There are so many wonderful things to do and see in Michigan, especially when it comes to the great outdoors. But, the state is also home to many historic sites, many of which shaped the region as we know it today.
If you want to explore the state’s history through art, culture, architecture, and more, you won’t want to miss these top historical places in Michigan.
Quincy Mine is technically a series of historic mines just outside the town of Hancock. A relic of the explosive copper industry that swept Michigan throughout the 19th century, these mines were in operation between 1845 and 1945.
Tours are available throughout the year, offering visitors the chance to learn about the unique geological forms and the history of the area. Also, you can tour the historic smelter on the waterfront.
Canyon Falls Bridge
Canyon Falls Bridge in the small L’Anse Township might seem like a minor attraction among all the things that Michigan has to offer. But, lovers of architecture and history will enjoy seeing this historic bridge, marked for its unique steel design.
The bridge crosses the Sturgeon River in the Upper Peninsula and was completed in 1948. Since then, it has remained unchanged, offering visitors a view of its old-world architecture and design.
Fayette Historic State Park
Fayette Historic State Park is a park and historic village that was once one of Michigan’s biggest iron ore producers, particularly in the production of charcoal pig iron. This period stretched between the 1860s and the 1890s.
After being purchased by the state in the 1950s, Fayette became a site of living history where visitors can learn about the town as it was in the 19th century and stay in the adjacent campgrounds by the lake.
Sault Ste. Marie
The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie is a pair of locks that make shipping possible throughout the Great Lakes. Constructed in 1855, they have been an important part of Michigan’s shipping and maritime histories.
Today, the opening of the Soo Locks is still an annual event, taking place in March and signaling the start of the year’s shipping season. It might seem strange, but Michiganders know how to make anything a festival.
Mackinac Island is, undoubtedly, one of the most popular spots in the Great Lakes. Located on Lake Huron, this unique spot has been a tourist attraction since the 19th century.
Cars are prohibited here, so you’ll see people walking, using bikes, or even riding in horse-drawn carriages. The island is home to many resorts and countless things to do, including sightseeing, enjoying the beach, and more.
Among the many attractions on Mackinac Island, one that you can’t miss is the iconic Grand Hotel. This historic resort has been a vacation home for generations since its construction in 1887.
Designed to offer a unique experience in every room, the hotel has hosted notable people, such as John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain.
Fort Mackinac is not only the oldest structure in Michigan but also one that is full of history. Built in 1780, it was a point of interest in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812, during which time it passed between American and British ownership several times.
Today, the fort’s 18 buildings are a place to learn about the fort’s occupation and, later, its role in the fur trade.
Fort Michilimackinac was constructed in 1715 and played a role in the American Revolution and the fur trade of the late 18th century. It has taken more than 60 years to excavate this historic fort, and explorations are still ongoing.
Today, Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City is a place for historic reenactments and educational tours. The fort hosts events throughout the year where visitors can step back in time to learn about its complex history.
Stafford’s Perry Hotel
Stafford’s Perry Hotel has been an icon of Petoskey Michigan for well over a century. Built in 1899, what was once known as the Perry House has become a renowned vacation destination for people all over the world.
This 75-room hotel overlooks Little Traverse Bay, offering some of the most beautiful views in the area (including the famous bay sunset). Today, it includes the cozy Noggin Pub and Rose Garden Veranda Grille.
The town of Leland Michigan has become so irrevocably entwined with the fishing industry that it has earned the affectionate nickname Fishtown. This historic town, constructed in the mid-19th century, has become a charming lakeside tourist destination.
It is the perfect spot to stroll along the boardwalk in view of the famous nearby waterfall, as well as browse through the small shops or enjoy a delicious lunch while admiring the sights.
The Alpena Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse overlooking Lake Huron from Alpena Michigan. Earlier versions date back to the late 19th century, though the current structure was built in 1914.
Today, it is a historical site dedicated to the history of the region and the influence of the timber industry throughout the Great Lakes. It is considered one of the most iconic sites in Alpena.
Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse
Thunder Bay Island
Michigan certainly loves its lighthouses, but these remain popular tourist attractions for good reason. They are not only a beloved part of the Great Lakes scenery but also played a vital role in the history of shipping in the area.
The Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse is located on the shore of Lake Huron and is one of the oldest lighthouses in Michigan. Originally constructed in 1832, it remains in operation to this day.
Benzie County Courthouse
Lovers of old architecture will want to take a trip to the Benzie County Courthouse in Beulah Michigan. This building, constructed in 1912 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, has a long and storied history in the town.
It was first a hotel before becoming the county courthouse and jail from 1916 to 1975. Today, the building is a state historic site and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The SS Badger is the famous ferry crossing Lake Michigan. Its claim to fame is its status as the last coal-powered steam engine in use in the United States. It ran throughout the 1950s before being reopened in 1992 as a tourist attraction.
Today, the SS Badger provides amazing tours around Lake Michigan from Ludington Michigan with on-deck presentations about the history and influence of the ferry on the Great Lakes region.
Big Sable Point Light Station
The Big Sable Point Light Station is an iconic black-and-white striped lighthouse standing on the shore of Lake Michigan in Ludington State Park. Constructed in 1867, this lighthouse has housed many families and guided many ships across the lake over the decades.
Today, it is a historic site dedicated to preserving the history of the light station and the people who served there faithfully.
Shrine of The Pines Furniture Museum
Whether you’re interested in woodwork or just love all things historical, the Shrine of The Pines Furniture Museum in Baldwin Michigan is worth a visit. This unique museum is the lifelong labor of craftsman Raymond Overholzer.
Overholzer crafted the furniture between the 1920s and the 1950s from white pine logs abandoned by the logging industry. This includes beds, tables, game racks, and an astonishing 700-pound dining table crafted from a single root.
Charles Mears Silver Lake Boarding House
The Charles Mears Silver Lake Boarding House is a historical hotel on the edge of Silver Lake in Mears Michigan. First built in 1866, it served the workers in the lumber industry at the time.
When the industry slowed, it continued to operate as a public boardinghouse. This historic property remains a fascinating place to visit, with many of the original fixtures still in place.
Hardy Dam Pond
Big Prairie Township
The Hardy Dam is located on the Muskegon River, where it was built in the 1930s for power generation. The resulting reservoir has become a popular spot for camping, swimming, fishing, and other outdoor recreation.
Additionally, there is a 3-mile nature trail following the shoreline. The area is home to many animals and fish, including walleye, salmon, bass, rainbow trout, and much more.
Meyer May House
Few architects are more famous in the modern age than Frank Lloyd Wright. The Meyer May House in Grand Rapids is one of Wright’s masterpieces and was built in 1909.
It is considered an excellent example of Wright’s Prairie House era. The house was restored in the 1980s and opened to the public. Since then, it has been a popular tourist attraction for lovers of design, architecture, and history.
Norton Mound Group
The Norton Mound Group, located in the town of Wyoming Michigan, is one of the most fascinating historic sites in the state. Discovered in the 1870s, these mounds are a network of indigenous burial sites dating back to the First Century C.E.
Today, the mounds are maintained by the Grand Rapids Public Museum, where visitors can learn about the Hopewellian culture that built them.
Michigan State Capitol
Standing tall in Lansing Michigan, the state capitol building isn’t just an administrative building. It’s also an important piece of history. Completed in 1878, the building features an intricate design that is worth a visit for its own sake.
Tours offer the chance to see the two marble staircases, the inner rotunda, and the famous long-drop clock. The grounds feature several historic trees, one of which is the oldest of its kind in Michigan.
Alden B. Dow Home & Studio
Alden B. Dow was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century in America. Today, his historic home — which he built himself in 1936 — has become a tourist attraction where visitors can learn about his life, vision, and career.
Tours include visits to Dow’s personal rooms as well as his Midland Michigan studio and garden. The house is known for its distinctive architecture, showing some of Dow’s earliest innovations.
Fort St. Joseph
Fort St. Joseph is one of the oldest sites of European construction in Michigan. Built in the 1680s as a French Jesuit mission, it played a vital role in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War before being lost to history.
In 1998, it was rediscovered, and a huge archeological excavation began. Today, the fort is a site of historical reenactments and education about the artifacts found there.
Tibbits Opera House
The stunning Tibbits Opera House is located in Coldwater Michigan. Built in 1882, this French Second Empire-style building remains in operation to this day.
