On Jan. 26, 1837, our beautiful Mitten became the 26th addition to the United States. Since then, our great state has carved out a rich and vibrant history and its own slice of uniqueness among the nation’s 50 states.
Perhaps it’s Michigan’s two peninsulas or the Mackinac Bridge or Michigan’s rich sports history, but there are tons of unique facts about Michigan that will make you appreciate it even more.
Some might even ask, “What is Michigan known for?”
The state is also known for its automotive industry, as it is home to the headquarters of the “Big Three” American automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.
Additionally, Michigan is famous for its production of cherries, blueberries, and apples, as well as its contributions to the music industry, with Motown Records being based in Detroit.
The state is also home to many universities, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
Let’s dig into all these unique facts about Michigan and learn more about what makes Michigan unique…
Fun Facts About Michigan
Michigan State University was the first college in the U.S. to teach scientific agriculture.
In 1857, the first classes were taught at Michigan State University, including classes on scientific agriculture. In all, 63 students were taught in three buildings.
In 1862, MSU became the first land-grant university in the United States, created after President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act.
Michigan is a big state.
The state covers 56,954 square miles of land area and has 1,194 square miles of inland waters and 38,575 square miles of Great Lakes water area.
Our beautiful state encompasses adventures throughout the season with some of the most beautiful beaches, hiking and biking trails, national forest parks, and mountainous regions.
Michigan’s capitol in Lansing is home to some one-of-a-kind chandeliers.
The chandeliers that hang from the House and Senate chambers are more than 100 years old. Once a year, they are lowered to the floor for cleaning. Each chandelier has more than 1,500 individual pieces of crystal and glass that are all cleaned by hand.
Michigan is one of the top 5 states in the country for total number of breweries.
If you’re looking for some of the best beers in the world, you don’t have to travel far. Michigan has the fifth-highest number of breweries in the nation at 400. New York tops the list at 423.
Michigan’s state motto is…
“Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice,” which means “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”
This motto can be found on Michigan’s Great Seal, which was adopted in June 1835. It is believed that it refers to Michigan’s Lower Peninsula since the Upper Peninsula was added in 1837.
Michigan’s first university was the University of Michigan.
Fans of the Maize and Blue will be happy to learn that the University of Michigan was the state’s first university.
Governor of the Michigan territory, Lewis Cass, and territory judges enacted a bill to establish the school, then known as the University of Michigania, in 1817.
At that time, the school was something more akin to a high school or an academy compared to the school today, which has an enrollment of more than 44,000 students.
Michigan has more than 200 farmers’ markets.
The Mitten State has more than 47,000 farms and 300 farmers’ markets. That means you don’t have to travel far if you’re looking for the freshest fruits and vegetables.
The world’s only floating post office, the J.W. Westcott II, operates out of Detroit.
The J.W. Westcott II delivers mail to ships on the Great Lakes. Since 1874, the Westcott has served the marine industry in Detroit and is located in Riverside Park.
In addition to ship-to-shore deliveries of mail, the ship also supplies crew exchanges, equipment, and sundries to other ships.
The Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in the United States to feature open, cageless exhibits.
The zoo in its current iteration opened to the public in 1928. The bar-less exhibits, which included bear dens and sheep rocks, gave the animals more freedom to roam.
Sault Ste. Marie is the third-oldest remaining settlement in the United States.
Father Jacques Marquette first founded a mission in Sault Ste. Marie in 1668. That makes Sault Ste. Marie, often called “The Soo” by Michiganders, the oldest city in Michigan and the third-oldest continuous settlement in the nation.
Michigan’s name has Native American origins.
Our state’s name comes from the word “Michigama,” which is an Ojibwa Tribe term that means “large lake.”
The Ojibwa have many more names that we still use in Michigan today — including “Huron,” which was named after a prominent Saginaw Valley Indian chief, and “Oscoda”, which is a combination of “ossin” (stone) and “muskoda” (prairie).
The Petoskey Stone is named after a Native American chief.
Our state stones, Petoskey stones, are made from fossilized coral polyps. They’re named after Ottawa Chief Peto-O-Sega. They are notoriously difficult to find because the fossil only becomes apparent when wet.
The most popular hunting ground for this stone is on the beaches of Lake Michigan. The rarest type of Petoskey stone has a pink hue, which indicates that iron permeated the now fossilized coral as it calcified.
You’re always close to water in Michigan.
No matter where you stand in Michigan, you will be no farther than 6 miles from a body of water and no more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes.
In Michigan, you can actually drive south to Canada.
Michiganders know that it is possible to drive south to Canada. Michigan is home to the first three tunnels in the world that connect two countries — the St. Clair Tunnel, Michigan Central Railway Tunnel, and Detroit Windsor Tunnel.
