15 Michigan Summer Vacation Ideas We Bet You’ve Never Tried
The problem with the typical Michigan summer travel guide is that if you’ve lived here long enough, chances are you’ve seen and done it all. So, when brainstorming for our annual travel roundup, we decided to compile a list of unexpected and unforgettable experiences to shake up your summer, including some truly adventurous picks for even Michigan’s most seasoned travelers. . Read on for our suggestions, start making reservations, and get ready to enjoy the best summer yet.
Explore an underground mine: Hard hats are your first clue that tours are anything but ordinary at Adventure Mining Co, a historic copper mine in Keweenaw that operated from 1850 to 1920. Several types of tours offer experiences for all ages and abilities, ranging from tours guided walks easy to abseiling, crawling. and hiking in the depths of the mine.
Take a dune buggy tour: Nearly a century ago, Malcom Wood offered Silver Lake’s first “dune scooter” expeditions in a reconfigured Ford Model A for 25 cents a ride. Dune buggies have evolved since then (think four-wheel drive and airplane tires), but Mac Wood’s dune rides still bring rollercoaster-style family fun to the coastal sand mountains of western Canada. Michigan.
Hiking the “Grand Canyon” of UP: Canyon Falls and Gorge offers one of those rare opportunities to see an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon with very little effort on the part of visitors. An easy 15-minute scenic trail through hardwood forests leads to a place where the UP Sturgeon River turns a series of rapids into a waterfall that plunges into a deep, narrow canyon lined with towering trees. It’s simply beautiful and a must stop if you’re cruising US-41 near L’Anse.
Visit a ghost town: Once a bustling industrial community at the tip of UP’s Garden Peninsula, Fayette is now a ghost town contained within Historic Fayette State Park, where the brick facades of old buildings and the stilts of weathered docks stand collide with the sparkling blue of Lake Michigan. Guided and self-guided tours available; spend the night at the modern campsite on site.
Go white water rafting: Adventure seekers don’t have to leave Michigan to find world-class whitewater. The wild and beautiful Menominee River in far western UP features exhilarating Class III and IV rapids, which you can navigate on a public or private guided rafting tour with Norway-based TrueNorth Outpost, in Michigan. Not quite ready for the roaring rapids? The Sturgeon isn’t quite whitewater, but as the fastest river on the Lower Peninsula, it still offers fun and challenging paddling; check out Big Bear Adventures in Indian River for river trips.
Kayaking on Mackinac Island: Of course, a bike ride around the perimeter of Mackinac Island is a classic Michigan experience. But some of the best views on the island are from the water, so this year consider swapping the pedals for a paddle on a guided kayak tour. Great Turtle Kayak Tours routes feature island sunrises and sunsets, as well as landmarks like Arch Rock. Paddle boards are also available for hire.
Drive a Model T: Driving a Model T Ford, which became one of the world’s first mass-produced cars a century ago, isn’t as easy as just getting behind the wheel – to start, there’s no ‘accelerator. The Gilmore Car Museum’s Model T Driving Experience puts you inside one of these iconic, authentic ‘Tin Lizzies’ and teaches you how to drive it, complete with a certificate to commemorate your cruise through history.
Walk in an ancient forest: The logging boom of the late 1800s left much of Michigan in a desolate sea of tree stumps, but some precious tracts of untouched forest have escaped the axe. Thanks to individuals and communities who have recognized their importance, you can still pay homage to these ancient woods. Find ancient pines at Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary in Copper Harbor, Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling, or Red Pine Nature Area in Roscommon; a pristine beech and maple forest at Warren Woods National Natural Landmark in Three Oaks; and an old-growth oak and hickory forest at Russ’s Forest National Natural Landmark in Cass County.
Surf Lake Michigan: Who said surfing was strictly for the ocean? Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak at Empire offers surf lessons right here on our big, beautiful salt-free sea. Even if Lake Michigan doesn’t serve as whitewater on the day of your lesson, you’ll take home the basics and a new found respect for the sport, while enjoying plenty of laughs along the way.
Discover a new side of Detroit: Detroit’s rise in the early 20th century as a wealthy industrial city left it with an incredible collection of historic architecture, from Art Deco skyscrapers to opulent, glittering theaters. Discover the stories behind these places on a guided walking tour with Preservation Detroit, the city’s oldest preservation organization. Most tours take place on Saturday mornings, with private tours also available.
See a shipwreck from above: The Great Lakes could be notoriously hostile to ships and as a result our waters are littered with thousands of shipwrecks, many of which have never been discovered. Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours in Munising lets you peer into the depths of Lake Superior at two distinctive shipwrecks that sit below like an underwater museum, barely a foot below the water’s surface. Reservations are recommended.
Escape to a natural paradise: Michigan has no shortage of pretty parks and preserves, but there’s something special about the Grass River Natural Area in Bellaire. The 1,500-acre nature reserve provides habitat for an incredible variety of flora and fauna, including rare orchids and 147 species of birds. Programming for all ages, a nature center and an accessible section of trail with Braille interpretive panels make this a magical getaway for everyone.
Attend a concert in a hidden forest: Part nature preserve, part outdoor sculpture gallery, all nestled on the grounds of Crystal Mountain Resort, Michigan Legacy Art Park is the definition of a hidden gem. The 30-acre park gets an extra dose of magic on Friday nights during its Summer Sounds series, when musicians take the stage in a rustic outdoor amphitheater. Fireflies and live music mingling in the woods? Perfect.
Discover another facet of the Sleeping Bear Dunes: Make this the summer when you avoid popular spots in the park to explore the quieter sides of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A few ideas to get started: Take a day trip to South Manitou Island to see a lighthouse, ghost town, shipwreck and more; see lovable but endangered piping plovers on Sleeping Bear Dunes Tour Co.’s guided walks; hike the park’s new Kettles Trail, a 3-mile trail (with a universally accessible portion) through unique glacier-carved landscape.
Sail the inland seas on a pirate ship: Yes, children and their adults can live like pirates for a few hours on themed cruises in several Michigan ports. In St. Ignace, the Star Line Ferry hosts family and “nauti-pirate” cruises (21+) to or from Mackinac Island on the pirate ship Good Fortune; in Traverse City, the replica 1800s tall ship Manitou offers ice cream cruises and live music sails featuring jigs and ballads of life at sea; The Michigan Maritime Museum’s replica 19th-century schooner Friends Good Will offers kid-friendly “pirate hunt” sails all summer long.
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