21 BEST Day Trips in Michigan
No matter where you are in Michigan, you’re never more than 85 miles from any one of the Great Lakes.
Of course, this makes beach days and coastal getaways the perfect day trips for Michiganders, but there’s even more to discover in your own backyard. From places of historic significance, to bustling cities, to marvelous museums and more, there’s so much to do, see, and explore in every corner of the mitten.
Spend your day wandering a lavender labyrinth or in a Christmas wonderland; these day trip destinations in Michigan offer and opportunity to get away from it wall in just an hour or two, depending on your starting point!
Here’s our picks for 21 awesome day trips in Michigan…enjoy!
PRO TIPS for Planning a Michigan Day Trip
Michigan is naturally beautiful, and that means plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities all year long. There’s plenty of opportunities for indoor activities, too.
Be sure to use the mymichiganbeach.com website as your own personal visitor center before you start out and you’ll have everything you need to know at your fingertips.
Exceptional Southeastern Michigan Day Trips
Belle Isle State Park
With miles of green space that shines like an emerald on the Detroit River, Belle Isle is the gem of the city.
Spend the day on Belle Isle and experience the wonder of the great outdoors in the heart of Detroit. With riverfront beaches, biking trails, and cultural destinations like the Belle Isle Aquarium and Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, there’s plenty of ways to spend a day on the island. The Belle Isle Aquarium’s unique design features green glass tiles along the interior’s walls, so you feel like you are underwater as you travel through this space.
One of the top nature centers in southeast Michigan, the Belle Isle Nature Center offers visitors a chance to explore nature and learn about local wildlife. You’ll find wildlife exhibits, nature trails, and a fun outdoor play area for kids, too.
Must Do: Take a picture in front of the iconic James Scott Memorial Fountain, the first things you’ll see when you first cross the bridge onto Belle Isle State Park.
Detroit Institute of Arts
If you’re in Detroit, an entire day could be dedicated to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA’s massive art collection includes over 65,000 works and will have you wandering the halls and perusing masterpieces all day long. From ancient to postmodern art that spans the globe, the sheer variety of exhibits at the DIA makes it a world-class art museum and well worth a visit.
Don’t miss the European Paintings collection, one of the best in the United States, with a selection of nearly 1,000 works created between the 1100s and 1950.
Works include paintings by Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, George Bellows, Odilon Redon, Rembrandt Van Rijn, Edvard Munch, Georges Seurat, Franz Marc, and many others.
Must do: Stop by the Garden Court to see Diego Rivera’s famous Detroit Industry Murals.
Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
Ever wished you could visit the bike shop where the Wright Brothers first discovered they could fly? You can visit this and many more imporant mportant historical spots at this world-famoud museum located outside of Detroit MI.
See authentic historical artifacts at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and watch it come to life at Greenfield Village. For decades the Henry Ford Museum has showcased amazing feats of innovation in technology, history, and culture right in Henry Ford’s own hometown of Dearborn. Craving even more Michigan history? Head to Corktown in Detroit, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, once home to a large Irish population.
Must do: Visit Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Lab at Greenfield Village, then at the Henry Ford Museum, sit in the bus where Rosa Parks changed history.
Ann Arbor is home to the state’s largest college, the University of Michigan. The massive and diverse student population gives Ann Arbor a unique cultural identity and fills the city with endless things to do. Shop at one of many independent boutiques, including over 30 bookstores or indulge in great food at one of the city’s famous and well-beloved restaurants, like Zingerman’s Delicatessen.
The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History is free and offers a peek at many unique fossils and artifacts, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton named Bucky.
Must do: Spend some time outside the city center and stroll through the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.
Top West Michigan Day Trips
Among Lake Michigan beach towns, Saugatuck stands out for its significant artistic and cultural identity, which makes it a great day trip idea. Nicknamed Michigan’s Art Coast for good reason, downtown Saugatuck houses numerous unique art galleries.
Browse art installations in town then head to Oval Beach for spectacular views of the sunset over Lake Michigan. You can also head south along the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail for wine tours.
Must do: Book a Saugatuck Dune Ride, or have your own adventure on the shore at Saugatuck Dunes State Park.
West Michigan’s largest city, Grand Rapids, is also one of the state’s best artistic and cultural hubs.