In fact, if you take the Detroit Windsor Tunnel south out of Detroit, you’ll instantly hit Windsor Ontario.
Michigan has lots and lots of lighthouses.
Michigan has around 150 lighthouses, the most of any state. Some of the most beautiful lighthouses in the Mitten include Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Grand Haven State Park Lighthouse, and Tawas Point Lighthouse.
Michigan lighthouses in winter are even more beautiful!
Michigan’s Great Lakes are dotted with thousands of islands.
The Great Lakes contain more than 35,000 islands. The largest island is Manitoulin in Lake Huron. It is 1,068 square miles and has a population of around 12,600.
Michiganders have an accent.
Most of us don’t realize that Michiganders have an accent. We are often guilty of talking too fast, which causes us to run our words together and clip all of our hard consonants.
For example, “Grand Rapids” is pronounced “Gran-rapids,” “Okemos” is “OAK-eh-mus,” “Charlotte” is “Shar-LOTT,” and “Detroit” is “Di-troi.”
Michiganders have lots of nicknames for everyone.
There’s a Michigan nickname for everyone. If you’re a survivalist choosing to live in the Upper Peninsula, you’re a “Yooper.”
If you live in the Lower Peninsula, under the Mackinac Bridge, you’re a “Troll.” If you spend most of your vacation scoping Northern Michigan for prized fudge, then you’re a “Fudgie.”
Michigan has unforgettable food.
The food across the Mitten and Upper Peninsula is unforgettable. A great day may include one of your favorite cereals from Cereal City Battle Creek, a Detroit Coney Dog, or a hearty Northern Michigan Pasty. Don’t forget to try our world-famous Mackinac Island Fudge for dessert.
Related: 22 Famous Michigan Foods
Michigan has many iconic national food brands.
If you’re in your local grocery store, you may buy or already enjoy products that are made in the great Mitten State.
Michigan could be considered the nation’s pizza capital.
Any way that you slice it, it’s hard not to enjoy a good piece of pizza. But did you know that many of the nation’s top pizza chains were founded in Michigan?
Jet’s Pizza was founded in Sterling Heights in 1978, Hungry Howie’s was founded in Taylor in 1973, Domino’s Pizza was founded in 1960 in Ypsilanti, and Little Caesars Pizza was founded in 1959 in Garden City.
Michigan has its own style of pizza.
New York and Chicago may be known for their iconic pizzas, but Detroit has a famous style too.
Detroit-style pizza is a rectangle pizza with a crispy, chewy, thick crust. Cheese covers the top and usually caramelizes against the side of the baking pan. You can think of it as an all-corners pizza.
The pizza was developed in 1946 at Buddy’s Rendezvous, now known as Buddy’s Pizza.
Northwest Michigan is home to the Cherry Capital of the World.
Traverse City Michigan is the “Cherry Capital of the World,” growing about 70% to 75% of the tart cherries produced in the United States.
It is also known for hosting the annual National Cherry Festival and making the world’s largest cherry pie.
Michigan has the world’s largest Christmas store.
It’s always Christmas in Michigan thanks to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth. It’s the world’s largest Christmas store with more than 5 acres of shopping space. It is open all year, so Christmas lovers all over the state can get their holiday fix no matter the season.
Michigan is home to the most beautiful place in America.
In 2011, Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore won Good Morning America’s Most Beautiful Place in America. Come experience the Native American lore, the 4-mile scenic drive, and the adventurous hiking, biking, and sand buggy trails at the dunes.
Are you brave enough to make the 110-foot climb to the top of these sand mountains? The breathtaking views of Lake Michigan will be more than worth the trek.
Michigan has a rich music history.
Some of music’s most influential artists are from Detroit’s Motown Records, such as Diana Ross, The Temptations, Smoky Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and The Jackson 5.
The Motown Museum, aka Hitsville U.S.A., is the best place to learn about and experience this Motown legacy.
The Upper Peninsula has the state’s largest inland lake.
The largest inland lake in Michigan, Lake Gogebic, resides in the Upper Peninsula. Tucked away in the Ottawa National Forest, it covers 13,380 acres, is 14 miles long, and is 2.5 miles wide.
Michigan is a wonderful winter wonderland.
When it snows, which it does for nearly half the year, Michigan has more than 4,000 miles of snowmobile trails. The state ranks first in the nation for the sheer number of registered snowmobiles.
There are tons more activities to experience during the winter in Michigan too.
Belle Isle is the nation’s largest island park.
One Michigan outdoors store gets more than 6 million visitors per year.
Dundee, a small town near the Ohio border, is home to the state’s largest Cabela’s store, which claims to have more than 6 million visitors per year. The store covers 225,000 square feet and features iconic, inviting indoor decor.
Michigan has the nation’s largest state forest system.
