Skip to Content

Best Things to Do in Michigan: Ultimate Michigan Bucket List

2023 Ultimate Michigan Bucket List: Best Things to Do

No matter where your interests lie, there are fun things to do in Michigan.

Michigan attractions range from the natural (think towering sand dunes or Isle Royale) to popular tourist attractions like the Detroit Institute of Arts or the Henry Ford Museum. You can visit a Michigan museum or nature discovery center, or try exciting outdoor activities like boating, swimming, hiking, and even dog sledding.

Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve got the perfect place to you to visit in Michigan. So we’re sharing our Michigan travel bucket list, filled with pure Michigan fun. We’re sharing the best tourist attractions in Michigan to help with your Michigan travel plans.

Read on for the best things to do in Michigan and find your perfect Michigan trip idea now!

Arcadia inspiration point - things to do in michigan

Find the Best Things to Do in Michigan

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by how many things there are to fit into a season? I find that I used to feel lost when I was trying to plan activities for the family during winter, spring, fall, or summer because there is just so much to do and see.

How do you decide between riding bikes and eating fudge on Mackinac Island or going to Tulip Time in Holland? Or trying to fit a fall color tour, Tahquamenon Falls, and a weekend getaway to Port Huron all in one week?

Michigan Travel Bucket List

To help you plan your adventures, we’ve put together the ultimate Michigan travel bucket list and the seasonal bucket lists, too.

Here you can find “must-see” and “must do” activities at the top of the list. We’ve also divided them up seasonally, so you can a fun Michigan winter activity, and decide what things you should plan for spring or fall travel

There’s no reason to not see everything Michigan has to offer, so start here and tailor this list to you. The best part is that you can pick one of these main attractions or activities and build your trip around that since there is so much to do and see across the whole state.

Be sure and check our Michigan Beach and Travel Map, and check out our Ultimate Guides to nearby cities for more reference points.

Pictured Rocks national lakeshore - things to do in michigan

Ultimate Michigan Bucket List: Best Things to Do in Michigan Any Time of Year

There are some things here that are amazing no matter what time of year you go, and these should be the things to prioritize when planning your next adventure.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks should be considered one of the wonders of the world, in my opinion, and it is a sight to see in every season. Located in Michigan’s upper peninsula, this natural wonder is a Michigan must-see: almost 35 miles of painted sandstone cliffs towering above Lake Superior. Here, you’ll find hiking trails leading to magnificent waterfalls, sand dunes and even hidden beaches for swimming.

You can also view the Pictured Rocks by boat, a on sightseeing tour or by kayak. If you plan to kayak the Pictured Rocks lakeshore, then it would be best to go from June to August – which is also the prime season for guided kayak tours.

If you wear enough layers, though, then there’s no reason you can’t go in the spring and fall. Boat tours on Lake Superior are available from May through October, and the views are breathtaking. I highly recommend scheduling your tour during the golden hour, as the rocks look even more vibrant as the sun sets.

For the winter wonderland type, Pictured Rocks is truly the best snowy adventure you can hope for. The ice caves are just the beginning; winter at the national lakeshore offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, winter camping, and ice fishing. With something to enjoy year-round, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore should be at the top of your bucket list.

PRO-TIP: Read the rest of this list to find activities you can pair with this while you are in the UP; including Porcupine Mountains, Tahquamenon Falls and Nature’s Kennel Sled Dogs. Climbing the Ice Caves on Grand Island, just off-shore from the Pictured Rocks is a favorite winter activity, too.

IF YOU GO: AuTrain Island View Lodge is a four-bedroom lodge in Munsing, just 20 minutes from the Pictured Rocks. The most stunning feature of this comfy stpo is the sprawling deck, with amazing lake Superior views. This a nice, clean and comfortable place; perfect if you’ve got a larger group. or are traveling with couples. I also like Comfort Inn and Suites Lakefront in Munsing. The rooms here and clean and recently updated, and quite comfortable. They have a great breakfast in the morning and a fitness center, too.

