Despite being surrounded by massive lakes, there are plenty of fun things to do in Michigan. It might not be your first thought for a vacation destination, but this midwestern state has lots of hidden gems. Michigan is known for its many beautiful historical sights, and it has many places to appreciate nature as well. So, no matter what type of entertainment you’re looking for, this state has it all! Here are 15 great attractions for you to check out.
#1 – Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is arguably the most popular and one of the most fun things to do in all of Michigan. It’s an island within Lake Huron that you need to take a ferry to get to. It’s rich in history and almost has a feel as if you’re going back in time. Other than its rustic styles, one of the most outdated things is that motor vehicles aren’t permitted on the island. Instead, carriages and bikes are the preferred modes of transportation. These simplistic travel forms make the island more exciting because they give you an opportunity to relax and really take in all the nature sights. There are plenty of outdoor areas to explore, along with adorable shopping and dining. Despite being a popular tourist attraction, there are about 1,000 people who live on this little island too.
#2 – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
No vacation is complete without jaw-dropping nature sights. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the best places to view the great lakes in Michigan. It extends for 42 miles along the Upper Peninsula, and it’s notable for is colorful rock formations along the way. The trees, cliffs, and stones paired with the gorgeous blue water are must-see sights and perfect photo opportunities. This lakeshore is always open with free access. Yet, if you don’t mind paying some fees, you can go camping in this area and explore the lovely sights for as long as you’d like.
#3 – Michigan State Capitol
Capitol buildings are incredible landmarks, which is why the capitol building in Lansing can be one of your fun things to do in Michigan. The structure was built back in 1879, and it was seen as an architectural achievement at the time. When it was built, it was one of the first capitol buildings to include a lofty cast-iron dome. It also has original hand-painted art inside. Like most capitol buildings, guests are able to walk around and take tours during its open hours. Guided tours can even teach you some of the rich history. If you’re obsessed with beautiful old buildings, then you should definitely stop by.
#4 – Michigan Science Center
The Michigan Science Center is a popular science and technology museum, located in Detroit. It opened shortly after the Detroit Science Center closed in 2011, reusing some of its exhibits. It has over 250 hands-on exhibits, including topics like space, engineering, health, and physical science. Additionally, it has a planetarium, a 4D theater, and Michigan’s only Chrysler IMAX Dome Theatre. It has exciting events for all ages, and it’s an especially exciting visit during a chilly day.
#5 – Henry Ford Museum
“The Henry Ford” is the name of a museum, village, and factory all in one. Of course, it’s also named after Michigan native Henry Ford, the inventor of the Ford Motor Company. This museum is an excellent place to see some of America’s greatest inventions. It’s especially exciting for car enthusiasts since it has lots of vehicle displays, including exhibits about planes, presidential limousines, and the bus Rosa Parks was on. With attractions both inside and outside, there are also plenty of historical cars to see. Along with this educational experience, you can also visit the other parts of “The Henry Ford” to get factory tours and to find out what life was like in the 19th century.
#6 – Detroit Zoo
Zoos are always fun things to do on vacation, so in Michigan, it’s no different. The Detroit Zoo doesn’t disappoint. It’s a 125-acre zoo that first opened back in 1883, but was renovated in 1928, where it’s recognized by its iconic water tower. It was the first zoo in America to use bar-less habitats for the animals. Instead, they use naturalistic habitats to more closely resemble wild habitats. Over 2,000 animals live at this zoo, with over 240 different species. It even has kid-friendly activities, including a train, playground, carousel, 4D theater, and virtual reality ride. From penguins, to kangaroos, to lions, there are enough animals and attractions for all ages to enjoy.
#7 – Frankenmuth
Michigan has no shortage of historical areas, so Frankenmuth is another place where you can go back in time and learn. This city was first settled in 1845 by German immigrants. To this day, it remains a historic town with lots of German characteristics. It has lots of beautiful sights and German-themed attractions. One of the things it’s most notable for is being home to the world’s largest Christmas-themed store. It has a historical museum, a military and space heroes museum, an outdoor park, and a pavilion that often hosts public events.
