This state was the punch line of a very bad joke for much of the 21st century as globalization and Big Labor destroyed its reputation of being the home of the automobile and the arsenal of democracy during World War II.
But after the lost decade in which it was one of the only two states to actually have a negative population growth, Michigan is roaring back—so long as the new Democrat Governor doesn’t drive it back into the ditch.
But the truth is, even during the dark days of the lost decade, Michigan has always been an underrated and reasonably priced destination for vacationers.
Too often, folks assume that Michigan is just one giant extension of Detroit.
But there is so much more the state has to offer!
So here are five reasons why you should consider Michigan for your next family vacation.
Its Natural Beauty
If you’ve ever seen one of the taxpayer-subsidized Pure Michigan ads voiced over by Tim Allen, it’s very easy to get drawn in by the Great Lakes State’s natural beauty.
From being surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, to having over 10,000 inland lakes, as well as countless streams and rivers, Michigan is a dreamland for fisherman and boaters alike.
If water sports aren’t your thing, the beautiful hardwood forests are great for day hiking trips, overnight camping, and car camping.
The state park system has some real gems to explore that are rich with history and natural splendor.
One of my favorites, though I may be biased because I worked there during the summer months in college, is Tawas Point State Park, situated in the Northern Lower Peninsula, right on Lake Huron.
The whole Tawas area is a beautiful tourist destination with plenty of beaches, campgrounds, and hiking trails, as well as local shops and restaurants, to pique everyone’s interests.
(Czaika’s Blueberry Farm, Tawas City, MI)
If you happen to be in the Tawas area in August or September, be sure to go pick fresh blueberries at Czaika’s Blueberry Farm. If you aren’t in the Tawas area, but are still in Michigan near the end of summer, there are countless U-Pick blueberry farms across the state.
Like visiting an apple orchard in the fall, picking blueberries at the end of summer is a time-honored family tradition sure to create memories.
Further North, vacationers will eventually enter God’s country, also known as the Upper Peninsula—a sparsely populated and natural wonder full of adventure.
One of the most popular tourist destinations is Mackinac Island. Visitors arrive by ferry to the island and can either walk, ride a bike, or catch a carriage ride to get around the island. There are no cars allowed on the island, making for a great escape from reality.
(Fayette State Park, Garden, MI)
Other great destinations in the Upper Peninsula include Fayette State Park and Tahquamenon Falls. And I can’t fail to mention Picture Rocks National Lakeshore with its dramatic cliffs along Lake Superior.
Oh, and if you think Michigan is beautiful in the summer time, come back to see the fall foliage. It rivals the colors in New England, but is far less crowded and much friendlier to your bank account.
It’s Got Beaches Galore
(Lake Superior Shoreline near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore)
Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline in the United States, meaning unlike the East and West Coasts, the water is unsalted and shark free.
While it takes a couple months into summer before the water warms up to what some might deem a more tolerable temperature (though you will find the locals diving in as early April), there’s still plenty else to do at the beach.
Contrary to some misconceptions about Michigan, it does get quite warm in the summer months. So if you are up here in August, there will be plenty of opportunities to cool off in one of the Great Lakes.
It’s Got a Little Bit of Everything
(Holland State Park, Holland, MI)
For about a decade, Michigan was making the headlines for all of the wrong reasons—centered on the state’s rapid economic decline and the population crash of Detroit. To most, it almost seemed like that’s all there was in Michigan—disappointment and decay.
While Michigan’s economy was greatly hampered by the decline of the auto industry, that is only a snippet of Michigan.
Southeast Michigan, where Detroit is located, is not all there is to see or know about the Great Lakes State.
There is great diversity in the people, culture, scenery, geography and economy across the state.
West Michigan is quickly emerging as the new economic hub of the state, blowing the Southeast corner out of the water when it comes to population growth. It is home to “Beer City USA,” also known as Grand Rapids, which boasts of 80+ microbreweries, unique restaurants, museums and so much more.
There are tons of small to medium-sized towns that pepper the Lake Michigan shoreline that are full of family-owned restaurants, tourist shops, motels and campgrounds.
Northern Michigan is home to a burgeoning wine industry rivaling the wine production coming out of California. The Lake Michigan Shore region has been called the Napa Valley of the Midwest. You can have great wine without having to visit the People’s Republic of California and paying their obnoxious taxes.
The state is also famous for its apple crop and is the third largest producer in the nation, making Michigan the home to some of the best cider producers in the country.
(Lehto’s Pasties, St. Ignace, MI)
The Upper Peninsula is famous for the “pasty,” a regional version of a meat pie full of beef, rutabaga, and carrots best enjoyed by itself or with ketchup or brown gravy. My personal favorite is Lehto’s Pasties in St. Ignace which has been in business since 1947, but rarely are you going to find a bad pasty north of the Mackinac Bridge.
On your way to the Upper Peninsula, don’t forget to stop in Mackinaw City to pick up some Mackinaw Island Fudge.
It’s Got History
(Tawas Point Lighthouse, East Tawas, MI)
If you are looking for some historical and educational outings, Michigan has a rich history to be explored. While in the Detroit area, check out the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village where your family can explore the history of American innovation and the industrial revolution.
If maritime history is of interest to you, check out one of the over 100 lighthouses. Many of these lighthouses allow you to stay the night and even help maintain the lighthouse as a volunteer curator, making for a unique, once in a lifetime experience.
While you are in Northern Michigan, check out Colonial Michilimackinac complete with the reconstructed Fort Michilimackinac that will allow your family to experience life in 18th century Michigan. Mackinac Island is home to another historic fort, Fort Mackinac, which was originally built by the British during the American War for Independence.
Assuming the Republican-controlled legislature doesn’t cave to the demands of the Democrat Governor to jack up the gas tax, the relative tax burden is low for vacationers, meaning lower costs for amenities.
Groceries are not taxed, therefore your food bill will be lower. Overall, the cost of living is lower in Michigan, so you will get more bang for your buck with a vacation in the Great Lakes State.
I could go on and on about all of the great things to do and see in Michigan, but instead of reading about it, grab a map and hit the road for a one-of-a-kind vacation that won’t break the bank and the family will remember for a lifetime!