Mackinac Island- things to do in Michigan

Mackinac Island

Perhaps the most iconic destination in Michigan is Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, which was first made famous when the Grand Hotel was featured heavily in the movie Somewhere in Time. This one makes the Ultimate Michigan Bucket List because if you go in spring, summer, or fall you are guaranteed to have an amazing time.

Winter trips to the island are a bit of a different story however, since the island is only accessible via small planes from January to mid-April, but if you can make it happen then I highly suggest a snowy visit to Mackinac. It’s truly gorgeous year-round.

best places to visit in michigan

Things to Do on Mackinac Island

During the main tourist seasons, you will have plenty of activities to choose from: bike riding (guided tours or solo trips), horseback riding, carriage rides, rock formations and natural wonders, and even zip lining. The zipline is the fastest you can travel on the island since there are no cars so the island can embrace its idyllic, peaceful, and historic culture.

The area is rich with Michigan’s history: Fort Mackinac and Colonial Michilimackinac’s fur trading past played a large role in the development of both Michigan the United States.

The fudge on the island deserves its own mention though, and it is actually the first memory I have of Mackinac Island. There are plenty of fudge and sweet shops to choose from, and they are all amazing. When you plan a trip here, make sure you plan to save room for fudge.

IF YOU GO: You can use our top-rated guide to the best places to stay on Mackinac Island. We also have a guide to the best places to stay in Mackinaw City. A few of our favorite Mackinac-area hotels include the Island House Hotel, a charming Victorian inn with amazing lake views. It’s close to downtown, too, an added bonus. The Baymont by Wyndham Mackinaw City is consistently clean and comfortable. The rooms are fairly large and there’s a good, free breakfast served each morning. you can also go over the Mackinac Bridge and stay in St. Ignace. The Best Western Harbour Pointe Lakefront is hand-down the top pick if you’re in the area and not staying on the Island. Very clean and updated with beautiful rooms. It’s very family-friendly: you’ll find a beach, a playground, an indoor-outdoor pool and a complimentary full breakfast.

Sleeping Bear Dunes- best things to do in Michigan
Sleeping Bear Dunes

Traverse City Area: Northern Michigan Paradise

Last on our Ultimate Bucket List is the entirety of Traverse City. Maybe I should say “Traverse City Area,” because, seriously, I can’t pin down one specific part that is better than the rest. I can’t even say one activity is more fun than the others, because the options of things to do are endless.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

When you visit Traverse City, you’ll want to make sure you make it to Sleeping Bear Dunes. Head west about 30 minutes toward Lake Michigan, and you’ll run straight into Glen Arbor and Empire, MI, set right in the heart of the national lakeshore. Sleeping Bear Dunes is the top tourist destination in Michigan, a place of endless outdoor discovery and supreme natural beauty. Be sure to take the famous 7.5 mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to catch some amazing views of Glen Lake, Lake Michigan, and the dunes up close and personal.

Hike around the area (we like the Empire Bluff Trail), and plan some added time to lay out on the shoreline of Sleeping Bear or Good Harbor Bay.

Legoland Dicovery Center
4240 Baldwin Rd, Auburn Hills, MI 48326

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center is the ultimate indoor LEGO® playground where families with young kids can build, create and play together!

At LEGOLAND Discovery Center, you’ll enjoy two interactive LEGO rides, a 4D cinema showing 4 different movies, MINILAND—where dozens of Detroit-area landmarks are built entirely out of LEGO bricks, a Creative workshop where you can take a class from an expert builder, Build & Test play zones, and more! Uncover an incredible indoor world where LEGO experiences and rides join forces with hands-on creation to make a fun-packed family playdate.

SEA LIFE Michigan
4316 Baldwin Rd, Auburn Hills, MI 48326

Bring your family to visit SEA LIFE, Michigan’s largest Aquarium, and experience some ocean magic. Come face-to-fin with over 250 species and 2,000+ creatures including sharks, rays, and green sea turtles.

Get hands-on with a ‘splash’-tacular sea star or sticky anemone at the Touchpool and then walk through Michigan’s only 180-degree ocean tunnel! ‘Sea’ what other amazing discoveries you’ll uncover when you visit SEA LIFE Aquarium!

