7 Underrated Michigan Tourist Attractions
If you’re looking for some unique places to visit in the upper Midwest region of the country, check out these seven underrated Michigan tourist attractions.
Michigan essentially has two distinct areas of the state. Midwesterners call the southern part “the Mitten” due to its shape. And locals call the Upper Peninsula “the UP, or, more affectionately, “the Yoop.”
Most of the locations mentioned here are off the beaten path for the average visitor to the state.
However, you may find them enticing enough to veer a bit off your route to check them out.
We’ll start in the southern part of Michigan and will work our way north. Let’s go!
Michigan Mitten Tourist Attractions
Bottom of the Thumb
Our first Michigan tourist attraction is in the eastern region of “the Thumb.” This area sits along the banks of the St. Clair River and has a lot to offer. Water lovers will especially love the small, quaint beach towns without all the crowds.
From boardwalks and fishing to water parks and antique shops, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
State Highway M29 stretches from Lake St. Clair on the southern end to Lake Huron at the north.
It offers a beautiful drive with several small towns to see along the way.
You may find it surprising to learn Detroit is more than just the “Motor City.” Music, art, outdoor activities, and museums are also a big part of Detroit’s charm.
For art lovers, Detroit is home to over 1,000 murals spread across the city. Pretty much every neighborhood you find yourself in will have some beautiful street art to enjoy.
If you’re a fan of Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye, the Motown Museum will be right up your alley. The museum celebrates the soul music of the 60s that continues to inspire musicians today.
Belle Isle is another stop near Detroit where you can enjoy water activities like kayaking and paddleboarding. And you can’t miss checking out “Little Venice,” a series of canals running through Detroit’s eastern neighborhoods.
You can kayak on the canals, too!
Meyer May House
Another must-see Michigan tourist attraction is this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in the Heritage Hill Historic District of Grand Rapids. Meyer May was a prominent local clothier and commissioned Wright to build the house in 1908 for him and his wife, Sophie.
According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, this home is one of Wright’s most elegant buildings from his Prairie Residence Era.
Pro Tip: The property is open to the public with free admission, but you need to make reservations through the Meyer May House website.
Ocqueoc Falls State Forest
Moving north to the tip of the Mitten, you’ll find Ocqueoc Falls. The largest falls in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula offers various outdoor activities such as swimming, camping, biking, and hiking available.
If you enjoy winter sports, this area is known for excellent cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The 13-site campground there is first-come, first-served, and perfect for tent campers or small trailers.
UP Michigan Tourist Attractions
Sault Ste Marie and Soo Locks
Our first suggestion for the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan is the small town of Sault (pronounced Soo) Ste Marie. Here you’ll find the Soo Locks, operated by the US Army Corp of Engineers. The locks enable cargo ships to travel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Self-guided walking tours and guided boat tours are available to help you understand more about the fascinating operations. We found it interesting to learn that 80 million tons of cargo, such as iron ore, pass through the Soo Locks every year.
If you consider yourself a boat nerd, you’re sure to find this Michigan tourist attraction interesting.
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As we make our way west across “the Yoop,” one spot you shouldn’t overlook is the Kitch-iti-kipi. It’s otherwise known as the “Big Spring” in the Palms Book State Park in Manistique.
According to the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources website, this is the largest freshwater spring in the state.
It spans an incredible 200 feet across and is 40 feet deep. You’ll be mesmerized by the gorgeous clear turquoise waters, where you can easily watch fish swimming below the surface.
The last stop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known as “the Porkies” and is truly a hidden gem. Michigan isn’t exactly known to be very mountainous.
However, the Porcupine Mountains, near the shore of Lake Superior, stand as an exception.
According to the Michigan.org website, this 60,000-acre mountain range is home to an immense old-growth forest, waterfalls, and over 90 miles of hiking trails.
Rustic and modern campgrounds, as well as backcountry camping, are available if you want to spend a few days exploring Michigan’s largest state park.
Don’t Miss These Michigan Tourist Attractions
You could easily spend a month in Michigan and still not see all the unique spots this state has to offer.
But this list will help you get started in finding places to visit you might not have otherwise known existed.
You’ll find the Michigan locals friendly and welcoming, often suggesting other sites to explore while you’re in the state. They’re proud of their home and seem more than happy to share it with others. It’s not hard to understand that pride once you experience Michigan for yourself.
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