With temperatures heating up, Michigan residents are honing in on the state’s most popular vacation spots for the summer. Similar to previous summers, big cities and beach destinations appear to be most popular, says Theresa Winters, owner of Faraway Places Travel.
This summer’s top Michigan destinations are Grand Rapids, Traverse City and other beach towns, Winters says.
“It’s typically the destinations that are centered around the Great Lakes, Traverse city being an alternative,” she says. “Traverse City is a hot destination and places along the west coast such as the Fields Resort, which is glamping and one of a kind… Silver Lakes and what I like to talk to people about is that you can really make two trips out of one, going to Grand Rapids for all of the festivals and the Meijer Gardens, but then also hitting up Silver Lakes or Sleeping Bear Dunes.
“Also, on the other side of the state you’ve got Port Huron, which is where I’m based out of, so I’m definitely a big promoter of that. We’ve got history, lighthouse, endless beaches. We have a social district, a beer garden, there’s live music every single weekend throughout the summer. I really think people are gravitating towards where there’s water and then extra things.”
Colleen Anthony, vice president of Operations at Classic Travel, agrees.
“Definitely the most popular destinations are up near the Traverse City and Leelanau Peninsula area, and then anything on the west side of the state, Grand Haven, Holland, where they can get access to the sand dunes and the beach at Lake Michigan,” Anthony said. “Of course, Mackinac Island is always a very popular place as well. That’s usually the norm. Summertime in Michigan, anywhere that people can get near the water, the lakes, just happens to be where people go. I would say those hotspots have kind of been you know, popular areas for a number of years.
The pandemic has led many travelers to stay close to home, Winters says. However, the top destinations remain similar to those pre-COVID, she says.
“COVID has really altered travel in many ways, one of them being people are sticking around,” Winters says. “Whether its within an hour of their home, or a four to five hour road trip, people are definitely staying more within the country and also Michigan. I think they (Michigan’s top destinations this summer) were sought after before COVID as well. I think people are always looking for those beachy destinations, even before COVID.”
For Michigan residents searching for vacation ideas, Winters advises travelers to get inspiration from travel agents and social media. She also encourages travelers to step outside of their comfort zones.
“First and foremost is you have to book in advance,” Winters says. “My recommendation is try something new. If you’re used to going to a city and that’s really what you gravitate towards, go to a different city. Grand Rapids is an amazing destination, Detroit, those are probably my top two. If you’re more beach/relaxation, drive the coast of Michigan and see something new, get out. I’m always a proponent for exploring.”
Michigan Summer destination ideas
Ann Arbor: Among the restaurants and outdoor dining scene, Ann Arbor also has many different shops and attractions throughout the city. In the summer, the Nichols Arboretum and Huron River are the perfect way to spend time outdoors. If you are visiting in July, be sure to check out the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair.
Beaver Island: As the largest island in Lake Michigan, Beaver Island is a popular attraction located off of Charlevoix. Due to the island’s northern location, it has the perfect dark sky for stargazing. Additionally, there are many outdoor activities for nature and history lovers during the daytime including boat rentals, camping and the Marine Museum.
Bond Falls: Located in the western portion of the Upper Peninsula, this scenic waterfall is a popular tourist attraction for the summer season. The waterfall is located on the middle branch of the Ontonagon River and it is 100-feet wide with a total drop of about 50 feet. Surrounded by picnic tables near the top of the falls, this destination is a perfect place to picnic and relax.
Charlevoix: On the shores of Lake Michigan, Charlevoix is a summer travel staple for those looking for an up north getaway. Activities include shopping in downtown Charlevoix, spending time at the beach and paddling on the Jordan river. Visitors can also admire Earl Young’s signature mushroom houses, built mainly from stone found in northern Michigan. Thirty-one of these architectural masterpieces are in walking distance of downtown Charlevoix.
Detroit: Visiting Detroit offers a little bit of everything. The city is home to the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Michigan Science Center. You also can explore dining and shopping downtown or head to Belle Isle to explore the many outdoor recreational activities.
Grand Haven: On the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven is known for its beaches and boardwalk spanning 2 1/2 miles along the Harbor. Throughout the summer season, many festivals take place in Grand Haven as well, such as the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, Walk the Beat Music Festival and Art on the Riverfront.
Grand Rapids: A perfect destination for the urban traveler, Grand Rapids is known for its museums, including the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives. Other notable aspects of the city are the art, shopping and nightlife. Named America’s Best Beer City, the outstanding food and beverage scene provides something for all travelers. In the summer, there are also many outdoor beach activities.
Holland: Recognized by Forbes magazine as one of America’s prettiest towns, Holland has shopping, dining and outdoor activities year-round. Holland is known specifically for their Tulip Festival in May and Dutch experiences.
Mackinac Island: Lodged between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas in Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is a classic summer vacation spot for Midwest travelers. With a rich history and unique tourist attractions such as fudge making and horse and buggy rides, this destination is the perfect family summer spot.
Pictured Rocks: Pictured Rocks is known for its multicolored cliffs. With many scenic sights and camping opportunities, this is a great destination for outdoor travelers.
Saugatuck: For a relaxing vacation on the beach that also has a fabulous art and dining scene, Saugatuck is the place for you. Located on Lake Michigan, travelers can spend equal time admiring art and shopping, while also relaxing on the beach. Known as “the art coast of Michigan,” Saugatuck is home to many admirable art galleries, festivals, and exhibitions including the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, the Waterfront Invitational Fine Art Fair, and the Village Square Arts and Crafts Fair.
Traverse City: Featuring the Sleeping Bear dunes, wineries, an eclectic dining scene, and outdoor recreational activities, Traverse City is a summer destination with a little bit of everything. There are also many historical sights, Mission Point Lighthouse and City Opera House, as well as museums to explore. Popular museums include the Benzie Area Historical Society and Museum, the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, and the Eyaawing Museum & Cultural Center.