Peppa Pig World of Play
4362 Baldwin Rd, Auburn Hills, MI 48326

Peppa Pig World of Play is an indoor play center that’s perfect for families with young children! You and your little piggies will enjoy exploring (and playing in!) more than a dozen free-roaming play areas, all lovingly inspired by the cherished TV series.

This indoor attraction for families is located at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets and is perfect for children ages 1-year-old to 8-years-old. You’ll explore 14 oink-tastic play areas: Peppa’s Treehouse, Rebecca Rabbit’s Underground Adventure, George’s Fort, Granddad Dog’s Garage, Madame Gazelle’s School Bus, and more!

best restaurants in traverse city

National Cherry Festival

If you plan your trip in time for the Cherry Festival (early July) then you’ll be able to see the Blue Angels put on an amazing display after you spend the day on the carnival rides and eating incredible food from local vendors – plus, of course, cherries! Also, for summer trips to Traverse City, you’ll be able to experience the crystal-clear water, local lavender farms, and all of the amazing wine vineyards and breweries up and down the peninsulas.

For fall trips, the scenic drives are amazing. Traverse City and the surrounding area is heavily wooded, giving you the opportunity for your own northern Michigan mini color tour. The fall is also the perfect time to go through the local boutiques and tourist shops after you stop into Mundos Roasting & Co for high quality coffee or hot chocolate. Finally, in the winter months, you’ll experience some of the most amazing snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding available in north Michigan.

The snowmobile trails in Traverse City are where I first learned how to drive a snowmobile and now I go every year because they’re so much fun and there are enough of them that it feels like a brand new trip every time. Sleeping Bear Dunes in the winter is amazing too, so try to plan two trips to Traverse City so you can experience it in the sun and in the snow.

IF YOU GO: There are many hotels to choose from in Traverse City, at a variety of price points. Here are some of my favorite places to stay when visiting the area. The Cherry Tree Inn and Suites is right on Grand Traverse Bay. Each room has a kitchenette, which makes it nice if you’re hanging out on the beach all day and want to run back into your room for a snack. Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is a nice choice, too. You’ll find a mix of condos and hotel rooms, here, and tons of amenities, including a private beach, golf course and spa. The swanky, beachfront Hotel Indigo is new and features a fabulous rooftop deck and bar with amazing views of the bay.

Michigan winter things to do

Michigan Winter Bucket List: Best Things to Do in Michigan in the Winter

Winter wonderland might sound a little cheesy, but it really is the best way to describe winter in Michigan. Everything is white and frosty, like a scene from a Hallmark movie, which is exactly why you should prioritize your winter bucket list with the best places to go for a snowy backdrop.

Frankenmuth MI

First up we have Frankenmuth, the most iconic wintertime experience in all of Michigan. Also known as “Little Bavaria,” or Michigan’s Christmas Town, this little town near Saginaw is transformed into a holiday experience like no other. They have a photo scavenger hunt so you can find the best photo ops for the family, light tours to see the best Christmas lights and the evidence of their Joyful Jubilation neighborhood decoration competition, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, and much more.

PRO-TIP: You might have heard about the world-famous Frankenmuth Chicken dinners. Whether you pick Zehnders or the Bavarian Inn, you’re guaranteed an amazing meal.

IF YOU GO: So, I have two favorite places to stay here and I’ve ever been disappointed. You know you’re in for a treat as you travel over the wooden bridge to the Bavarian Inn Lodge. You’ll find large family suites. an indoor waterpark with four pools and a minature golf course. You’re kids will love it, and so will you. The Marv Herzog Hotel is always perfect, too. They serve complementary breakfast, as well as snacks throughout the day. The rooms here are large, clean and comfy.

Ice skating in Michigan - things to do in michigan

Rosa Parks Circle Ice Skating
135 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Rosa Parks Circle is brightly lit and festive in the wintertime. Their outdoor ice skating rink is an annual tradition in my house, and we love how easy it is to rent some skates and go around the rink for as long as we like (or as long as we can stay upright). When you visit this rink make sure you schedule time to walk around downtown Grand Rapids and enjoy their winter decorations.

