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Did You Know…?

  • Michigan has the nation’s oldest state fair (1849).
  • The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel (1901) was a Michigan woman.
  • More breakfast cereal is produced in Battle Creek than in any other city on Earth.
  • Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 with a $28,000 cash investment.
  • There are no wild wolverines in this, the Wolverine State.

Two peninsulas, four lakes

Michigan is a state of contrasts, noted for wide areas of untouched nature and for industry, specifically its car and cereal businesses.  The state is a water wonderland (about 40% water), encompassing 11,037 inland lakes as well as parts of four Great Lakes. Add in the woods and rugged terrain, and Michigan is a natural for all sorts of outdoor activities winter or summer; its bright autumn foliage is frosting on the cake.

On the other hand, Michigan is the historic home to America’s auto industry, the cereal business and the famous Motown recording company.

When contemplating Michigan, most people think of Detroit and the auto industry. It’s true the motorcar and the modern highway, in more than one sense, made Michigan’s tourist business what it is today. Automobile plants provided good wages and leisure time and autos offered swift transportation, helping people take advantage of Michigan’s fish, game, scenery and solitude — while underwriting jobs in tourism.

The state’s wild, rugged, less-developed Upper Peninsula draws raves from all types of travelers. By definition, it should appeal more to venturers, but even authentics enjoy its natural qualities.

Going north doesn’t necessarily signal roughing it: Visitors of all types like the pleasant summer weather and the fresh foods and friendly people. On the other hand, the venturesome can test their mettle in the wild north of Michigan. These visitors also laud the remoteness from crowds and the unspoiled environment.

Waters of the Great Lakes surround the two Michigan peninsulas, providing unmatched water-oriented recreation. Also, whether in the northern wilderness or at resorts farther south, visitors can sample lakeside beaches, boating, rivers and lakes offering fish and game hunting.

Most visitors fall in love with Mackinac Island, just off the shore in Lake Huron. The island recalls the atmosphere of the 19th century, when life was slower, and wealthy barons from the South and later Chicago established summer residences. No cars allowed! And this is Michigan! Visitors can walk, bicycle or take a horse-drawn carriage to see the sights, which include rock formations, lovely parks, hiking trails, charming shops and craft displays.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a biking trip. The state has more than 1,300 miles of bike trails that take riders from shorelines and beach towns to national forests and state parks. Make that trip a leaf-peeper tour in September, October or early November.
  • At Muskegon, charter a boat with family or friends for sportfishing on Lake Michigan. Or, charter that boat for river fishing on the Muskegon, Manistee or Pere Marquette rivers. In either case, you are after salmon, steelhead and trout. A fishing license is required.
  • The West can’t claim all dude ranches. You can visit some here and take trail rides — for an hour, a day or overnight.
  • Visit the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso for some hands-on fun. Join the Engineer for an Hour program, which lets you drive the Pere Marquette No. 1225 (the largest operating steam locomotive of its kind) or the Flagg Coal Co. 75 (which resembles Thomas the Tank Engine!).
  • Bring your diving or snorkeling gear and go trolling for old shipwrecks. The floors of the Huron, Michigan and Superior lakes are strewn with the remains of ships that were casualties of sudden storms. You can explore these treasures at 11 underwater preserves along Michigan’s 3,200 miles of Great Lakes coastline.
  • If you like that theme, visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on the shores of Lake Superior. The only museum devoted to the perils of maritime travel on the Great Lakes, it is located at Whitefish Point, site of the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend any of the riverfront festivals in Detroit held on weekends during warm-weather months.
  • From the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, take a scenic passenger ride into the countryside; one option is an overnight excursion to Cadillac.
  • If you travel in late October, go to Bridgeport for its Halloween Spook Train Ride aboard the Junction Valley Railroad. The nighttime adventure lasts two and a half hours or, on weekends, three and a half hours.
  • Go boating, sailing or canoeing. The state boasts 1,300 public-access sites for boaters.
  • At the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, join the daily Ford Rouge Factory Tour and go behind the scenes inside the world’s largest automotive complex.
  • Go skiing or snowmobiling. Michigan’s lake-effect snow yields more than 45 alpine ski resorts, 5,700 miles of snowmobile trails and more than 2,200 miles of cross-country trails. Consider using an RV as a mobile ski lodge.

Things to do for Authentics

  • For a modest-sized place, Battle Creek offers plenty to do. Start with the factory tour at Kellogg’s Cereal City USA. Then, look in at the W.K. Kellogg House. Time it right, and you can attend the June Cereal Festival in the city known as the “cereal bowl of America” (Post and Ralston are here, too).
  • In Detroit, visit the Motown Museum, the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the Museum of African-American History and Fox Theater, the latter magnificently refurbished in the late ’90s.
  • Visit the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory in Holland. Watch artists hand-paint and glaze delftware in the traditional fashion, and see wooden shoes take shape as they are carved on machines imported from the Netherlands. This is the only blue-and-white delftware factory in the U.S.
  • Spend your vacation on Mackinac Island and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of a place where no cars are allowed. See the sights in a horse-drawn carriage.
  • Visit the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. Take a seat in the Oval Office there.
  • Attend any of a number of fall harvest festivals. Take a hayride. Find your way into, and out of, a corn maze. Go to Marshall to see 1,000 scarecrows.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Travel Michigan at