12 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Michigan

Jul 22, 2021

Michigan's lively cities and breathtaking natural beauty make it a vacation destination to visit, with family-friendly activities like ziplining and kayaking. In the meantime, the state's central location makes it the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding locales.

Indeed, you could spend weeks visiting towns like Royal Oak and Detroit, as well as other nearby cities like Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Lansing. And then there are the out-of-the-way gems to explore too. Consider vacationing near Sault Ste. Marie, just south of the Canadian border, or near Grayling, where there are lots of touristy sightseeing activities available.

Henry Ford Museum

Photo of The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford: en.wikipedia.org

To those who think of Detroit, images of crumbling high rises will no doubt stick in the mind. But the Henry Ford Museum (Fordlandia), in the city's Historic District, depicts a far more cheery side of America's industrial capital. The museum is the world's largest collection of its kind and focuses on the three defining aspects of Ford's life - the Model T, the Fordson tractor, and the company. There are now some 600 models on display including a model of the first Ford automobile. Visitors can wander through the factory floor where almost a third of a million of the vehicles were produced. The automobile museum is surrounded by farmland, which visitors can explore on an open-air tram tour or a motorcycle tour.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Photo of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: en.wikipedia.org

Two things make Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore a unique destination: its rich forests of cedar, pine, oak, and birch trees and some of the most dramatic dunes on the planet. Every April and May, some of these rare "caped" dunes drift across the shores of Lake Michigan as the wind changes direction, a spectacular sight. While hiking, boating, or birding along the lakeshore, visitors can spot bald eagles, turkey, black bear, pheasant, deer, muskrat, beaver, otter, and some 320 species of birds. If you wish to avoid any potential wildlife encounters, staying at one of the national park lodges provides a quiet way to spend a few days. If you are planning on visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, then do make a point to check in advance. It's possible to get a cabin reservation during the summer months, though it can be hard to find a cabin or hotel in late fall.

Lake Michigan

Photo of Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan: en.wikipedia.org

Michigan is a tourist favorite and has many things to offer. The largest and most populated cities in the state are located in the southeastern corner. They are the home of the renowned Michigan lighthouse, Mackinac Island, and the Thumb area. Detroit, the second-largest city in the state, is the birthplace of jazz and the cradle of the automotive industry. A highlight of the state is Lake Michigan. It is the second largest lake in the United States. Michigan's longest beaches are located on the southeastern side, just inland of the Straits of Mackinac. South of the Straits, tourism and marine industries are found on the Great Lakes and near several world-renowned lakes such as Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. Lake Michigan beaches and areas include Grand Haven, Manistee, Spring Lake, Mackinaw City, and Manitowoc. Michigan has many ski resorts.

Gull Lake

Photo of Gull Lake (Michigan)
Gull Lake (Michigan): en.wikipedia.org

Gull Lake is a 3.5-mile-long lake with a somewhat unattractive appearance, not being very exciting and majestic. Its volcanic origin and geologic history are easily visible as a number of extinct craters surround the lake's center. What's not apparent is the lake's ecological value as it is one of the only wetlands in North America and the only place in the world where the commercial green ducky, a fresh water duck, is found. Two places to visit on Gull Lake are the Ottenmuehle Nature Center and the Captain Sturgeon Nature Center. Both facilities are staffed by volunteers who give presentations about the ecology of Gull Lake and the surrounding area and sell a wide variety of souvenirs.

Adler Planetarium

Photo of Adler Planetarium
Adler Planetarium: en.wikipedia.org

Adler Planetarium in Chicago was the first planetarium and remains one of the most popular. After experiencing it first-hand, you'll understand why. The most stunning and impressive feature of the Adler is the Sphere of the Heavens Dome, designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham and finished in 1912. Measuring 63 feet in diameter and 49 feet high, the dome consists of 52,532 panes of unbreakable glass fused together. The Dome is the world's first planetarium to show a sky that looks exactly like what it would look like if you were actually outside at night. Adler has some of the finest projection equipment available today, which is used to give the astronomer perspective and to simulate the experience of seeing something truly unusual. From outer space to the Milky Way to time-lapse photography of the universe, the place is never short of amazement and wonder. If you need to learn more about the universe, Adler offers a number of educational and interactive programs, including the popular guided tours. You can also enjoy the 4D Cinema and International Space Hall of Fame. Adler Planetarium's Egyptian Theater hosts some of the world's best live stage shows such as Big Bang Theory and the Rock in the New York Hall of Science.