IF YOU GO: The JW Mariott Grand Rapids has a perfect location downtown, right on the Grand River. It’s luxurious and comfortable, with stunning views. It’s also within easy walking distance to shops, restaurants and museums in Grand Rapids.

Tip Up Town – Houghton Lake
1625 W Houghton Lake Dr, Houghton Lake, MI 48629

If you’re in the mood for a more lively experience this winter, go to Houghton Lake for their annual Tip Up Town festival. I went for the first time last year and it’s safe to say I was very surprised with how much there was to do. They had ATVs and snowmobiles drag racing on the ice, a polar plunge (supervised by firefighters), a beer tent and live music, and even carnival booths for the kids. Only in Michigan will you find a festival held entirely on a frozen lake – and you’ve really got to see it for yourself.

Boyne Mountain Resort
1 Boyne Mountain Rd, Boyne Falls, MI 49713

One of the top ski resorts in Michigan, Boyne Mountain Resort is a perfect place to take in the beautiful Michigan winter landscape. Whether you are a black diamond skier or stick the greens, you’ll find a run perfect for you to ski or snowboard down.

It’s one of the top resorts in Michigan for another reason: Avalanche Bay, a top Michigan indoor waterpark. It’s big enough for the whole family and a great place to splash around and relax after a day on the slopes.

James Scott Memorial Fountain Belle Isle in Detroit
Belle Isle Detroit

Belle Isle Park
Detroit Michigan

Sure, a lot of people head to Detroit’s Belle Isle in the spring, summer, and fall. It IS beautiful then, but I like it best in the winter. That’s when the ponds on the island freeze over and you can see people playing pond hockey. Parts of the Detroit River freeze over and chunks of blue ice float along near the shore. It’s a peaceful place in the winter, almost like a wildlife refuge in the middle of the city, During three consecutive winter’s, I’ve seen a giant bald eagle. He sits way up, atop a tree limb, keeping watch over the Belle Isle Parks beautiful area.

PRO- TIP: If you go to Detroit, don’t miss the Motown Museum, the birthplace of the Motown sound. You’ll want to head over to the Michigan Science Center, a top science center known for its kid-friendly exhibits. Finish up with one of American Coney Islands famous hot dogs.

IF YOU GO: The Atheneum Suite Hotel in Greektown has long been a favorite of mine. Located in Detroit’s famous “Greektown” neighborhood, you’ll find clean and well-appointed rooms. It’s next to the Greektown casino, and near all of the delicious Greektown restaurants.

Michigan dark sky park

Michigan Spring Bucket List

Every spring in Michigan has a hopeful, excited, and happy feeling to it. People are excited for a break from the snow and hopeful for the summer days ahead. Springtime is the best because the plants are all coming to life, everything is bright green, the flowers are starting to bloom, and the feeling is palpable to every Michigander. Check out this list to plan your spring experiences

Headlands International Dark Sky Park
15675 Headlands Rd, Mackinaw City, MI 49701

In Mackinaw City you’ll find Headlands International Dark Sky Park. This is the best place for star gazing in Michigan, and during the day you’ll have plenty to do at nearby shops and trails. For this part of Michigan, you are most likely to see the Northern lights in April, October, and November. It’s very difficult to predict when the Northern Lights will appear, so plan on some amazing night skies and good food nearby.

IF YOU GO: The Crown Choice Inn and Suites Lakeview and Waterpark is a good choice in Mackinaw City. It’s clean, roomy and has a really nice outdoor pool with a spacious deck for relaxing. The Best Western Plus Inn Dockside is a favorite, too. It has it’s own private beach and a delicous hot breakfast to prepare you for your Mackinaw City explorations.

Windmill Island Gardens in Holland MI
Windmill Island Gardens in Holland MI

Tulip Time Festival
42 W 8th St, Holland, MI 49423

The Tulip Time Festival in Holland is a little peak at our state’s Dutch culture, and it is an amazing experience. The events are great fun for the whole family, but the flowers really do steal the show. They have an expansive field filled with every kind of tulip you can imagine, and plenty of great photo ops all around. But the town itself has tulips scattered throughout that you can spot as you drive through or as you walk around the shops in downtown Holland. For a few weeks every spring, Holland turns into a tulip haven, and it’s gorgeous.

