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9 Best Summer Day Trips in Southcentral Michigan

Summer is here, and we’re ready to explore our big Michigan backyard! Whether you live in southcentral Michigan or you’re just visiting, there are numerous day trips Michigan offers in this area, and we’ve made a list of our favorite summer day trips in this region!

See the Bright Walls Murals in Downtown Jackson

Jackson, Michigan is a great location in Michigan and a hidden gem in its own right. While it may not have been on your summer must-visit list before, you’ll definitely want to check it out after you learn about the Bright Walls Murals located in downtown Jackson. 

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screenshot of Bright Walls location tag on Instagram

The Bright Walls Murals Festival is an international event attracting artists from all over the world to Jackson, MI that began in 2018 with 15 murals, including two from Jackson-born artists. Today, there are 40 murals located in downtown Jackson representing stories, local community figures, and more. The murals are painted in many different styles and showcase creativity, color, and a deep love for the area.

Make a list of your favorite murals to find when you flip through photos tagged on the Bright Walls Instagram location, and add a day trip to Bright Walls Jackson to your summer bucket list!

Spend a Day on the Falling Waters Trail

In Jackson County, MI, the Falling Waters Trail is a 12-foot-wide, 10.5-mile-long paved pathway that connects the City of Jackson and Village of Concord. The trail is an important community link that was built on an abandoned section of the Michigan Central Railroad. 

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photo via @taramartinez14

Opened in 2007 and dedicated as a Jackson County Park, it passes through marshes, lakes, natural springs, and parks — all of which offer great recreation opportunities.

Bring your bike (or rent one), and enjoy a leisurely ride through nature on the Falling Waters Trail in Jackson County!

P.S. If you’ll be in Jackson the third weekend in July, be sure to check out the Jackson Hot Air Jubilee!

Make Chocolate at Mindo Chocolate Makers in Dexter

In Dexter, Michigan, Mindo Chocolate Makers makes some of the most delicious chocolate. Mindo was one of the first small-batch chocolate makers in the United States and the difference in flavor, texture, and experience is undeniable.

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And how could the chocolate not be different – it is one of the few chocolate makers in the world that owns and controls the cocoa from the country of origin.

This summer, you can get up close & personal with the chocolate-making process at Mindo Chocolate Makers when you plan a summer day trip in Chelsea, Dexter, or Ann Arbor!

Get Back to Nature at Howell Nature Center

Just minutes away from charming downtown Howell is a 230-acre nature center that combines the need for wildlife rehabilitation in the area with the experience of outdoor education.

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photo courtesy of

The Howell Nature Center has been operating in Livingston County for more than 55 years, and today, it has become one of the top attractions in the local area. 

The Wild Wonders Wildlife Park is located within the Howell Nature Center, and this attraction consists of a half-mile trail where visitors can check out animal exhibits.

Experience this hidden gem in Michigan this summer when you plan a day trip to Howell!

Spend a Day at Hayes State Park in Irish Hills

If you are looking for a fun place to visit in Michigan this summer, consider the Irish Hills. Here you will find Hayes State Park, which is located on the southern shore of Wamplers Lake in the heart of the Irish Hills – an area in southcentral Michigan known for its 52 inland lakes and rolling hills.

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photo courtesy of @downriverdude

Hayes State Park spreads across 78 acres and offers trails, camping, a swimming area, and two places to launch your boat. During the summer months (from Memorial Day to Labor Day), seasonal naturalists offer weekly nature-based programming for all ages as part of the State Park Explorer Program through Michigan State Parks.

Whether you’re looking for a day trip in Michigan or want to extend your state at the park’s campground, be sure to add Hayes State Park to your summer bucket list!

Explore the Cement-Shaped Bridges of McCourtie Park

When it comes to beautiful parks, Michigan is anything but lacking. However, if you are looking for a park that offers both history and a mysterious charm, McCourtie Park in Hillsdale County is a perfect choice. 

Mccourtiepark Chrisbdom
photo courtesy of @chrisbdom

This wonderful park has a great story, and visitors can peruse the grounds where grand parties were once held. Many people state that the landscape of this park is something that you would read about in a fairytale. 

Experience this one-of-a-kind hidden gem in Michigan for yourself this summer when you plan a day trip to explore McCourtie Park near Jackson, MI!

Explore Historic Bridge Park in Battle Creek

Formerly called County Park, Historic Bridge Park in Battle Creek, MI, doubles as a park and open-air museum. It’s the first of its kind in the United States as the restored truss bridges connect a series of trails throughout the park.

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photo courtesy of @illswallowyoursoul

At more than 26 acres, Historic Bridge Park rests along Dickinson Creek and the Kalamazoo River, and you can see it from Interstate 94 as the highway passes over the river. It’s where five metal truss bridges — that are insufficient for their original purpose — were moved to and meticulously preserved for their beauty and historic value.

Whether you stop to stretch your legs as you drive along I-94 or you make Battle Creek your day trip destination, don’t miss exploring the hidden gem of Historic Bridge Park this summer!

Explore the Lansing River Trail

Looking for a fun summer thing to do in Lansing Michigan? We recommend adding a visit to the Lansing River Trail to your summer bucket list in Michigan. This trail not only showcases some beautiful scenery along the Red Cedar River in Ingham County, but it is also close to many additional things to do in Lansing.

7 Trails On Our Bicycling Bucket List - The Awesome Mitten
photo courtesy of

The heart of the Lansing River Trail is in the Crego Park area, along the Red Cedar River. The trail stretches east to the Michigan State University campus, north to the Old Town area, and south around Hawk Island Park to South Waverly Road. This all adds up to over 16 miles of paved trail to enjoy.

Plan a stroll, jog, or bike ride along the beautiful Lansing River Trail through our State Capitol this summer!

Hike and Climb “The Ledges” at Oak Park

Situated about 10 miles west of Lansing and along the Grand River, Grand Ledge is a picturesque city. Its name came from the river, which is the longest in Michigan, and it’s most well known for the sandstone ledges that rest along the riverbank. The best place to hike and climb “The Ledges” is in Oak Park at 700 W Front Street in Grand Ledge.

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photo courtesy of @allnatural.adventures

Plenty of wildlife roam the wooded area, making it perfect for nature lovers. Also, rock climbers are attracted to the park because it’s one of the few places in the Lower Peninsula to climb a rock face. They have identified, named, and graded up to 80 climbing routes.

Whether you’re a seasoned climber or are just wanting to see this natural wonder in Michigan, don’t miss adding The Ledges at Oak Park to your summer bucket list ideas for day trips in Michigan!

More to Explore This Summer in Michigan

Explore more can’t-miss summer day trips in Michigan and discover other hidden gems in Michigan on our 2021 #MIAwesomeList – the ULTIMATE Michigan summer bucket list!

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