19 Essential Michigan Bucket List Activities

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Michigan is one of the most dynamic states in the US. It’s home to major cities such as Detroit, while also offering residents and visitors the chance to take in the natural beauty of the Great Lakes.

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Whether you live in Michigan or you’re taking a trip to the state, one of the best ways to make the most of the experience is to create a Michigan bucket list. This is simply a list of places you want to visit and experiences you want to have while you’re there. With a bucket list on hand, you’ll never have to stop and wonder what you should do next when you want to explore virtually any region in Michigan.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start. This guide offers a range of suggestions, helping you create an ideal Michigan bucket list.

Michigan Bucket List Trip Destinations

A travel bucket list for any destination should feature a range of spots that highlight what makes that particular destination unique. If you’re trying to come up with ideas for a Michigan travel bucket list, consider the following entries:

1. Explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore

It’s no secret that many areas of Michigan give visitors the opportunity to appreciate the majesty of the Great Lakes.

Many people even suggest that visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore is the best way to do so. This 35-mile shoreline on Lake Michigan features not only beaches but lakes, streams, and, as the name implies, impressive sand dunes that many guests and locals enjoy climbing.

2. Relax on Mackinac Island

Is your idea of a perfect vacation one that involves peace and quiet in a setting that helps you escape from the busy intensity of day-to-day life? If so, take a ferry to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron. While there you can kayak, go horseback riding, and enjoy gorgeous views on an island where you won’t find a single car. That’s an experience few spots in the country can provide.

Outdoor Activity, Hike, and Adventure Bucket List Ideas for Michigan

Exploring the great outdoors is among the top ways to see why Michigan is such an appealing state to many. To get back in touch with nature in Michigan, you can:

3. Go hiking

Michigan is home to many areas that offer hiking trails for both beginners and seasoned pros. For example, you may want to check out the trails at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula region. 

Tip: For views of stunningly colorful foliage, take a hike in the fall.

4. Hit the water

Whether you’re taking a calming cruise on Lake Huron or canoeing down the river, if you like being out on the water, there’s no shortage of lake-and-river-based activities worth adding to your Michigan bucket list.

5. Camp

Michigan is a camper’s paradise. The state is home to numerous recreation areas and parks. Together, they offer residents and visitors approximately 13,500 campsites from which to choose.

Guests who visit Michigan to camp also tend to find that many of these spots are ideal for stargazing, as they can be far enough from major cities to ensure light pollution doesn’t obscure their gorgeous views of the night sky. In fact, stargazers often make a point of camping in Michigan during meteor showers, as the state’s campgrounds offer a spectacular perspective during such times of year.

Spring and Summer Michigan Bucket List Ideas

If you’re like many people, you may do most of your traveling during the warmer months. When visiting Michigan in the spring or summer, consider these experiences:

6. See real shipwrecks

Many assume shipwrecks can only be found in the ocean or large seas. That’s not the case. The Great Lakes are so large that they’re also home to various shipwrecks. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary on Lake Huron offers tours that let you see them up-close.

7. Tour wine country

Those who don’t live in the state are often surprised to learn that Michigan boasts a very impressive wine country. Although touring these parts of the state can be enjoyable during virtually any time of year, most travel guides suggest visiting Michigan’s wine country during the spring or summer.

8. Have fun at Michigan’s Adventure

This is another item to add to your Michigan bucket list if you’re traveling with kids. Michigan’s Adventure is the largest waterpark and amusement park in the state. Both young children and adult thrill-seekers have a blast at this spot throughout the spring and summer.

Fall and Winter Michigan Bucket List Ideas

The fun doesn’t stop when summer ends in Michigan. On the contrary, during the fall and winter, Michiganites and those merely visiting the state can:

9. Pick apples

Michigan is one of several states where apple-picking is a quintessential fall activity. While you’re visiting one of Michigan’s numerous apple farms, be sure to try some delicious apple cider as well.