Make sure to plan enough time to explore Windmill Island Gardens, to see an actual working Dutch windmill, and visit the fun store to buy Dutch goods. Then, head out to Holland State Park, to catch a glimpse of the iconic “Big Red” lighthouse and take in some amazing Lake Michigan vistas!

IF YOU GO: I like the City Flats Hotel Holland because it’s within walking distance to downtown Holland- just a block away. It’s clean, sleek and very modern as well as very comfortable. The Hampton Inn here has always been dependable: clean, very comfortable beds and a nice breakfast in the morning. There are some fun extras here, too: a basketball court and fitness room, as well as an video arcade, ping pong table and indoor pool.

Ultimate Guide to Summer Festivals in Michigan

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

If you’re a person who appreciates unique experiences and beautiful things, the Frederik Meijer Gardens is the place for you. In the spring they have the Butterflies are Blooming exhibit from March 1st through April 30th. The first time I saw the butterflies I was stunned. It’s an amazing experience that everyone should see at least once. I don’t want to give away the best parts, but just imagine a greenhouse with hundreds of butterflies flying around freely. Plan your trip and find out for yourself just how cool it is.

IF YOU GO: Another Grand Rapids favorite is the historic Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. This elegant hotel is part of a path of indoor skywalks that can take you all over the downtown GR area. There’s a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, as well as shops onsite, too.

Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, MI 48124‑5029

This living historical museum in Dearborn, MI, just southwest of Detroit, is a true Michigan gem. Developed by automobile manufacturer Henry Ford, this sprawling village houses a collection of buildings and attractions that tell the story of American invention.

You can spend a day exploring the grounds and learning how the Wright Brothers went from bicycle repairmen to the father’s of modern aviation, and Thomas Edison’s work with the lightbulb.

Don’t miss the chance to take a tour bus to the Ford Rouge Factory, where you can a factory tour of a real Ford plant and see how cars are made. This really is one of the coolest indoor things to see in the lower peninsula so don’t miss it.

PRO-TIP: If you’re looking for more to do in metro Detroit, try heading to the famous Eastern Market (the country’s largest open-air farmers market is held on Saturdays) or the award-winning Detroit Zoo.

IF YOU GO: There are two beautiful hotels in Dearborn. The Henry, Autograph Collection is a just over two miles from Greenfield Village, so the location is perfect. It’s an elegant spot, with spacious, clean rooms. There’s a beautiful pool and fitness center on-site, as well as a nice restaurant to a meal or cocktails.

Empire Bluffs - things to do in michigan

Summer Bucket List

Summertime in Michigan is the most popular time of the year for tourists and snowbirds coming back to their summer homes for the season. The energy is contagious in the summer as everyone is excited for time in the sun and long, lazy days on the beach. This list is fairly simple as well, we recommend that you pick a beach town and make a weekend of it.

Explore Michigan’s Beach Towns

Every beach town in Michigan has farmers markets and other local festivities on the weekends, perfect for some laidback adventurers. Near almost all of our best beach towns there are also hiking trails and other activities for the more energetic adventurer.

Here are some great beach towns you can’t go wrong with: Port Austin (and Turnip Rock), Harbor Beach, St. Joseph, South Haven, Ludington, Empire, Mackinaw City, Marquette, and Copper Harbor. For a more comprehensive guide, check out our Ultimate Guide to Fun Beach Towns.

PRO-TIP: Port Austin Kayak is a great place to rent kayaks for your trip to Turnip Rock on Saginaw Bay. It’s a Great Lakes bay, so remember to check the weather as a safety precaution.

Michigan Adventure
4750 Whitehall Rd, Muskegon, MI 49445

Who doesn’t love a amusement park? If you love adrenaline, waterslides, and rollercoasters, then Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon is the place for you. This is the type of park you where you wish you could stay overnight so you can actually ride all of the rides, but even if you don’t make it to every attraction, you’ll have a great time. Our Ultimate Guide to Michigan’s Adventure will tell you everything you need to know to have the best day possible.

