If you’re looking for somewhere with wide-open spaces, achingly beautiful scenery, and tons of things to do, choose Michigan as your next vacation destination! This Midwest state is overflowing with incredible places to embrace the great outdoors and appreciate all the wonderful things nature has to offer.
Boasting countless golden sandy beaches, miles of dense forests, snow-dusted mountain peaks, and colorful sandstone cliffs, you’ll never get bored in Michigan!
Visit during the summer, and you’ll be spoiled for choice with incredible hikes, amazing cycling opportunities, superb surfing spots, and wonderful nights spent camping. Visit during the winter, and you’ll have the chance to go skiing, admire frozen waterfalls, try fat tire biking, and watch snowmobile racing.
When you need a break from the great outdoors, plan a trip to Detroit. The Midwest state’s most exciting city, this buzzing metropolis is constantly reinventing itself with original architecture, intriguing street art, and an enticing foodie scene.
With such a fantastic range of things to see and do, it can be almost impossible to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Michigan. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Michigan bucket list, and you’re sure to have a wonderful time exploring the Great Lakes State.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).
25 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Michigan
1. Visit The Mirror Of Heaven At Kitch-iti-Kipi
One of the coolest things to do in Michigan is to admire the remarkable colors of Kitch-iti-Kipi in Manistique. The state’s largest natural freshwater spring, Kitch-iti-Kipi is located inside the Palms Brook State Park in Michigan’s Central Upper Peninsula and is fed by a staggering 10,000 gallons of water every minute.
The unique treasure is called the “Mirror of Heaven” by the native Chippewa because the water is so strikingly clear that you can see through it for what looks like miles. The mesmerizing blues and greens make the spring look like it’s been Photoshopped in real life!
For an even better view of the spring and the limestone-encrusted trees at the bottom, join one of the observation raft tours. This way you’ll be able to sail across the water and look directly into the depths far below.
The water that feeds the lake comes from fissures in the limestone at the bottom. Because of this, the water is always a reliable 45°F, meaning you can visit the spring and check out the natural phenomenon at any time of year.
2. Step Back In Time At Mackinac Island
For some of the best sights in Michigan, take a trip to Mackinac Island. Easily accessible via ferry, this island gives you the chance to enjoy a simpler way of life before buses, cars, and other motor vehicles even existed.
The island used to be home to the indigenous Odawa people and was a strategic fur-trading site during North America’s colonial period. Today it’s a hugely popular tourist attraction for people who want to take a trip back in time.
The Mackinac Island State Park takes up most of the island and is where you’ll find gorgeous Victorian-style architecture, various buildings associated with the American and British military outpost, and an excellent art gallery that features masterpieces created by indigenous and local artists.
One of the best parts of the island is the transport. As there are no motor vehicles, the only way to get around is either on foot or by horse and carriage. As you explore, you’ll come across quaint fudge shops, artisan boutiques, and great places to eat.
3. Have A Family Day Out At The Detroit Zoo
When you’re looking for family-friendly things to do in Michigan, spend some time at the Detroit Zoo. The huge zoo covers 125 acres and originally opened way back in 1883, although the version you can visit today only dates back to 1928.
What makes the Detroit Zoo stand out from the crowd is that it was the very first zoo in the US to build animal habitats without bars. This makes each enclosure look much better and allows you to watch the animals in a more natural environment.
Take a stroll around the non-profit zoo, and you’ll come across more than 2,000 individual animals from more than 240 different species. Great effort has gone to make the habitats as realistic as possible to encourage the residents to behave like they would in the wild.
One of the most fascinating parts of the zoo is the Polk Penguin Conservation Center. The largest and most impressive in the world, this penguin habitat is home to more than 75 penguins from five different species. Make sure you check out the virtual reality simulator ride and the 4D cinema, too!
4. See Countless Historic Treasures Inside The Henry Ford Museum
You’ll find some of the best things to see in Michigan inside the Henry Ford Museum. Located in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, this museum is the largest of its kind in the US and hosts three unique attractions – the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is easily the most intriguing and captivating section of the complex. Designed to encourage you to gain some perspective, get inspired, and make history yourself, the museum highlights the work of North America’s most famous inventors. You’ll find all kinds of fascinating ideas and innovations that totally changed the way we live today inside.
