Planning a Michigan summer bucket list is going to be so fun. Having been born and raised in the mitten state, I grew up traversing various areas and seeking out some of the top bucket list things to do. Having a Michigan summer is unlike any summer I have spent elsewhere. Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes, it has islands (like Mackinac), there is the upper peninsula which is unlike the lower, and there are some incredible hidden gems waiting for your discovery.
Would you have guessed that Michigan has a wine region? Or better yet, a Christmas store that is open all year? Whatever your style, you are sure to have a fantastic Michigan summer with my top bucket list items for the state.
Michigan Summer: The Ultimate Bucket List for the State
Visit Mackinac Island – My #1 recommended
If you are in Michigan and do not visit Mackinac Island, you are simply doing yourself a disservice. No Michigan summer would be complete without taking the ferry from Mackinaw City/St. Ignace to the island, where there are no cars are allowed and the mode of transportation is still foot, bike and horse and carriage. Upon arrival to the island you smell fudge being made and that is when you know you have landed somewhere special.
Top picks for things to do on Mackinac:
- stay at the Grand Hotel
- rent a bike and ride the 8.2 miles around the island
- visit arch rock
- try all the fudge
- do a bar crawl
- afternoon tea at The Grand
- sunrise at Mission Point on the lawn
- carriage tour of the island
- lilac festival
- somewhere in time weekend!
- fire a canon!
Eat a Sanders Hot Fudge Cream Puff
Growing up, getting one of these bad boys was a treat! A real splurge, if you will. A cream puff filled with ice cream and topped with Sanders Hot Fudge – you won’t find a better decadent treat out there.
Woodward Dream Cruise
Visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes
This is one of the most magnificent things to do in Michigan. When you go to visit. you will drive through an area with various markers and stops, but when you get to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, you will be blown away at their magic.
**People do walk down the steep hills and you can see them fight to get back up as well as it is very steep and sandy. I would recommend not walking down unless you are in incredible shape and up for the daunting challenge of getting back up. Otherwise, pack a picnic and enjoy the views from the top.
Eat a Coney
One of my absolute favorite foods in Michigan is the Coney. No one else makes them quite like Michiganders do. Lafayette Coney Island is an institution and should not be missed.
Go to Hell. Hell, Michigan of course!
Attend the Electric Forest Festival
This happens typically in June or July in Rothbury and brings some of the best electronic music to the state.
Sailing on Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is rather large in size and popular for sailing. In fact, there are sailboat races from Chicago to Mackinac Island each summer.
Walk Across the Mackinac Island Bridge
Technically this is done on the last weekend of the Michigan summer, Labor Day. This is the only day the bridge is closed to drivers for the duration of the walk (about 6:30am-12pm).
Spend a Saturday morning in Eastern Market in Detroit
Come out and support local vendors and find foods, items and a lot of murals.
Eat at Mishler’s Drive In
Located in Evart, Michigan, and basically a National Treasure, Mishler’s Drive In should not be missed. The only reason I know about it is because I was blessed with living in Evart during high school and every summer I basically lived for the pizza burger.
I highly recommend the pizza burger and a root beer float. No Michigan summer would be complete without this.
Visit the Henry Ford Museum
Winery Tour in Traverse City
Northern Michigan has a wine region (I know, I was surprised too!) and it is quite fabulous. Make sure and plan a tour in Traverse City to see their vineyards and I recommend Brys Estate. Their tours, wine and rose are fantastic.
Visit the “Ale Trail” in Grand Rapids and discover the more than 40 brewers
Frankenmuth is one of those places I love to visit when I go home for the chicken dinners they serve. A couple different places offer it, but I prefer Bavarian Inn. It comes out family style and there are many sides. It is a German chicken meal and you will leave stuffed to the brim! But so worth it!
While you are there, hit up Bronner’s, the all year Christmas store and dream about the snow that is sure to come months later.
Visit Belle Isle
Michigan adventure is synonymous with Michigan summer. This theme park is packed with rides, games, fair food, and a fun time for the entire family to enjoy.
Learn to play Euchre
I don’t think I have met anyone from outside of Michigan that knows how to play this game .. but it should be world known as it is fantastic.
Enjoy one of the MANY magnificent sunrises or sunsets in the state!
Drink an Ice Cold Vernors
I don’t care who you are – Vernors is quite possibly the best drink to quench your thirst on a hot Michigan summer day. I have vivid memories of going to band camp and practicing in the summer heat for color guard, waiting for it to end to get that Vernors.
Visit the Mushroom Houses in Charlevoix
Golf all of the Mitten State
Michigan has over 650 golf courses across the state. Gran some friends during this Michigan summer excursion and see how many courses you can play before fall hits.
Go To a Tigers Baseball Game
One simply doesn’t come to Michigan or reside there ant NOT go to a Tigers game!
Visit one of the many lighthouses
Michigan has over 13,000+ campsites! Nothing says “Michigan Summer” like kicking back with your family at the lake, putting up your tend and roasting s’mores over the campfire.
Go to the Drive-In for a double feature
I grew up going to the Ford Drive In Theatre in Dearborn, Michigan.
**I grew up going to the drive-in and we would take chairs to sit in outside the car just in case it was too hot.
National Cherry Festival in Traverse City
If you love cherries, the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City is a MUST! If you do not live local, that is ok – Traverse City has its own airport you can fly into. Stay a few days, maybe a week.
Spend a day at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
Spend on a day or five on the lake with you friends. Make a floating party with all your boats (or find someone who has a boat that you can join).
Visit Kalamazo For the REAL REAL Oberon
If you are from Michigan, you know that Bell’s Oberon on the bar taps with a fresh orange slice is the first sign of Michigan summer. Head to Bell’s where not only Oberon is made, but several other microbrews.
Visit the State Capitol in Lansing
Head “Up North”
Would it be a Michigan summer if you didn’t head up north?
Take in a show at the Fox Theater in Detroit
Visit Tony’s in Birch Run and get a larger than life meal
Looking for a pound of bacon with your breakfast? EVERYTHING at Ton’y is larger than life .. and while you are in Birch Run, stop by the outlets for some shopping.
Beat the heat at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City
See a free concert in July or August on the Riverfront in Detroit
Go for a swim in Lake Michigan
Many beautiful colored beaches grace the shore lines of Lake Michigan. It wouldn’t be a Michigan Summer if you didn’t put at least your toes in!
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