Ann Arbor, Michigan, has a lot going for it, from museums and art fairs to plenty of green space and, of course, the University of Michigan. However, there are numerous exciting destinations outside of the city limits. Michigan is home to some of the country’s most beautiful state parks, emerging cities, and one-of-a-kind attractions, many of which are only a short drive from Ann Arbor.
To get you started on your Michigan adventure, here are some easy day trips you can take from Ann Arbor.
1. Sandusky Bay, Ohio
Sandusky Bay is just a little further down the road from Toledo. In the summer, nothing beats a day spent on Lake Eerie, a popular kayaking, boating, and other watersports spot. During the hot months, this is the ideal place to cool off! You can also make it an excellent off-roading experience on your heavy vehicle. Use the defender 110 roof rack to carry your kayak or boat. You can also place luggage, creating more room in the car and making it comfortable.
2. Find Lesser-Known Attractions in Lake Huron Bay
A Michigan day trip should revolve around a series of bayfront communities known as the Great Lakes Bay region, all easily accessible via I-75 and include some of the state’s best—and lesser-known—attractions.
Frankenmuth is a must-see, if only for its ubiquitous chicken dinners. However, that is not the only reason to go. Return to the water with a river tour, wine and chocolate tasting cruise above the Frankenmuth FunShips boats. Alternatively, you could ride a horse.
3. Traverse City Offers Wine and Scenic Views
Take M-22 to the Leelanau Peninsula’s tip to begin a day trip full of lighthouses, wineries, galleries, and other attractions. Two dozen wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula produce Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. You’ll pass through a few as you hug Grand Traverse Bay on your way to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum. Allow time to hike through wooded trails to a secret beach on Cathead Bay. You can also climb the tower for a bird’s-eye view of Lake Michigan.
You can tour a new shipwreck exhibition on summer Saturdays while listening to the fog horn. Browse the pastel-painted buildings along St. Joseph Street and check out creative science and toy shops, boutiques like whimsical, and galleries like The Painted Bird at The Happy Woman in quaint Suttons Bay.
Rent a bike from Suttons Bay Bikes; the town is on the shady, paved Leelanau Trail. Then, create your afternoon wine tour from the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. L. Mawby Vineyards is known for its sparkling wine, which they specialize in.
You may sample wine on a sizable outdoor terrace at the neighboring Shady Lane Cellars, where the buildings are all made of stone, and you can buy fine wine and take your valued trip photo with vineyards and the bay as the backdrop at Willow Vineyards, which is located just off M-22.
4. In Marquette, venture off the beaten path
Take a bike ride or walk the Iron Ore Heritage Trail to view Lake Superior and the harbor and read the interpretive panels about how the iron ore industry brought the city to life—and created its striking red sandstone downtown.
Climb Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the most popular scenic overlooks in the Upper Peninsula, for another active adventure—a 3,200-foot trail with stairs to a summit 470 feet above Lake Superior. There is also entertainment in town.
The Flying Moose, a new-style general store with local organic food, kombucha on tap, and homemade cupcakes and mugs for your coffee hand thrown by a local potter, is a must-stop. The Landmark Inn is a popular spot for a stay, meal, or drink with a view.
The Delft Cafe and Blackrocks Brewery are two more recent attractions. There are an increasing number of microbreweries in the Upper Peninsula. The former Delft Theater has been transformed into a restaurant where patrons may watch movies on the walls while indulging in inventive fare that frequently pays homage to the region’s iron heritage.
5. Getaway to West Michigan in Grand Rapids
The craft furniture business gave rise to this West Michigan community atop the Grand River, and the design sense permeates the art and culinary communities. Discover furniture-making customs at the Grand Rapids Public Museum on the waterfront, where you can also ride the 1928 carousel that has been restored. A short walk away is the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, which may be the most entertaining presidential museum in the country because it allows you to “attend” a White House Dinner and eavesdrop on a day in the Oval Office.
Food and design are available in the 125-acre Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Michigan’s biggest tropical conservatory, and a botanic garden. It is one of the “top 30 must-see museums” and contains 100 sculptures and a replica of a 1930s working Michigan agricultural garden. The vegetables used in your lunch at the Taste of the Gardens Cafe are grown on the farm. Later, dinner on the Grand Lady Riverboat with a narrated cruise pointing out historical land sites—and more—can be arranged.
6. Observe Lake Michigan Beauty and History in Charlevoix
Charlevoix, a Lake Michigan beauty that Forbes named one of America’s Prettiest Towns, has been a tourism hotspot since 1881 and shows no signs of slowing down. Plan your day around lively Bridge Street and Round Lake’s picture-perfect marina. Concerts and festivals are held at the marina park regularly, but you can spend any day browsing shops dedicated to clothing, fudge, or foraged fruits made into upscale jar goods. North Seas Gallery, which features works by Dutch masters, and Bier Art Gallery, just south of town, both feature the work of over 100 local artists.
One of the author’s marriage certificates can be found in Horton Horton’s Bay General Store, a little diversion around Lake Charlevoix, where the author’s Up in Michigan stories are set and where various sites are featured.
The Belvedere Club, one of Michigan’s oldest golf courses, is open for play and goes back to 1925. After-golf snacks at John Cross Fisheries are made with fresh seafood straight from the bay and are known for their Three Fish Dip and third-generation ownership. The Bridge Street Tap Room’s walls are framed with history, Michigan is represented in the microbrew, wine, cider, and root beer, and the views of the water are unbeatable.
No matter your hobbies, locating entertaining activities in Michigan is not difficult. There are vibrant cities, breathtakingly beautiful state parks, and quaint, undiscovered tiny towns.
Couples will enjoy strolling around the streets of historic towns, while children will enjoy getting their hands dirty. Whatever you decide to do, Michigan will be a memorable experience.