11 Michigan Attractions and Destinations Included in FamilyFun Magazine’s 2013 Travel Awards

What are some of the best vacation spots for families in America? FamilyFun magazine recently found out in their 2013 FamilyFun Travel Awards. By surveying 2,000 moms with children ages 3 to 12, they determined the top destinations, nature escapes, amusement parks, family-friendly resorts and more. We’re proud to see 11 Michigan spots listed and wanted to share a roundup below.

Did your favorite Pure Michigan destination make the list? Share with us in the comments section!

Favorite Family Destinations

Listed as one of the top 10 favorite family destinations by FamilyFun, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, Michigan offers a breathtaking symphony of water, sky and towering sand dunes on our Lake Michigan shoreline. Its 64-mile curve of stunning beaches, forests, meadows and lakes is a sight to see any time of the year. Whether you’re looking to dune climb, hike one of the park’s many trails or just relax and take in the view, Sleeping Bear offers something for the whole family.

It’s no surprise that the area was also listed as one of the top 10 nature escapes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes was also named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011.

Top Tourist Attractions

Not one, but four Michigan favorites made FamilyFun’s list of the top tourist attractions around the country.

Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City made the list at number four. At this 1770s-era fort and fur trading village, every day is kids’ day.

Coming in at number nine, The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn is often referred to as “America’s greatest history attraction.” From exploring rich culture at the museum to walking through the village or seeing something onscreen at the IMAX Theatre, there’s a multitude of history to uncover.

Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island rounds out the top 10. At Fort Mackinac, history is alive and every visitor is a part of it. Step inside and hear bugle music, rifle fire, and a cannon blast or dance to a 19th century tune, drill with soldiers and play Victorian children’s games. At Fort Mackinac you’re sure to step back in time to the 1880s.

Listed as a regional favorite by FamilyFun readers, Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie have been referred to as one of the great wonders of the world and are still the largest (and one of the busiest!) waterway traffic systems on earth. Watching huge vessels pass through the Locks is a unique experience that cannot be seen anywhere else in the United States.

Top Tourist Towns

Mackinaw City, Michigan is listed as the number one tourist town in the country by readers for its charm, history and many family-friendly attractions. Located in Cheboygan County at the very top of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Mackinaw City is known as the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. While visiting, there’s no shortage of things for families to do and see – from taking in history at Colonial Michilimackinac, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, seeing stunning views from the Straits of Mackinac and enjoying famous Mackinac fudge.

Traverse City and Frankenmuth were also listed as regional favorites.

Top Nature Escapes

Sleeping Bear Dunes wasn’t the only Michigan-based destination listed as a top nature escape. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore also made the list as a regional favorite.

From multicolored sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, inland lakes, streams, forests and wildlife, the scenic area on Lake Superior that is Picture Rocks is certainly a sight to see. Activities include sightseeing, camping, kayaking, backpacking, hiking, fishing, hunting, picnicking, boating, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, a maritime museum, a lighthouse and a visitor’s center.

Family Resorts and Amusement Parks

The Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City was listed among regional favorite family resorts. The Lodge is a full-service, log cabin style Michigan resort with 281 northwoods-themed rooms that features a 38,000 square-foot indoor water park with 8 waterslides, 5 pools and a 4-story Tree House Water Fort. What more could your family ask for?

Another regional favorite is Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon. As Michigan’s largest amusement and water park, Michigan’s Adventure offers more than 60 attractions including seven rollercoasters and over 20 water rides. Whatever level of excitement you’re looking for, it’s offered here for all ages.

Thank you to FamilyFun for including these Michigan attractions and destinations in your awards this year! For more things to do and see around Pure Michigan, please visit michigan.org.

Will your family be visiting one of these destinations this year?

I’m Goin’ to Jackson

Jennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to Michigan just over a year ago. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. Today, she fills us in on a recent day trip that she and her husband took to Jackson, Michigan.

When my husband and I planned a day trip to Jackson, we weren’t sure what was in store for us. In all honesty, we were out to explore, and considering the fact that the city was new to us and just on the outskirts of Metro Detroit, it seemed like the perfect solution to our last-minute agenda dilemma. So, with jackets and umbrellas in tow, we set out on a rainy Saturday morning to learn a little more about the city named for our seventh president.

We got to Jackson around lunch time, so we read some online restaurant reviews and settled on a little “dive” restaurant called the West Texas Barbeque Company. Knowing that the best food is often found in the humblest of places, we followed our GPS down a few back roads until we reached the bare-bones building, livened with a brightly-painted façade and a cozy, indoor atmosphere. Being from Virginia, I found myself very comfortable among the southern-style setup, and was happy to see that the other restaurant patrons were largely comprised of baseball cap-wearing, old pickup truck-driving people who also appreciated good food without the frills. Add to that a huge pulled pork sandwich so juicy that it must derive from a line of French dips, and you’ve got an afternoon in southern-inspired Heaven.

After stuffing ourselves to capacity, I would’ve been content with taking a nap until it was time to wake up for “Pulled Pork, Round Two,” but my husband and I had places to be. And so, it was off to Jackson’s historical pivot point, the old state prison.

Jackson’s first state prison, historically known as the hub of the city, produced a thriving labor force during the Industrial Revolution. Today, a large barrier wall still surrounds the campus while indoor jail cells and common areas have been transformed into a residence hall and artist workshop community. Intrigued by the notion of people living and creating masterpieces in a place originally intended to house criminals, I wandered the halls of the present-day armory, both fascinated by its history and creeped out by its eerily quiet hallways and iron-barred windows. The visit was made much more enjoyable, however, by colorful murals that sprawled across every wall and handcrafted mobiles that adorned well-lit corners. There was even a wedding reception setup going on in part of the building, complete with orange flower bunches and masses of origami cranes. If that isn’t proof of creatively utilizing space and making the most of places with dark pasts, I don’t know what is.

The rest of our afternoon entailed gawking at historic buildings in downtown Jackson, visiting the Sandhill Crane Vineyards and Winery (a beautiful, relaxed place run by self-proclaimed “Non-wine snobs”), and a jaunt through the Ella Sharp park and museum. Inside the museum, my husband and I evaluated rooms filled with modern artwork and historical artifacts from the city of Jackson, ranging from the jaw bone of a prehistoric mastodon through clothing and commercial products from the Civil War, Industrial Era, and recent years. My biggest discovery of the day? Jackson was the birthplace of the Republican Party. I never expected a quiet, little city to be so influential, but it goes to show that there’s history to be explored everywhere you go—even if it’s just a stone’s throw from home.

Jennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to Michigan just over a year ago. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. You can follow her on Twitter @JHBowman.