One common thought among Americans, especially those of us from the Midwest, is that you have to travel far away for any kind of excitement. My home state of Michigan is a stunning state, home to more coastline than any other contiguous state in the USA! But so many travelers (both international ones and those who live in MI!) still don’t know what our state has to offer. Which is why I’m bringing you my Michigan bucket list.
Ever since I moved back to Michigan, I’ve been trying to soak up all my home state has to offer, but the more I do, the more items I add to my Michigan bucket list. As usual, you all know my bucket lists are a little unusual. I like to mention the specific and unique travel experiences you might not find on a traditional bucket list. Expect to see a lot of off-the-beaten path destinations and experiences. To me, seeing a new perspective is what makes travel so fun! Without further ado, here is my quirky Michigan bucket list!
Michigan bucket list
This bucket list is so lengthy that I’ve separated it by topic. Below you will find my bucket list items for accommodation, restaurants, festivals, outdoor adventure activities, tours, specific cities, and MORE!
Michigan bucket list: Accommodation
1. Stay at Michigan’s most famous hotel, the Grand Hotel
Michigan’s most iconic hotel is The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Stay in utter luxury and feel like you’re going back in time, with 5-course dinners and the world’s longest porch! Read my complete guide to staying at The Grand Hotel here.
2. Enjoy yoga classes and eco-friendly accommodation at Neahtawanta Inn
Stay at a community supported inn on gorgeous Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City. Neahtawanta Inn offers yoga classes, organic and local food, and is all eco-friendly.
3. Stay in an authentic tiny house in Michigan
Tiny houses are less than 400 square feet, but creatively designed for comfort. For some reason, there are tons of tiny houses in Michigan.
4. Sleep in one of the USA’s most remote national parks at Rock Harbor Lodge
Isle Royale, in Lake Superior, is one of the country’s most remote national parks. Most people come to the island to camp and backpack, but you can also stay in remote comfort at Rock Harbor Lodge, overlooking the waterfront.
5. Stay in a cabin after a day of dog sledding at Nature’s Kennel Mushing Camp
Nature’s Kennel is a dogsledding kennel in the Upper Peninsula. Yes, you can go dogsledding in Michigan! Read all about my experience dogsledding here.
Opt for an overnight sledding trip, and you can sleep in the back woods at Nature’s Kennel’s Mushing Camp, which is a collection of luxury yurts, with a fully equipped kitchen.
6. Sleep in Detroit’s best eco hotel at El Moore Lodge
The El Moore Lodge has panoramic views over Detroit and is the city’s foremost eco-friendly hotel. It’s home to a neighborhood garden, and uses 80% less energy and water than typical hotels.
7. Have a lavish boutique stay at Detroit’s The Inn at 97 Winder
The Inn at 97 Winder is a mansion in Detroit, and one of the city’s ultimate boutique hotels. I would opt for the King Suite which is superbly decorated – even with its own spiral staircase!
Michigan bucket list: Restaurants & Cafes
8. Cuddle cats at the Happy Cat Cafe in Grand Rapids
At The Happy Cat Cafe in Grand Rapids you can sit for hours playing board games, drinking coffee, and cuddling with cats! The cats are also all up for adoption.
9. Eat the best sandwiches in Michigan at Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor
Zingerman’s is a Michigan institution. You haven’t eaten a sandwich until you’ve had a Zingerman’s creation.
10. Eat in an old fire station at Fenton Fire Hall Kitchen and Taproom in Fenton
The Fenton Fire Hall has amazing food and it’s especially interesting because it’s built in an old Fire station.
11. Drink a medieval favorite at Bløm Meadworks in Ann Arbor
Blom Meadworks brews old fashioned mead in Ann Arbor. You can also find ciders and kombuchas, plus plenty of gluten free snacks.
12. Visit the The Little Fleet food truck park in Traverse City
The Little Fleet is a small food truck park featuring tacos, salads, drinks, burgers, and so much more. It’s got this fun hipster vibe and is perfect for a summer or autumn meal out in the sun at their picnic tables.