Just two hours from Detroit, Grand Rapids MI is a fun trip idea with a wide variety of fun things to do in any season. With tons of museums, including the acclaimed Grand Rapids Public Museum, a hoppin’ brewery culture, a lively music scene, and more all in its sparkling downtown, Grand Rapids is the perfect city for young and adventurous travelers to explore.
The Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Museum are both worth a visit if you go. Be sure to take a ride on the historic carousel at the Public Museum- it’s a blast!
Must do: Attend an event, such as “Butterflies are Blooming,” at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
You don’t have to fly across the ocean to the Netherlands to sample Dutch culture, instead, drive across the state to Holland. A strong connection to its Dutch heritage means that the town is still influenced by the Netherlands in its culture, festivities, and in everyday life. Visit the picturesque Windmill Island Gardens while the tulips are blooming or immerse yourself in traditional customs at Nelis’ Dutch Village.
Must do: Attend Holland’s iconic “Tulip Time” festival for a pure Michigan celebration like none other.
Near Muskegon, the biggest and best amusement park in Michigan waits for thrillseekers to line up.
Michigan’s Adventure boasts seven roller coasters and 60 other rides. From iconic thrill rides like Shivering Timbers or Thunderhawk to more kid-friendly coasters like Woodstock Express, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here.
Must do: On a hot summer day, head over to the water park to cool off with waterslides, a lazy river, and more.
More West Michigan Day Trips
- Van Buren State Park in South Haven
- The Sand Dunes at Silver Lake State Park
- Lavender Labyrinth in Mears, Michigan
- Air Zoo in Kalamazoo MI
Day Trips in the Middle of the Mitten
Frankenmuth is Michigan’s Little Bavaria and it’s a highly popular Michigan day trip destination – and for good reason. Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth and the Bavarian Inn compete for the best German-style chicken dinner, try them and decide your favorite.
Then, shop around at the River Place Shops or grab a beer at Frankenmuth Brewery, which claims to be the first brewery in the whole state. This is one of the most popular day trips from Detroit, MI, and is especially popular with families as there a ton of things to do with kids in Frankenmuth.
Bay City, a popular spot for antiquing, is a short 15-minute ride north of Frankenmuth. Located on the shores of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, you can also see the Tall Ships in Bay City during the summer months.
Must do: For a bit of Christmas cheer any time of the year, visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, which is open year-round and touts itself as the world’s largest Christmas store.
Michigan’s state capital is the perfect blend of small-town charm and beaming metropolis. As you drive down Michigan Avenue, you’ll be welcomed by the classical architecture of the state’s Capitol Building. Visitors can tour the Michigan State capitol for free throughout the week.
East Lansing, located just next to Lansing, is home to Michigan State University. You’ll find a pretty campus with towering, age-old trees and cute shops lining Grand River Avenue. Abrams Planetarium is a popular stop, where you’ll find an exhibit hall, the black light gallery, and the sky theater.
Take a walk-through Michigan State University’s beautiful campus, filled with ample greenspace, including the Horticulture Gardens and the W.J. Beal Botanical Gardens.
Must do: Bring the whole family to see tons of cute, unique, and beloved animals at Potter Park Zoo.
More Mid-Michigan Day Trips
- Central Michigan University campus in Mount Pleasant
Day Trips in Northern Michigan
Sip on local wine and take in the picturesque lakeside views in Traverse City. Some of Michigan’s best wines are made on this coast, so it’s no surprise that the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail is a top destination among midwestern wine enthusiasts.
Tour the trail or indulge in Traverse City’s other major product – cherries. Michigan produces more cherries than any other state in the nation, especially in the Traverse City area, where tart Montmorency Cherries are the specialty.
The beaches of Grand Traverse Bay are gorgeous, too, and just a short walk from bustling Front Street, filled with charming shops and cafes. Suttons Bay, a charming town worth the 20-minute drive along the Grand Traverse Bay coast, offers gourmet dining and a charming downtown area.
Must do: Engage in fruit-themed fun for the whole family at the Traverse City Cherry Festival during the summer.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Just a short drive from Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a sight to behold. Michigan’s western shore is home to the world’s largest freshwater dunes system and Sleeping Bear is where you’ll find the highest concentration, widest variety, and largest dune field along the shore. Whether you’re scaling the dunes or sliding down them, the massive bluffs here are a Pure Michigan destination and a must-see for any resident.
Located on the Leelanau Peninsula, this is a year-round vacation paradise.
