The Best Things to Do in Michigan

Experience a sunset over Lake Michigan and historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan
Experience a sunset over Lake Michigan and historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan | © Larry Geddis / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Frank Lopez
Writer3 August 2020

The state of Michigan, with its Great Lakes and astounding nature, is divided into two peninsulas covering 100,000sq mi (258,999sq km) of American country. Within this state, there are many different natural, cultural and historical landmarks to discover. From sailing on an old cargo schooner to exploring Japanese tea rooms and taking in the local live music scene, we have chosen some of our favorite spots to visit in the Wolverine State.

Tall Ship Manitou

Museum
Map View
Tall ship Manitou during cruise in Lake Michigan out of port of Traverse City
© Dennis Cox / Alamy Stock Photo
Take the two-hour trip to sail from Traverse City on this recreation of an old cargo schooner, cruising the waters of Grand Traverse Bay in Lake Michigan. Start by helping to raise the sails with the crew, and then visit the islands and bays of Michigan’s relaxing waters. There is plenty of space for you to explore the boat as well as enjoy the scenery on your journey. Those who are more adventurous have the option to become part of the crew and sleep aboard in bunks for a few days, sailing wherever the boat takes you.

Fishtown, Leland

Architectural Landmark
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Approximately 30mi (48km) from Traverse City lies a historic settlement of wooden cabins overlooking Lake Michigan. Now a destination for day trippers, this town remains a working fishery but appears to be frozen in an era when life was much simpler. Here, what were once homes are now stores selling local foods and handicrafts. A nearby museum exhibits all the local history, and it’s also an ideal spot in the summer to use as a base for watersports or to further explore the local nature spots in the region.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Art Gallery, Botanical Garden
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Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture Park Walking
© Experience Grand Rapids / Bob Newman
In Grand Rapids, these grounds have rapidly become one of the most revered parks in the midwest and a destination of world renown. With wildflowers and flora aplenty, you should pack your walking boots, as there are many acres to cover. Among them you’ll find a perfectly manicured and peaceful Japanese garden and a number of modern sculptures. Of all of them, the Iron Tree by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is a standout. The butterfly exhibit is a must-see for kids, who can also run around in the children’s garden.

Dreamgoats

Zoo
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In Ada, Michigan, goat hikes on a Sunday cannot be missed. Through woods, marsh and prairie, small groups get the opportunity to roam with a herd of goats. The sustainable farm Dreamgoats raises Nubian goats within their community in a way that enriches the land they live off of. The farm has proposed that while the dairy industry is suffering, we should take a step back to appreciate where milk comes from and analyze our connection to what nourishes us. Kids are entranced by this trek with foraging goats. It’s a unique experience to say the least.

Baker's Keyboard Lounge

Music Venue
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There are few more intimate and culturally important jazz venues in the world than Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. The Art Deco furnishings and design remain untouched. Even the tilted mirrors, which allow you to see the piano players’ hands move, are still in place. By the 1980s, Baker’s was already a designated historic site. Considering the history of this venue, frequented by Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Nat King Cole to name just a few, it’s clear how important Detroit is to American music and culture.

Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House and Gardens of Saginaw

Museum
Map View
Michigan, MI, Mich, Upper Midwest, Saginaw County, Saginaw, Japanese Cultural Center & and Tea House, art, heritage, tea ceremony, Sado, tradition, de
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 14+ / Alamy Stock Photo
The Japanese Cultural Center in Saginaw offers one of the most authentic Japanese Tea House experiences in North America. Built on American and Japanese soil and set within intricate and serene gardens, the rooms host Chanoyu (a 400-year-old tea ceremony), where you are invited to be served tea while barefoot and in kimono. The center’s mission “to promote intercultural understanding and peace through a bowl of tea” is a very tranquil and elevating experience. It might not be what one would expect from a day out in Saginaw, but it’s an utterly treasured experience.
These recommendations were updated on August 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.