Other interesting things to see include the chair Abraham Lincoln sat in when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater, the bus that started Rosa Parks’ American Civil Rights Movement, and the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop.
5. Learn About The State’s Dutch Heritage At Tulip Time
If you’re planning on visiting the Great Lakes State in the spring, don’t pass up the chance to join in with Tulip Time. Celebrated each May in Holland, Michigan, this festival is one of the best Michigan activities on the calendar and is in honor of one of Holland’s biggest and most important exports – the tulip.
The events program at Tulip Time gets better and better each year and includes all kinds of exciting events, such as fun parades, live concerts, and traditional Dutch dances. You’ll also see loads of local people dressed in traditional Dutch costumes in honor of their heritage.
Events take place over the course of eight days in locations all over the city. You’ll also get the chance to see more than six million colorful tulips in full bloom throughout the public parks and along downtown streets.
The festival has been awarded the title “America’s Best Small Town Festival,” “The Nation’s Best Flower Festival,” and “The Tulip Festival of the Year,” making it one of the coolest things to do in Michigan!
6. Surround Yourself With Nature At Isle Royale National Park
Formed during the Ice Age by towering glaciers, Isle Royale National Park is home to scenery that’s almost too spectacular to be real. With lush green forests, calm blue lakes, and rippling cool streams, the park provides the perfect retreat when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Only accessible via boat or seaplane (it’s entirely vehicle-free), the island park is made up of one large island surrounded by more than 400 tiny islands in northwest Lake Superior. It was established in 1940 and has since been declared a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve.
There’s absolutely loads to do here, from exploring the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, which has been transformed into a living history museum, to hiking the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which you can follow to discover many stunning viewpoints.
You’ll find spectacular dive sites scattered around Isle Royale National Park, where you can explore impressive shipwrecks, as well as a number of excellent campsites with all the facilities you need.
7. Discover Detroit-Style Pizza
While you’re in Michigan, you’ve absolutely got to try Detroit-style pizza. Very different from other styles of pizza you’re probably familiar with, this local dish is the perfect thing to order when you’re in the mood for something piping hot, wonderfully comforting, and super cheesy.
Detroit-style pizza is baked in a large rectangular pan and has a thick crust that’s spongy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The top of the pizza is covered in block cheese topped with thick lines of pizza sauce. Hot pepperoni cups are sometimes added on top for extra bite.
Because of the unusual arrangement of the toppings, the cheese almost caramelizes and develops a deliciously crisp texture that adds even more crunch to each bite.
This type of pizza is so popular that you’ll find it available all over Michigan – and throughout the rest of the US! But while you’re in Detroit, we recommend grabbing a slice from Buddy’s. This amazing pizza place serves a staggering range of Detroit-style pizzas. If you can’t pick one from the menu, you can just build your own!
8. See Fascinating Wildlife Inside Hiawatha National Forest
For the chance to see some amazing local wildlife, a visit to Hiawatha National Forest should be at the top of your list of must-do things in Michigan. Tucked away within Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region, this natural treasure covers a whopping 894,836 acres of forest where all kinds of incredible creatures live.
The park was named after Mohawk chief Hiawatha and features six individual wilderness areas where you’ll find wolves, lynx, eagles, bears, moose, and deer, among many other fascinating species. There are around 312 species living within the park, giving you an excellent chance of spotting some animals during your visit.
In addition to the fantastic animal spotting opportunities, the national park is also an excellent location for fun outdoor activities. Here you can enjoy camping, horseback riding, kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking. For something a little less energetic, check out the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, which has been converted into a living history museum.
9. Uncover The State’s Past Inside The Michigan History Center
If you want to step back in time and learn about Michigan’s past, spend a few hours at the Michigan History Center in Lansing. This fascinating attraction includes the Michigan History Museum, the Archives of Michigan, and the museum store, where you’ll find a bunch of goodies.
The museum takes you on a journey through Michigan’s past, all the way from the end of the Ice Age up until the late 20th century. There are 26 permanent galleries that cover things like how and why the first settlers came to Michigan and the state’s history of industry. You’ll also find a range of temporary exhibits that change throughout the year.
Some of the most interesting parts of the museum include a three-story relief map, the display of a UP copper mine, a mural of traditional Anishinaabe culture, a 1950s auto show, and a one-room school.
If you’re looking for something specific to do with Michigan’s history, you’ll find it in the archives, which are brimming with maps, documents, films, and photos.
