Itinerary of the best places to visit in Michigan

Itinerary of the best places to visit in Michigan

I may be bias because I grew up in Michigan. But I can confidently say after more than a decade of living in many other parts of the U.S. and the world, Michigan is one of my favorite places (the Upper Peninsula specifically). Michigan is a state characterized by nature, culture, and a strong musical past. Being surrounded by 4 of the 5 Great Lakes you can drive to all corners of the state. You will find yourself looking out to huge, endless bodies of water — reminding you of being by the ocean. The beauty of this is that sometimes you will be on white-sanded beaches and sand dunes. Other times you will be looking over hundred-foot, rocky cliffs.

It’s tough to pick the highlights of this state. If you really want to dig in, I would recommend spending a month driving through the state. But for now, I am going to highlight 15 best places to visit in Michigan. I ordered them in a way that could also be a way to plan your trip here. Consider it a rough itinerary! (For other fun itinerary ideas check out this section)

Detroit (2 nights): Detroit has not had the best reputation in the last couple decades. But it once was a place filled with vibrancy, late nights, hip people, and musical prodigies. Detroit is making it’s way back. I would definitely recommend spending time here! You will find that it is extremely affordable and has so much to prove. Depending on the time of year consider doing any of the following: a sports game (Red Wings, Tigers, Pistons, Lions), Motown Museum, Henry Ford Museum, or Detroit’s Artists’ Market. I also highly recommend the experience at Green Dot Stables (for fun little burgers/sliders) and fun cocktails at the Sugar House.

Ann Arbor (1 night): Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan and some of the best food I have ever had. I recommend spending a night here if possible. You can walk around the U of MI campus, find delicious food, and attend a game if you’re a sports fan. If you’re looking for food, try Zingermans (Delicatessen for sure), the Last Word (a fun speakeasy for unique cocktails), any of the multiple breweries, Ravens Club for weekly jazz music, Sava’s for brunch, and RoosRoast for my favorite coffee. On campus, I recommend checking out the Law School as the library was a filming location-contestant for Hogwarts in Harry Potter.

Grand Rapids (day): Honestly, I’m not very familiar with Grand Rapids, but I’ve spent some time here and it is becoming a hot destination in Michigan. If you can’t spend a night here, it would at least be worth an afternoon stop on your way to your next destination.

Ludington (2 nights camping): Ludington is a small town on Lake Michigan. We recommend spending a couple nights near here. You can find fabulous camp sites around here which I highly recommend! You will be right on Lake Michigan and the white-sandy beaches. But most notably will be your proximity to all of the sand dunes near by. These are must-sees. You will have Silver Beach Sand Dunes to the south and Sleeping Bear Dunes to the north (these are my all-time favorite!). I recommend waking up bright and early before sunrise to get to Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and doing a full-hike to the beach (this is pretty rigorous and is a time commitment). You can relax after a long day with a couple breweries in Ludington. One we recommend is Ludington Bay Brewing Co. They had fabulous food and beer.

Traverse City (1 night): After a couple nights of camping and hiking, Traverse City could be the perfect place to relax with some comfy accommodation. Traverse City is a beautiful little city right on Lake Michigan. You will notice that it does attract a little bit of money and luxury. It’s a great place to relax, sip some wine, and take in some gorgeous views.

Mackinac Island (1 night): Take the ferry from Mackinac City to Mackinac Island. This is a fun experience on it’s own. Mackinac Island is known for it’s fudge, nature, and a gem of an island that does not allow any cars (think horse and buggy!). Although an expense, if able, consider staying the night at the Grand Hotel.

Munising (1 night): Drive up north to Munising for some enjoyment of Lake Superior. Lake Superior is my favorite Great Lake. It reminds me of the PNW with rocky cliffs and beautiful drives. Munising is the epitome of this. Particularly you should spend time at Pictured Rocks. I recommend a sunset cruise to the rocks as well as doing some hiking above the cliff if you have time and energy. This is one of the best places to visit in Michigan.

Marquette (1 night): Marquette is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is one of the greatest being right on the Lake Superior coast. Whether you visit in the summer or winter, you will find plenty of outdoor activities. This is also one of my favorite drives from Munising to Marquette, right along Lake Superior for most of it.

Houghton (2 nights): For some more best places to visit in Michigan make your way to the Keweenaw Peninsula (my favorite place on earth!). Start with Houghton, a small city and it’s also home to Michigan Technological University which is one of the highest-rated engineering schools in the country. With this, brings in intellect, culture, experiences, and people from all over the world. You will feel like you’re in a small town, but also feel the young, creative, industrious energy from the students and faculty. The Keweenaw Peninsula is also known for it’s enormous amounts of snowfall every year (due to lake effect). It deserves a whole blog on its own!

Eagle River (day): Make your way to Copper Harbor on this day. There are a couple ways to drive there. I recommend driving up north along Lake Superior on Hwy 26 (drive through Phoenix and then take a left on hwy 26). You will run into Eagle River right on the lake. I recommend getting lunch at Fitzgeralds on the water. As you continue driving north, you can stop at Jacob’s falls — not too far. Then get some famous delicious Monk-made cookies at the Jam Pot. You will notice a gorgeous little monastery as you continue driving around the corner from the Jampot.

Copper Harbor (1 night): Copper Harbor is the northern most point in Michigan. It’s gorgeous and a bit unusual to lots of people. It is not very populated, but there still remains a one-room school house for those under 9th grade-age. It’s a snowmobilers and mountain-bikers paradise. You will find many gift shops and copper-trinkets. There is also delicious food at the Harbor Haus, historical tours at Fort Wilkins, and a ferry departure for Isle Royale.

Isle Royale (3 nights): I have never been to Isle Royale admittedly. But that is a huge shame. Isle Royale is a national park in Lake Superior, lying closer to Canada. Ferry’s for the island leave from both Copper Harbor and Houghton. It’s land mass is characterized by amazing wildlife (black bears, wolves, coyotes, and especially moose). You can only camp there and so I would definitely recommend it for those nature-loving people.

Bete Grise (day): when you return to Copper Harbor from the ferry from Isle Royale, consider driving back south inland (hwy 2). Along the way, you will have the opportunity to drive off to the east to a place called Bete Grise. This is a little, quite bay of land going into Lake Superior. It’s a place not many people know of that is pebbled with a few homes. Other than that you could have the whole beach to yourself or could kayak near the coast and the cliff you see nearby. This secret gem probably won’t be on anyone else’s best places to visit in Michigan (it’s a secret!).

Porcupine Mountains (1 night): As your Michigan trip is coming to an end, consider spending your last night at Porcupine Mountains. This is great in the winter if you like downhill skiing. It’s also great in the summer if you like hiking. There are lodges here that you can stay in and relax.

Lake of the Clouds (day): While staying at Porcupine Mountains, one beautiful hike you can take is to Lake of the Clouds. You will hike up for a long time to get a gorgeous view overlooking a medium-sized lake, Lake of the Clouds. This is one of the best places to visit in Michigan.

I hope this gives you some inspiration to visit Pure Michigan. As the state is one of the greatest and most beautiful 🙂

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