Finding Summer Magic in Michigan – 10 Places You Should Go & More

Michigan is an amazing state!  Having grown up in the neighboring state of Ohio, I have spent a lot of time over the years in this part of the country, including a summer in my late teens working at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  It has a distinct placement on the USA map – a left-handed mitten shaped state that is dotted with quaint and unique little towns throughout with a rich frontier history.  What makes Michigan special is the unexpected beauty, diversity, and culture making it one of the best Midwest states in the country to visit.  

There’s so much to see and do in Michigan.  If you are looking for enriching kid activities and adult travel tips for Michigan, here’s the top 10 places you should go. 

1. Black River Farm and Ranch in Croswell Michigan…

Black River Farm and Ranch in Croswell Michigan near Lake Huron is an all-girls horse sleepaway camp that is what dreams are made of for young girls!  This state of the art, well-run camp has been around since the 1960’s and specializes in horses and supporting the healthy development of young girls.  If you have a young girl/s in your family with a love of horses and you are looking to strengthen their independence, they will be in good hands at the BR.  The BR has Mother Daughter Retreats in addition to full week and multi-week sessions.  If you are dropping your child/ren and staying in the area or needing a spot to sleep en route to see other parts of Michigan, like we did, a stay at Cadillac House is a great choice. 

2. Traverse City is the “Cherry Capital of the World”

Traverse City is the “Cherry Capital of the World” and Michigan, in general, holds over 36,000 of cherry orchards.  This area is filled with culinary delights and epically beautiful landscapes.  A stay through Airbnb’s Hemlock Lodge on a Babbling Brook is a great, comfortable, and centralized spot to use as a jumping point to the local areas many activities.  If you are looking to enjoy eating in one of the nights, we recommend hiring Amor Comida, a local private gourmet chef with farm to table, locally sourced menu options.

3. Farm Club

If you want to enjoy a hip and fun foodie scene and linger over delicious high-quality food and drink in a beautiful setting with an architecturally modern vibe, go to Farm Club. This place was wonderfully situated on 35 acres of farmland and encompasses what farm to table is meant to look and taste like.  It’s located 7 miles from downtown Traverse City and just minutes away from Hemlock Lodge.

4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore

A trip to Northern Michigan is not complete unless you go to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s Good Morning America show.  The famous M-22 will get you there.  This delightful location has dunes and sand bluffs that tower 450’ above Lake Michigan.  To get your bearings, we recommend doing the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive through the national seashore.  The 7.4-mile drive loops through Beech Maple Forest and sand dunes.  Take the short hike out to the Lake Michigan Overlook and take in breathtaking and jaw-dropping views. 

5. The Pine Cone in Glen Arbor

Ice Cream at The Pine Cone in Glen Arbor is a stop everyone will love and a good way to break up the drive from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Traverse City.  While at this popular lakeside town, you also can take a stroll along the main street or rent a bike to explore the area.  Lots of time to window shop, buy some souvenirs and check out the local galleries.  

6. Glen Haven Beach

Beach Day!  Take some time to enjoy some leisure on the unsalted coast of Lake Michigan.  The best beach in this area is Glen Haven Beach – both kid friendly and tranquil for older adults with easy parking and access to bathrooms and shower areas.  You will be hard pressed to find better, clearer waters to swim in than at this beach.  Incredibly clear, clean, and unpolluted, this little stretch is pure heaven.    

7. Fishtown in Leland

As I mentioned before, Michigan is full of tiny, unique little towns and a stop in the historic Fishtown in Leland is a must see.  This charming historic fishtown is one of the last working and thriving fish districts on the Great Lakes.  Native Americans first lived and fished from this site.  The original shanties still exist, now housing shops of all kinds and the Fishtown Preservation Society manages and maintains the property so visitors can come and continue to experience one of the few fishing villages left.  Ordering some fresh fish from the Carlson’s market is one of the many treats of experiencing this special spot.   

8. Sutton’s Bay

Sutton’s Bay ranks up there as one of the more lovely small towns in Michigan category.  Take some time to stroll and shop along this stretch of quaint boutiques, stores, and restaurants.  Support the local bookstore called Bay Books in town—this gem of a spot has a fantastic selection of books, cards, and beautiful historical books on the Leelanau Peninsula.    

9. Hop Lot Brewing Company

Enjoy indoor or outdoor dining and selection of brews at the Hop Lot Brewing Company in Sutton’s Bay.  This micro-brewery and beer garden has campfires, picnic tables and outdoor games making it very family friendly.  There are lots of different brews to choose from and the menu has sharable plates, tacos, burgers, sandwiches, soups, and non-alcoholic drinks.  

10. Elk Rapids

About 20 miles from Traverse City to the north is the enchanting town of Elk Rapids This is a fun stop if you are looking for more time to shop and explore.  The public library there has discounted books for sale and a great selection.  Not to miss is the Walk of Art Sculpture Park which is an outdoor sculpture gallery on South Bay Shore Drive.  Supported by this park is full of delight and treasures and has easy access with marked trails and signage. 

More Tips and Activities by Town:


  • The Riverside – lovely sit down on the river with indoor and outdoor seating
  • The Cheese Shanty – grab and go sandiwch spot on historic Fishtown (cash only)
  • The Cove – Seafood restaurant overlooking Lake Michigan with indoor and outdoor seating


  • Clay Cliffs Conservatory – 1 mile loop north of town with overlook facing Manitou Islands.  The main loop is slightly hilly.
  • Whaleback Conservancy – uphill hike to a small loop on a unique glacial moraine overlooking pyramid point to the south
  • Vans Beach – walk out beach access right in Leland. Walk the beach and look for Petoskey stones and Leland blue stones. 

Sutton’s Bay:

  • Wren – farm to table menu that changes with the season
  • Martha’s Leelanau Table – brunch/lunch/dinner spot with outdoor side garden
  • Mundo’s – Coffee shop with small breakfast/lunch selection of sandwiches/waffles
  • Sutton Bay Ciders – south of town on Hilltop.  Beautiful view overlooking West Bay with lots of outdoor seating
  • Tandem Cider – north of town tucked back into the orchards
  • Mawby – south of town.  Lovely little vineyard known for its selection of bubbly.


  • The Tart bike trail runs from Sutton’s Bay to downtown Traverse City

Glen Arbor:

  • Art’s Tavern – dive bar/diner place right in town with indoor and outdoor seating
  • M22 Market – sandwiches/brunch/Detroit style pizza north of Glen Arbor


  • Kayak the Crystal River that runs through town, rentals available
  • Walk/bike the Heritage trail through Sleeping Bear Dunes, rentals available

Traverse City

  • Hexenbelle – pastries, lunch, dinner, coffee/tea
  • Taproot – cider works with lots of vegetarian options
  • Rose and Fern Café – breakfast and lunch available all day, coffee bean roasting onsite

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