10. Visit The Largest Amusement Park In Michigan
When you need a break from all the Michigan sightseeing, head to Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon for the day. The biggest theme park in the state, this fun-filled attraction boasts 53 thrilling rides of all levels, plus an action-packed water park.
Here you’ll find a fantastic variety of high-speed roller-coasters, family-friendly Ferris wheels, and safe flying rides made for the littlest ones in the family. There are also tons of cool extras you don’t normally find at an amusement park, such as bumper boats, a petting zoo, and a skycoaster.
If you visit during summer, you’ve got to spend some time at the water park. Here you can relax on the lazy river, jump around in the wave pool, and zoom down water slides in group rings. If you’re traveling with kids, there are plenty of areas of the park built just for them.
11. Go Camping At Holland State Park
One of the most popular parks in Michigan, Holland State Park is a fantastic place to go camping. Set within Ottawa County, the park overlooks the dazzling Lake Michigan and features a huge beachfront where you can while away lazy days under the sun.
Lake Macatawa is a wonderful place for swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding, while the surrounding sands are ideal for sunbathing and dozing. Don’t forget to get a day pass, otherwise you won’t be allowed down to the water. Fishing is also permitted in the lake, with a boat launch available for visitors.
After a long day at the lake, retire to the campsite for even more relaxation. There are 340 tent and RV hookup spots, as well as indoor accommodation if you’re not too keen on the idea of camping. The campsite also features a concession stand and children’s playground.
12. See More Than $8 Billion Of Artwork At The Detroit Institute Of Arts
When you’re in the mood for something cultural, one of the top things to do in Michigan is to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Also known as DIA, this magnificent gallery is home to some of the most important and prestigious art collections in North America.
Considered to be one of the best art galleries in the US, the Detroit Institute of Arts guards more than 66,000 individual works, which are valued at a grand total of more than $8 billion! The huge gallery covers 658,000 square feet and is divided into more than 100 distinct sections. With so much to see, you could easily spend a whole day here!
Take a walk around the gallery, and you’ll discover remarkable pieces created by artists from the Middle East, Oceania, Asia, and Africa, as well as indigenous and post-colonial North America. The General Motors Center for African American Art is particularly interesting and definitely worth checking out.
13. Spend A Lazy Summer Day At Belle Isle Park
The largest city island park in the US, Belle Isle Park has been an integral part of Detroit since 1845. It covers a staggering 982 acres and is home to three spectacular lakes, 150 acres of forest, and a colossal shoreline that rewards visitors with incredible views of the Detroit and Windsor skylines.
One of the best things about Belle Isle Park is that it’s full of free things to do, making it a fantastic choice if you’ve got a small budget to work with. You’re invited to explore the Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and the Belle Island Aquarium – all for free!
Although there are no entry fees, a modest donation is encouraged to help keep the park in great condition. Visit during the spring or summer, and you’ll have the chance to go boating across the lakes, cycling along intrepid trails, and picnicking under the shade of lofty trees. The park is also home to the grand Belle Island Golf Range.
14. Snack On A Coney Dog
When you’re in the mood for a snack, find a hot dog stand and order yourself a Coney dog. Also known as a Coney Island hot dog, this local staple is hugely popular – especially during the summer.
What makes a Coney dog different from other hot dogs is that it’s made from a beef frankfurter in its natural casing placed in a soft and fluffy steamed bun. The decadent topping is an all-meat chili (there are no beans in sight!) layered with chunky diced white onion and generously drizzled with yellow mustard.
Because they’re so popular you’ll find Coney dogs available from hot dog stands throughout Michigan. If you visit Detroit, you won’t be able to walk around the corner without bumping into one!
If you’re planning on visiting Jackson, we recommend visiting Virginia Coney Island. This diner dishes up a classic Coney dog that was voted the very best in Michigan. The menu also features a bunch of other North American classics to sink your teeth into.
15. Visit Germany Without Leaving The US In Frankenmuth
You’ll find one of the most unique things to do in Michigan in Frankenmuth. A city in Saginaw County that dates back to 1845, when German settlers made it their own, Frankenmuth does a great job of holding onto its German heritage. The city boasts gorgeous Bavarian-style architecture and many cultural attractions.