Michigan’s state forest system covers more than 52% of the state at 18.5 million acres. With more than 200 miles to hike or ride between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron on the Shore-to-Shore Trail and more than 1,300 miles of bike trails, you can get lost in the immense beauty of our lush forests.
Mackinac Island has been the star of a movie.
Mackinac Island’s claim to fame came in 1979 when parts of the island, including the Grand Hotel, were used to film “Somewhere in Time.” This fantasy-romance film starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour is still celebrated on the island at an annual convention for fans.
Michigan has a mysterious Lake Michigan Triangle.
Similar to the Bermuda Triangle, there is a mysterious Lake Michigan Triangle. It is the site of many ship and plane disappearances over this Great Lake.
The Upper Peninsula is home to the largest man-made ski slide in the United States.
Pine Mountain Ski Jump was built in the early 1930s and holds the North American distance record of 459 feet or 140 meters.
You can find moose in Michigan.
One of the nation’s most unique and most isolated parks can be found off of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Lake Superior. Isle Royale National Park has one of the biggest moose populations in the nation.
The Mackinac Bridge is long and connects two peninsulas.
The Mighty Mac is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It spans 5 miles over the Straits of Mackinac, connecting the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. It took three years to complete and was opened to traffic in 1957.
You can visit all 5 Great Lakes in your car.
You can take a 6,500-mile drive to visit all five of our Great Lakes. It is called the Circle Tour, and it is a scenic drive through eight states to thoroughly explore all five of our beautiful freshwater lakes.
Important Facts About Michigan Agriculture
As you’re enjoying backyard barbecues in the summer, do you consider where the cherries in your cherry pie were grown? Or, perhaps, where the beef in your burger came from? It’s likely that a large portion of the food stacked on your plate was grown or raised in the Mitten.
Michigan is the top producer in the nation of many crops.
Michigan takes pride in the diverse array of crops that its farmers grow each year. Believe it or not, the state leads the nation in the production of squash, asparagus, cucumbers, tart cherries, Niagara grapes, and black and cranberry beans.
As of 2020, Michigan leads the nation in pounds of milk produced per dairy cow.
Each Michigan dairy cow produces 26,875 pounds of milk per year. The state is among the nation’s leaders in milk production with 11.56 billion pounds of milk produced in 2020.
Michigan is the third-largest harvester of Christmas trees.
It’s not hard for Michiganders to get into the Christmas spirit. Around Christmastime, many Michiganders make their annual trek to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. And we even have a town named Christmas!
We love Christmas trees as well.
Christmas trees are estimated to be a $40 billion-a-year industry in the state with up to 2 million trees harvested in the state each year. For every Christmas tree that’s harvested, Christmas tree farmers around the state plant three new trees.
Michigan is among the top 10 producers of potatoes nationwide.
Idaho may be known as the nation’s Potato State, but Michigan ranks eighth in total potato production. The production of potatoes spans 47,000 acres and contributes more than $1 billion to Michigan’s economy.
95% of Michigan farms are single-family operated and/or family partnerships.
However, 99% of these farms involve multiple family members and generations. Compared to 50 years ago, there are larger family-owned farms rather than smaller family-owned farms.
Michigan’s lakes act as a double-edged sword for growing.
Because of our lakes, we have a more humid climate, which makes our plants more susceptible to getting diseases. In turn, crops are more difficult to grow organically. This creates additional “disease pressure” for farmers, who have to spend more on chemicals to cure the plants.
Michigan has one of the longest seasons of fresh local produce available in the country.
With a growing cycle that generally lasts from May through December, there’s always some sort of fresh produce being grown or harvested.
Michigan has nearly 10 million acres of farmland.
80% of Michigan’s farmland is in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula where the soil and climate are favorable. Most of Michigan’s fruit production takes place in the counties that border Lake Michigan. On the nearly 10 million acres of farmland across the state, there are nearly 50,000 farms.
Unique Facts About Michigan’s State Symbols
Michigan has plenty of state symbols to represent all aspects of life in the Mitten State. Did you know that the state book is “The Legend of Sleeping Bear“? Or, that Michigan recognizes a state fossil — the mastodon?
Michigan’s state animal is the white-tailed deer.
In 1997, a group of fourth-graders from Zeeland Michigan campaigned for the state to recognize the white-tail deer among the state symbols. It is now recognized as the Michigan State Game Mammal.
Found in all of Michigan’s 83 counties, the white-tailed deer can run up to 40 mph and swim up to 13 mph. This beautiful powerhouse was a huge source of food and buckskin for Native Americans and early Michigan settlers.
Michigan’s state fossil is the mastodon.
A geology professor at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, David P. Thomas, began the campaign to get this giant mammoth look-alike as our state fossil in 2000.
Throughout his campaign, Thomas worked to get the support of many teachers and students while also holding petition drives and going to local Rock Club meetings.
