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We Agree With CNN: Northwest Michigan is a Must-Visit Destination

From quaint lakefront towns to one-of-a-kind festivals to scenic wineries and beaches, Northwest Michigan is a paradise for anyone who visits.

For Michiganders young and old, the region is a year-round playground, offering the chance to fish and hike in the spring, soak up the sun in the summer, marvel at beautiful colors in the fall, and have unforgettable adventures in the winter.

The year-round appeal attracts tourists by the thousands each year and this popular region in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula was recently named to CNN’s best places to visit in 2024 – a list that includes international locales from Indonesia, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Canada, South Korea, and more.

Blair Acres-Lake City
Blair Acres | photo via dustinlagrow

Here’s some of what CNN had to say about Northwest Michigan:

Refreshing, unsalty Lake Michigan lures boatloads of tourists in summer, but the shoreline, quaint towns and rolling countryside of Northwest Michigan have plenty to offer year-round.

On Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City makes a great home base for exploring wineries on the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas or picking cherries or apples in season. Then fall’s foliage is ripe for peeping, followed by winter’s inviting blankets of snow.

From Traverse City, the scenic M-22 highway winds up the Leelanau Peninsula and hooks back down through Leland, home to a historic fishing village and a collection of interesting shops and galleries.

Glen Arbor is another town worth perusing on the way to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where off M-109 an all-sand, 3.5-mile hike over massive dunes to the Great Lake and back preps hardy hikers for a delicious dinner.

Cherry Festival-Traverse City
Cherry Festival | photo via christina.lamie

Explore Northwest Michigan

Visitors young and old can find something to enjoy in Northwest Michigan. A variety of easy and challenging hikes offer scenic views; festivals entice visitors to keep coming back to the region; and even activities like sleigh rides make the region a year-round go-to.

Attend a Fun-Filled Festival

Northwest Michigan is home to exciting, enjoyable festivals that keep festival-goers coming back year after year.

The crown jewel in Northwest Michigan is the annual Traverse City Cherry Festival each July. For almost a century, the festival has been the cherry on top of summer fun for Michiganders of all ages. In addition to cherry-inspired foods, visitors can enjoy nationally known music and comedy acts, a grand parade, kids activities, and so much more.

In the spring, Traverse City’s Spring Beer Festival, one of many suds-inspired festivals in Michigan, offers visitors a chance to enjoy some of the best Michigan-made beers in the state. Visitors can shake off the chill of spring with tasty beer samples and good company.

Have an Outdoor Adventure on a Fun Hike

Northwest Michigan is one of the best places in the state to go for a hike and have an outdoor adventure. Miles of hiking trails lead to scenic overlooks, towering lighthouses, beautiful beaches, and more.

The Manistee River Trail in Mesick is linked to a section of the North Country Scenic Trail and is an easy hike. It offers more than a half dozen spots for backcountry camping, level terrain to hike on, and pleasing views of the Manistee River.

Arcadia Dunes, just north of Arcadia, offers hikers a variety of easy loops and challenging treks. Youngsters can take an easy 1.5-mile trek around the Pete’s Woods Trail through scenic wooded terrain. Hikers looking for a challenge can try the Baldy Trails/Baldy Trailhead loop, which offers views of Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Ludington State Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline is one of the best parks in Michigan, offering 18 miles of trails that take trekkers past shipwrecks, a lighthouse, scenic views, hidden lakes, and more. The Lighthouse Trail is one of the region’s best, offering great views and ending at Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

Enjoy Winter on a Magical Sleigh Ride

The lyrics to the holiday classic “Jingle Bells” don’t lie: It is fun to ride in a one-horse open sleigh. There are plenty of places in Northwest Michigan to enjoy a sleigh ride, where the stillness of the air and the quiet clomping of hooves create the perfect environment for a romantic evening or a family adventure.

Blair Acres in Lake City offers sleighs to accommodate big and small parties and offers visitors a 45-minute ride complete with coffee and hot chocolate by a warm fire.

Ranch Rudolf in Traverse City offers winter hayrides that are perfect for a winter afternoon adventure. Riders can enjoy scenic views of the Boardman River Valley as they feel a chill in the air.

Petoskey | photo via reccemedia_

Soak Up the Majesty of Fall Colors

Northwest Michigan has some of Michigan’s best spots to see the true beauty of fall colors. From scenic drives to picturesque hikes, the sight of rich orange, yellow, and brown leaves can be found throughout the region.

No fall trip through Northwest Michigan is complete without a trip on the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route. The route starts at Cross Village and passes through several towns on the way to Petoskey, all the while offering once-in-lifetime fall color views.

Leelanau State Park on the Leelanau Peninsula has almost 10 miles of foot trails to explore and includes a stop by the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which can be toured, as well as a museum.

Tour Michigan Wine Country in the Leelanau Peninsula

The Leelanau Peninsula north of Traverse City is considered to be one of Michigan’s top wine regions. The climate is ideal for growing conditions and the region is known for delicious, dry, crisp white wines.

Mawby Sparkling in Suttons Bay is known for its sparkling wines, which are best enjoyed in a relaxing atmosphere. There are indoor and outdoor tasting areas and the wines are known for their unforgettable, often provocative names.

Chateau Fountaine in Lake Leelanau is a family-owned winery offering a variety of tasty white wines. It’s the perfect place for a weekend trip where visitors can sip wines like the famous Woodland White and enjoy incredible views of the peninsula.

Chateau Fontaine - Lake Leelanau, Michigan - Michigan Wineries
Chateau Fontaine | photo via @chateau_fontaine

Plan a Fun Adventure in NW Michigan

No matter the time of year, Northwest Michigan is always bustling with activity and is the perfect place to have an adventure this year.

Northwest Michigan has something for everyone. Adrenaline junkies can hike and explore the longest and most challenging trails. Wine enthusiasts can enjoy picture-perfect views while sipping delicious wines. Even festival-goers who have never visited the region can find something they enjoy.

The region has something to appeal to visitors of all kinds and all ages and is waiting to be explored this year. There’s never been a better time to plan your own adventure in Northwest Michigan. 

Editor’s Note: While the majority of the world thinks “Northwest Michigan” is the greater Traverse City region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, we’re partial to considering the Keweenaw Peninsula and western counties of the Upper Peninsula to be the true Northwest Michigan… and in our book, they’re worth a visit, too!

P.S. Did you know Michigan has more than two peninsulas?!?

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