IF YOU GO: The Michillinda Lodge Resort is a pretty four-star resort with gorgeous views of Lake Michigan in some rooms. You’ll find tennis courts, a barbecue area and a lovely outdoor pool. There’s even enertainment on some nights during the summer.

Soo Locks Boat Tour

The Soo Locks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are a marvel of modern architecture. Learn how the Soo Locks make it possible for boats, of all sizes, to traverse the 21-foot difference between the upper river and the lower river better known as the St. Marys Rapids. It’s really quite remarkable, and both young and old will remember their visit to this unique spot along the Canadian border.

IF YOU GO: The historic Hotel Ojibway is a beautiful hotel in downtown Sault Ste. Marie with large, comfortable rooms. It’s close to the Locks, as well as the close to retaurants and shops.

More Places to Visit in the Summer in Michigan

  • Oscoda Beach Park
  • Isle Royale National Park
  • Silver Lake State Park Michigan
Michigan 2022 fall Color map : When to See michigan's Peak fall Color

Fall Bucket List

Michigan is gorgeous year-round, obviously, but fall in Michigan has a special place in my heart. All of the trees changing colors, the excitement in the air for cozy weather and comfy clothes, and autumnal foods are amazing in Michigan. This seasonal bucket list is fairly simple because you can’t go wrong in the fall. Use our 2022 Updated Michigan Fall Color Map for more ideas of places to see amazing fall color!

Michigan Fall Color Tours

For this season, focus on any color tour you’d like to plan a trip around and hit the road. Focus on the national parks and places like Marquette, Manistee, and other state parks. Every drive in the fall is a scenic drive, so it doesn’t take too much effort to have a great experience.

Porcupine Mountains
Carp Lake Township, MI 49953

The Porcupine Mountains are a prime example of foliage color variety in Michigan. Although these mountains could be considered a good summer destination because of the temperature, fall is my preferred time to visit. The black flies run rampant from May through July (take my word for it, you want to avoid those) and the same summer hikes are available in the fall but with better views. These mountains are breathtaking, and they should be on everyone’s fall bucket list.

PRO-TIP: Plan a scenic drive around your trip to the mountains, Michigan’s upper peninsula has some of the best fall color tours.

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor in the fall is a midwest dream. Autumn is when the trees on the University of Michigan campus light up with color. The air is crisp and the Huron River is lit up with brilliant fall foliage. It’s my favorite time to take a kayak trip down this beautiful river which runs through southeast Michigan to Lake Erie.

Argo Park Canoe Livery rents kayaks, canoes, rafts and tubes. It’s a beautful trip down the river, and one of my favorite thing to do in Michigan in fall.

hidden lake gardens

Michigan Things to DO F.A.Q.

What’s the Most Beautiful Place in Michigan

The most beautiful place in Michigan is probably found on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Empire, MI, at the Lake Michigan Overlook. The dune overlook platform stands 450 feet above Lake Michigan and you’ll be able to catch views as far away as Point Betsie in Frankfort, south some 15 miles away; the Manitou Islands offshore, and Sleeping Bear Point in Leelanau County to the north.

Are there beaches in Michigan?

Michigan is home to the most beautiful freshwater beaches in the country, with more than 3,000 miles of shoreline. Beautiful, soft sand beaches can be found on Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, as well as as along many of the sandy-bottom inland lakes, too.

best camping in oscoda michigan

More Fun Things to Do in Michigan

Best Places to connect with nature in Michigan
11 caves in Michigan for exploring
Must Visit Michigan Islands
Museums in Michigan: Ultimate guide to 51 top museums

About the Author
Casey Johanson is a senior at Grand Valley State University and is passionate about writing and reading. An avid traveler around Michigan, Casey enjoys gardening and running. Her favorite places are typically the hidden beaches and secret scenic overlooks throughout Michigan that most people don’t know about. She loves trying to find places that people haven’t been before and loves writing about those places even more.