If you’re looking to make the most of your summer in Michigan, here are the best summer things to do in Michigan and the unique sights you absolutely need to experience to enjoy the very best of the Mitten State during the hot summer months.
Get inspired and start building your own Michigan Summer Bucket List…
Take a Summer Family Vacation in Michigan
One of the best parts about living in Michigan is that we have so many great options for family vacations – you can cross the bridge and experience the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, you can pack your sunscreen and spend time on the shores of Lake Michigan, or you can get the best of both experiences when you plan a summer family vacation on Michigan’s Thumbcoast.
Michigan’s Thumbcoast, which stretches 140 miles along Lake Huron’s shorelines, features outdoor recreational opportunities for everyone in your family. Furthermore, the area’s beach towns are brimming with indoor activities that will allow you and your children to develop your creative sides on a wet summer day.
The Thumbcoast is the ideal destination to check off your summer bucket list if you want to hike the trail systems, view the northern lights, go to a theater, climb a lighthouse, learn something new at a museum, or do all of the above.
Explore Michigan State Parks
With two peninsulas and shorelines on four Great Lakes, there’s much to see by visiting any of Michigan’s 101 state parks, from immaculate beaches to forests to historic sites. Some of the best state parks in Michigan include:
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on the western side of the Upper Peninsula is the largest of Michigan’s state parks. Forests cover half of this park on Lake Superior, and it’s speckled with more than 90 miles of hiking trails and rivers, creating opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and much more.
Hartwick Pines State Park is one of the biggest state parks in the Lower Peninsula and sits about 200 miles northwest of Detroit. It’s lush with white pines, and miles of trails and two lakes provide plenty of excitement for hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Palms Book State Park near Manistique in the Upper Peninsula is one of Michigan’s most beautiful sites. It’s home to Kitch-iti-kipi, also known as the Mirror of Heaven. Visitors can ride a short distance to this crystal-clear spring and marvel at its beauty.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline has rolling dunes that roll more than 200 feet over Lake Michigan. The park has 13 miles of hiking trails and 2.5 miles of shoreline too.
Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan has plenty to offer — dunes, forests, lakeshore, and even a lighthouse. There are numerous places to camp and lots of chances to have fun outdoors.
Play Disc Golf
No matter your level of expertise, disc golf is an absolute blast. Disc golf courses are all laid out in unique ways, and playing them is a great way to see the best of Michigan. Some fantastic places to play include:
Hickory Hills in Traverse City is an 18-hole course that’s tucked into the woods. It offers great views, including one of West Grand Traverse Bay.
The Silver Creek Disc Golf Park in Harvey in the Upper Peninsula is considered one of the state’s most technical and challenging. It sits almost entirely within the woods of Chocolay Park and is a must-play course for any disc golfer.
The Tailings in Iron River provides a little bit of everything — paved trails, campgrounds, and views of Iron County — all while playing a course that sits atop a former mining area.
Earle Brewer Park in Grand Rapids is one of several courses in the city and has 36 holes on its course. The south course is a challenge for more advanced players, but it sits among some fantastic scenery in West Michigan.
Chippewa Banks Disc Golf Course in Midland is compact but beautiful. It provides a scenic view of the Chippewa River and plenty of on its 18 holes.
Related: Play Disc Golf at Hanson Hills
Enjoy Nature Near Michigan’s Big Cities
If you live in or near one of Michigan’s big cities, you might be surprised to discover the many unique ways to get out and enjoy nature nearby!
Take for example Flint Michigan. Known for its contributions to the auto industry, most people don’t know that Flint and Genesee County are full of amazing opportunities to hike, bike, kayak, and explore nature.
Some of our favorite Greater Flint summer outdoor things to do include:
- For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum
- Chevy Commons State Park
- Kayaking the Flint Watershed
- Genesee County Hiking Trails
- Applewood Estate
Attend a Hot Air Balloon Festival
Night glows, launches, and balloons of all shapes and sizes are part of hot air balloon festivals in Michigan. These events are the perfect spots for family-friendly fun. Be sure to check out these festivals this summer:
The Michigan Challenge Ballonfest in Howell opens with a carnival and features a massive balloon launch, balloon glow, fly-in competition, and much more.
The Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival in July features plenty of hot air balloons, carnival games, military demonstrations, and more. There’s also a pit stop on the first day, a competition that tests crews’ skills at balloon deflating and packing.
The Jackson Hot Air Jubilee combines hot air balloons and family fun. This three-day festival sees many sports and special-shaped balloons participate, and there are plenty of other activities on site.
Visit Beaver Island
Lake Michigan’s largest island, Beaver Island is a place you absolutely must visit this summer. There’s something for everyone to see and do.
You can tour the island on a bike, or ferry your car over and go for a scenic drive. On top of that, you can visit some truly unique museums, go for a stroll on the beach, or take in the breathtaking views you won’t see anywhere else.
Escape to a Nature-Lovers Paradise
Just a few hours outside the Metro Detroit hub are the quieter shores of Lake Huron along Michigan’s Thumbcoast – the perfect place to escape the frantic pace of the big city and slow down with your best friend as you enjoy a nature-lovers paradise.
Michigan’s Thumbcoast features 140 miles of coastline with several beaches, parks, and trails of all types to explore. The Blue Water region is the place to go during the summer if you enjoy hiking, bicycling, paddle boating, motorboating, fishing, swimming, or all of the above.
Climb Sleeping Bear Dunes
If you’re looking for the ultimate Pure Michigan experience, head to Glen Arbor and get ready to experience one of the best summer things to do in Michigan!
Climbing the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore can be strenuous, and there’s likely plenty of wind-blown sand in your face. But, the payoff is well worth it!
You’ll get a great view of Lake Michigan and feel a sense of accomplishment. Not to mention, you’ll have a smile on your face as you run back down. If you’re really feeling up for a journey, climb the dunes and then hike part or all of the 27-mile Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.
Go Sailing & Boating in Michigan
Being surrounded by the Great Lakes, you can’t help but have some fun on the water. One of the best ways to do that is to go sailing & boating. Here are some fun spots to sail to in the Great Lakes State:
Les Cheneaux Islands — This is actually a chain of 36 islands in the waters of Lake Huron. The calm waters make it a great place to sail to, and there are some great events here — an antique boat show every August fills the nearby waters with a spectrum of color.
Lake St. Clair — This is a popular spot for pleasure boaters, fishermen, and sailors alike. On your travels, you’re likely to see numerous freighters and other sailboaters enjoying a day on the water.
Big Manistique Lake — This 10,130-acre lake in Curtis Michigan connects numerous rivers and streams, making it a great spot for sailing. The lake is stocked if you want to try fishing, and there are several festivals during the year at the lake.
Grand Lake — Located near Alpena, this lake is 7 miles long and contains several islands. It’s a great trip if you want to just relax, enjoy good company, and get some great photos on the water.
Lake Leelanau — If you’re near Traverse City, this is a great lake to sail on. It’s ideal for spotting wildlife and chilling on the water. Plus, you’re close to all that Traverse City has to offer.
Visit Cascade Falls
The Upper Peninsula is filled with plenty of breathtaking waterfalls that really showcase the wonders of nature in Michigan. If you’re on the western side, Cascade Falls near Ontonagon is a must-see on your journey.
A trail to the falls offers fantastic views and plenty of chances to take nature photos. If you enjoy the gentle sounds of water running over rocks, Cascade Falls is worth stopping to see.
If you’re in the Lower Peninsula, though, check out the bustling scene at Cascade Falls in Jackson Michigan. Within Sparks Foundation County Park — also known as Cascade Park — the 64-foot falls are a manmade beauty that opened in 1932 with 25,000 people in attendance.
Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, there’s more to Cascade Falls than the water. Of the 16 falls, 11 are illuminated with 1,230 lights, and the six fountains are choreographed, offering spectacular performances daily.
Experience Summer Events in Michigan
Summertime is the best time of year to get out and rub shoulders with your friends, family, neighbors, and complete strangers – and summer festivals and events provide the perfect opportunity to do so!
