20+ Things to Do in Michigan: Your Ultimate Summer Bucket List

Maximize your summer fun and have a plan so you don't waste a single blissful beach day, bike ride, perfect paddle, meteor shower or brilliant sunset. Here's a list of ideas to add to your Michigan summer bucket list, all ensuring you'll have an unforgettable summer.

St. Joseph Lighthouse
St. Joseph Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

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1. Ride a Dune Buggy on Michigan’s Sand Dunes

If you've never zipped in an open buggy around a 200-foot mountain of sand, or you're just reliving a childhood memory, know you'll be smiling every one of those 40 or so minutes of the trip. Head to the Saugatuck Dune Rides Inc. in that scenic beach town or the perennial favorite, Mac Wood’s Dune Rides in Silver Lake.

2. Explore Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes

You can snorkel and dive among hundreds of wrecks perfectly preserved in the fresh waters of the Great Lakes, and you can also see them the relatively easy way—and with narration of the stories behind the wrecks—in glass-bottom shipwreck cruises. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary's Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center’s glass-bottom shipwreck tours take you to some notable wrecks within the 4,300 square mile preserve. Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours in Munising floats over three Lake Superior wrecks and past the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where mineral staining has added streaks of color to the rocky, glowing cliffs.

3. Spend a Day Paddling a Michigan Waterway

Kayaks on racks by the water.
Kayak Rentals at Ludington State Park | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

The Ludington State Park Hamlin Lake Canoe Trail lets you pick up a rental at the store along the shore and follow 2.5 miles of shoreline, bayous ponds amid soaring eagles and swimming swans. Aloha State Park on Mullet Lake is situated in the middle of the paddle-friendly Inland Waterways, or venture to Tawas Point State Park, sometimes called the Cape Cod of the Midwest, to access the warm shallows of Tawas Bay. There are so many great paddling trips in Michigan.

4. Stay the Night in Michigan Wine Country

The only thing better than touring Michigan's wine country is settling in and making the winery chateau your home for the night or weekend. At stunning, hilltop Chateau Chantal in Traverse City, the tasting room's open on the honor system after hours. Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay has a stellar library wine reception and private breakfast for overnight guests, and Chateau Grand Traverse on Traverse City's Old Mission Peninsula, a bottle of wine comes with each night's stay.

5. Wish on Falling Stars

Overlook on Lake Michigan under the Milky Way
Milky Way over Lake Michigan | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

There are so many great places for stargazing in Michigan. Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a favorite spot for a serendipitous showing of Northern Lights or other celestial happenings teamed with star stories on the beach. Learn more about Michigan’s dark sky parks here.

6. Camp – A New Way 

The state of Michigan has 100 parks and recreation areas with a combined total of 13,500 campsites—plenty of variety to choose from! Get inspired by 10 of the most beautiful campgrounds in the state—or for a more refined experience, go “glamping” at a spot like Uncle Ducky's Paddlers Village in Munising, where the shoreline yurts keep you warm and cozy as you fall asleep to the Lake Superior lullaby. At Fields of Michigan in South Haven, you can enjoy a luxurious tent near beautiful rolling blueberry fields. Learn about more glamping options in Michigan here.

7. Explore the Mushroom Houses in Charlevoix

Summer is lovely in Charlevoix. Hit the Harsha House Museum to learn how the north's rocks and boulders inspired the many whimsical designs of early architect Earl Young. Then venture as close as you may come to Middle Earth as you Instagram fanciful homes that seem to have sprung from the pages of a Tolkien novel.

8. Bike a Trail in the City

A man and woman biking on a paved path along the Detroit River
Biking in Detroit | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

In Detroit, let a company like Wheelhouse Detroit lead with architecture, public art or the Underground Railroad as the trip theme. A day at the museums sounds way cooler to the kids when a bike's the transportation, and along the Lansing River Trail to the Potter Park ZooR.E. Olds Transportation Museum and Impression 5 Science Center. In Grand Rapids, a biking tour provides turn-by-turn guidance to downtown hotspots.

9. Find Your Motown Groove

You'll belt out the road trip tunes with soul after practicing at the Motown Historical Museum. At Hitsville USA, you not only learn more about the spot where Michigan's classic sound began, you can even take the mic and channel the Supremes.

10. Escape to an Island

Paddleboard in South Manitou Island
Paddling near South Manitou Island | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

You've heard of the incredible beauty and fun of Mackinac Island, but what about the additional Michigan islands found off the shores of the Great Lakes? There are Between natural and untouched landscapes to a state park not at all far from bustling Detroit, you’re bound to find the escape you’ve been looking for. At North & South Manitou off the coast of Leland, discover the legend of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The best trip might lie on Michigan’s Drummond Island—especially if you’re an ORV or ATV aficionado. It takes some time to get to this northern Michigan island, located just east of the Upper Peninsula in northern Lake Huron. Don’t worry: there’s even more to choose from.

11. Play at a Water Park

Michigan's Adventure—the state's largest amusement and water park—has perfected the concept with its 15 water attractions and massive twin amusement park. The Shivering Timbers roller coaster has you screaming through speeds of up to 65 mph. Also, find fun at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City!

12. Fire a Cannon at Fort Mackinac

You won’t get in trouble for it when you sign up to fire the first cannon blast of the day (for a fee) at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island. You'll reach into the supply trunk yourself to don the blue cloth soldier's hat (yours to keep) along with earplugs and tools needed to clean the cannon and tap in the charge. The views from the island can’t be beat either, especially if you spend some time exploring them and stay at the Grand Hotel. Then, keep the Straits area history lesson going at some of the state's best historic sites in Saint Ignace.

