mind the state experiences all four seasons, and each season offers its own unique activities and attractions.
Winter brings opportunities for skiing, snowboarding and ice fishing, while spring is the perfect time for birdwatching, hiking and visiting botanical gardens.
Summer is ideal for swimming, boating and beachgoing, while fall offers stunning foliage drives, cider mills and apple picking.
As we wrote this post, we decided that more posts need to be written to add more things to do, where to stay and eat, and where to camp.
There are over 103 State Parks, 650 golf courses, tons of fun family activities, and so much more.
Join us later as we continue our journey through the Awesome Mitten State!
If you have any favorite stops in Michigan, drop them in the comments.