Nothing says summer like the Michigan summer events and festivals that celebrate all facets of life. And Genesee County is an awesome community full of unique summer events and festivals in Flint and beyond to attend that are worthy of adding to your 2022 Michigan summer bucket list.
Take a Drive Along US-12 Heritage Trail
One of the best summer activities is a road trip, and a drive along the US-12 Heritage Trail will give you a road trip to remember. Along the way, you’ll see monuments, innovations, wineries, and even some beaches.
Start your journey in Detroit, where there’s no shortage of space to explore.
- Travel along Woodward Ave or spend time at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
- Continue to Belle Isle State Park, where you’ll find a conservatory, nature zoo, and much more.
- Stop at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, or head to Dearborn to the Henry Ford Museum.
As you head further west and south, you’ll pass scenic hiking trails, the quaint towns of Lenawee County, historic sites in Hillsdale County, and, eventually, the South Chain of Lakes outside Coldwater. If you keep going, you’ll end up in St. Joseph on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Bottom Line: There’s plenty to experience on the trail, so take time to soak it all in.
Visit Graffiti Alley in Ann Arbor
If you love art, especially graffiti, you don’t want to miss Graffiti Alley. Even if art isn’t interesting to you, you’re likely to see something that makes you stop and observe.
Located on East Liberty Street in Ann Arbor Michigan, you’ll see dozens of places where artists have left their mark. It’s teeming with color, and creativity, and is the perfect spot to grab some photos for Instagram or to snap some selfies.
It’s free to visit Graffiti Alley, and what’s better than that? If you’re an artist, you may see something that inspires you and offers you a different perspective, even if it’s a small section.
Spend a Day at the Detroit Zoo
As zoos go, the Detroit Zoo is a mecca in the Mitten State. There’s no better way to spend a day, and a visit to the Detroit Zoo offers fun for the whole family. Whatever your favorite animal is, there’s a good chance that the Detroit Zoo has it.
You can take the zoo’s train to the farthest points of the zoo, and then take your time exploring as you work your way back to the entrance. The Penguin Conservation Center, the Arctic Ring of Life, and the African Grasslands are just a few of the most popular habitats at the zoo.
There’s nothing that will make your inner child come to life more than seeing all the wonderful animals. A day here is definitely a day well spent.
Stroll Down the Detroit RiverWalk
If you’re looking for waterfront fun and activity, few spots beat the Detroit RiverWalk. It spans more than 3 miles in the Motor City, and there’s plenty to do.
You can keep it simple and go for a walk or a bike ride, or take in some great views of both Detroit and Canada across the river. You can also splash in several fountains to cool off on hot days or take your kids to one of the splash parks located along the RiverWalk.
It’s also a great place to stretch your legs after catching a Tigers game at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit!
Explore Michigan Gardens
When springtime turns to summer and the weather gets even nicer, there’s no better place to spend a summer day than at one of Michigan’s botanical gardens and arboretums. They’re the perfect spots to see the work of master gardeners brighten landscapes with foliage and flowers. Some of the best gardens include:
Frederik Meijer Gardens — This Grand Rapids garden is one of the state’s most celebrated. There are three indoor conservatories and several outdoor themed gardens, including a Japanese garden.
Matthaei Gardens — Located on the campus of the University of Michigan, this garden is one of the state’s most diverse. Visitors can spend hours marveling at conservatory displays, hardwood forests, perennial gardens, and much more.
Beal Gardens — On Michigan State University’s campus is the nation’s oldest continuously operating botanical garden. It includes more than 5,000 plant species and rare and endangered plants.
Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park — On the western edge of Traverse City sits this 25-acre garden that showcases the best of plant life in Northwest Michigan.
Windmill Island Gardens — Travel to downtown Holland where the full bloom of the park’s 36 acres is a sight to behold — 100,000 tulips of different colors, summertime annuals and perennials, and so much more.
Go Kayaking on Michigan Rivers & Lakes
Kayaking and canoeing are some of the most relaxing activities you can do in Michigan when the weather is just right. Some of the best spots for kayaking in Michigan include:
Turnip Rock — This wonder sits off the shores of Lake Huron and is only accessible by kayak. You’re likely to find other kayakers around this limestone marvel, but it’s a great spot for pictures.