10. Head to Frankenmuth for Oktoberfest

Frankenmuth, Michigan has earned the nickname “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” Thus, it may come as no surprise to learn that this town that’s fairly close to beautiful Lake Huron hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration that may be the most authentic in the state.

11. Watch a college football game

You can root for the Michigan State Spartans or the University of Michigan Wolverines. Regardless, if you’re a college football fan, you can’t go wrong checking out one of the state’s Big 10 football matches in the fall.

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Michigan

Like all parts of the country, Michigan boasts a food scene that reflects the cultural roots of the people who live in the state. If you’re making a food bucket list and you plan on visiting Michigan in the near future, be sure to include such items as:

12. Try Detroit-style pizza

Many states and regions in the US offer their own unique take on pizza. Michigan is no exception. 

Detroit-style pizza is usually rectangular. Its crust tends to strike a perfect balance between crispiness and chewiness, and very often, the toppings and cheese will actually rest below the sauce, rather than on top of it (although, as is the case with any variety of pizza, some chefs break the traditional rules if they feel that doing so will result in a more impressive dish).

13. Taste a Michigan pasty

A Michigan pasty is a pastry whose stuffing often consists of meats (such as beef or pork), along with additional ingredients like potatoes and carrots. Accounts of its origins vary, but according to many, Cornish copper miners who immigrated to the region brought this culinary staple with them. You can now find Michigan pasties throughout the state’s Upper Peninsula. 

Tip: Many recommend trying a Michigan pasty from Lawry’s in Marquette.

14. Learn what makes Michigan rye bread special

On a list of Michigan bucket list items, you might assume that an entry on rye bread would be unnecessary when there are so many more interesting foods from which to choose. However, Michigan rye bread isn’t like any other type of rye bread you’ve ever tasted.

Essentially, authentic Michigan rye bread is double-baked. This causes it to be soft but durable in the center, while having a crunchy exterior crust. In many cases, it’s also thicker than the rye bread most visitors might usually encounter, allowing one to pile on more ingredients in a sandwich than they otherwise might.

More Michigan Bucket List Ideas

Grand Rapids is definitely worth checking out if you’re in Michigan. That said, it’s also worth noting that just outside of Grand Rapids, you’ll find smaller communities with their own charms.

15. Have fun at Walter RC Park

Do you have a fondness for radio-controlled cars and planes? If so, be sure to visit Walter RC Park in Boston.

This is a particularly unique park, where guests can drive their RC cars or fly their RC planes in an environment the owners have designed specifically for fans of this niche hobby. Even if you don’t care to operate the vehicles yourself, you can still have fun watching others conquer the terrain.

16. Relax at Grand River Riverfront Park

Many already know that Michigan’s beaches along the Great Lakes are popular attractions for very good reason. However, the state is also home to riverfront areas you may want to explore.

 Head here if you’d like to add canoeing to your Michigan bucket list.

Detroit, Michigan Bucket List Ideas

Detroit may be the city most people associate with Michigan. If you’re visiting Detroit, be sure to:

17. Visit the Motown Museum

From the street, were it not for the sign, it would be easy to overlook the Motown Museum (which many also refer to as “Hitsville USA”). Don’t be deceived. This building once served as the studio where many Motown artists recorded some of their most iconic work. It’s a must-see for any fan of this uniquely American style of music.

18. Check out Detroit’s numerous museums

The Motown Museum is certainly not the only museum worth visiting while you’re in Detroit. You should also consider stopping by the:

  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Detroit Historical Museum
  • Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History
  • Henry Ford Museum

19. See the animals at the Detroit Zoo

Are you visiting Detroit with children? You may want to stop by the Detroit Zoo. The zoo consists of different sections for different habitats, giving visitors the opportunity to see many types of animals from various parts of the world.

Michigan Bucket List: How to Enjoy the Great Lakes State

Hopefully, this list has helped you start thinking about what you should include on your Michigan bucket list. For more general information on this topic, check out our guide on how to make a travel bucket list.

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