A big city vacation offers a fun and action-packed getaway with tons of things to do. But, there’s much to be said about visiting a small town too.
Some tiny Michigan towns have fewer than a thousand residents. Yet, their natural and historical attractions have made them popular tourist attractions with unique experiences that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Check out these adorable towns in Michigan that you need to visit!
A small community on the shores of Lake Superior, Grand Marais is just a short distance from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Unsurprisingly, it’s a beautiful place to explore based on its natural surroundings alone, but the community itself is also worth a visit.
Established in 1882, this tiny village has a population of less than 300. Yet, its historic buildings, charming shops, and breathtaking natural attractions draw countless tourists yearly.
You can relax in a historic inn, walk along the 50 miles of beach, or tour the local lighthouses, whose histories are taught at the Light Keeper’s House Museum.
Over the decades, South Haven has become a beautiful resort town that offers historic accommodations, beautiful hiking and biking trails, and access to several state parks.
Also, the city is home to several museums and great shopping and dining opportunities, many of which are in historical buildings. Because of its active tourism industry, it has many places to stay, including 19th-century inns and upscale resorts.
In true Michigan fashion, the city offers plenty of outdoor activities, including taking a walk along the pier. But, there are plenty of things to do in town too, such as visiting one of the historic museums and catching a show at the Family Theatre.
Plus, Tawas City is known as the start of the Sunrise Side Wine & Hops Tour, which follows more than a dozen local wineries and breweries along the shore of Lake Huron.
Petoskey is widely known throughout the Midwest, and for good reason. This small city’s claim to fame includes Petoskey State Park where tourists search for famed Petoskey stones and learn about its historical significance to the region.
It has long been a tourist summer retreat — Ernest Hemingway famously spent his childhood summers on Petoskey’s Walloon Lake. Petoskey remains a popular vacation destination thanks to its outdoor offerings, charming historic buildings, and excellent accommodations.
Hotel Walloon, a boutique hotel, has won awards as one of the best resorts in the Midwest, so it’s well worth a visit.
Mackinac Island is known far and wide as one of Michigan’s most beautiful vacation spots. Located in Lake Huron, this small island has been a tourist mecca for more than a hundred years.
The island covers just 4.35 square miles and has a population of just under 600 people. Famously, the island does not permit cars, so visitors spend their vacations strolling or biking along the charming historic streets and beachside walking paths.
History buffs will love the chance to tour some 19th-century cottages, while food lovers will enjoy sampling the locally made goods, especially the celebrated Mackinac Island fudge.
The tiny city of Saugatuck may have a population of less than 1,000, but it has become a massive tourist attraction thanks to its historical and cultural offerings.
This charming spot is home to six beaches at various locations along Lake Michigan. Plenty of other natural attractions are nearby as well, including the stunning Mt. Baldhead, which is a popular hiking destination.
But surprisingly, most people visit Saugatuck for its in-town attractions. These include eclectic novelty stores, unique gourmet restaurants and breweries, and many arts festivals and museums, cementing the city as an essential part of Michigan’s famed Art Coast.
If you’re looking for a charming community to visit in Michigan, you won’t want to overlook Copper Harbor — a place so small that it often escapes notice.
With a permanent population of fewer than 150 residents, it operates almost solely as a tourist destination. You can expect a friendly, tight-knit community and a peaceful visit in comforting and beautiful surroundings.
The town is situated at the northernmost tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, overlooking Lake Superior, close to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. There are many things to do here, set against a backdrop of historic buildings and breathtaking natural beauty.
Frankenmuth might be one of the most picturesque of all the cities in Michigan. This small village on the Cass River is famous for its German architecture, earning it the name Little Bavaria.
The town was settled by German immigrants in the 1840s and retains a vibrant German culture today. It attracts tourists throughout the year for German events and celebrations, such as Oktoberfest and the ChristKindlMarkt, but it’s worth a visit in any season.
Visitors will love strolling the picturesque streets, visiting the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, and enjoying delicious, locally-made German food at the Bavarian Inn or Oma’s Restaurant.
The tiny community of Leland is often overlooked as a tourist destination. This charming village, located between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau, has a population of fewer than 500. Nevertheless, it is known as a beautiful coastal retreat for anyone looking for a quiet getaway.
Leland is famous for its Fishtown, the shopping and dining sector built in a neighborhood of 19th and early 20th-century fishing shanties.
Also, the town offers excellent ferry tours to the nearby Manitou Islands and access to the nearby Verterra Winery where visitors can enjoy a variety of locally grown Great Lakes wines.
St. Ignace is a small city located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Just across the water from Mackinac Island, it is the main ferry stop for people traveling to the car-free vacation spot. But, St. Ignace is worth visiting as much more than a simple pit stop.
The city offers stunning views of Lake Huron and the Straits of Mackinac and endless historical architecture — its European settlement dates back to the 1670s.
Visitors can enjoy unique experiences, such as exploring historic buildings, climbing nearby Castle Rock, or even scuba diving at one of several shipwreck sites in the Straits.
Marshall Michigan is a history-lover’s dream come true. This small city’s claim to fame is having one of the largest historic districts in the country, with a total of 850 structures in its National Historic Landmarks District — despite its population being fewer than 7,000 residents.
Historians have noted its sublime preservation of 19th and 20th-century architecture, which blends seamlessly.
Marshall is close to the Kalamazoo River, offering a stunning natural backdrop to its architectural beauty. Visitors will find many cultural and historical events throughout the year in this enchanting city, including tours of historic properties, music festivals, and art fairs.
Situated on the beautiful Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City is an iconic travel destination in Michigan. Downtown Traverse City and the surrounding area are full of picturesque views and fun things to do.
Awesome Mitten writer Amanda Shaffer shares her itinerary for an amazing trip to the Traverse City area:
“Whether it’s shopping, dining, or taking in nature or all of the above, Traverse City has something for everyone. We started our day with breakfast at The Omelette Shoppe and then shopped downtown including the landmark M22 shop.
We popped in to Pop-Kies for a road trip snack to take along the way to go visit the Old Mission Lighthouse and Hessler Log Cabin. There we explored the lighthouse and museum as we took in all of the maritime history. The water was chilly but crystal clear.
It made the perfect day of exploring.”Awesome Mitten writer Amanda Shaffer
Find Small-Town Charm in Michigan
Surrounded by the Great Lakes and countless other beautiful natural attractions, Michigan has plenty of places that attract people back year after year.
But, these small towns in Michigan have something unique. It’s a blend of small-town friendliness, historical architecture, and natural beauty that makes them a must-visit.
Many of these destinations offer a break from the usual hustle and bustle of tourists, not to mention the chance to experience one-of-a-kind activities. If you want to visit a small, cute town, you’ll want to stop at one of these hidden gems on your next trip to Michigan.