Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen these location-based “ultimate bucket list” graphics floating around Pinterest. I’ve even pinned a few of them for future trips. I searched and searched for a Michigan one (I was curious how many “bucket list” worthy things I’ve done in my home state) but when I came up empty, I decided to make one myself! Some of these are attractions and others are cities, but they span both peninsulas and are definitely the highlights of the Great Lakes State!
Ultimate Michigan Bucket List:
- Sleeping Bear Dunes
Located in Northwest Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore covers 35 miles of Lake Michigan coastline. In 2011, the area was named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America. The Dune Climb is one of the most popular hikes in the park, but the Empire Bluff Trail (above) has amazing views of the crystal blue water!
- Grand Rapids
The Second Largest City in Michigan, Grand Rapids is known for its food and its art. In 2011, Grand Rapids tied with Asheville, North Carolina for the title of “Beer City USA”. Grand Rapids was also the childhood home of US President Gerald Ford and is home to the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.
- Tawas Point Lighthouse
An iconic Michigan landmark, the Tawas Point Lighthouse is located on Lake Huron in Tawas State Park. The lighthouse was built in 1853 to prevent shipwrecks on the point.
- Pictured Rocks
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the southern shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 1966, congress named Pictured Rocks the first National Lakeshore.
- The Henry Ford
Located in Dearborn, The Henry Ford is an indoor and outdoor history museum started by Henry Ford himself. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover dedicated the museum to Ford’s longtime friend, Thomas Edison, on the 50th anniversary of Edison’s successful incandescent lightbulb. On display in the museum are The 1896 Ford Quadricycle, the limousine where Kennedy was assassinated, George Washington’s camp bed, the bus where Rosa Parks was arrested, and the chair from Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was assassinated, among many others. The Village is home to Henry Ford’s Birthplace, The Logan County Courthouse where Lincoln practiced law, Noah Webster’s Connecticut Home, along with many other historical buildings.
- Tahquamenon Falls
Located in the Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is home to two waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River. The Upper Falls is more than 200 feet across with a drop of 48 feet. Located four miles downstream, the lower falls are actually a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island. The Tahquamenon is also known as being the land of Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, which contains the line: “by the rushing Tahquamenaw”, where Hiawatha built his canoe.
The name Frankenmuth translates to “Courage of the Franconians”. Frankenmuth wears its German Heritage on its sleeve with Bavarian architecture, German Food, and the first Oktoberfest to be recognized outside of Germany. Frankenmuth is also home to Bronner’s, the World’s Largest Christmas Store, as well as dueling chicken restaurants.
Ludington is located on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River. Ludington is home to the SS Badger, a car ferry that will take you across the lake to Wisconsin. Nearby Ludington State Park is one of the most popular parks in Michigan and is home to the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse. In 1675, French explorer, Pere Marquette died and was laid to rest in Ludington.
- Drive M-22
Running from Manistee to Traverse City up breathtaking Leelanau Peninsula, M-22 is so popular, people steal the road signs to hang up in their homes. The Michigan Department of Transportation has redesigned the signs in hopes of reducing the number of thefts. In 2015, readers of USA Today named M-22 the best scenic autumn drive in the nation.
- Mackinac Bridge
Connecting St. Ignace to Mackinac City, the Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere at 26,372 feet long. The bridge officially opened to traffic in 1957 after three and a half years of construction. Once a year on Labor Day, the bridge is open to pedestrians for the annual bridge walk.
- Belle Isle
Belle Isle, the 982-acre park on the Detroit River, was designed by urban park designer Frederick Law Olmstead and is the largest city-owned park in the United States. The island is home to the Belle Isle Conservatory, Belle Isle Nature Center, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, The James Scott Memorial Fountain, and Belle Isle Aquarium. Before it closed in 2005, the aquarium was the oldest operating aquarium in the United States. It was reopened in 2012 as part of the Belle Isle Conservancy.
- Traverse City
Traverse City is located in Northwest Michigan on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. Being the country’s largest producer of tart cherries, each summer the National Cherry Festival is held in Traverse City. Known for vineyards, freshwater beaches, downhill skiing, and breweries, there is much to do and see in TC.
- Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts has one of the largest and most notable collections of art in the United States. The collection includes works of art by Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and many more. One of the highlights of the museum is the huge fresco-style murals by Diego Rivera known collectively as Detroit Industry, or Man and Machine. Built in 1927, the Italian Rennaisance inspired building the museum is housed in is beautiful as well.
- Whitefish Point
Whitefish Point is a cape in the Upper Peninsula that marks the entrance to Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior. For visitors, Whitefish Point is great for rock hunting, birding, and ship watching. It is also home to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Lighthouse.
Located near Manistique in the Upper Penisula, Kitch-iti-Kipi is Michigan’s largest natural spring. Early Native Americans referred to it as the “Mirror of Heaven”. The limestone bottom of the spring gives it its unique emerald green color. The water in the spring is has a constant temperature of 45 degrees so even in the middle of winter, it does not freeze.
Located on the Keewenaw Peninsula in the Northern Upper Peninsula, Houghton is home to a lot of wilderness and is a great place for outdoor exploration from hiking and biking to snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The Keewenaw is home to the Copper Mining boom and you can experience that history today at Quincy Mine near Houghton. Houghton is also where you can catch a ferry to Isle Royale National Park.
- Porcupine Mountains
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located in the Northwestern Upper Peninsula and is made up of a group of small mountains. As a wilderness state park, Porcupine Mountains has a large system of backcountry trails for hiking and backpacking with the North Country Trail running through the park. Seeing Lake of the Clouds should be on everyone’s Michigan bucket list.
