Thanks to a diverse landscape and some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Michigan is home to myriad opportunities for exploration. Tourists from around the world flock to the cities and historical sites dotting the state each year. It is estimated that over 100 million visitors contribute nearly $22 billion to Michigan’s economy on an annual basis; this figure accounts over 200,000 jobs in the state. From bustling urban landscapes to windswept shorelines, quiet resorts, cultural sites, and everything in between, Michigan is a tourists’ paradise. Here is a collection of our favorite Michigan tourist attractions.
Located on the Straits of Mackinac connecting upper and lower Michigan and situated in Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is a popular summertime tourist getaway. Encompassing about 4.5 square miles, Mackinac Island offers numerous opportunities for fun and adventure. The island is car-free, with visitors and residents alike using bicycles, roller skates, horse-drawn carriages, and their feet to navigate the island. The island is home to the Victorian Grand Hotel, a sprawling historic resort which has accommodated U.S. Presidents, celebrities, and historical figures since the 19th century. The hotel boasts the longest front porch in the world, stretching 660 feet along the length of the main building. Tourists can enjoy shopping, history tours, fine dining, and many other activities during the summer and autumn seasons.
The City of Detroit
From its heyday in the 1940s and 50s to its tragic decline in the 1970s, the city of Detroit is best known as “The Motor City”. It was once home to many of the United States’ largest automobile manufacturers. Following a steep downturn in the vehicle market, Detroit experienced troubled times, languishing as one of the Rust Belt’s forgotten cities. It didn’t stay down for long, and today Detroit is enjoying a renaissance, with new companies, tourist attractions, and a vibrant population bringing this once-great city back to life.
Tourists to the city can marvel at historical architecture, including Art Deco skyscrapers, Neo-Gothic buildings, and Craftsman-styled neighborhoods flanking the urban core. Detroit offers dozens of museums and historic sites, award-winning restaurants, and locally-owned businesses featuring handmade luxury goods, artwork, and gourmet foods. The city is a great place to visit to gain an appreciation of America’s manufacturing prowess and the resilience of Midwestern communities.
The Upper Peninsula
Situated at the northernmost peninsula making up the state of Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, known as U.P. (pronounced “Yoop”) is a world of its own, with a distinctive culture and regional identity. Residents of the area are lovingly known as Yoopers; approximately 310,000 people make their homes in the U.P. It is an area rich in history, with immigrants from Italy, Finland, and Canada shaping the direction and growth of the region. For those who love exploring the outdoors year round, the Upper Peninsula is a sportsman’s paradise, offering fishing, hunting, winter sports, and wildlife encounters. Winters are often milder here than in the rest of the state, and the summers tend to be cooler thanks to the weather-influencing effects of the Great Lakes. No trip to Michigan is complete without a visit to the colorful communities and towns of the U.P.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes
Michigan might not be the first place to come to mind when thinking about vast sand dunes, such as found in the Kalahari or Sahara Deserts. However, the Silver Lake Sand Dunes should be on your tourist destination list. Silver Lake Sand Dunes is located northwest of the city of Grand Rapids on the eastern side of Lake Michigan. Miles of unspoiled Lake Michigan and Silver Lake shoreline await visitors. The shores are bordered by sprawling sand dunes encompassing thousands of acres. These sand dunes are popular with off-roaders; at any time, one can find dune buggies, dirtbikes, and four-wheelers traversing the dunes. Tourists can also enjoy annual festivals and cultural events, dining, and historical sites in the area.
Known around the world as the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village is one of the world’s greatest historical learning opportunities. The museum boasts thousands of artifacts and exhibits showcasing America’s manufacturing dominance in both indoor and outdoor museum spaces. Greenfield Village itself was the first outdoor museum of its type in the United States and has served as a model for other museums around the world. Hundreds of historical buildings were moved to the Village, including one of the bicycle shops and homes owned by the Wright Brothers, a replica of one of Thomas Edison’s laboratories, and what is believed to be the oldest windmill in America, dating back to 1633. The museum grounds and complex were founded by their namesake, automotive pioneer Henry Ford, and were opened to the public for the first time in 1933.