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The Best Vacation Destinations in Michigan

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The amazing Great Lakes State is a popular travel destination– and not just for its 11,000 inland lakes. Packed with history, culture, world-famous beer, and superb beaches, there are countless incredible places to visit in Michigan. From the dynamic buzz of Detroit to the captivating beauty of the Upper Peninsula, all kinds of urban and rural treasures are waiting for your next adventure.

If you want to see the Wolverine State at its finest, then read on to discover the 12 best vacation destinations in Michigan!

1. Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is the best vacation spot in Michigan for beer-lovers, so much so that it’s earned the nickname ‘Beer City’. You can have your fill of craft brew during the Founders Fest in June while enjoying music from local and international bands. 

June, in general, is a big month for Grand Rapids, as the city also hosts the Festival of the Arts (for, y’know, art) and the Grand River Water Festival, a music-focused party that doubles as environmental education and awareness campaign. 

But if you’re not in town during June, there’s still plenty to see and do! Visitors often come to tour the Meyer May House, known as Michigan’s Prairie masterpiece. Designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this newly-restored house is free to explore. You can also find beauty and elegant style at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, a 158-acre botanical garden, art museum, and outdoor sculpture park all rolled into one. Or dive into the life of President Ford at the Gerald R. Ford Museum, where you can see a replica of the Oval Office.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

2. Muskegon

If you’re looking for the best summer getaway in Michigan, then Muskegon is the place for you. Long sandy stretches and beautiful marinas, like in Pere Marquette Park, border Lake Michigan near the town and give the white sand beaches down south a run for their money. Walk through the countryside in the Hoffmaster and Muskegon State Parks, with countless trails through forested dunes.  

The port town itself is based on the edge of the much smaller Muskegon Lake, making it the perfect place for some fishing, boating, and swimming.

For a little more action, tour the USS Silversides, a WWII submarine, then head to the  Monet Garden, inspired by the garden of the same name in ​​Giverny, France, for a taste of spring nearly year-round. Round out your trip with a visit to the Hackley & Hume house for some truly bizarre architecture– or to get some wacky interior design inspo.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

3. Mackinac Island

One of the most romantic getaways in Michigan, the small yet enchanting Mackinac Island is rich with historic charm and remarkable landscapes. Accessing Mackinac Island is easiest done via a ferry crossing from Mackinaw City. 

Start off your romantic trip with an intimate horse and carriage ride around the town center. The light, colorful buildings that line the main streets give Mackinac a classic beach-resort style. 

If you or your sweetie like long walks on the beach, take the 8-mile walk around the entire shoreline. Get some brownie points by pointing out archeological and geological wonders like the Arch Rock and Skull Cave. Feel free to make up a ghost story about the skeletons found inside back in 1763 for an extra excuse to huddle up. 

Swing by Fort Holmes and Fort Mackinac for a bit of history before returning to the artisanal shops to sample the island’s famous fudge.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

4. Detroit

Detroit Skyline

The largest city in Michigan, Detroit has something to offer everyone. Highlights of the city include the rhythm and blues of the Motown Museum, the botanical conservatory in Belle Isle Park, and the historic (and gorgeous) Fox Theatre.

Car enthusiasts can dive into automobile history at the Henry Ford Museum and the Automotive Hall of Fame to celebrate the men and women whose innovations revolutionized the motor world. Baseball fans can see the city’s own Detroit Tigers play at the Comerica Park arena from April through to October.

Don’t miss out on the immense open-air Eastern Market where you can find everything from tacos to colorful produce and artisanal crafts every Saturday. Take a self-guided audio tour to see artistic alleys, funky food spots, parks, and famous landmarks like the famous Joe Louis Statue. If you want to catch a glimpse of historic Detroit, go see the striking Art Deco design of the Guardian Building.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

5. Petoskey

Petoskey, located at the very top tip of the Michigan mitten, is known for natural beauty, Victorian architecture, and Petoskey stones (rocks with little coral fossils). The old-fashioned streets of the Historic Gaslight Shopping District, with over a century of slowly shifting boutique shops, restaurants, and homemade candy, are a hotspot for Petoskey’s visitors all year round.

The town is also known for incredible wineries and breweries. Whether you prefer a cold beer or a delicate rosé, Petoskey offers many tours and tastings of the local vintages. If you want an easy way to see the sights, especially after a drink or two, take a ride on the classic Petoskey Downtown Trolley.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

6. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

If you’re seeking a perfect lakeside vacation in Michigan, look no further than the sloping dunes of the Sleep Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. An excellent spot for swimming, boating, fishing, or simply lazing in the sun, the shores of Lake Michigan welcome many summer travelers. 

Camping is especially popular at Sleeping Bear Dunes as people come for a proper Michigan vacation, but you can also take a tour to see the sights in a few hours. And the beach isn’t the only highlight– a walk or cycle along the beautiful nature trails that criss-cross the park. You may even spot foxes or porcupines scurrying through the woodlands. 

