20+ Things to Do in Michigan: Your Ultimate Summer Bucket List
Summer in Michigan couldn't be sweeter. But it's good to have a plan to be sure 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 a royal summer, if you're making a castle with your bucket or checking out one of these other can't-miss outings.
1. Explore the Mushroom Houses in CharlevoixSummer 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.
2. 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.
3. Bike an Urban Trail
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 Zoo, R.E. Olds Transportation Museum and Impression 5 Science Center. In Grand Rapids, a new biking app provides turn-by-turn guidance to downtown hotspots like the Butcher's Union restaurant and The Knickerbocker microbrewery.
4. Find Your Motown GrooveYou'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.
5. Play at a Water ParkMichigan'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.
6. Spend a Day Paddling a Michigan WaterwayThe 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.
7. Stay at a Winery Inn
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.
8. Become Eye Level with the EaglesAt 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.
9. 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 perennial favorite, Mac Wood’s Dune Rides in Silver Lake.
10. 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 takes you 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.
11. Fire a Cannon at Fort MackinacYou 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. Then, keep the Straits area history lesson going at some of the state's best historic sites in Saint Ignace.
12. Wish on Falling StarsThere are so many great places for stargazing in Michigan. The Headlands, an 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.
13. Tour the Beach Towns Along the Vintage West Michigan PikeSummer 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, St. Joseph, Saugatuck and more. There's an abundance of scenic spots along the West Michigan Pike.
14. Go to an Art FestivalThe Ann Arbor Art Fair—so big it's now four fairs in one—is not to be missed. Art of the film sort is featured at the Traverse City Film Festival, where filmmaker panels, discussions and schools round out a week of internationally-curated films.
15. Visit a Lighthouse
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 pretty Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort or the Big Bay Point Lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula.
16. 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. The Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum is great for its impressive mineral collection and hunting inspiration.
17. Set Sail on a Tall 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.
18. Take a Mountain AdventureMount Bohemia is known for its black diamond ski challenge, but it's just as fun to see those extreme ski slopes transformed into 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.
19. Drink a Michigan Craft Beer in Beer City
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 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.
20. Snag a 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.
21. Try Stand Up Paddleboarding in Detroit
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 on 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.
22. Eat and Support Local
Hita 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, where inland just a bit lie some of the state's top fruit-growing areas. Visit Fruit Acres Farm & U-Pick in Coloma for a hay ride to peaches you can pick, or join the International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship in early July (before or after picking from the bounty) at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire.
23. Camp – a new way
No tent (or camping know-how), no problem, not with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' first-time camper program. For just $20, you've got a campsite for two nights in one of its top 15 state parks, plus all the loaner gear you need: tent, camp chairs, stove, lantern and even the marshmallow cookers and fishing poles and a friendly ranger to help you set things up—even put the worm on the hook. The state has 100 parks and recreation areas with a combined total of 13,500 campsites—plenty of variety to choose from. Or 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.