13. Enjoy donuts and autumnal traditions at Yates Cider Mill in Rochester
In Michigan we are known for our cider mills! Every good Michigan fall needs at least a few weekend trips to check out the nearby cider mills. Yates Cider Mill is one of the best in the state, and I especially love that they have gluten free donuts.
14. Go to the Eastern Market in Detroit
Detroit’s Eastern Market is the nation’s largest outdoor farmer’s market. It is a sight to behold, and worth visiting to either pick up groceries or snack your way through.
Michigan bucket list: Festivals
15. Cherry Festival in Traverse City
The famous Traverse City Cherry Festival is held every year in June or July. Check the Cherry Festival website for updated information on dates and tickets.
16. Art Prize in Grand Rapids
The Art Prize festival, which is now held every other year in September and October in Grand Rapids, is one of the best art festivals in the WORLD. Art is installed all across the city and it can take days to walk your way through and vote for your favorites.
Read my full guide to Art Prize here.
17. Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk
Each September, on Labor Day, the famous Mackinac Bridge Walk is held. Hundreds of people gather to walk from the lower peninsula to the upper peninsula and vice versa. Check the official Mackinac Bridge Walk website for updated dates and information.
18. Tulip Time in Holland
Tulip Time is a festival held in Holland Michigan the first week of May. There are many Dutch people living in this area of Michigan, the the festival celebrates that culture, alongside the blooming of thousands of tulips. You’ll feel like you’re in The Netherlands!
Check the Tulip Time website for updated dates and information.
19. Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island
Definitely the best smelling of all Michigan’s festivals is the famous Lilac Festival! This celebration is held each June on Mackinac Island, where the island is covered in blooming lilacs.
Michigan bucket list: Outdoor adventure
20. Hike Mount Baldhead in Saugatuck
This is a gorgeous trail appropriate for all ages, with stunning views at the top.
21. Go back country camping along the Great Lakes
Michigan is a nature lover’s playground. Some of my best memories growing up are backpacking and back country camping across the state.
22. Go dog sledding at Nature’s Kennel
One of the BIGGEST Michigan bucket list experiences is to go dog sledding! You do not need to travel to some far flung destination to do this.
Dog sledding with Nature’s Kennel in the Upper Peninsula is one of my favorite ever memories. Read all about my dogsledding experience and how you can have it too.
23. …Or just cuddle the Nature’s Kennel puppies in the Spring
You can also visit the kennel in spring or summer to pet the newborn puppies. This makes for a perfect stop along your Upper Peninsula summer roadtrip!
24. Visit Tahquamenon Falls in the upper peninsula
The Tahquamenon Falls are the biggest waterfalls in Michigan and they are absolutely stunning. They’re not too far away from Nature’s Kennel and are beautiful to visit in either summer or winter.
25. Visit Kitchi-iti-kipi for gorgeous clear spring waters
Kitchi-iti-kipi is a huge spring in Manistique, in the upper peninsula. The water is so turquoise it honestly has to be seen to be believed. You can walk out to a glass platform in the middle of the spring and look straight down!
26. Do a guided fishing tour in the rivers or Great Lakes
Being the “Great Lake State,” you’ll also find many people in Michigan love to fish. This includes my family and I! Charter fishing or a guided fishing tour is a definite bucket list experience. They’ll even help you organize a fishing license and make sure you’re only taking sustainable amounts and sizes of fish.
27. Go snow tubing
28. Learn how to ski
29. Go snow shoeing
30. Do the nearly vertical Sleeping Bear Dunes dune climb
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is undeniably one of Michigan’s MOST gorgeous places to visit. Along the scenic driving route, park at Stop 9 and you can do the famous dune climb. This climb is nearly vertical, and running down feels like you’re walking on the moon! Making your way up, however, will take a lot longer.
31. Jump off the Black Rocks in Marquette
The Black Rocks, in Presque Isle Park in Marquette, are located right over Lake Superior. It’s a tradition in the summers to jump off straight into the lake!