Detroit Zoo

Photo of Detroit Zoo
Detroit Zoo: en.wikipedia.org

Founded in 1913, Detroit Zoo has grown into one of the finest zoos in the US. Highlights include the penguin beach where penguins frolic in pools with waterfalls, a wallaby exhibit, a remarkable assortment of huge tiger exhibits, a behind-the-scenes tour of the elephant exhibit, and a spectacular Big Cats attraction. Even though Detroit is now home to well over a million people, the zoo still attracts more than 1.3 million visitors a year, including millions of schoolchildren who attend the hands-on educational programs.

Bay City State Park

Photo of Bay City, Michigan
Bay City, Michigan: en.wikipedia.org

Bay City State Park (45,950 acres) is a beautiful area with numerous buildings and structures dating from over 100 years ago to more recent times. It's the perfect place to enjoy not only the beauty of the many buildings and landscapes, but also to experience how life used to be for the people of the local area. The park, founded in 1937, is dedicated to preserving the rural feel of the state. It has, therefore, been named after the many permanent homes that can still be found within its boundary. The homes, dating from the period 1892-1936, are filled with period furnishings and, in addition to the beautiful displays, visitors can also see examples of cooking, sewing, and ironing. One of the greatest things about Bay City State Park is its central location, which makes it easy to visit. This is especially true of Michigan's third largest city, Saginaw, which lies at the base of the park. From Saginaw, visitors can visit the nearby Bishop Hill Nature Preserve or the American Slate Museum in Alma. There are also a number of great restaurants and bars in Saginaw.

Lake Erie

Photo of Lake Erie
Lake Erie: en.wikipedia.org

Lake Erie is the second largest lake in the United States and has all of the loveliness of a big lake in the United States with some of the peace and quiet of an inland sea. When the sun is out, Lake Erie looks very blue, sometimes even resembling a Caribbean sea. The lighthouse at Sandusky, the resort town nearest to the lake, is considered to be the largest cast-iron lighthouse in the United States, though to call it a lighthouse is a bit of a stretch. That distinction goes to the Statue of Liberty, which is 213 feet high, but Sandusky's lighthouse is more than double that height, it's 190 feet high, and it's the tallest lighthouse in the world. But it's not all about the height -- the lighthouse is a magnificent work of art and is worth a visit, especially when the weather is nice and the sun is out.

Great Lakes Science Center

Photo of Great Lakes
Great Lakes: en.wikipedia.org

Great Lakes Science Center is a must for those who appreciate the engineering that made the area around Detroit what it is today. On the grounds of DTE Energy's Freshwater Technology Center, the Great Lakes Science Center features interactive exhibits and activities, including a 34-foot-tall silver spire that is the world's largest retractable umbrella. The center also includes a planetarium and a 4D theatre.

Alcatraz Island

Photo of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary: en.wikipedia.org

When federal officials sent Alcatraz prison to the end of the San Francisco Bay, they stripped the place down to its bare minimum of stone and made it off-limits to the public. In 1962, however, authorities decided to turn the infamous prison into a park. Highlights of a visit include a tour of the U.S. Naval Shipyard Museum, which features ships constructed at the yard between 1906 and 1945.

Ludington State Park

Photo of Ludington State Park
Ludington State Park: en.wikipedia.org

Ludington State Park in Michigan is a beautiful park, offering spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding rocky cliffs and forests. During the season, the park offers various recreational activities, including camping, walking, boating, swimming, fishing, and more. The entrance to the park is free, but parking fees are charged, with pay lots being found near the park's main attractions.

The Pictured Rocks, Northern Coast

Photo of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: en.wikipedia.org

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a serene landscape of sandstone pinnacles, rugged cliffs, rock bridges and waterfalls strewn with tall cliffs made up of a dark, rich shale. Geology is the name of the game in these rock formations where fossils, protozoans and plant life from as long ago as 400 million years are still present. But nature takes a back seat at The Pictured Rocks where visitors and tourists flock to view the striking scenery of this section of Lake Michigan. The shoreline is the perfect location to watch the sun rise and set, take in the views from the picturesque coves, look for bald eagles or enjoy a stroll in a serene setting. Geologic formations offer opportunities for artists to create their own masterpieces by painting, drawing or even woodcarving, and The Pictured Rocks has seen more than its share of unique creations. The visitor center is a museum showcasing the work of dozens of these artists and offers guided tours into the back country to view some of the best examples. Whether you're in a group or by yourself, stop by at least once before you leave to enjoy these cliffs.