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7. Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is an easy place to get to for anyone in Detroit looking for a peaceful Michigan getaway. If you want the best Ann Arbor experience, you should visit when the fall colors are setting in. 

Home of the University of Michigan, students bring upbeat energy to the town’s already charming culture. On top of the grand architecture, the University of Michigan has the Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History, for anyone looking to learn a little something while in a college town. Stroll around campus, especially the Law Quad, for some old-English architecture (very Harry Potter-esque).

Release your inner child (or your actual little ones) at the innovative Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, built inside a refurbished fire station. Finally, a chance to touch and poke all the exhibits! If touch isn’t your thing, enjoy the sights and smells at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, with a variety of exotic plants and flowers. Technically you can get a taste of some of the plants, but it’s probably best to leave that for some of the family-run restaurants and bars across town.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

8. Holland

Nestled between Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa, Holland is one of the more interesting places to see in Michigan. As you can probably guess from the name, the city is rich with Dutch heritage, and Holland is just as passionate about tulips as its European counterpart. Visiting the flower fields in April or May is the best time to experience the vibrant colors and sweet spring scents.

In keeping with the Dutch theme, the main attraction in Holland is the 250-year-old De Zwaan Windmill. Transported from Europe in the 1960s, it now rests in the gardens of Windmill Island. When you’ve had your fill of Holland history, you can retire to one of the sandy lakeside beaches for an afternoon of relaxation. 

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

9. Bay City

The electric atmosphere of the Bay City nightlife makes it one of the best vacation spots in Michigan for parties. Friendly nightclubs and trendy restaurants line the Saginaw River, which winds through the city center. In the daylight, Bay City is just as vibrant, and there are plenty of parks to sunbathe (or nap) in if you need to recover after an evening out!

Intellectual activities in the city include the Historical Museum of Bay County and the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum inside the permanently docked USS Edson. Bay City is also known for its antique stores. Based along Water Street, these shops are a great place to find relics and curiosities from Michigan’s past or spend an afternoon window shopping.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

10. Charlevoix

Bordered on all sides by dark lakes and vast national parks, Charlevoix is one of the best places to visit in Michigan for stargazing. The town is located in northern Michigan and on black winter nights, visitors have a chance to see the ethereal light show of the aurora borealis.

The town’s most intriguing attractions are the full-size fairytale houses designed and constructed by architect Earl Young. Nicknamed ‘Hobbit’ or ‘Mushroom’ houses, these fantastical buildings are formed of thatch and stone, and some are available to tour.  

The European-style stone fortress Castle Farms looks like it might have once seen battle, but in fact, it was built in 1918 as a dairy farm. Now it stands as a WWI museum and its pristine gardens contain Michigan’s largest outdoor model railroad.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

11. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Located in the stunning Upper Peninsula, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the best place to visit in Michigan for anyone looking to get lost in nature– and have fun doing it. 

Hiking is the biggest activity here, with endless unique natural landmarks along the many trails. Caves, waterfalls, and ancient cliffs adorn Pictured Rocks, which earned its name from the swirling colors of the rock faces. 

You can even view the shoreline from a different perspective: by kayaking around and through the rocky outcrops. There are also some longstanding lighthouses to see and friendly fisheries and bars to try out.

And if you’re looking for other picture-perfect National Parks, we’ve got you covered. 📸

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12. Frankenmuth

If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Michigan, try the proudly German town of Frankenmuth. Designed in an authentic Bavarian-style by 19th-century settlers, Frankenmuth welcomes weary travelers with a glass of German beer and a mouthwatering chicken dinner.

The town is home to the Michigan Heroes Museum, which celebrates the lives and triumphs of military personnel from the state. You can also walk along the famous rustic Holz-Brücke Covered Wooden Bridge. 

The Frankenmuth Farmers Market is open frequently throughout the week in the summer months. If you want something a little more interactive, swing by the special Friday Night Market After Dark events, with interactive fun including still-life painting, pottery, tile making, and of course plenty of exquisite food and drink.

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More Great Places to Visit in Michigan

Want more? No problem! Michigan has no shortage of cities and activities to choose from:
  • Visit the Michigan Aquarium on the outskirts of Detroit, complete with glass tunnels right through different exhibits 
  • Catch a glimpse of the past in historic Ludington, a harbor town on Lake Michigan known for its beaches
  • Escanaba is known for being artsy, with William Bonifas Fine Arts Center, The Waterfront Art Festival, The Players de Noc, The Bay de Noc Choral Society, the Escanaba City Band, and more
  • Get spooked on a ghost hunting experience in Traverse City
  • If you run out of ideas, you can even visit Battle Creek, the birthplace of the cereal industry
We hope you’ve been inspired by our guide to the best vacation destinations in Michigan. The Great Lakes State is an astonishing medley of cultural treasures and breathtaking wilderness, and Michigan travel never disappoints. With the summer fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to book your trip!

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