32. Kayak to Turnip Rock from Port Austin
This is currently the top item on my own personal Michigan Bucket List. Turnip Rock is a hidden gem in Lake Huron – quite literally hidden and only reachable by a 7-mile kayak ride from Port Austin.
The trip is well worth it though the see the sight of this unusual rock out in the lake, shaped like a turnip with trees growing on top!
33. Hike the upper peninsula’s Porcupine Mountains
The upper peninsula is covered in forest, and home to the state’s only mountain range: the Porcupine Mountains. This is the best area in Michigan for day hikes, back country hikes, and overnight camping. There are also cabins in the Porcupine Mountains that you can rent, and hike cabin-to-cabin.
34. See the northern lights at Headland’s International Dark Sky Park
Michigan is hope to some dark sky parks, and Headlands is the best. It is located outside Mackinaw City, and the ideal place to stay overnight and see the northern lights!
35. Surf in Lake Michigan
Did you know Michigan actually has a huge surfing culture? We do! Because Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes, and due to the unique wave formations here, this is one of the best places in the country for surfing.
My recommendation is to head up to Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak near Traverse City for one of their lessons, rentals, or even a surf camp!
36. Tube down the Platte River (with drinks in hand)
Tubing is honestly the best summer pastime in Michigan. Locals like myself love to head out to a river or lake and chill in big innertubes all day with a drink in hand.
My best recommendation for tubing in Michigan is the Platte River. Head to Riverside Canoes to rent your tubes, and they’ll transport you to the river. It takes a few hours to float down the river, and they’ll pick you up at the other end!
37. Go camping on Isle Royale (and spot some Moose!)
I mentioned before, but Isle Royale in Lake Superior is one of the USA’s most remote and least visited National Parks. If you don’t want to stay at the Rock Harbor Lodge, head here for some truly back country camping. The island is famous for its population of wolves and moose – you might spot some!
38. Spend a day on Detroit’s Belle Isle
Belle Isle is an island just off Detroit, located in the river firmly between the USA and Canada! It’s so close to the city but a perfect way to get outdoors. You can canoe, kayak, hang out in the park, or visit the gorgeous Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory or the Belle Isle Aquarium.
39. Hike to the Lake of Clouds viewpoint
This stunning lake is located in the Porcupine Mountains, in the valley between two mountains. You can like to the viewpoint either as a short day hike from your car, or as part of a longer backpacking trip. In either case, this is a top Michigan bucket list item if you’re traveling through the upper peninsula.
Michigan bucket list: Tours
40. Do an urban exploration tour in Detroit
This urban exploration photography tour of Detroit is another top item on my own Michigan bucket list. The tour takes you through some historical buildings and areas of Detroit that have been abandoned over time. You see a gritty side of the city and learn some photo tips along the way.
41. Go on a cruise of the Great Lakes
Looking for a multi-day trip? Why not book a cruise of the Great Lakes. Many of these start in either Chicago or Toronto but they go through the entire Great Lakes system!
42. SUP down the Grand River with Lansing’s Rivertown Adventures
Who doesn’t love stand up paddle boarding? I have one myself and love SUPing in Michigan lakes during the summer. If you’re around Lansing, the state capital, head over to Rivertown Adventures. They will rent you a SUP or do a full tour down the Grand River with you!
43. Take a vintage car tour of Detroit
One of my favorite things I’ve ever done in Detroit is an antique car tour! You can read all about my tour here. Antique Touring takes you around the city in a Model T.
44. Do a road trip of Michigan’s lavender farms
Yet another top item on my own Michigan bucket list for this year! Did you know lavender thrives in Michigan? The peak bloom time is usually the second or third week of July. There are dozens of lavender farms across the state so this is the best time to visit!
45. Road trip M22 in Northern Michigan
M22 is a scenic highway in Northern Michigan, snaking along Lake Michigan and into the Leelanau Peninsula, and ending in Traverse City. End to end it takes about 2.5 hours, but you’ll want to do stops along the way.
