23 Things to Do in West Michigan Before the Summer Ends

West Michigan is home to some of the best kept secrets and awe-inspiring attractions in America. No matter where you go, there’s something new to try right around the corner. To help you get the most out of this summer, we’ve compiled a list of things you’ll want to make sure you do in West Michigan before the summer ends!

1. Climb to the top of one of Lake Michigan’s many lighthouses, or volunteer for one of the keeper programs offered at a handful of the lighthouse museums in northwest Michigan.

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McGulpin Lighthouse, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

2. Complete the tree scavenger hunt on the Nature Trail at Stokes Homestead Farm Market in Grand Junction and get rewarded with a free ice cream cone!

3. Kiss a turkey at Cornwell’s Turkeyville in Marshall.

4. Drive the Tunnel of Trees to the end, where you can enjoy an authentic Polish pierogi overlooking Lake Michigan at Legs Inn in Cross Village.

5. Embrace your inner pirate when you sail on the tall ship “Friends Good Will” in South Haven, and visit the Michigan Maritime Museum when you’re back on land for a look into the past.

6. Hand feed a giraffe at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek or Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto.

7. Hike, swim, and explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with 64 miles of beaches, coves, islands, and hills on the west coast of the Leelanau Peninsula.

8. Hunt for the state stone, the Petoskey Stone, along the shores of Lake Michigan. No license required to pick up the fossilized coral, but what a cool feeling when you find one!

9. Cycle down the paved Leelanau Trail and enjoy a picnic lunch while you visit up to seven wineries just off the trail with Grand Traverse Bike Tours.

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Grand Traverse Bike Tours, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

10. Learn to Fly Fish at the Red Moose Lodge on the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin with their full day trips out on the river & cozy accommodations at night.

11. One of Michigan’s most visited shrines, the 55 foot tall Cross in the Woods in Indian River is a must-see.

12. Peddle your way around town on the self-propelled Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, the first and only “Green Pub” in Michigan, located in Grand Rapids.

13. Ride the Fins of a Windmill on Harry’s Windmill ride at Nelis’ Dutch Village in Holland, which combines a restored 1940 Eli Bridge #5, 45ft high Ferris Wheel matched with a reproduction of a Netherlands windmill.

14. See the Big Yellow Dinosaur on US 31 at Kampvilla RV Park (her name is Sunny!).

15. Stay overnight aboard the USS Silversides Submarine Museum, which is officially credited with sinking 23 major Japanese ships and is considered the U.S. Navy’s most successful surviving World War II submarine.

16. Take a “Paddle n’ Pints” trip with Rockford Brewing Company, where you’ll fill up plastic growlers at the brewery before spending two hours floating down the river and enjoying the outdoors.

17. Take an outdoor adventure with friends and a good book with Outdoor Book Club, which hosts meet-up in various West Michigan cities.

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Outdoor Book Club, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

18. Tour a Coast Guard Ship, dance in the streets of Grand Haven at the yearly street dance, and then settle in to enjoy the fireworks and musical fountain from the waterfront at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival each August.

19. Try your hand at the Sporting Clay course at Blendon Pines Gun Club in Zeeland and see how many clay pigeons you can hit with a shotgun over twelve different shooting stations.

20. View many of Michigan’s remote lighthouses aboard a multi-day boat cruise aboard the Keweenaw Star, based out of Charlevoix.

21. Visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids and marvel at the 24-foot-tall bronze horse statue.

22. Visit the Headlands and the Dark Sky Discovery Trail in Emmet County, which is one of just 13 prestigious International Dark Sky Parks in the United States.

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Emmet County International Dark Sky Park, Photo Courtesy of WMTA

23. Watch a sunset from the middle of Lake Michigan with nothing to obstruct your view on Beaver Island.

Courtney Sheffer considers herself a professional when it comes to exploring all West Michigan has to offer. As Marketing Director for the West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA), Courtney is always on the lookout for new West Michigan experiences to share with visitors. Whether you live, work, or play in West Michigan, WMTA can help you discover something new that you’ll love!

Here’s Where to Go and What to Do in Cheboygan

Summertime in Michigan is unlike anything else. Between the waves, beaches and trails, you’re sure to make memories that will last a lifetime. There are many areas in particular that make for incredible summer fun, and Cheboygan is near the top of the list. Read more on a few areas, and things to do, when visiting Northeast Michigan this summer and let us know what else you love to do when visiting the area!

Welcome to Cheboygan

At the confluence of the Cheboygan River and Lake Huron sits a community far and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Located on the picturesque Straits of Mackinac, Cheboygan is the gateway to the famous “Inland Waterway” – a navigable series of waterways encompassing three rivers, three lakes and 40+ miles of inland boating pleasure. A cruise from the mouth of the Cheboygan River into Lake Huron can take you to Bois Blanc or Mackinac Islands, both a leisurely boat ride away.

The Cheboygan area is a boaters paradise

Photo Courtesy of Missy Koszegi

Cheboygan offers opportunities for fishing, hiking, cross country skiing, kayaking, hunting, and numerous other outdoor activities. For those that prefer to stay indoors, our local merchants will warmly welcome you to a variety of novelty shops, retail outlets, entertainment facilities, casual and fine dining, and much more. You will find that our way of life here is warm, genteel, and inviting.  Locals will be glad to show you around, give you recommendations, and make your experience memorable.  Base your “up north” vacation here and be in the center of all that the area has to offer.

