7 Must-See Michigan Destinations for 2016

A new year brings with it a chance to visit places your feet have never taken you before. Guest blogger Aaron Cruz from The Awesome Mitten suggests seven Michigan towns that are worth a look in the New Year.

Downtown Plymouth

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Plymouth. If your plans this year are taking you to southeastern Michigan, visit this town that, while in the heart of suburbia, gives off the feeling of being in a small town far, far away. With a hand-crafted Espresso Elevado coffee in-hand, walk the downtown streets at the Plymouth Ice Festival in winter and Art in the Park in summer.  Hold hands with a loved one as you stroll through Kellogg Park in the center of town. In the summer road trip, hike or bike the 17-mile continuous park that is Hines Drive. Winter brings with it the chance to sled with the kids at Plymouth Township Park. For food, enjoy some pizza and smoked barbeque at Ironwood Grill, go for a more upscale feel and cocktails at Fiamma Grille or grab the gang and enjoy family-style dining along the railroad tracks at Station 885.

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Frankenmuth. No town epitomizes Christmas and the holidays in Michigan more than Frankenmuth. Visit the world’s largest Christmas Store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Shop the stores with German themed names like Cheese Haus along the one-street downtown also known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Experience a specialty coffee at The Harvest Coffeehouse & Beanery. Grab a flight of beer at Frankenmuth Brewery to wash down their delicious lobster mac ‘n cheese. Looking for romance? Contact the Frankenmuth Carriage Company about a horse & carriage ride. Those looking for family fun, make a weekend out of it with the kids at the Bavarian Inn of Frankenmuth resort.

Beach in Grand Haven

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Grand Haven. The Lake Michigan coastline in the mitten offers one charming, beautiful resort town after another. The Grand Haven lighthouse and pier is reason enough to choose Grand Haven for a first time visit. Alongside the lighthouse, you will find Grand Haven State Park, which is made up entirely of beach and sand dunes with camping opportunity. As you browse the shops in the cozy downtown, get a freshly-made baked good from the boutique-styled The Bakers Wife. Experience hand-crafted coffee at Aldea Coffee in the Armory, where Grand Armory Brewery Company and Righteous BBQ also await. During summer evenings, watch the synchronized Musical Fountain and all its water, lights and music.

Beach in Oscoda

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Oscoda. The Lake Michigan coastline gets al lot of love, but the Sunrise Coast and Lake Huron showcase their own beauty like in the resort town of Oscoda. Grab a cup of coffee at the colorful Garden View Coffee Mill, then head down the street for a walk on the pier at Oscoda Beach Park.  Time your visit for the summer and you might run into their Annual Art on the Beach fair. Just north of town sits miles of sugar sand beach fun. For nature enthusiasts, head west of town along the River Road National Scenic Byway and you will quickly be in the Huron National Forest. Waterfalls, scenic overlooks, hiking trails, monuments, lumberjacks, 300+ step staircases and plenty of camping options await you. Eagle’s Nest Overlook is a must visit.

Spicer Orchards in Fenton

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Fenton. Just south of Flint and easily accessible from the Detroit area, Fenton’s motto might as well be go big or go home when it comes to its thriving food scene. Grab a peanut butter and jelly donut that is big enough for two from Crust. Head down the street for a Reuben or one of the other endless selection of humongous sandwiches at The Laundry. During the dinner hour order a large of any pasta dish at Fenton House and you’ll have enough for the whole family, with tons to spare. In autumn, mix in some cider, donuts, wine tasting and family fun at Spicer Orchards and enjoy some carnival food, apple pie and entertainment at one of the biggest fall festivals in Michigan, Apple Fest.

Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Sault Ste. Marie. The fun as we turn the calendar does not have to be confined to the Lower Peninsula. Head to the U.P. and Michigan’s oldest city. Go on a boat tour at the famous Soo Locks and/or watch from the three story observation deck as giant ships pass through the locks and canals of the largest waterway crossing in the world. Next head across W. Portage Ave. to walk along and scope out the tourist traps. For eats I recommend grabbing a burger with everything on it and hanging out at Clyde’s Drive-In. Before getting into the car watch the ferries head to-and-from Sugar Island while walking around Rotary Park.

Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Port Huron. A lot of people pass through Port Huron as they go into Canada. In the New Year, as you head towards the Blue Water Bridge, get off the interstate and checkout the international crossing from the south along Thomas Edison Parkway. Just north of the bridge visit the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and Lighthouse Park. You’ll find beachfront where you can watch as Lake Huron flows into the St. Clair River while waving over to Canada. Staying in town, grab a sandwich, a specialty coffee and some tunes at Ravens Café. In the warmer months, walk along Quay Street and the docked boats, as well as visit the Vantage Point Farmers’ Market which sits right along the riverfront.

What other Michigan towns would you like to visit and explore for the first time in the New Year?

aaron cruz

Aaron Cruz is a lover and long time resident of The Mitten. When he is not out on the open road, he’s probably drinking coffee in a random indie coffee shop. He loves taking photos and road trips, along with checking out skylines, the seasons, shorelines and hanging around water which makes Michigan the perfect place to live. You can find him on TwitterInstagram and on his personal travel blog.

45 thoughts on “7 Must-See Michigan Destinations for 2016

  1. Actually some are true. Like the woman who’s itty bitty car got sucked up in an updraft and was lifted and thrown overboard. She died. But they have since really tightened up restrictions. And winds can change in a second but they watch them very very closely. Big rigs are limited to I think 25mph or maybe less.

  2. We live in Michigan, and although there are scary stories if you’re freaked I believe you can have someone drive you across. If the winds are high they won’t let big rigs cross, due to the grated lane that allows updraft. But you have to stay off of that and ride the paved lane anyways.

    I’m afraid of heights. I’ve been crossing all my life. You have to get to the UP. Drummond island is beautiful to the east and you can camp anywhere on state land. We don’t use the tight squeeze campground. Our 34 ft won’t fit. So we camp off the beaten path and rode our quads on gorgeous trails.

    But the real must see and place to camp in the UP would be at Porcupine Mountains. There’s a place nearby to get ice cream and watch the bears come out every night. I was within three feet with a fence between us. Wild.

    Also Tequamenon (sp?) Falls on the east side of the UP. Or the Soo Locks are amazing to see the freighters come into. Wild history and tour. That is by Sault(pronounced Soo) Saint Marie. Another gorgeous city. Muskellunge lake is another great place to camp if you can’t get into Twquamenon. But it’s a must see place of untouched God’s country. I love my state! We have more campgrounds, lakes and cool outdoor stuff to do than any other state. Color me proud! Ha. Have fun.

  3. The Mackinac Bridge Authority has a “Drivers Assistance Program” that provides drivers for those uncomfortable with driving across the Mackinac Bridge. If you are traveling northbound, there is a phone at the south end of the bridge. Instructions for using the phone are posted in the phone box. If you are southbound, just ask a fare collector for assistance. There is no additional fee for this service.

  4. I don’t think the bridge is that bad. I know people who are afraid of it because of there fear of heights. But there are a lot of rumors out there about the bridge that simply are not true. If you have ever crossed the Golden Gate Bridge then you shouldn’t have a problem with the Mackinaw Bridge. If you are that afraid of it then you could come up through Wisconsin and enter the U.P. that way.

  5. Grew up in both peninsulas.right in between is one of the most beautiful spots in the country. The Mighty Mac is beautiful and safe.

  6. Took the bridge a couple of months ago. No worries. If conditions are too dangerous (very high winds, icy roadbed, etc.), they just close it.

  7. Don’t miss the UP, Taquamenon Falls, Whitefish Point(Edmund Fitzgerald Museum and Lighthouse) Sioux Locks, Pictured Rocks morning cruisem Kitch iti kippi spring, Lake of the Clouds & Copper Harbor , if you have time. Some of the most beautiful views on earth. Better than Hawaii, no kidding. Just be prepared for the Wilderness, many aren’t. No chain restaurants, except maybe a McDonalds. The larger towns have decent motels or maybe a Super 8, but no Hilton, Marriott, etc. I always feel like I am back in the 50′s up there, which makes me very happy.

  8. What about Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum? Whenever someone from out of town comes to visit we always take them there.

  9. There are times when crossing the bridge may be a bit spooky but rarely in the summer. They closely monitor conditions and close the bridge to high profile vehicles when necessary. High profile vehicles are escorted across when conditions may change to being more serious. All in all these conditions are very rare and travel across the bridge is a very inspiring trip. You can drive as slow as you want when crossing as most people do not want to miss the fantastic views (there are two lanes each way). Don’t let your worries cause you to miss the U.P., they should not be a concern. The U.P. is equally a most amazing place. Have a great trip.