The interior was remodeled in the 1930s and the 1960s, providing decor styles of each of these unique periods. The opera house is a 500-seat auditorium that hosts plays and concerts throughout the year, so you’ll definitely want to visit it.
Kerrytown Concert House
When you come upon Kerrytown Concert House, it won’t strike you as a concert venue. In fact, this early 19th-century property in Ann Arbor was once a family home.
Historians aren’t sure of the exact year it was built but estimate it to be before 1860. Today, the stunning old home is a place to enjoy concerts from some of the most accomplished musicians from Michigan and beyond.
Cranbrook House & Gardens
Cranbrook House & Gardens is a historic estate built in 1908. Once a family home, it has become a celebrated part of the Cranbrook Educational Community. The 319 acres also feature art and architecture from some of Michigan’s most celebrated designers.
There is something for everyone on this property, whether you are interested in history, historical architecture, flowers and agriculture, or art.
Meadow Brook Hall
Meadow Brook Hall is located in Rochester Hills Michigan. Built in the 1920s, this historic property was once the private estate of the Dodge family.
Today, Meadow Brook Hall is a hotel and event space, featuring 110 rooms and stunning grounds. Both the interior and the exterior have some of the most stunning Tudor-style architecture and design, making it a popular tourist destination for more reasons than one.
The Fox Theatre is an icon of Detroit, having been a part of the historic downtown since 1928. First built as a groundbreaking movie theater, this 5,000-seat auditorium is now used for stage performances.
In addition to its artistic offerings, the theatre continues to attract interest because of its unique and beautiful architecture and design, which uses a number of Asian styles — some of which can be seen across the city at night.
Music fans will want to take a trip to Detroit to visit the Motown Museum, the small building that birthed the Motown label in the mid-20th century. Opened in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards — sister of the great Berry Gordy — the museum occupies the site that was both the recording studio and the Gordy family home.
Today, it is a Mecca for Motown fans who want to learn about the influence of this musical style on the world.
The Fisher Building in Detroit isn’t just any old building. Long called “Detroit’s largest art project”, this stunning piece of architecture is the work of legendary architect Albert Kahn and many other master craftsmen.
Since its construction in 1928, the Fisher Building has become an iconic part of the Detroit skyline. Its stunning interior is worth a visit, featuring marble facades, intricate mosaics, and a beautiful display of the Art Deco style of the 1920s.
Belle Isle is located on the Detroit River. This nearly 1,000-acre island is a state park with some of the most unique and interesting conservancy attractions in Michigan, including the Belle Isle Aquarium, Conservatory, and Nature Center, as well as the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.
Though these are the main attractions, they are far from the only ones. Belle Isle is home to many things to do.
Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum
Detroit is synonymous with the history of the automobile industry, and the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum was once a production facility for Ford Motors. The factory was built in 1904 and was the site of the design and manufacture of the Model T.
Today, the Ford Piquette is a museum dedicated to the history of car manufacturing with a focus on Model Ts. Visitors can learn about the design and production of the car and even see some early models.
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
Detroit’s automotive history continues at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation — the ultimate destination for learning about this history. But, it’s about much more than the cars. In fact, the museum grew from Ford’s personal collection of historical items.
Today, it houses Lincoln’s chair from the Ford Theatre, Washington’s camp bed, the bus where Rosa Parks refused to move, and much more.
Ford Rouge Complex
The Ford Rouge Complex in Dearborn Michigan is one of Henry Ford’s largest production facilities. Built in 1917, the complex originally manufactured boats for use in WWI before switching to farm equipment and eventually automobiles.
Though it remains in operation, the Ford Rouge is also a place of history. Many visitors come every year to enjoy tours and learn about the role that the Rouge played in the car industry that we know today.
River Raisin National Battlefield Park
The River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe Michigan commemorates the Battle of Frenchtown during the War of 1812. The park, now a state park and designated historic site, was the site of the battle and the following River Raisin Massacre, one of the deadliest conflicts during that war.
Visitors are welcome to tour the park and learn about the conflict from the surrounding educational markers.
Learn About The Mitten at These Historical Places in Michigan
Michigan’s history is long and complex, covering everything from trade to warfare, architecture, art, theater, and more. There is something for every interest in the state, particularly along the Great Lakes.
But no matter where you are visiting, there are likely amazing nearby historic places to see in Michigan.