Lansing River — There’s plenty to see and do in Lansing, but traversing the Lansing River Trail offers a different way to enjoy the city and be at peace on the water.
Platte River — This slow-rolling river has shallow rapids that are perfect for beginners.
Huron River — This is the only County Scenic Natural River in Southeast Michigan, and it winds through five counties.
Onekama to Arcadia — This journey on Lake Michigan is peaceful and takes you past parts of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The Detroit Canals — This is a sort of hidden gem for kayaking, and there are lots of spots that connect to the Detroit River.
Watch Michigan Fireworks
Nothing screams summer more than a fireworks display, especially around the Fourth of July. Some of the best spots to watch fireworks in Michigan include:
Bay City — Grab a seat on a Saginaw Bay Beach, and let the show begin.
Beaver Island — Sitting on the beach by the Beaver Island Harbor Light, you’ll have a great view of many other fireworks displays, including those in Mackinaw City, Petoskey, St. Ignace, and Charlevoix.
Bois Blanc Island — Depending on where you are, you may be able to see displays in the distance from Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, and St. Ignace.
Lexington — Few spots are better for watching fireworks than at the tip of the stone pier in Lexington Harbor, located in Michigan’s thumb.
Mackinaw City — Once you find a spot on a sandy beach, marvel at the fireworks display with the Mackinac Bridge as your backdrop. You have a good chance to see other displays in the distance too.
Au Gres — On the Lake Huron shoreline, in the middle of Saginaw Bay, there’s a stone pier that juts out into the water and is the perfect place to watch a fireworks show.
Play at a Michigan Water Park or Splash Pad
Whether you want to get away for the day or take the family on vacation, Michigan has plenty of cool water parks to visit. They’re not only great places to cool off but also great places where everyone in the family can find something to do. Here are a few of our favorite spots to splash and play!
Avalanche Bay — Located in Boyne Falls, this is one of the state’s largest indoor water parks. It has everything from waterslides to lazy rivers to chill pools. If you really want a thrill, try the Big Couloir, which shoots you down at 38 feet per second, takes you on a 360-degree loop, and drops you into a pool.
Action Wake Park — Located in Hudsonville, this is the only full-size cable park for fans of wakeboarding. The park offers a thrilling experience for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or a wakeboarding pro.
Turtle Cove Family Aquatic Center — Located in Belleville, this park has two waterslides and a lazy river. Kids will delight in the 300-gallon dumping bucket in the kiddie play area. There’s also a big lap pool that welcomes visitors of all ages.
Double JJ Resort — This is a great spot to cool off and get wet with a variety of thrilling rides in Rothbury Michigan. Try the Miner’s Plunge, a slide that drops riders into a huge bowl to spin round and round before splashing to the bottom. Or try your luck at Thunder Canyon’s white waters or the tallest indoor waterslide in the state, the Rustler’s Gulch.
Red Oaks Waterpark — There are plenty of thrills, spills, and chills in Madison Heights. Float down the 990-foot lazy river, enjoy the Terrific Tides wave pool, or try a waterslide. Kids can enjoy a Splash and Play area and a Soak Station too.
Hawk Island County Park — In Lansing Michigan, this park is home to a sandy beach on a 30-acre lake, and lifeguards are on duty when they’re available. Also, the park has a Splash Pad with 15 features to cool you off. Both are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather permitting.
If you’re traveling in the Upper Peninsula this summer, you absolutely have to stop for a pasty. These delicacies are simple — a mix of beef, potatoes, and rutabagas that’s baked in a flaky golden crust of dough. Some of the best pasty shops in Michigan include:
The Hut Inn — This Calumet establishment dates back to 1952 and is considered one of Michigan’s best. It can ship pasties all over the nation but also offers a drive-up window where you can pick up a fresh pasty on your travels.
Toni’s Country Kitchen — Located in Laurium, this place is known for serving large pasties with generous portions and an extra-flaky crust.
