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The 20 Best Things to Do in Michigan for First-Timers

The University of Michigan

As the 11th largest state in the United States in terms of area, Michigan is extremely geographically diverse. There are urban areas, rural areas, and 64,980 inland ponds and lakes. The activities that you will have immediate access to will depend on the area of Michigan in which you are staying. Some of the options include lake or river-based activities, cultural or historic landmarks, and family-oriented attractions. Regardless of your interests, you will find plenty of things to see and do during your stay in this state. To help you plan your itinerary to get the most out of your stay, the following are the 20 best things to do in Michigan for first-timers.

20. Forest Dunes Golf Club

If you are a golf enthusiast, then one of the top activities for you is a trip to Forest Dunes Golf Club because this is one of the best golf courses in Michigan, says Vacation Idea. Located in Roscommon, it has 54 championship holes over four courses. You will also find Sangomore’s Restaurant at this golf course, which serves traditional American fare. It consists of a casual bar and grille room and a large outdoor patio.

19. Mount Bohemia

One of the most popular spots for outdoor activities is Mount Bohemia, which is also a resort with accommodation that is located by Lake Lac Labelle less than two miles from Lake Superior. During the winter months, skiing is the most popular activity at this resort. In the summer, people visit to try kayaking or enjoy mountain biking over the varied terrain. It is also popular for wildlife spotting.

18. Michigan’s Adventure

If you want to enjoy a thrilling adventure for all your family, then Michigan’s Adventure is the best attraction for you. This is the largest amusement park in Michigan, and it is full of family thrill rides and a water park. There are seven roller coasters, a range of midway rides, and some smaller rides for younger visitors. The WildWater Adventure Park sits within the amusement park, and this is the largest outdoor water park in Michigan.

17. Keweenaw Peninsula

This area is famous for being the only site on Earth where large scale pure native copper is found. You will find the Keweenaw Peninsula on the upper part of the Upper Peninsula. It is a fantastic place to enjoy outdoor activities, especially winter pursuits, such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, and skiing. There are some outdoor museums based on preserved ghost towns that showcase the life and culture of the boomtown pioneers of the 19th century.

16. Windmill Island

An area to visit that is a little different is Windmill Island. At this heritage park, there are 36-acres of Dutch architecture and flower gardens. The best time to visit is May when there are 175,000 tulips on display. Une is another good month to visit as this is when the gardens change to annual flowers. One of the highlights of spending a day at Windmill Island is visiting the Dutch windmill DeZwaan, which dates back to the 1760s and was brought over to the United States in 1964. It holds the accolade of being the only Dutch windmill exported to the United States. Visitors can also learn more about the area at the outdoor Discovery Center of Wildlife Unlimited.

15. Michigan Historical Museum

If you are interested in the history of Michigan, then one of the best places to learn more about this is the Michigan Historical Museum. The exhibitions and artifacts at this museum take you on a journey through history from the native populations of Michigan through the evolution of the state to the current day. There are both permanent and rotating exhibitions on display at this museum Many of the exhibitions incorporate the latest technology to provide an interactive experience for visitors. Throughout the year, there are many special programs and events held at this museum.

14. The University of Michigan

Not only is the University of Michigan the major further education institution of the state, but it is also home to some of the state’s biggest attractions. You will need at least one full day to visit everything on the site. According to The Cray Tourist, the university takes up 2,800 acres in Ann Arbor and features some interesting Gothic Buildings. The main attractions on the site include the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Art, and the Kelsey Archaeology Museum. Each of these buildings is home to some impressive collections.

13. Pictured Rocks National Seashore

Along the shoreline of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This extends for 42 miles and covers an area of 73,000 acres. It was designated as the first national lakeshore of the United States in 1966 and is now a popular tourist attraction for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits. Visitors can enjoy hiking, cycling, fishing, swimming hunting, diving to the shipwrecks, and visiting the lighthouses.

12. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

No trip to Michigan is complete without visiting Lake Michigan, which is the third-largest of the Great Lakes and the only one that completely borders United States Land. Although there are many fantastic spots to visit around Lake Michigan, one of the best is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, says Planetware. The Manitou Islands of Lake Michigan are part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, which is known for its expansive dunes. It is a fantastic place to visit for lovers of the outdoors, as there are multiple scenic hiking trails. Visitors also enjoy the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which extends along 7.5 miles of the coast.

