Western Michigan has some of the best-kept secrets in the country. There are plenty of things to see and do in this part of the Wolverine State. From vintage railways to historic lighthouses, Michigan is home to some fantastic experiences. Wherever you decide to go, there is something to satisfy everyone’s travel preferences. Here are the four best day trips to explore in western Michigan.
#1: Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is a popular spot for many visitors during the summer months. It is known for its lack of cars, with most people traveling around the island via bicycle. Between the Lower and Upper peninsulas, Mackinac Island is located on Lake Huron. The island was once the center of the fur trading in the early colonial days, and it even was a British fort during the American Revolution. You can find many preserved and restored historic structures throughout the island. Due to its historical importance, the entire island has the designation of a National Historic Landmark. Visitors might want to check out the military buildings on the coastal bluff at Fort Mackinac. However, many people travel here to explore the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, which features important local artwork, such as 19th-century photos, Native American art, and historical maps.
If you are looking for a unique place to spend the night, make sure to check out the Grand Hotel. Constructed in the 19th century, this hotel claims to have the world’s largest porch. There is a fee to explore the grounds if you are not a registered guest. Some of the most notable people of the 19th and 20th centuries have stayed at the hotel, including Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, and several U.S. presidents.
There are plenty of activities for visitors on the island. You can take a relaxing carriage ride throughout the streets or hop on a bike to set off for an adventure. Make sure to book a room at one of the bed and breakfast houses or small quaint hotels on the island. Mackinac Island is world-famous for its fudge, with over 10,000 pounds made on the island every day.
#2: Tunnel of Trees
The Tunnel of Trees is one famous spot in northwest Michigan. This route gets its name from the evergreens and hardwoods that create a ceiling over the road. Visitors can see some spectacular view of the forests, along with incredible vistas in the trees’ openings. There are many stops along the way, including the church at Middle Village that dates back to the 1880s. If you do decide to head to the Tunnel of Trees, you must take your time to soak up the fantastic scenery. This road is not a spot to zoom by within an hour. Take a lazy day to explore as you travel along the two-lane highway with its soft curves.
Petoskey is the traditional start of the Tunnel. You will want to turn onto M-119 and head into Harbor Springs. When you reach the end of the tunnel, you can cap off your experience with some traditional Polish pierogies at Legs Inn. This restaurant has been a fixture in Cross Village since the late 1920s, and its interior features Native American artwork, handcrafted woodwork, and extensive taxidermy. Legs Inn has even been deemed as the “most unusual architectural marvels” by the Michigan Historical Commission.
#3: Coopersville & Marne Railway
If you have some railroad aficionados in the family, then a stop at the Coopersville & Marne Railway is a must-see. An all-volunteer team operates this historic railway, which stills runs vintage locomotives from the 1920s. You can catch a round trip from Coopersville to Marne. The passenger service runs along for seven miles, and guests will cross over creeks and an open deck girder bridge. This track operates along the same water route that was once traveled by the early settlers of the area. You can enjoy the specially-theme train excursions throughout the year. One popular event is known as the EnterTRAINment Excursions, which only operates on Saturdays during the summer. Your family can enjoy a 90-minute journey that takes you across fields and farms. The Singing Trainman will also serenade you with songs about the railroad. In addition to that, the conductor gives a talk about the history of the railroad. This event is extremely popular, and tickets should be purchased in advance.
Holland is another excellent place to visit for the day. Located on the shore of Lake Macatawa, it features some famous and fun spots. The Dutch founded Holland, and you can see many of their influences throughout the city. The city of Holland owns Windmill Island Gardens, which is home to a centuries-old windmill known as De Zwaan. Don’t forget to check out the large tulip farm at Veldheer Tulip Gardens. During May, visitors from all over the country come to Holland for the annual Tulip Time Festival. There are over six million bulbs planted for the festival.
If you want to experience more of the Dutch culture, then you might want to head over to Nelis Dutch Village. You can enjoy many interactive activities, including Stroopwafel cookie making and Dutch dancing lessons. Guests can purchase blue delft pottery, wooden shoes, or Dutch cheeses. There is an on-site amusement park, which features a 1924 carousel, a Dutch swing ride, and a giant wooden shoe slide. You might also want to take a ride on Harry’s Windmill Ride, which is a 45 foot tall Ferris wheel that replicates the fins of a windmill.
For those wanting to reconnect to nature, make sure to stop by the Holland State Park. This beachfront is known for some spectacular sunsets along the sugar sand beaches. It is also the home of the famous Big Red Lighthouse. You can also get a glimpse of the native wildlife, as it is the natural habitat of several migratory birds and deer.
Western Michigan is home to several beautiful places to visit. You will want to make an effort to set out and explore these four-day trips located within the Wolverine State.