13. Tour the Beach Towns Along the Vintage West Michigan Pike

Summer is meant to be experienced on a 200-mile stretch of wide sandy beaches accented by amusement parks, dune buggy rides, galleries, shops, festivals and food in iconic vacation towns like Grand Haven, Holland, South Haven, St. Joseph, Saugatuck and more. There's an abundance of scenic spots along the West Michigan Pike.

14. Visit a Lighthouse

Lighthouse near the shore of Lake Huron during summer
Tawas Point Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

And spend the night! Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state as well as the rare chance to be a volunteer keeper or spend the night as a lighthouse Bed and Breakfast guest. Keep a Lake Huron Light at the Tawas Point Lighthouse or at Forty Mile Point Lighthouse. Want to just stay the night? Check out the pretty Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort or the Big Bay Point Lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula.

15. Hunt for Petoskey Stones or Agates

Petoskey State Park just outside the aptly named city of Petoskey makes for surprising success in the hunt for Michigan's state stone. Find elegant gifts from stones others have found—or a DIY polishing kit—at downtown shops. For agates, Grand Marais in the Upper Peninsula is well situated on a Lake Superior beach part sandy, part filled with colorful rock treasures. 

16. Ride on a Pirate Ship

Sail one of the schooners named The Appledore out of Bay City away from city lights to a sky filled with stars on a night sky trip, or opt for dinner sails, family ecology or storytelling of local legends. The Tall Ship Manitou in Traverse City themes its trips around ice cream, music or more, or spend the night on a bed and breakfast sail. Friends Good Will in South Haven has options too, including the 1 ½ hour “pirate chaser” on the 1810 replica sloops.

17. Take a Mountain Adventure

Mount Bohemia is known for its black diamond ski challenge, but it's just as fun to see those extreme ski slopes transformed into a mountain lodge ski view. New packages let you stay on the slopes and have extreme summer adventures as you kayak Lake Superior or mountain bike on Keweenaw Peninsula trails.

18. Drink a Michigan Craft Beer in Beer City

Pints of beer on a table near a window
Beer in Grand Rapids | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan vishobh

Grand Rapids isn't Beer City USA for nothing. Visit Belgian-inspired Brewery Vivant, a sustainability leader in a former chapel that offers tastings with its tours, or settle in for a patio afternoon or tour (with an inspiring story) of Founders Brewing Company—the country's fastest-growing microbrewery. Gravity Taphouse Grille specializes in fun pairings of food and craft beer. And that's just the beginning. Mark each off your “Brewsaders” passport and visit more until your free t-shirt is earned.

19. Catch a King Salmon or Reel in a Walleye

A day on a Michigan Great Lakes fishing charter one not to be forgotten. The Manistee area is known for its many Lake Michigan charter fishing options, or venture to Saginaw Bay, your stop for walleye. There are tons of places to cast a line in Pure Michigan.

20. Try Stand-Up Paddleboarding

A man paddleboarding on a river
Stand-up Paddleboarding on Torch River | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

The Detroit waterfront is one of the hottest, if not most unexpected, spots for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Get a guide if you're at all hesitant, and explore Detroit's Eastside canals from an on-water vantage point, or take a tour that heads into the Detroit River and around its iconic islands, like Belle Isle. Detroit River Sports even offers “paddle to table” tours that highlight the city's burgeoning culinary scene. There are tons of other scenic places to paddleboard in Michigan, too, like the Pere Marquette River in Muskegon and the winding shore of Long Lake just west of Traverse City. The generally calm bay conditions near  Tawas Point State Park on Lake Huron is great for riders of all levels, while the hilly shoreline of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore between Munising and Grand Marais offers stunning natural features and is great for experienced paddlers looking for a challenge.

21. Eat Fresh and Support Local

Hit a U-Pick for the best fruit, juicy and ripe, in a state known for its agricultural bounty. You'll find wild blueberries in Paradise, or hit up Southwest Michigan's beach towns, just a bit inland you some of the state's top fruit-growing areas. Visit Fruit Acres Farm & U-Pick in Coloma for a hayride to peaches you can pick.
As one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the nation, Michigan does fresh, local food that must be eaten to be believed. Detroit-style pizza and Coney dogs, Mackinac Island fudge, pasties, artisan cheeses and maple syrup: the flavors you can experience in Michigan are as varied as the communities that serve them up. Whether a five-star meal or a local favorite, no meal is complete without a Michigan winecraft beer or spirit to pair it with. Restaurants across the state carry local varietals and brews, but unique flavors are waiting to be discovered at brick-and-mortar shops and local grocery stores as well. Don't forget to refuel at Michigan coffee shops and get a bag of beans to enjoy at home. 

22. Become Eye Level with the Eagles

a biker with his dog on a leash
Biking on Brockway Mountain Drive | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

At 1,328 feet above sea level, Brockway Mountain Drive near the Upper Peninsula's uppermost tip is the highest scenic roadway between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. And your view can’t be beat—uninterrupted tracks of Keweenaw Peninsula forest, inland lakes and distant freighters on Lake Superior. Catch the ferry to Isle Royale National Park, 48 miles distant, or stick around and enjoy the eye-level view of migrating hawks, owls and eagles.

23. Drive a Model T

Drive an authentic Henry Ford creation at Kalamazoo's Gilmore Car Museum and its driving school. Or just sit in as you learn the story of the car's invention, one where the car was invented and made—Detroit's Ford Piquette Avenue Plant—celebrating the innovations that made the road trip a reality for all.