The mastodon disappeared from North America around 10,000 years ago with an almost complete skeleton being found near Owosso Michigan. The most intact trail of footprints was uncovered near Ann Arbor, but remains have been found in over 250 locations all over the state!
Finally, in 2002, Thomas’s work paid off, and the giant mastodon became the official state fossil.
Michigan’s state soil is Kalkaska sand.
Kalkaska was first identified as a soil type in 1927 in Kalkaska County, and its colors range from black to dark yellow. Michigan designated it as the official soil in 1990 because it’s used to raise specialty crops, like potatoes and strawberries, Christmas trees, and certain types of timber.
The soil can be found in both peninsulas and was formed in sandy deposits left by glaciers. Kalkaska covers nearly a million acres of land in the state!
Michigan’s state reptile is the painted turtle.
Of all the “unknown” state symbols, this one is a little on the fence. The creation of Mackinac Island is attributed to the painted turtle in some Native American legends.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, the legend tells of a wise old painted turtle, Makinauk, that tells all the other animals that he has been told to create a new land. Each animal helps him by placing a handful of Lake Huron’s soil onto his back to create the beautiful island.
A group of fifth-graders from the city of Niles discovered that Michigan did not have a state reptile, so they started to work on getting the environmentally important painted turtle among the identified symbols.
Officially recognized as the Michigan state reptile in 1995, the painted turtle has yellow and red markings and is the only turtle still commonly found throughout the state.
Michigan’s state wildflower is the dwarf lake iris.
Did you know that Michigan doesn’t just have one state flower? The dwarf lake iris became the official state wildflower in 1998.
This rare Michigan wildflower thrives in low, wet spots, so it’s only found along the coastlines of northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, as well as a few other isolated areas. Classified as endangered, it only blooms for about one week a year!
Michigan’s state children’s book is “The Legend of Sleeping Bear”.
The book is based on a Native American legend about a mother bear and her two cubs fleeing a fire along the Wisconsin shoreline. They swim for many hours across Lake Michigan, and while the mother bear reaches the shore, her cubs do not.
The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to represent the lost cubs — South Manitou Island and North Manitou Island. Then, the spirit created a single dune to represent the mother bear, which is the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Northern Michigan.
In 1998, Michigan declared “The Legend of Sleeping Bear” the official state book.
Michigan’s (unofficial) state beverage is Vernors.
Michigan has yet to adopt any state beverage, but most Michiganders will attest that it’s Vernors. Created by pharmacist James Vernor in Detroit, Vernors is a highly carbonated ginger-ale pop and was sold exclusively in Detroit for several years after its creation.
This pop is found in abundance in Michigan and neighboring states. If you live outside of this area, though, you may not even know that Vernors exists. But, any good Michigander knows that it pairs perfectly with vanilla ice cream and will cure any sickness.
Awesome Michigan Sports Facts
With four professional sports teams in Detroit and numerous Division 1 college teams around the state, Michiganders have no shortage of options when it comes to sports. In fact, some Michigan teams are among the oldest and most beloved in the nation.
The University of Michigan has the winningest program in college football.
The Michigan Wolverines are one of the most well-known and historic teams in college football. They are also the winningest program in college football with 989 wins to their credit.
The Detroit Tigers is the oldest team in the American League with the same name and home city.
Since its affiliation with the American League began in 1901, the Tigers have always been known as the Tigers. The team has always played in Detroit too, though the name of the stadium and the venue has changed through the years.
Detroit is one of 4 United States cities to have all its pro teams play within the city limits.
With Little Caesars Arena, Ford Field, and Comerica Park all situated close together, Michiganders don’t have to travel far in downtown Detroit to see their favorite teams.
Having all the pro teams close together makes Detroit one of just four cities in the nation to have all of its teams play within the city limits of the towns that they’re named after.
Detroit has tried to host the Olympics many times.
Detroit has put in bids to host the Summer Olympic Games more than any city that hasn’t had a chance to host. It bid on hosting the Olympics in 1944, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1972.
Michigan college hockey teams have won a combined 19 national titles.
Detroit may be known as Hockeytown, but Michigan is a hockey-crazed state with many talented college hockey teams. Michigan, Michigan State, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, and Michigan Tech all have at least one title to their credit.
The University of Michigan has nine championships to its credit, and in the 1990s, a team from Michigan won the national title five times.
Get Out & Explore Michigan Today
No matter where you travel in Michigan, from small towns to big cities, you’ll find places seeping in rich history and uniqueness. There’s a lot to love about the Mitten State, and there’s never been a better time to get out and explore.
Whether you indulge in a slice of Michigan pizza paired with a cold glass of Vernors, cross the Mighty Mac to explore the Upper Peninsula, or discover some of Michigan’s state symbols for yourself, you’ll have a great time exploring and learning more about our great state!