Explore Indian River

Indian River is at the center of all that makes Northern Michigan a treasured vacation destination and place to call home. Indian River, named after the river which flows through it, is nestled between Burt Lake and Mullett Lake along the 40 mile long Inland Waterway. Conveniently located off I-75, 25 miles south of the Mackinaw Bridge, Indian River is a place that visitors of all ages find many pleasures to enjoy during any season of the year. Truly Nature’s Mecca, Indian River is the ideal location to boat, fish, hunt, camp, bike, golf, kayak, canoe, raft, tube, stand up paddle board, sail, snowmobile, Off-Road Vehicles (ORV), motorcycle, ski, bird watch, mushroom hunt, hike, skate, dine, and shop. By water or by land, quiet sport or motor, fun with nature is certain with so many activities available to you.

Indian River's waterways are perfect for summertime fun

Photo Courtesy of Indian River Chamber of Commerce

Discover Mackinaw City

Historic Mackinaw City is one of Michigan’s leading vacation destinations. From world-famous fudge to the impressive beauty of the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinaw City, this “Up North” region offers plenty for visitors. Mackinaw City offers incomparable natural beauty, historical museums, state and local parks and forests, two marinas, boutique shopping, free music concerts, laser light shows, fine dining, and of course, that famous fudge. The Mackinaw City area is the place to come if you appreciate the beauty of nature, adventure and old-fashioned hospitality. Mackinaw City is renowned for its summer beauty, but all four seasons provide countless breathtaking views and numerous activities for all ages. There are beautiful sunrises over Lake Huron, gorgeous sunsets over Lake Michigan, and acres of unspoiled woods filled with numerous wildflowers in the summer and brilliant colors of the fall palette. Marked trails are perfect for hiking, biking, and geocaching.

Mackinaw City is a perfect destination to catch sight of the Mackinac Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Straits Area Printing

Experience the world-famous inland waterway

Northern Michigan’s Inland Waterway offers you a boating trip unlike any in the world. The approximately 42 mile trip takes you through three rivers and three lakes and surrounds you with some of the most beautiful scenery and captivating communities in Michigan. A voyage on the Inland Waterway can begin at the north end in Cheboygan, the middle in Indian River or the south end in Conway. Boat launches are conveniently located at many places along the route. The trip can be made in a day or over a weekend, with the communities of Cheboygan, Topinabee, Aloha, Indian River, Alanson, Oden and Conway all located on the water. Dining, lodging, supplies, and banking facilities can be found in most of these communities. Numerous marinas also dot the Inland Waterway where marine fuel, boat rentals, and ships stores are situated for your convenience. Whether you choose to make the Inland Waterway journey in a day or make it a weekend, you will see a side of Northern Michigan that cannot be seen along a highway or freeway. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a boating excursion unlike any other!

The cool water in Indian River provides a great time for boating, swimming and watersports

Photo Courtesy of Indian River Chamber of Commerce

Ride along the area’s incredible trail system

The Cheboygan area is blessed with one of the finest multi-purpose trail systems in the United States.  Michigan has a larger rails-to-trails system than any other state in the nation, and Cheboygan County has more of those trails than any other county in Michigan. The highly acclaimed North Central State Trail and the newly finished North Eastern State Trail (Mackinaw City to Alpena) are more and more the destinations of choice when it comes to groomed trails for cyclists and hikers alike. And the trails intersect right in Cheboygan. The Black Mountain Recreation Area offers a vast network of marked trails for hiking, ATV excursions, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. With over 30 miles available for hiking, 60 miles for off road vehicles, and 80 groomed miles for snowmobiling, the area is ideal for any type of outdoor adventure. Parking and trail access at Black Mountain are conveniently located.

Don't miss exploring the winding trails in the Cheboygan area

Photo Courtesy of Top of Michigan Trails Council

What is your favorite thing to do in the Cheboygan area? Share with us by commenting below!

Empire: Small Town, Big View, Big Heart

Have you ever heard of Empire? Many outside of Michigan probably have not. Locals can even be found bragging about Empire’s slow pace of life in the heart of the awe-inspiring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Real people of all walks of life (just shy of 400 of them) live year ‘round in Empire, more come just for the summer. And who can blame them?

Empire Bluffs is one of the most popular photo-taking spots in all of Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Experience 231

It’s one of those places you think just exists in stories. Stunning natural beauty in all four seasons, friendly shop owners selling gourmet chocolate, freshwater surf boards and bikes, antiques, local art and of course, great burgers, whitefish, perch and ice cream. But there’s something about the people and environment here that draws you in and makes you never want to go back home. The community is known for working hard together to make a living while at the same time enjoying themselves, creating a quirky community and not taking life too seriously.

These are the people who cut a big hole in the ice in February and jump in and come together to celebrate spring’s coming and its first local crop with the renowned Empire Asparagus Festival. Parades in Empire “are so nice, they go around twice.” All we’ve got is time some days so why not?

There's incredible beauty to be found in Empire no matter the season

There’s incredible beauty to be found in Empire no matter the season

Locals migrate west down to the public beach right on Lake Michigan for sunsets in the summer, almost the latest one in the eastern time zone. After looking for the infamous green flash as the sun dips below the horizon, bonfires are built and people gather to sing songs of Great Lakes pirates, rogue waves and the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Surely you’ll come for the incredible Lake Michigan waves to surf, shallows of North Bar, Platte or Otter Creek to play all day and possibly pick up a skim board habit, miles of epic trail to hike, bike, ski or horseback ride and the incredibly legendary vistas of Dunes and Caribbean-like azure and emerald water, but it’s the people you’ll meet in the businesses and walking down the street that will get you wondering, “people get to live here too? Lucky.”

The beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes are truly breathtaking

Photo Courtesy of Chris Arace

So don’t just tell your friends about the green flash, the parade that goes around twice or the miles of sugar sand beach…experience it for yourself.

What do you love most about Empire? Share with us by commenting below!