Michigan often gets a bad reputation due to the common misconception of a sprawling demise because of poorly managed finances and struggling industries. In reality, Michigan is one of the country’s hottest vacation spots.
Thanks to Pure Michigan, the state’s wildly popular national tourism campaign, the state has once again started bringing tourists into the state in droves. In 2014, more than 4 million trips were made to Michigan by out-of-state visitors influenced by the Pure Michigan campaign. The economic impact of these trips for Michigan was a record $1.2 billion, which has also been attributed to the Pure Michigan campaign.
If you haven’t heard of Pure Michigan, I recommend checking out one of their many great commercials which highlight the diverse attractions Michigan has to offer including boardwalks, bustling cities, forests, art communities, culinary epicenters, and more!
I am lucky enough to have grown up in Michigan and spent over 20 years vacationing and adventuring throughout the state. Here are my must see spots:
1. Turnip Rock
Located near the shore in Lake Huron in Port Austin, most people don’t even know this place exists. Turnip Rock was eroded by water for probably thousands of years, getting this unique shape. You can get to the rock only by boat or kayaks when the weather is good. In the winter when the lake is frozen, you can carefully walk the shoreline.
2. Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, tucked away in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, won the title of Good Morning America’s Most Beautiful Place in America in 2011. The hidden gem boasts 64 miles of beaches along Lake Michigan, two islands, 26 inland lakes, more than 50,000 acres of land, and the monumental sand dunes from which it gets its name.
3. Pictured Rocks
Sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, lakes, forest, and miles of shoreline beckon you to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The lakeshore hugs the Lake Superior shoreline for more than 40 miles. Hop in a kayak and take off down the lakeshore to get up close to the beautiful cliffs and unique natural caves that are unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
4. Tahquamenon Falls
These falls are absolutely breathtaking! Tahquamenon is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. Tahquamenon Falls is also called “Rootbeer Falls” because of its golden-brown color, caused by tannins from cedar swamps that drain into the river. In winter, the ice that accumulates around and in the falls is often colored in shades of green and blue, making this a beautiful sight to be seen year-round!
5. Porcupine Mountains
The Porcupine Mountains, or Porkies, are a group of small mountains spanning the northwestern Upper Peninsula of Michigan near the shore of Lake Superior. Here you’ll find 87 miles of trail systems running throughout the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park surrounded by majestic old-growth forests—the perfect place to hang your ENO hammock and rest a while.
6. Mackinac Island
Voted one of the “Top 10 Islands in the U.S.” by Trip Advisor, Mackinac Island is a must visit place, located between the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Make sure you leave your cars behind because motorized vehicles are banned! Accessible only by boat or ferry, you can spend your time on the island enjoying breathtaking coastal views and beaches, carriage tours, a quaint downtown area, and a beautiful boardwalk and marina. The island is littered with historic structures and mega mansions. Hop on a bike or lace up your hiking shoes and head inland to find hidden treasures abound. Whether you’re into bed and breakfasts or off the grid hiking, this island has something for everyone!
7. Detroit Riverwalk
If urban exploration is more your style, check out Detroit’s Riverwalk, which was named one of the Best American Riverfronts by 10Best and USA TODAY. Detroit’s International Riverfront encompasses a cruise ship passenger terminal and dock, a marina, a multitude of parks, restaurants, retail shops, skyscrapers, and high-rise residential areas. Key public spaces in the International Riverfront, such as the RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut Greenway and Trails, and a nature park in William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. The area plays home to a variety of annual events and festivals including the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Detroit Free Press International Marathon, the Detroit International Jazz Festival, the North American International Auto Show, and more.
So the next time you find yourself in the Midwest, make it a point to visit the mitten-shaped state of Michigan where, I promise, you’ll never be bored!