Michigan boasts the Great Lakes, Jim Harbaugh (yeah baby! Ok, Tom Izzo for you State fans),cars and boats, good food, and good beer. Whether it’s your first visit or you’re just looking for hidden attractions and unusual things to do, here are places and activities you need to check out when stopping by the Wolverine State.
Take a Tour Around Belle Isle
Known for its conservatory, Nature Zoo, aquarium, and its beach, Belle Isle Park is a place where it isn’t hard to spend a whole day in the area.
What is now called the gem of Detroit is a 982-acre island between the US and Canada. It has an extensive history starting with the Ottawa and Ojibwe peoples who first lived in the island.
During the French Occupation in Detroit, settlers called the area Hog Island. After all, it was a place where the settlers housed their pigs, chickens, and other livestock to protect them from coyotes coming from the mainland. During the 1840s, private individuals who acquired ownership over some of the lands began developing the area into a resort. It was then that the people named the place Belle Isle.
In 1879, the City of Detroit assumed ownership over the island, and over the years, developed it into a large park to provide residents a place for recreation and relaxation. But during the 2000s, because of the financial problems the city faced, the park did not have the maintenance it needed. And so, in 2013, the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan came up with a lease agreement that has paved the way for the Park to become one of the must-see places in Michigan.
Conquer the Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sometimes we just need a place where we can unwind, kick our shoes off, and get comfy with sand beneath our toes, all while looking over the great view that is Michigan.
Climbing the beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes is a rite of passage for anyone traveling to Michigan.
The place got its name from the sleeping bear of a Chippewa legend. It is a tale of a mother bear and her two cubs that sought shelter in the opposite shore of the lake, away from an enormous forest fire. However, miles of swimming had their toll on the cubs, and they eventually lagged behind.
The Sleeping Bear is unlike any other, stretching over 50,000 acres by the side of Lake Michigan. Hills, forests of birch, beech, pine, and maple, and a fresh breeze will embrace you.
And if you’re into fishing, you can also have the Sleeping Bear experience in the small lakes and rivers that surround the nearby area. But of course, any visit is incomplete without marveling at the beauty of the massive and impressive coastal sand dunes and bluffs.
Take an Adventure Through Ann Arbor’s Fairy Doors
The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor are whimsical portals and a series of small doors that open to another world. They are a type of installation art scattered all over Ann Arbor and first appeared in 1993.
When Kathleen and Jonathan Wright, together with their young daughters, were renovating their century-old home, they discovered miniature doors that were only six inches tall. They found the doors opening to hallways with railings leading to other tiny doors. They also found windows with lights inside.
In 2005, Jonathan documented and even installed, more of the little doors all around the town. Fairy doors soon opened worlds to minuscule coffee and tea shops, shoe salons, toy stores, schools, and music venues. What better way to get to know Ann Arbor than by walking around town locating all the fairy doors you can find?
Chow down on different coneys
Coney Island in Michigan means a different hot dog tradition. Instead of the amusement park in New York, Coney Island here refers to an estimated 500 diners enjoying Greek food, and what we know as coney dogs – the pride and treasure of Metro Detroit.
Coney dogs are the delicious hot dogs in a bun covered in ground beef chili sauce and topped with mustard, onions, or other garnish.
Some say the tasty food is a blessing that came with the wave of Greek migration to the US around 1900 to 1919. Whoever thought of topping chili beef on weiners is a sure winner as countless variations of Coney dogs exist all over Michigan.
So, American or Lafayette, anyone?
Snowmobiling the Backcountry
Michigan can offer you literally thousands of snowmobiling trails groomed to provide folks an interconnected and extensive snowmobile trail system. So when you’re in the state with one of the highest number of snowmobile registrations in the country, not giving snowmobiling a try just doesn’t make any sense.
Experience the snow-capped terrain of Michigan and navigate through national forests and, again, literally thousands of frozen lakes as well as open fields that are in no short supply. You will have to explore the scenic trails covered with blankets of snow.
And don’t worry about the accommodations as there are plenty of lodging establishments and restaurants to choose from for those traveling by sled.
Dip into one of the Great Lakes
You can also go for all five. Not visiting and having a swim in one of the lakes is another of those things that just doesn’t add up when you’re in Michigan.
Try to enjoy the breathtaking views of each of the five lakes. The Huron, Erie, Superior, Michigan, and Ontario lakes all makeup one-fifth of our planet’s freshwater surface, totaling an area of 95,160 square miles.
You can find all of the lakes on the border between the US and Canada, touching areas of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Ontario. All of the lakes are home to thousands of species of animals and plants.
It’s good to spend at least a day in one of these lakes, or you can also enjoy a break in one of the smaller inland lakes. Either way, a lake visit is one way to enjoy Michigan properly.
Visit the Grande Ballroom
The Grande Ballroom was a 1920s jazz dancehall that transformed into Detroit’s rock counterculture center during the 1960s. Today, it’s an abandoned building with the years that passed eating away the infrastructure and turning the legendary stage into a crumbling beauty open for public consumption.
Charles N. Agree was responsible for the Grande Ballroom’s Art Deco style with hints of Moorish flair. The venue is a witness to different periods in history drowned by the shifts in music style. Now, the Grande Ballroom remains empty with nothing but stories from the past and their silence to invite explorers setting foot in Michigan.
There are plenty of things and places to experience when you’re in Michigan with your friends and family. When going on a trip to the Great Lakes State, make sure to enjoy its beautiful dunes, exciting snowmobile trails, magnificent lakes, picturesque islands, great food, and buildings as well as installations that share the changing culture of the people in Michigan.