Michigan calls to mind an assortment of images and associations: the only state consisting of two separate peninsulas, the Great Lakes, Motown music, the college sports mecca of Ann Arbor, the heart of the auto industry, and so much more.
Visitors to the Wolverine State have many, many worthwhile attractions from which to choose. Let’s look at a sampling of the familiar, and perhaps not so familiar:
Thunder Bay National Underwater Marine Sanctuary, Alpena
Established in 2000, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary preserves 116 historic shipwrecks in a 448 square mile portion of Lake Huron. The accompanying Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center features shipwreck-related videos and exhibits and a wooden boatbuilding workshop.
The Center is open seven days a week all year, and admission is free. Alpena is located in the northeastern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan.
Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum, Bay City
The largest collection of historic fire trucks in the world-over 60 vehicles-is located in Bay City, including the NYFD Super Pumper.
In addition are more than 12,000 antique and collectible toys, and an entire room devoted to NASCAR memorabilia.
The Museum is open weekends from May through September, and weekdays by appointment. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children 12 and over, and $3 for children 5 to 11. Bay City is located in eastern Michigan near Saginaw Bay, where Michigan’s “thumb” is joined to the rest of the hand.
Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Dearborn
Located in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village bills itself as the largest indoor-outdoor history museum complex in the country.
The Henry Ford Museum portion of the complex started off as a place to exhibit all the historic artifacts that Ford himself had collected over the years. Today its exhibits include an IMAX theater, the presidential limousine in which John F. Kennedy was riding when he was assassinated, the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting at Ford’s theater when he was assassinated, an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, Thomas Edison’s last breath in a sealed tube, a camp bed slept in by George Washington, the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat at the start of the Montgomery bus boycott, the prototype for the first helicopter, and a nuclear-powered car.
Next door to the Museum is the Automotive Hall of Fame for notable figures in the history of the automobile.
The Greenfield Village portion of the complex consists of nearly one hundred historic buildings that were moved from various locations and arranged as if all part of one village. These include the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop and home, Henry Ford’s birthplace, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, Harvey Firestone’s family farm, and an Illinois courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law.
Greenfield Village is open from 9:30 AM to 5 PM. From April 15 to November 1 it is open seven days a week; from November 2 to December 27 it is open Friday through Sunday only; and the rest of the year it is closed. The Henry Ford Museum is open year round from 9:30 AM to 5 PM. Tickets can be purchased for either separately, or as a combo at a discounted rate.
Detroit Science Center, Detroit
Opened in the ’70s but totally revamped for a grand reopening in 2001, the Detroit Science Center is a very popular destination for families, with many hands-on exhibits to keep the attention of all age visitors.
Past and present exhibits include mummies, the human body, the solar system, black holes, deep sea, Star Trek, Da Vinci inventions, Tilt-o-Rama astronaut simulator, pirates, and shipwrecks, to name but a few.
The Detroit Science Center is open seven days a week during the summer, and six days a week (all but Monday) the rest of the year. Admission is $13.95 for adults and $11.95 for children 12 and under.
Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad, Flint
At the northern edge of Flint on Mott Lake is Crossroads Village, reconstructed to preserve the small town Michigan life of the late 1800s. The 35 buildings of the village include a country store, village post office, mill, blacksmith shop, and more, all populated by friendly townspeople in period costume. Kids especially will enjoy the policy of allowing visitors hands-on experience at village crafts and labor, such as churning butter, drawing water with a hand pump, and setting type on the hand printing press.
The Genesee Belle-a replica paddlewheel riverboat-provides a 45 minute excursion around Mott Lake. The Genesee Belle can also be chartered for meetings and special occasions, such as weddings.
The Huckleberry Railroad offers scenic 40 minute rides around the lake, through woods and meadows.
Crossroads Village is open three to four months during the year, for the summer and just beyond, with additional scattered dates in October for special Halloween events, and in late November and December for special Christmas events.
Quincy Mine Tour, Hancock
Way, way up north, not just in the Upper Peninsula, but in the Keweenaw Peninsula-which is the upper peninsula of the Upper Peninsula-in mining country, is the little town of Hancock.
In Hancock, the Quincy Mine offers visitors the opportunity to ride by tractor-pulled wagon seven levels underground into a copper mine, ride the Cog Rail Tram, and explore the accompanying mining museum.
The Quincy Mine is part of the Keweenaw Historical National Park, centered in nearby Calumet. The Park includes many other historic sites and buildings in the area, mostly related to the Keweenaw Peninsula’s mining heritage.
Michigan State Capitol Building, Lansing
Designed by Elijah E. Myers, one of the foremost architects of his time, the Capitol took six years to build and was completed in 1879. With over nine acres of hand-painted surfaces, the building stands as one of the best surviving displays of Victorian-era painted decorative arts.