Kaleva Cafe — Way up in Hancock is Kaleva Cafe, which serves a mean pasty with coleslaw on the side. It offers baked goods to give you the perfect dessert for your meal too.
Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant — Across the way from Hancock in Houghton, this restaurant serves large, traditional pasties but also offers mini pasties. If you’re looking for a breakfast spot, Suomi serves a traditional Finnish breakfast as well.
Pasty Corner — This Iron River establishment offers both traditional and specialty pasties, all of which are packed full of flavor.
The Pasty Oven — Located in Quinnesec, this place offers traditional pasties and several specialties, including breakfast and pepperoni pizza pasties.
Attend a Michigan County Fair
Few things signal that summer is here quite like a county fair. Regardless of where you go in Michigan, there are lots of great county fairs where you can soak up the atmosphere and have some fun. Keep cool with a beverage, and grab your favorite fair food — hot dogs, cotton candy, and french fries.
You can take part in some fun activities you won’t find every day too, such as pie-eating contests, rubber chicken throwing contests, song and dance contests, and even animal judging. No matter where you are, you’ll definitely have fun experiencing one of the best summer things to do in Michigan.
Want more Michigan summer festival fun? Don’t miss the best summer music festivals in Michigan!
Tour Michigan Wineries
In the last several decades, Michigan has become a major player in the U.S. wine scene. In fact, there are more than 100 wineries in the state. Here are some of the best Michigan wineries you must visit this summer:
Black Star Farm — This Suttons Bay farm is billed as a wine and culinary destination for good reason. There are two wineries and three tasting rooms here, as well as a cafe and upscale dining. Fans of Riesling and chardonnay will be delighted, but it’s also known for its red wines.
Chateau Grand Traverse — This is Northern Michigan’s largest commercial winery and features a year-round tasting room with affordable wine flights. Sampling wines while munching on something on the patio is a great way to spend an afternoon.
45 North Vineyard & Winery — Another Leelanau Peninsula winery that’s well known for white wines, this winery bottles nearly two dozen different wines, ciders, and fruit drinks.
Lemon Creek Winery — Located in Berrien Springs, this winery has tasting rooms at two different locations and several varieties of affordable wines. The specialty here is cabernet sauvignon, including a cabernet ice wine.
Go Fruit Picking
In the summertime, there are so many great fruit-picking places to visit in Michigan. It’s fun for the whole family and a wonderful way to stock up on homemade fruit. Some of the best Michigan fruit picking spots include:
Stovers Farm Market — In Berrien Springs, this U-pick spot offers raspberries, strawberries, and cherries in early summer, as well as apricots, blackberries, and blueberries in late summer.
Jazz Blueberry Farm — Located in Shelby Michigan, this blueberry farm offers a chance to pick as many blueberries as you desire, even buckets full!
Rowe’s Produce Farm — Located in Ypsilanti, this U-pick farm is well known for its strawberries, which can be turned into all kinds of sweet treats at home.
AJ’s Berry Farm — Another great U-pick farm in Lachine Michigan, AJ’s has an abundance of juicy strawberries in the summer.
There are lots of great berry farms, but another fun summer activity is foraging for wild berries. Juneberries can be found in June and usually on the edges of forests.
In August, take a walk in the woods to see if you can find huckleberries or wild blueberries. Keep your eyes peeled for wild strawberries as well, which grow in midsummer on runners low to the ground.
Explore the Kal-Haven Trail
Stretching more than 30 miles between Kalamazoo and South Haven, the Kal-Haven Trail offers a little bit of everything for those who love being outside. It’s perfect for bikers, hikers, and runners alike and winds through woods, farmland, rivers, and streams.
Along the way, you can stop at exhibit panels that discuss the history of the area. Midway down the trail is the village of Bloomingdale, which is a great place to stop, rest, and get a meal. If you love traversing trails in the summer, the Kal-Haven Trail is one you need to put on your bucket list this year.
Visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Located in Paradise, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is home to what are arguably Michigan’s most famous waterfalls and one of the state’s most awesome natural wonders. The centerpiece of the state park is the waterfalls, which are split into the Upper and Lower Falls.
