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The Best of Michigan

TIME : 2-16 15:48:46
Looking up at a nearly round arch steel sculpture and skyscrapers in downtown Detroit on a perfectly clear day.

View of the labor monument “Transcending” in downtown Detroit.

Whether you’re a long-time resident or a first-time visitor to the Great Lakes State, you should set aside some time to experience Michigan’s most beloved sights and activities. Consider taking the following tour of the state’s top cultural and natural attractions.

Detroit to Kalamazoo

If you’ve started your Michigan adventure in the Motor City, head west to Dearborn, where you’ll encounter The Henry Ford, a fascinating complex of interactive historic exhibits. Attractions include the Henry Ford Museum, a repository of automobile, aviation, and other all-American displays, Greenfield Village (which presents seven historic districts), an IMAX movie theater, the Benson Ford Research Center, and tour buses leaving for the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, a five-part excursion culminating with a walk through the Ford F-150 truck assembly plant.

From Dearborn, head west along the I-94 corridor, through cities like Ann Arbor and Battle Creek. Two notable sights are the Marshall Historic District, an area that encompasses hundreds of 19th-century homes and businesses, and Kalamazoo’s Air Zoo, an enormous complex devoted to aviation, boasting full-motion flight simulators, historic airplanes, a space center, and more.

Saugatuck to Traverse City

From Kalamazoo, continue west on I-94 and head north on U.S. 31, toward the Art Coast, a cluster of art galleries in the towns of Saugatuck, Douglas, and Fennville. After spending some time amid the area’s shops, restaurants, and inns, drive north through Holland, Muskegon, and Manistee, en route to the incredible Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a marvelous 35-mile stretch of beaches, islands, and dunes along Lake Michigan. From here, head east on M-72 to Traverse City, an ideal base from which to explore gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay, popular with boaters and surrounded by several scenic resort towns, golf resorts, and award-winning wineries.

Mackinac Bridge to Munising

Expect a two-hour drive on U.S. 31 from Traverse City, through the towns of Charlevoix and Petoskey, to the amazing five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, currently the world’s third longest suspension bridge. After crossing the bridge and passing through St. Ignace, head north on I-75 to Sault Ste. Marie for a look at another engineering marvel, the Soo Locks, through which massive freighters pass between Lakes Huron and Superior.

Head west through the Hiawatha National Forest to the Tahquamenon Falls, the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi. Near the Whitefish Point Light Station, you’ll find the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, the only museum dedicated to the perils of maritime transportation on the Great Lakes. Farther west along the Lake Superior coast lies Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a fabulous stretch of sand dunes, desolate beaches, sandstone cliffs, and shady forests.

The Keweenaw Peninsula

If you’re willing to venture farther into the wilds of the U.P., head west on M-28/U.S. 41 to the Keweenaw Peninsula, where history buffs will enjoy the Keweenaw National Historical Park, a collection of old copper-mining sites, structures, and downtown districts spread throughout the peninsula. Adventurous hikers, backpackers, kayakers, and wildlife enthusiasts can take a ferry ride to Isle Royale National Park, a wild, isolated archipelago in the northern reaches of Lake Superior.

Straits of Mackinac to the Thumb

Once you’re done exploring the Upper Peninsula, head south to Mackinaw City and board a ferry for Mackinac Island, a charming vacation spot that has long banned automobiles in favor of bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Rife with Victorian mansions, this nostalgic island offers a true step back in time. Back on the mainland, drive south through the Gaylord golf mecca, a large concentration of top-notch golf courses, and make a stop at Hartwick Pines State Park, home to the largest stand of virgin white pines in the Lower Peninsula. Continue south on I-75, toward the Bavarian-style town of Frankenmuth, site of German shops and festivals, all-you-can-eat chicken dinners, and a year-round Christmas store.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Michigan.