Today the building is a National Historic Landmark. Guided tours encompassing the public areas and the House and Senate galleries are available Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM.
Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park and WildWater Adventure Water Park, Muskegon
These sister parks offer contrasting thrills for all ages. Michigan’s Adventure features dozens of rides, from Winky the Whale to the Tilt-A-Whirl to Logger’s Run to Wolverine Wildcat. Scariest of all is Thunderhawk, Michigan’s first suspended roller coaster.
Meanwhile, WildWater features fourteen rides of its own, including Jolly Roger, Funnel of Fear, and Mammoth River.
A one day general admission pass to both parks is $26; two days is $44. The parks are open from mid-May to mid-September each year. Muskegon is located in western Michigan, northwest of Grand Rapids, just a few miles inland from Lake Michigan.
Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak
Detroit is home to a world class zoo. Located in neighboring Royal Oak, the Detroit Zoo’s attractions include the Wild Adventure 3-D/4-D Theater, the Wild Adventure Ride (the first virtual reality ride of its kind at any zoo in the country), the Tauber Family Railroad, and the Giraffe Encounter, where guests can pet and feed the giraffes.
The main animal exhibits include Arctic Ring of Life, African Forests, African Grasslands, American Grasslands, Asian Forest, Australian Outback, Holden Museum of Living Reptiles, Mardigan Otter Habitat, National Amphibian Conservation Center, and Penguinarium.
The Zoo is open every day but Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. From April 1 through Labor Day hours are from 9 AM to 5 PM; from the day after Labor Day through October 31 hours are from 10 AM to 5 PM, and from November 1 to March 31 hours are from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Soo Locks Boat Tours, Sault Ste. Marie
Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula is where Lake Superior and Lake Huron come together, and where the United States and Canada come together. The locks bypass the rapids of the St. Mary’s River, allowing ships to more gently be raised and lowered the 21 feet difference between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Over 10,000 ships pass through the locks each year, when the lakes are not too frozen to allow passage at all.
In addition to multiple museums, a train tour, and other attractions in the Sault Ste. Marie area, boat tours of the area-including a special dinner cruise-allow visitors to experience “locking through” for themselves.
Apple Orchard Tours, Varied locations
Michigan is full of farms and orchards, many of which welcome visitors. A number of makeshift tours have been established, guiding the visitor along the backroads of the state to various of such destinations. One of them, for example, is a 280 mile route in central Michigan that passes near Lansing, Saginaw, and Flint.
Among the available stops on this route are:
Uncle John’s Cider Mill (20 varieties of apples, cider mill, bakery, winery, gift shop, nature trails, kids corral, pumpkin patch, corn and straw bale mazes, and train and wagon rides).
Wyrick’s Orchard (apple house in the center of the farm, with Cortlands, McIntosh, Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Northern Spy and Empire apples).
Clearview Orchards (hayrides, pumpkins, squash, gourds, and u-pick apples).
Mueller’s Orchard (Northern Spy and Snow apples, cider, fresh and dried cherries and cherry juice concentrate, pears, plums, grapes, and gift shop, as well as a car show in September).
Almar Orchards (15 varieties of apples, cider, apple wine, wagon rides, playground and picnic area, large petting zoo, and barnyard with llamas, potbelly pigs and reindeer).
Koan’s Orchard (25 varieties of apples, donuts, muffins, breads, cider, jams, jellies, fruit butters, syrups, salsas, and an old time country store and gift shop).
Leaman’s Green Applebarn (apples, blackberries, gourds, sweet corn, watermelon, cider mill, bakery, picnic area, play area, corn maze, and a country arts & crafts show in September on site).
Anderson & Girls Orchards (u-pick orchard, cider mill, bakery, petting zoo, wagon rides, greenhouse, ice cream, corn maze, farm animals, pig races, and gift shop).
Klackle Orchards & Family Fun Farm (fruit, pumpkin patch, petting zoo, straw pile to play in, corn maze, face painting, picnic area, playland, kiddie rides, BMX bike trail, straw tower, and putt putt pumpkin course).
Buerge’s Apple Hill Farm (15 varieties of apples, mums, pumpkins, and winter squash).
Be sure to check the dates, as most of the farms and orchards are only open limited months of the year. (September and October are your best bet.)
Of course we’re just scratching the surface of all Michigan has to offer. There is also Boyne Mountain for skiing, casinos, one of the top art museums in the country, Mackinac Island, and so much more.
“Attractions in the Districts of Detroit.” Visit Detroit
“Pure Michigan.” Michigan.org
“Tourist Attractions in Michigan.” PlanetWare