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.