Must-do: Hike the Dune Climb trail for scenic views of Lake Michigan and it’s spectacular coastline, and drive the famous, seven-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
Charlevoix is one of Michigan’s idyllic northern beach towns, complete with beaches, art galleries, a lighthouse, a marina, and plenty of small-town charm to keep you coming back.
Take a walk down bustling Bridge Street, take in the views at the marina on Round Lake, or book a tee time at the Belvedere Club, one of the state’s oldest golf courses. No matter how you relax, you’ll find the perfect way to wind down in Charlevoix.
Be sure to visit Fisherman’s Island State Park, home to miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. Book a tour of the famous Mushroom Houses designed by architect Earl Young.
Must do: If you’re a nature lover, hop on the ferry to Beaver Island and explore the trails and landscape of Lake Michigan’s largest island.
Mackinac Island is one of Michigan’s top tourist destinations and for good reason. This small island exudes plenty of Victorian Era charm and starts with a boat ride from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. Step back in time with a horsedrawn carriage ride around the island, taking in the beautiful sites off the shores of Lake Huron. From the historic building designs in downtown Mackinac, to the 18th century fort, to the notable lack of cars, favoring horses and bicycles instead, visiting Mackinac Island will transport you.
Must do: It is known for its fudge, so it would be a mistake to return home from Mackinac without a sweet treat from one of the island’s many fudge shops.
More Awesome Day Trips in Northern Michigan
- Harrisville State Park
- Port Austin in Michigan’s Thumb area
Upper Peninsula Day Trips
Within Palms Book State Park near Manistique, Kitch-iti-kipi invites you to see something unlike anything else in the state. The name is said to have many possible meanings, including “The Great Water,” “The Blue Sky I see,” and “Mirror of Heaven,” and when you see it, you’ll understand why. At 200 feet across, this is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring, but it’s no hot spring. The water here stays chilly 45 degrees year-round, so we wouldn’t recommend swimming here and it’s not permitted anyway.
Must do: Take the human-powered raft across the spring for the best view all the way to the bottom of the spring, 40 feet down.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls are the largest in Michigan, which makes them a popular destination for those in the Ppper Peninsula. Cedar-stained water rushes over the falls on the way to Lake Superior and the views are incredible, especially during the summer and fall when the surrounding forest is bursting with color and life.
Must do: Hike the trails that run alongside the falls to get the best views of both the upper and lower falls. Bring good shoes – it’s a trek.
Sault Ste. Marie
In Sault Ste. Marie, history and ingenuity meet in a most marvelous way. With a history reaching back over 300 years, Sault Ste. Marie is known as the oldest European settlement in the state. The town’s historic significance continued into the 19th century with the construction of the Soo Locks, which soon became one of the busiest waterways on the planet, connecting the Great Lakes to the world.
Must do: Take a boat tour through the Soo Locks to see them working in action.
Situated against Lake Superior on Michigan’s northern coast, Munising is a quaint town with plenty of charm. Here you can find some of the most beautiful coastline in all of Michigan, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Thanks to streaks of mineral stain on the cliff sides here, the coast is colored with bright, natural pigments.
Must do: Climb aboard a glass bottom shipwreck cruise for a unique perspective of Lake Superior, both above and below the surface.
Marquette might be the largest town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but it’s certainly no metropolis with a population of about 20,000. Still, there’s plenty to see and do here. Stroll the charming and historical downtown, complete with boutique shops, local restaurants, and breweries.
From here you can catch a view over Lake Superior, where the old Ore Dock stands as a reminder of the significance of northern Michigan’s iron ore industry. Then escape into the wilderness to hike Sugarloaf Mountain or Mount Marquette.
Must do: Head to the Black Rocks in Presque Isle Park and go cliff jumping. The rocks sit around 20 feet above the surface of Lake Superior, making this a thrilling leap.
Porcupine Mountains State Park
Affectionately known as “The Porkies,” the Porcupine Mountains stretch across the northwestern corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This haven for nature enthusiasts promises stellar views, great hiking, and plenty of recreation and outdoor adventures. This is the perfect place to spend your days outside. Later, pitch up a tent for evenings beneath the starry sky.
Must do: Capture your own photo of one of Michigan’s most coveted and picturesque locations, Lake of the Clouds.
Interesting Day Trips from Michigan
- Niagara Falls
- Point Pelee National Park in Ontario
- Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio
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About the Author-
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.