This is one of the BEST areas of Michigan and there is even an entire clothing and lifestyle brand named after this iconic highway!
46. Drive the Tunnel of Trees on a fall color tour
Fall is one of the best seasons in Michigan. It’s pretty much agreed that the most magical place to witness fall colors is driving through the Tunnel of Trees near Petoskey and Charlevoix.
47. Go on a wine tasting tour of Old Mission Peninsula or Leelanau Peninsula
Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula, which both border Traverse City, are filled with rolling vineyards and tasting rooms. This area of Michigan is located along the 45th parallel and you could spend weeks exploring all the vineyards here!
48. Take a kayak tour of the upper peninsula’s Pictured Rocks
You can view the gorgeous Pictured Rocks shoreline from the water in either a cruise, or a kayak tour. From Munising, there are many tour operators including Pictured Rocks Kayaking.
Michigan bucket list: Other off-the-beaten path things to do
49. Visit John K. King in Detroit, one of the best rare book shops in the world
John K King book shop is truly an experience in and of itself. I’ve spent hours wandering this incredible book store and recommend you do the same!
50. Visit Curwood Castle in Owosso
Honestly, you’re more likely to think of lumberjacks than medieval castles when it comes to Michigan. But there is actually a castle in Owosso! It’s called Curwood Castle and has its own museum.
51. Get a photograph of your aura at AURA AURA in Detroit
One of the weirdest and BEST things I’ve ever done in Detroit was get my aura photographed! Head over to AURA AURA in Mexicantown, where you can get your aura (or a couple’s aura or even a pet’s aura) photographed.
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Reunited with my long distance love in @visitdetroit this weekend – a re-emerging city BURSTING with visionary small businesses. On Saturday we got our aura photographed at one of them. 🔮 ☼ The colours (orange, red, magenta, violet, white arch) show we are – in @weareauraaura ‘s words – manifesting and putting into action our sometimes unconventional and creative dreams. ☾ We might be separated by an ocean most days of the year but we’ve got lots of dreams and plans for future travels and lifestyle… so I can get behind this aura fo sho 🧡❤️💜 ☼ Tell me…What colour is your aura? #humanatmosphere #pressvisit
52. Try goat yoga in Williamston
Yup, goat yoga is an actual thing and you can do it in Michigan! Check out the Original Goat Yoga facebook page for their updated events and classes.
53. Go to a Redwings game in Detroit
Detroit literally trademarked the name “Hockey Town,” and for good reason! One of the must do experiences in Michigan is to attend a Detroit Redwings hockey game in their hometown arena.
54. Go tailgating and to a football game at the Big House in Ann Arbor
Speaking of sports, a classic fall activity in Michigan is to head down to Ann Arbor and grab tickets to a football game (preferably witness the rivalry of University of Michigan vs. Michigan State). The Michigan football stadium, fondly called “the Big House” is the biggest college football stadium in the USA.
55. Shop at Bronner’s Chrismas Wonderland in Frankenmuth (year round!)
Bronners, in Frankenmuth, is truly a sight to behold. Head here all year round to witness the most Christmas decorations you’ve seen anywhere, ever.
56. Explore Detroit’s neighborhood art project the Heidelberg Project
The Heidelberg Project in Detroit was created by local Detroit artist Tyree Guyton, along the street he grew up on. It’s an outdoor art installation using found pieces and painted abandoned buildings, and is one of my top recommendations while you’re in Detroit.
This Michigan bucket list is not exhaustive by any means, and it does represent my own personal travel preferences. Even so, I think it could take me quite a while to have all these experiences!
Let me know which one you would try first (the famous Zingerman’s sandwiches that Obama tried? Surfing in a Great Lake? Seeing Moose in the wild?). And if you have any other recommendations for quirky Michigan bucket list items, please let me know! Think of this as a working document that I will be adding to as I discover more amazing Michigan experiences.
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