The name translates into English as “The Courage of the Bavarians,” and it’s brimming with loads to see and do. Wander around the streets, and you’ll discover Michigan’s Military and Space Heroes Museum, the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, and the outdoor Heritage Park, where you’ll find a pavilion that hosts exciting events throughout the year.
If you’re looking for something a little more family-friendly, check out Grandpa’s Tiny Farm petting zoo. During the summer, Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark is also a fantastic place to cool off and have fun.
You’ve got to stop by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland during your visit, too. This magical place is the largest Christmas-themed store in the world! You’re guaranteed to find a unique holiday decoration here.
16. Get Outside In The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Awarded with the title of “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a place you’ve simply got to visit during your Michigan trip. Established in 1970, the 35-mile-long lakeshore highlights intimidating 450-foot-tall bluffs, sparkling inland lakes, lush green forests, and a huge variety of native wildlife.
A wonderful place for outdoor activities, the lakeshore is a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, hiking, and kayaking. If you’ve never visited before, we recommend stopping by Loon Lake for swimming and watersports, as well as the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail for epic hikes.
In addition to all the fantastic open-air pursuits, the lakeshore is also home to a number of interesting cultural attractions. Take a look around, and you’ll come across the 1871 South Manitou Island Lighthouse, the Port Oneida Rural Historic District, three well-preserved United States life-saving service stations, and the Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum.
17. Enjoy A Pint Or Two At The Detroit Beer Festival
One of the most fun things to do in Michigan in October is to chill out at the Detroit Beer Festival. The annual festival is held in the Eastern Market and is one of the most popular and busiest beer-tasting events in the city.
Take your time and explore the stalls laden with all kinds of delicious beers produced by local breweries. Some of the breweries here have been in business for over a century! When you need a break from the beer, you’ll be spoiled for choice with food stalls run by local restaurants dishing up platefuls of North American classics.
Although the food and drink are definitely the highlights of the event, there are other things going on during the festival, too. Each year an incredible lineup of local bands and artists take to the stage to perform. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon when you want to relax a little.
18. Go Skiing At Boyne Mountain Resort
Michigan is known for its breathtaking national parks where you can swim, hike, and camp until your heart’s content. But the state isn’t just a fantastic place to visit in the summer. During the chilly winter months, parts of the state are blanketed in a thick layer of snow, making it the ideal location for high-thrill winter sports.
Boyne Mountain Resort has been a functioning ski resort for over 50 years. Hidden away in the peaceful village of Boyne Falls, the resort is well-known for its incredible facilities. It boasts over 60 downhill skiing trails and a whopping 22 miles of cross-country skiing routes.
If you’d prefer to hang out somewhere a little warmer, check out Avalanche Bay, Michigan’s biggest indoor water park. The fun-filled resort also features a zipline adventure course for visitors who just can’t stay still and a 19,500-square-foot luxury spa for when you’re in need of a little “me” time.
19. Be Inspired By The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is one of the most beautiful and popular Michigan attractions. It’s the second most-visited tourist attraction in the state and is home to a fantastic selection of indoor and outdoor gardens, as well as captivating sculpture galleries.
If you think the idea of walking around parks and gardens is boring, this place is sure to change your mind!
Spread out over 158 acres in Grand Rapids, the complex is best known for the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, the Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, and the spectacular Iron Tree sculpture that was created by legendary artist Ai Weiwei.
Visit during the summer, and you’ll be in for an extra special treat. At this time of year, the complex’s amphitheater is transformed into an events venue where summer concerts and exhibitions are held. The Butterflies are Blooming event that takes place at the beginning of summer is an absolute must-see.
20. Check Out The Stunning Waterfall At Tahquamenon Falls State Park
The second-largest state park in Michigan, Tahquamenon Falls State Park covers a huge area of 46,179 acres between Tahquamenon River and Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay. While there are plenty of things to see and do here, one thing you can’t possibly miss is the spectacular waterfalls.
Tahquamenon Falls are so incredible that the park was named after them. They’re divided into lower and upper falls, and while the lower fall is truly beautiful, it’s the upper fall that attracts visitors. The upper Tahquamenon Fall is almost as powerful as Niagara Falls and is best known for its dramatic 50-foot drop.
Stand at the observation deck and snap a couple of pictures. The water thunders down the falls so fiercely that you can usually feel the cool spray on your face.
