Summer is in the air, so people are hitting the road all over Michigan. Many people gravitate to the coasts of the lower peninsula, but Mid-Michigan also offers the road tripper expansive parks, history, scenic countryside, small-town charm, and more. One such Mid-Michigan road trip you can take is driving the length of M-52.
M-52 runs from Saginaw on its north end, down to Adrian and the state line, covering a span of 128 miles.
The predominantly two-lane road, from beginning to end, can easily be driven within one day. You’ll pass through Owosso, Chelsea, and Manchester among other smaller towns.
Some highlights and recommendations for stops along the route are described below:
Parks & Recreation Along Michigan’s M-52 Road Trip
As you are driving, there will be no shortage of parks along your journey. M-52 is well stocked with signage to help lead the way, so don’t worry.
In St. Charles, spend time relaxing by the Bad River in Lumberjack Park. Ringwood Forest, just south of St. Charles, offers miles of trails that are surrounded by the greenest of leaves and makes you feel like you are in a rainforest in some spots.
For a longer running or biking adventure, head toward the 30-mile-long trail in Lakelands Trail State Park located just south of downtown Stockbridge.
While walking along Main Street in Manchester, travelers can enjoy the rushing water as it falls into the River Raisin. Downstream, go for a walk on the wooden boardwalk at Trestle Park in Adrian.
Tip: Small towns tend to offer parks that have slides, swing sets, teeter-totters, and more equipment that has a nostalgic feel where each probably has countless stories from years past. Check out the park on Parshall St. in Oakley.
Discovering History Along M-52
Hop off M-52 and take the self-guided walking tour through the heart of Manchester. You will pass by Dairy Queen on Main Street, where the town got its start, along with several historic churches, buildings, and homes.
The oldest continuously running theater in Michigan is The Croswell Opera House in Adrian, so go exploring or even take in a show. You can’t go to Chelsea, without checking out the Chelsea Milling Company, home to Jiffy Mixes. Plant tours are offered daily.
Other historic spots that will capture the eye are the Romanesque town hall in Stockbridge and the Quaker Oats and Coca-Cola murals in the heart of Owosso that have a vintage that is quite intriguing.
Grab Some Grub at the Best Restaurants on M-52
If you are looking for a full-course breakfast, visit Tammy’s Bakery & Cafe in Perry. Make sure to ask for some house-made jam to go with your thick toast, which you can also buy to take home.
In the evening, grab a double scoop ice cream cone topped with whipped cream from the infinite possibilities at The Spotted Cow north of Adrian where you can hang outside enjoying the tasty treat in the “Cow Corral.”
Spending time in the local coffee shop or ice cream parlor amongst locals gives you a great feel for the town. Make sure to always check out the bulletin boards and local flyers where you might find more fun in the town you are exploring.
Things to Do Off The Beaten Path on an M-52 Road Trip
When traveling, some of the best experiences are random finds. The carnival might be in the next small town you enter, like during the Curwood Festival in June in Owosso. The aforementioned bulletin boards and flyers will give you a leg up!
Just off the southwest corner of Main and Middle Streets in downtown Chelsea, keep an eye out for Serendipity Books. The cozy used book shop sits not off the street, but in an alleyway tucked away that is full of colorful murals and other shops.
When driving through the Mid-Michigan countryside, especially near Stockbridge, keep an eye out for expansive farmhouses that will inspire you to pull off and take a few photos.
Head off M-52 and the beaten path to just west of Adrian, and you will run into Adrian College. Walk the perfectly cut green lawns and amongst all the flowers of the small private school. Make sure to check out The Mall with Herrick Chapel and the main entrance on either end. It is a popular, picturesque spot for weddings.
Are there any parks, places to eat, touristy places, or spots off the beaten path you would recommend along M-52 and/or in Mid-Michigan?