#8 – Isle Royale National Park
The Isle Royale National Park is a beautiful park that’s on its own island, much like Mackinac Island. While it’s technically a part of Michigan, it rests in Lake Superior, closer to Minnesota and Canada. It’s a car-free wilderness where you can experience nature at its finest. It stretches for over 432 square miles, giving you plenty of space to explore. It’s only accessible by ferry or seaplane. Visitors can enjoy a historic lighthouse, scenic trails, and dive spots near shipwrecks. You can also go kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and wildlife watching. A visitor center and restaurant are open during warmer months.
#9 – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Like the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is another amazing spot to gaze at the great lakes. Instead of massive rock formations, you will find sandy dunes along Lake Michigan. It goes on for 35 miles, and it’s known as one of the most beautiful locations in America. The shoreline is for much more than just sights though. You can go fishing, hiking, and kayaking. Also, thanks to its tall dunes, there are lots of dune buggy rentals in the area. So, you can enjoy active adventures and sightseeing all at once.
#10 – Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts has a wide variety of art pieces, including over 65,000 unique works and 100 galleries. Artists from all over the world are housed at this beautiful art museum, including pieces from Africa, America, and Europe. In addition to the many art pieces, there are also other attractions, including two theaters, an art references library, a laboratory, and two casual restaurants. For any art enthusiasts, this is surely one of the most fun things to do in Michigan.
#11 – Frederik Meijer Garden & Sculpture Park
What better way to spend a beautiful day in Michigan than to look at flowers and art? This attraction is a 158-acre botanical garden and sculpture park. The grounds have over 200 sculptures from artists around the world. These sculptures can be found in both indoor and outdoor spaces around the property. One of the most notable sculptures is a giant horse, where you can pose under its hoof for a silly photo. During your visit, you’ll also find a children’s garden and a butterfly maze, which encourage all ages to learn about the collection of plants on-site.
#12 – University of Michigan
A college campus might not seem like your typical vacation destination, but the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is truly one of a kind. This top-ranked college is home to the Wolverines, but sports isn’t nearly the most incredible part. The campus is filled with rich history and beautiful sights. On-site, there’s a history museum, art museum, performing arts center, archaeology museum, and botanical gardens. So, just walking around this 2,800-acre campus is enough to keep you entertained for hours. Especially during warm days, this university can be an exciting walk for anyone.
#13 – Fort Mackinac
Fort Mackinac, also known as “Colonial Michilimackinac”, is a big attraction near Mackinac Island. And it lives up to the island’s historical and simplistic style, making it one of the most fun things to do in Michigan if you love to learn some history along the way. Fort Mackinac is an interactive museum that shows you how life would’ve been like in 1775. It was a French fur-trading village and military outpost back in 1715 to 1781, so it has remained that way ever since. It has 14 authentic buildings that have been fully restored with furniture. One of those buildings is even the oldest one in Michigan. You can either explore freely or join a guided tour of the site. It’s the perfect way to teach your family some history by living it rather than just reading about it.
#14 – Windmill Island
As you probably guessed, Windmill Island is named for the authentic Dutch windmill on the property. It’s the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States. But this 36-acre attraction is also known for its beautiful gardens that guests can explore. The 250-year-old windmill is surrounded by one of the most beautiful flower displays: 175,000 tulips! It’s best to visit in the spring or summer to see all these colorful flowers in full bloom. In addition to amazing sights, there are also walking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities. It’s another nature attraction to consider if the weather outside is delightful.
#15 – Michigan’s Adventure
Finally, Michigan’s Adventure is a bit more up to speed for younger, thrill-seeking audiences. It’s the biggest amusement park in Michigan, found in Muskegon County. It has a wide variety of rides for all ages, including roller coasters, a ferris wheel, and bumper cars. The park also has a waterpark area for hot summer days. There are plenty of places to eat on-site, making it an all-day adventure for the entire family. It’s only open from May to September, so make sure you plan a trip while you can. After all, not every vacation event has to be fully educational.
There are so many fun things to do in Michigan! Most of it includes beautiful nature spaces or historical towns, which can be exciting, but also peaceful all at the same time. Choose the places that seem best for you and start planning your trip today. Hopefully, this list helped give you a better sense of what Michigan vacations are all about.