Michigan comes alive in the spring. Trees and grass turn green, flowers bloom and the lakes sparkle blue in the sunshine. It’s a great time to take a Mitten State road trip. Here are some ideas for spring road trip destinations around the state.
Comerica Park, Detroit
Nothing says spring like baseball’s opening day. The Detroit Tigers have their home opener April 8th. Grab a hot dog and watch one of MLB’s most storied teams play America’s Favorite Pastime.
While you’re in The Big D, take a stroll along Detroit’s Riverfront, a unique, revitalized urban nature conservancy. Be sure to wave to Canada on the other side of the river. Then head to Belle Isle Park, an island in the middle of the Detroit River. You’ll find an aquarium, conservatory and the James Scott Memorial Fountain in the 985 acre state park.
Next, learn about Detroit’s role as a game-changer in the 20th century music industry at the Motown Museum. The museum pays tribute to the record company that brought us famous performers like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson.
Finally, tour The Heidlberg Project, an outdoor art project in the McDougall-Hunt Neighborhood on Detroit’s Eastside. In 1986, Artist Tyree Guyton began to turn buildings in the deteriorating neighborhood into works of art in an attempt to rebuild and bring hope to the area. Today the outdoor art environment is constantly evolving and hosts classes, lectures and group tours.
The Shipwreck Coast
The Shipwreck Coast is in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, between Marquette and Whitefish Point, along the rugged shores of Lake Superior. The waters offshore claimed more than 300 shipwrecks over the years, including the famous Edmund Fitzgerald, earning its name, Shipwreck Coast.
Start at the Marquette Maritime Museum where you’ll find the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse and museum filled with Lake Superior memorabilia and a lighthouse lens collection. Next, head to Munising and The Glass Bottom Boat Shipwreck Tours. You’ll board a 60 foot glass bottomed vessel that takes passengers out into the waters of Lake Superior to view shipwrecks resting on the lake bed.
You’ll also be right in the heart of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where limestone cliffs soar above the lake, carved and painted into rugged works of art by time and water. Hike, walk the beaches and kayak the shallow waters for the best views.
Continue to Grand Marais where you’ll find The Shark, a handmade fishing tug in dry-dock next to the Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum. At Tahquamenon Falls State Park, you’ll see the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi.
Finally, end your tour at Whitefish Point Light Station and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Whitefish Point was the intended destination of the Edmund Fitzgerald when it sank on that ill-fated night in 1975. The museum memorializes the ship, its crew and many other shipwrecks.
Tip of the Mitt Beach Towns
The beach towns, nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, at the top of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, offer amazing views, fabulous shopping, great dining and outdoor fun all in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. Begin in Charlevoix with a visit to Castle Farms. Tour the stone courtyards, visit the museum and view Michigan’s largest outdoor model railroad. You can also feed the fish in the reflection pond, have a picnic lunch and walk the trails.
Next, head to Petoskey where you can tour famous Hemingway sites, shop the unique downtown boutiques, like Grandpa Shorter’s, and take a stroll along the beach. Don’t forget to hunt for a few Petoskey stones to take home.
Then drive on to Harbor Springs and Pond Hill Farm, one of the area’s many vineyards, which also has a cafe and brewery. From Harbor Springs take M-119 through the Tunnel of Trees. Trees grow so close overhead that they create a “tunnel” the covers the road that twists and runs along bluffs above Lake Michigan.
Stop at the old fashioned general store in Good Hart, then move on to Cross Village. Eat at the famous Legs Inn where you’ll dine on Polish cuisine while watching the sunset over Lake Michigan. The restaurant’s name comes from the upside-down stove legs decorating the roof of the two-story, stone, hand-built building. Inside, the inn is decorated with polished, twining tree roots from local swamps.
Photo Credit: Kartfamily
Grand Rapids Hipster Scene
Grab your flannel shirt, grow an ironic beard and come to Grand Rapids, also known as Beer City, USA. Hit the Beer City Ale Trail where you can sample craft brews at the more than 40 local breweries.
When you’re done quenching your thirst, seek out G.R.’s thriving art scene. Stop at the Grand Rapids Art Museum where you’ll find an ever changing display of local, national and international artists. Move on to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts where you’ll see exhibits from some of today’s most innovative artists. On the outskirts of town, you’ll find the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Outdoor Sculpture Park. It features a tropical conservancy and four-season, artfully landscaped, outdoor gardens, including a Japanese Garden. The 30-acre sculpture park has over 300 works of art, including a 24 foot tall bronze horse.
Photo Credit: Florador
Grand Rapids is also a hotspot for foodies. Satisfy your epicurious taste buds with a meal at The Green Well Gastro Pub, where they focus on producing high-quality, local, sustainable food.
Lake Huron Lighthouses
If you’re a fan of lighthouses, you don’t want to miss the lights on the shores of Lake Huron. Between Algonac and Port Austin, there are 10 different lighthouses you can view and tour within a 115 mile drive.
The St. Clair Flats Ship Canal Range Light Station is on Harsens Island on the south channel of the St. Clair River. The light is privately owned, but can be viewed by boat from the river. The Peche Island Rear Range Light was moved from its original spot to its current location in Marine City’s Lighthouse Park and can be viewed from the outside only.
The Great Lakes Maritime Center in Port Huron sits on the banks of the St. Clair River. It tells the history of boating on the Great Lakes as well as current events. While in town, you can also see the The Huron Lightship, once used to guide boats coming into Port Huron. Today the boat is a museum. The Fort Gratiot Light Station, Michigan’s oldest lighthouse, is also nearby, where the St. Clair River flows out of Lake Huron. Fort Gratiot Light Station is open for tours.
Farther north you’ll find the privately owned Port Sanilac Lighthouse and the Harbor Beach Lighthouse which is open for tours. The Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse, in Port Hope, has a public museum in the the Keeper’s House which features information on the 105 shipwrecks surrounding the Point. The tower is not open for tours, because the light is still in use.
Finally, you’ll find the Port Austin Reef Light in Port Austin Harbor. It can only be viewed from the outside.