  10. The bridge is great – we took our 32 ft. motor home across this past fall. It is a 4 lane highway bridge. And it is beautiful. you will not regret spending time in the UP.

  11. we live in Southern California and are planning a trip to Michigan this summer with our Motorhome. I would love to go to the UP, but I have read some scary stuff about the bridge going up there, is it really that bad? I am some what of a chicken any way.

  12. Loved the mention of so mzny of my favorite places! Lighthouse Park holds some very special memories for me. I would add something about that park that bears mentioning, thee current in the water is very strong, small children should be watched at all times. The waves are big and very powerful. It’s a beautiful park and you can even find Petoskey stones there. It’s very clean and perfect for a day at the beach!

  13. Pentwater/Ludington can’t be beat IMO. Similar to Traverse City except without the sketchy roads and insane traffic.

  14. The blogger obviously is friends with the owner(‘s) of the Laundry and Crust as those are the two primary places that are discussed in his post regarding Fenton. Fenton doesn’t have much of anything for kids such as a skate park, ice rink and yes, not even a movie theater. And shopping is pitiful unless you think KMart, Target and Walmart are destination shopping places. UGH, some many other nice cities with something to do in them could have been mentioned but weren’t.

  15. LOL! I lived in Boston and NYC for a while. I thought I handled that quite diplomatically. You don’t know what unfriendliness is until you’ve lived in those two places. I ask these questions, and honestly, I mean no harm by asking. If you dislike it so much why do you stay? If it is your home, even if you are here unwillingly, why disparage it? Living out of state has made me realize how much Michiganders do this. I just don’t get it. It was actually refreshing to see people puffing up with pride when their city wasn’t on here. I agree that there are a lot of great cities left off, but none should ever be deleted. Even Detroit and Flint have great things about them.

  16. No West Michigan destinations? I wonder if your head is in the right place because by your selections it is in a very dark place,

  17. I live in Fenton and am proud that it is included. Those features and more made me choose this as my place to live. Holland is a beautiful city, that I am sure would welcome you with open arms.

  18. In the Soo, don’t forget The Antlers bar/restaurant.
    In Port Huron Freighters restaurant under the bridges, eat outdoors, see the big boats (freighters) the sailboats and Canada!

  19. When in Sault St. Marie Don’t overlook Maloney’s Irish Pub. The house fries are to die for and the beer selection is wonderful (many local microbrew beers). I cannot go to the Soo without a trip to this place. YUM.

  20. I like that they included Oscoda, have done wilderness camping in the Huron National Forest, canoeing on the Au Sable is a must, I agree Holland should have been included but I think that a lot of people have visited Holland especially during the tulip festival

  21. Let’s not squabble about Fenton vs. Holland. It’s all Michigan. I think that they could have added Tahquamenon Falls.

  22. I also went to MTU and agree with ^^^^^. I loved it there and it is still one of my favorite places to visit.

  23. Very familiar. Went to school there. MTU is a good engineering school, but can be more difficult than other programs at other schools. It doesn’t pull any punches. If they’re willing to put in the effort, it’s totally worth it.

    Houghton itself is a different animal. There’s a lot to see and do outdoors if you’re willing to look for it, but the town is small, and some have found it boring due to its somewhat isolation. For me, Houghton was awesome. Went snowshoeing, offroading, waterfall hunting, cliff jumping… heck, Tech owns their own ski slope. I miss it. It’s got this certain charm… it just felt like home for the longest time.

    Oh. And beware of snow. There’s lots of it. But they take care of it really well.

  24. Fenton is a Wonderful Place to live! A diverse town with historical homes and fantastic dining and so many beautiful lakes surrounding the city to live on….<3 <3<3

  25. We have a relative here in the Pacific NW looking to apply to the Audio Engineering program at Michigan Tech in Houghton, Michigan. Anybody familiar with that city? Any feedback about quality of school or town? Thanks!

  26. Don’t forget Fenton has a nationally competitive Water ski show team that performs free seal world style ski shows at silver lake beach every Tuesday! Look up silver lake ski club on Facebook

  27. Seriously Fenton? I live there and very much disagree. And I agree that Holland should have been included

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