If you want to stay in the park for a little longer, you’ll find tons of activities in the area. The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is mostly undeveloped, making it a great place to hike in nature. There are also plenty of opportunities for kayaking and wildlife watching, as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.
21. Fill Up On Fish And Chips
Fish and chips isn’t just a thing you get in London – it’s a Michigan classic, too! Because the state is surrounded by the Great Lakes, locals have always had easy access to excellent quality fish. And one of the best ways to enjoy it is to order fish and chips from a fish and seafood restaurant.
You’ll struggle to beat the fish and chips you get in Michigan. This popular dish is found on restaurant menus throughout the state and is made up of tender and flaky white fish, which is cooked in a thin and crispy golden batter. Thick, hand-cut fries are the perfect accompaniment. This really is comfort food at its finest!
Fish and chips is available all year round, but you’ll notice it’s especially popular in spring during Lent when many places host Friday fish fries. If you’re in Detroit, we recommend stopping by Scotty Simpson’s Fish and Chips. This casual restaurant specializes in fish and chips and makes it with amazing cod that’s flown in daily from Halifax.
22. Celebrate The Holidays At The Wayne County Lightfest
If you’re visiting in November or December, one of the best things to do in Michigan is to check out the Wayne County Lightfest. Imagine all the Christmas decorations in the world on display together at the same time, and you’ve got a small idea of what this dazzling event is.
As the name suggests, this festival is a celebration of lights, holiday lights in particular, and is known as the Midwest’s longest and largest drive-through light show. It stretches on for four mesmerizing miles and is made up of more than 47 animated displays created by over 100,000 twinkling lights.
While the light show is certainly the star of the event, there are plenty of other things going on, too. The festival also includes an 8K run and special appearances by Santa Claus for the little ones. There are also amazing Christmas tree displays that will give you plenty of inspiration for decorating your tree at home.
23. Experience Michigan’s Only IMAX Dome Theater
If you’re in Detroit, the Michigan Science Center is a great place to spend the day. Worlds away from the old and tired museums you may remember from field trips, this museum is full of exciting interactive exhibits that encourage kids and adults to get involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities.
Not only is it the premier science and technology museum in the state, but the Michigan Science Center is also home to the state’s one and only IMAX Dome Theater. This huge theater boasts a three-story-high dome screen and 13,000-watt Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. It shows all kinds of immersive shows that are equally educational and fascinating.
As well as the largest theater in Michigan, the museum boasts loads of other incredible things. Here you can explore more than 250 hands-on exhibits that focus on everything from science and health to engineering and space. The museum also features a Science Stage with live performances and the Engineering 4D Theater, which shows 4D versions of National Geographic documentaries.
24. Visit One Of The Oldest University Art Museums In The US
Whether or not you’re a fan of art, spending a day at the University of Michigan Museum of Art is one of the things you’ve got to do in Michigan. Located in Ann Arbor, this remarkable art gallery was originally built in 1909 as a war memorial for fallen Civil War soldiers and is now one of the oldest and biggest art museums in North America.
The magnificent collections have been developed for more than 75 years and highlight more than 21,000 important works of art that have been gathered from all over the world. Here you can admire pieces created by Indigenous and modern Americans, as well as European, Asian, and African artists.
However knowledgeable you are when it comes to art, there are some pieces by famous artists such as Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso you’re sure to recognize.
As well as the impressive permanent collection, the art gallery also welcomes 20 special temporary exhibits each year. So even if you’ve been to the gallery before, it’s always worth a second visit.
25. Cool Off With A Vernor’s Boston Cooler
At the end of a long day full of sightseeing, there’s nothing like sitting back and relaxing with a Vernor’s Boston Cooler. Better than an ice cream float, this one-of-a-kind drink is made by filling a tall glass with Michigan-based Vernor’s ginger ale and topping it with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. For an extra kick, some places sprinkle ground ginger on top, too.
The spicy heat from the ginger ale and the cooling sweetness of the ice cream contrast wonderfully together and make this local drink surprisingly addictive. Although it sounds like it would only be available in the summer, you’ll find it served in cafes, bars, and restaurants throughout the year.
Our favorite place for a Vernor’s Boston Cooler in Michigan is Sanders. This popular candy shop has locations throughout the state and makes an incredible Boston Cooler. You’ve got to try it!
There you have it! The 25 best things to do in Michigan. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Great Lakes State?
Planning a trip to Michigan? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!