- Mackinac Island
Located in the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island is a popular summer tourist destination. The island is closed to most motor vehicles so most people travel by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage and stepping off the ferry is like taking a step back in time. One of the biggest attractions on the island is the Grand Hotel, a Victorian-style hotel with the world’s longest porch. The island is also home to a British fort that was built during the American Revolution and saw action during the War of 1812.
Where Frankenmuth was settled by Germans, Holland was settled by the Dutch. Located in the western part of the state on Lake Michigan, Holland is home to Tulip Time, the largest Tulip Festival in the United States. Located in Windmill Island Park, De Zwaan was supposedly the last windmill that was allowed to be removed from The Netherlands. Dutch culture is pervasive in Holland; wooden shoes are available in all of the gift shops.
- Eastern Market
Eastern Market is a historic commercial district located in the city of Detroit. Covering 43 acres, it is the largest historic market district in the country. The market changes on different days of the week. Saturday Market is a big event with over 225 vendors selling everything from produce to tacos. The Sunday market features a taste of Detroit with the work of local artists, jewelers, cooks, musicians, and more. A more traditional farmer’s market can be found on Tuesdays and every third Thursday in the summer Easter Market offers a unique night market with food, drinks, music, and shopping.
- Turnip Rock
Located in Lake Huron near Port Austin at the tip of the thumb is Turnip Rock, a unique geological formation. The water of Lake Huron has severely weathered this small rock so that the top is much larger than the base with trees growing out the top. The rock is located on private property so the only way to see it is by water. The trip to the rock is a 7 mile round trip paddle along the Point aux Barques trail with several local companies that will rent you a boat for the trip.
- Hartwick Pines
Hartwick Pines State Park is one of the largest parks in the lower peninsula. Located near Grayling, the park contains 49 acres of old-growth pine forest, one of the few remaining in the state. The Hartwick Pines Logging museum pays tribute to the 19th-century logging industry when Michigan led the nation in lumber production.
- Motown Museum
Motown Records was founded in Detroit in 1959 by Berry Gordy. Hitsville USA, once the home of Motown Records is now the home of the Motown Museum, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeastern Michigan. Visitors to the museum will walk through Studio A where many Motown Stars recorded their hits including The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, and many more. Michael Jackson’s white glove is on display as well as countless other Motown artifacts.
- Headlands Dark Sky Park
Located near Mackinaw City, Headlands Dark Sky Park is a 550 acre park including 2 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. It was only the 6th park in the US to receive the Dark Sky Park designation and is one of the best places in Michigan to view the night sky.
- Soo Locks
The Soo Locks provide ships with a way to bypass a waterfall on the St. Mary’s River and gets ships adjusted to differing water levels on Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The Locks are located in Sault Ste. Marie, in the northeastern upper peninsula. There are four American Locks and one set of Canadian Locks. Visitors can watch ships go through the locks from the observation deck, or can take a Soo Locks Boat Tour and experience the locks first hand.
- Meijer Gardens
Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a 158 acre botanical garden located near Grand Rapids. The Gardens are home to more than 170 sculptures from sculptors such as Alexander Calder, Auguste Rodin, Dale Chihuly, and many more. At five acres, the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden is one of the largest children’s gardens in the country. In 2009 the Gardens were named one of the 30 “must-see museums” in the world in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.
- Silver Lake Sand Dunes
Located on Lake Michigan, bordering Silver Lake in Mears is Silver Lake State Park. The park is best known for its 2,000 acres of beautiful sand dunes. The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are known for ORVs and dune buggy rides, but there is a section of the park that is closed to vehicles for people to climb. Also within the park is the beautiful, brick, Little Sable Lighthouse.
- Isle Royale National Park
The crown jewel of Michigan and the least explored is Isle Royale National Park. Established in 1940, the 894 square mile park is located in northern Lake Superior and can only be accessed by boat or seaplane. Camping, hiking, and fishing are popular on the island. Isle Royale is the only known place on earth where moose and wolves cohabitate without bears.
So far, I’m at 22/28. What’s your number? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments! Feel free to share this on Social Media to show off to your friends!
Download a Printable PDF Version here: MichiganBucketList
Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.
The fort on the south side of the Straits of Mackinac was constructed by French soldiers in 1716 as a post for the great lakes fur trade. After visiting other early American settlements this summer (Roanoke Island and Jamestowne), Michilimackinac has a different feel. Maybe its that it is a newer settlement (Roanoke was first settled in 1585 and Jamestowne was 1607) but I think the biggest difference was Michilimackinac was originally settled by the French where the other two were British. The French at Michilimackinac had a better relationship with the Natives than the British on the East Coast. The Odawa tribe traded with the settlers and the native-settler narrative was much more positive than what was heard from the British.
In 1761, the fort was transferred to the British and the narrative changed. The local Ojibwe viewed the British policies as harsh. In 1763, as a part of Pontiac’s Rebellion, they formed a game outside the walls of the fort as a ruse to gain entrance. Once inside the fort, they killed most of the British inhabitants and they held the fort for a year before the British regained control and promised to change their relationship with the native people.
Eventually, the British worried that the fort on the mainland was not secure enough. So, in 1781, they built a limestone fort on nearby Mackinac Island. They dismantled and moved the buildings across the straits and whatever was not moved, they burned. In 1960, the grounds of the original fort was named a National Historic Landmark. Today, you can visit a recreation of the fort in Colonial Michilimackinac State Park. You can tour the buildings, learn about the history, and watched costumed reenactments.
To learn more about Fort Michilimackinac, visit MackinacParks.com. Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.