11. Holland State Park

One of Michigan’s most visited state parks is Holland State Park, which is in Ottawa County overlooking Lake Michigan. It includes an extensive beachfront that is great for sunbathing, beach walks, paddling, swimming, and water-based activities. People also enjoy fishing and sailing. There are several trails leading from the beachfront area, many of which have views of the historic Big Red Lighthouse.

10. Isle Royale National Park

The Isle Royal National Park consists of the islands within Lake Superior. This park, which is a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve, was established in 1940 and it is accessible via ferry. It covers 894-square-miles and offers visitors a range of activities to enjoy. These include the Greenstone Ridge Trail, the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife spotting, boating, and fishing. The islands are also surrounded by several notable dive sites that have some interesting shipwrecks.

9. Hiawatha National Forest

Located in the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan, Hiawatha National Forest consists of more than 100 miles of forests that overlook Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior. It is divided into six designated wilderness areas that are home to species including white-tailed deer, golden eagles, moose, black bears, and timer wolves. Within the forest, there are six historic lighthouses, one of which is the Point Iroquois Lighthouse. This is open to the public and is home to a living history museum. There are five National Wild and Scenic Rivers in the forest and a 4,600-mile trail. This means it is a popular place for hiking, cycling, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and camping.

8. The Henry Ford

Henry Ford is one of the most historically significant people from Michigan as he made such a huge contribution to the industry in this state. You will find The Henry Ford in Dearborn, which is a suburb of Detroit. This attraction is an expansive indoor and outdoor museum that not only looks at the life and work of Henry Ford but also at innovation in the United States. This popular museum attracts more than 1.7 million visitors each year.

7. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

First opened in 1955 by Frederick Meijer, the CEO of the Meijer supermarket chain, the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a 158-ace botanical garden. Located in Grand Rapids, it is the second-most visited tourist attraction in Michigan. IN addition to the beautiful gardens, there are both indoor and outdoor sculpture galleries.

6. Belle Isle Park

Michigan has many areas of natural beauty, and one of the most popular to visit is Belle Isle Park. It is the largest city island park in the United States as it measures 982 acres. It is located within Detroit River, and it has three lakes, 150 acres of woodland, and an extensive shoreline. There are also several attractions housed within the park, including the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and the Belle Island Aquarium.

5. Detroit Institute of Arts

For art lovers, a top attraction to enjoy is the Detroit Institute of Arts, also known as the DIA. This attraction is home to one of the finest art collections in the United States and is classed as one of the top six art museums in the country. There are more than 100 galleries in this art museum, which is housed within the Cultural Center Historic District. The collections include work from artists from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East. There are also examples of both indigenous and post-colonial North American Art. This museum is home to the General Motors Center for African American Art.

4. Detroit Zoo

If you are visiting Michigan as a family, an attraction that you must add to your itinerary is Detroit Zoo. This was the first zoo in the United States to create barless animal habitats that reflected the species’ natural environment as closely as possible. There are more than 2000 animals from 240 species that call this zoo home. One of the most impressive exhibits at Detroit Zoo is the Polk Penguin Conservation Center. This is home to 75 penguins, and there are feeding demonstrations daily. In addition to the animals, there are also playgrounds, a railroad, a virtual reality simulator ride, a 4D theater, and a classic carousel.

3. Boyne Mountain Resort

Many people visit Michigan to enjoy outdoor pursuits, and one of the best places to enjoy these is at Boyne Mountain Resort. Winter sports are especially popular here, as there are more than 35 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails and 60 downhill skiing trails. Although the public can visit to try out these activities, many skiing enthusiasts choose to stay at the resort to make the most of all the facilities. There is a range of accommodation, from hotel guest rooms to log cabins. Regardless of which option you choose, there are many excellent amenities available to guests.

2. Michigan Science Center

One of the most interesting and fun attractions for all the family is a visit to the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. This attraction is home to the only Chrysler IMAX Dome Theater in Michigan, the Dassault Systemes Planetarium, and the DTE Energy Sparks Theater. Young visitors love the varied interactive exhibitions, of which there are more than 250. These are divided into sections, such as engineering, physical science, space, and health. Visitors can also enjoy live educational performances and 4D screenings.

1. Mackinac Island

According to The Crazy Tourist, The best thing to do during your time in Michigan is to visit Mackinac Island. This is a small island measuring just 3.8-square-miles that sits in Lake Huron. It has been the indigenous home of the Odawa people, a resort colony in the 19th century, and the site of a fur-trading center during the Colonial period. Now, the island is part of Mackinac State Park, and you can access it by ferry. It is like taking a step back in time as the buildings are preserved and the island is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The island is also home to the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, which is something that will interest art lovers.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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