The Perfect Michigan Road Trip
Have you ever wanted to take a road trip through Michigan but don’t know where to start? There is a wealth of state parks and interesting cities and towns all throughout our state. It would be impossible to list them all! But what I can do is give you a guide to our personal favorites.
Having lived and worked in Michigan for years, Robert and Sherri of Peninsulas have come to learn a thing or two about the communities, parks, and roadside attractions in our state. With every new Peninsulas recruit adding their own favorite coffee shops and road trip stops to the mythos, our appreciation for Michigan’s culture and history has only gotten stronger.
So, I’ve rounded up fifteen of our favorite places in the state, from the top of the Upper Peninsula to the bottom of the Lower Peninsula. Take a gander, maybe this list will inspire your very own road trip!
We sell Stormy Kromer caps not just because their quality is impeccable, but also because they have a special significance to the Upper Peninsula. The Stormy Kromer story is a beloved part of Ironwood’s history and a testimony to the strength and hardworking spirit of Yoopers. Be sure to get a picture in front of the Stormy Kromer cap statue!
Like many Michigan State Parks, Pictured Rocks has beautiful views of the lake. However, what sets it apart are the vast, arching formations of sandstone that line the shore! These sandstone cliffs can tower up to 200 feet above the water and stretch for miles along the coast. A few of the more adventurous Peninsulas folks have spent time camping and canoeing on these shores.
This is another state park that our staff has personally visited. These waterfalls are colored a striking amber hue due to the leaves from upstream trees leaching tannin into the water (the same reason your tea turns brown). This effect has earned it the nickname "The Root Beer Falls." No matter what time of year you visit, the upper and lower falls are breathtaking. There are plenty of trails around the park and a relatively easy trail to see the larger falls from above.
Be sure to stop by this old-fashioned drive-in joint when you’re hungry because you’ll want to try a burger and a shake! These are some of the best burgers in the U.P. During the Cross Village summer season, Robert and Sherri have been known to make the drive across the Mackinac Bridge just for a bite at Clyde’s — it’s that tasty. They also only take cash, so make sure you have some on you before making the drive out.
It might be a little ironic to mention Mackinac Island on a road trip blog, but I couldn’t leave out such an iconic part of Michigan and a Peninsulas favorite! Robert and Sherri make seasonal trips to take products to the local businesses. They’ve even made the annual trip over the ice bridge to Mackinac Island! There’s so much to do once the spring season starts. A hike to Arch Rock is perfect for outdoor lovers. Window shopping down Main Street is never dull, with plenty of charming storefronts. Our favorites? Little Luxuries and Mackinac Outfitters for the best souvenirs, Doud’s Market for a midday snack, and the Woods Restaurant at the Grand Hotel for a classy dinner with a side of duckpin bowling. But of course, one of the best ways to spend the evening is simply to sit back and relax with Pink Pony’s famous Rum Runner.
Legs Inn Image by rossograph
What would a Peninsulas road trip be without a visit to Cross Village? This is on the list for obvious reasons: it’s where the seasonal gift shop is based! But Cross Village is far more to Robert and Sherri than just a storefront location. Cross Village has a tight-knit local community with tons of character and history. Leg’s Inn is a perfect example of this, with a beautiful view, tasty Polish meals, and a building decorated with all sorts of taxidermy and wood sculpture. Enjoy a tasty Polish meal at Leg’s Inn, and see artwork from local artists at the Three Pines Studio. And don’t forget to take a drive down the Tunnel of Trees!
Images courtesy of Pond Hill Farm
Just north of Harbor Springs proper is a charming farm with plenty to do and see! Not only do they have a livestock barn and market, but also a Biergarten tent and a full kitchen. I’ve stopped here for lunch on my travels to and from Cross Village, and I love their pizzas! For those who aren’t designated drivers, there’s also plenty on tap. There are even more fun activities for the whole family in the fall, from cider to hayrides and more.
Left image courtesy of Yummies
Yummies makes some delicious and unique ice cream flavors! There’s chocolate and vanilla for those who like it classic, along with fun flavors like Maple Nut and Blueberry Cake. I recommend a scoop after spending some time at the Harbor Springs Farmer’s market.
Harwood Gold is another family-owned business with Michigan roots and a commitment to quality! The Parsons have been creating maple syrup from their trees for decades. The newest generation of Parsons sisters, Amber and Katie, have opened a cafe and storefront in Charlevoix where they sell tons of delicious creations using their maple syrup. Stop by and get yourself a coffee and one of their delicious hand pies.
Images by Deb Nystrom
These charming little residences were created by self-taught architect Earl Young. Each of these twenty-six residential buildings was individually designed and built with local materials. The cottagey feel and natural limestone and thatch roofs of these houses have earned them storybook-worthy names like “Boulder Manor” or “Owl House." Although many of them are private property, self-guided tours of the neighborhood are allowed. You can find maps of the area on Charlevoix’s tourism website.
This little museum is a favorite of Sherri’s for its educational value. So long as you’re comfortable with a little (or a lot of) taxidermy, you’ll find this place fascinating! Featuring professional dioramas of Michigan wildlife and native artifacts, this museum’s exhibits have been created and maintained by two generations of taxidermists. Get up close and personal with elk, mountain lions, and whitetail deer, all while learning more about the history of Michigan’s wildlife and indigenous cultures.
Images by Andy Piper and VasenkaPhotography
Now, we don’t show any favoritism for sports teams here, but the city of Ann Arbor is certainly a gem! There’s a lot to do and see, especially if you’re a fan of coffee shops. Check out the Literati Bookstore, which has a coffee shop on the top floor, and two floors of books for sale below that (it’s a personal favorite of mine). Or, take a stroll through the beautiful Nichols Arboretum, a greenspace known to locals as “The Arb”. There, you’ll find beautiful natural vistas, from sweeping valleys to intimate glens perfect for a picnic.
Left image from Catching Fireflies
There are tons of reasons we’re thankful to be part of the Berkley community! The kind folks, the local celebrations, the fantastic haircuts from the Chop Shop (Robert can attest to that). Find the perfect gift for a friend at Catching Fireflies, browse vintage and antique goods at Odd Fellows Antiques, and of course, come pay us a visit! Make sure to get a bite to eat at the Lunch Cafe, where there’s always a new and exciting soup recipe on the menu.
Images from Michigan Municipal League and Drifter Coffee
The Rust Belt indoor market is where many of our fellow artists, craftspeople, and shop owners of all walks of life cut their teeth and strut their stuff. In fact, this is where Robert and Sherri got their start with their first business: Jameson Hard Goods! Walk through the stalls and find everything from houseplants in handmade pots or vintage clothing and taxidermy, to paintings made by local artists. There’s always something new at the Rust Belt, and it’s the perfect place to peruse after getting coffee from a nearby shop (I recommend Drifter Coffee).
Images by John Kannenberg and quirkyjazz
There’s no way to sum up everything that makes Detroit, Detroit. A hardworking local community, a vibrant arts scene, a long history of music and culture — Detroit means something different to everyone! I think of my time at college, seeing art shows at the Scarab Club, and my first visit to the Motown Museum (a museum I would recommend to any music lover). The Eastern Market is a great afternoon stop — buy flowers, get lunch, and peruse the used books piled on tables lined along the corridor. And, of course, anyone would recommend getting a genuine Detroit coney dog at least once. Whether you choose Lafayette or American, however, is up to you.
Image from Michigan Municipal League
There you have it! A full survey of Peninsulas-approved stops for your next road trip through the mitten. We’re always interested in learning more about our state and its gems. What’s your favorite Michigan attraction? Tell us @mipeninsulas!