The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the Midwest and water cascades at a rate of 50,000 gallons per second. Four miles downstream is the Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls that cascade around an island.
If you love Michigan waterfalls, this should be in the top spot on your summer bucket list. They’re really something to behold, and you’ll be in awe of their raw power.
Go Whitewater Rafting
Rafting in raging rapids can be quite the experience and is a great way to stay cool during the summer season. Two of Michigan’s best whitewater rafting spots are:
Northwoods Adventures — Located in Iron Mountain, there’s something for everyone here. You can take a solo trip through some of the state’s most dangerous rafting waters or take a family-friendly trip.
Bear River Whitewater Park — The Bear River in Petoskey is said to offer new experiences every day, depending on conditions. There aren’t any manmade obstacles, so it’s the perfect spot for rafting.
If whitewater rafting is too intense for you, check out these other rafting spots in Michigan:
Big Bear Adventures — Located in Indian River, this is the perfect spot for rafters who don’t want something too tough or too tame. The Challenging Mid-Section Trip offers the best of both worlds.
Argo Park Livery — This spot in Ann Arbor is good if you want to stay close to Detroit. Rafting here is fun and affordable, and it’s just challenging enough to still be thrilling.
Gallup Park Livery — Another Ann Arbor spot, Gallup Park Livery is perfect for more experienced rafters and kayakers.
Bike Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is the ultimate summer destination in Michigan with so much to see and do. But if you really want a unique experience, hop on a bike and get ready for 8.2 miles of the most scenic bike ride you’ll ever take.
When you hear the waves crashing, see the vastness that is Lake Huron, and behold the Mackinac Bridge, you’ll realize how magnificent this ride is. Make your way through downtown Mackinac Island and hear the clip-clap of horse hoofs.
You can also stop at British Landing to take in the views of the bridge, bike along Pontiac Trail, and visit one of the many scenic parks to see wonders like Arch Rock. This is a great way to make some unforgettable summer memories.
Related: More Things to Do on Mackinac Island
Visit Michigan’s Adventure
If you had to pick one thing to do on your summer bucket list, it’s hard to pick against this Muskegon wonderland. You’ll find more than 60 attractions, rides, and slides, as well as seven roller coaster rides and tons of other fun for the family.
From the time you arrive at Michigan’s Adventure, you’ll have a permanent smile. If you’re looking to beat the summer heat, head to Wildwater Adventure, which features plenty of waterslides, three wave pools, and the Funnel of Fear, one of the most beloved attractions that sends riders in a raft spinning and twirling around a funnel.
Play on Lake Michigan Beaches
Lake Michigan beaches are arguably the most beautiful in the state. With its shorelines reaching from the Upper Peninsula’s southwest corner to the southwest state line of the Lower Peninsula, every Lake Michigan beach town offers great views and plenty of activity.
South Haven — There are more than a dozen beaches here, many of which are close to downtown. If you love climbing dunes, hiking, and soaking up the sun, this is the place to be.
Grand Haven — With towering dunes, green trees, and white sands, Grand Haven is the definition of picturesque. Make your visit even more special by camping and enjoying your own private section of beach for swimming and sunbathing.
Muskegon — This city is the place to find adventure on a beach vacation. There are a dozen beaches, parks, campgrounds, plenty of amenities, and state parks. It’s the total package!
Traverse City — With more than three dozen beach areas, Traverse City is the ultimate freshwater swimming destination. You can spend time building sandcastles and watching sunsets around the city too!
Related: More Michigan Beaches to Enjoy
More to Explore This Summer in Michigan
We’re so excited to get out and explore this amazing state that we call home this summer!
What are your favorite summer things to do in Michigan? Did we miss your favorite beach or overlook a hidden gem? Tell us about it!
- Summer Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula
- Summer Things to Do in Northern Michigan
- Summer Things to Do in West Michigan
- Summer Things to Do in Mid-Michigan
- Summer Things to Do in Michigan’s Thumb & Bay Area
- Summer Things to Do in Southwest Michigan
- Summer Things to Do in Southcentral Michigan
- Summer Things to Do in Southeast Michigan