The slogan “Pure Michigan” has enticed me for some time, but a trip to Michigan has yet to make onto my travel schedule. Now I’m even more intrigued thanks to this fantastic guest post about exploring Michigan’s Great Outdoors by Dr. Jessie Voigts of WanderingEducators.com, a travel library for people curious about the world. Founder of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program, Jessie is a mom who is devoted to sharing the world with her daughter but who also appreciates the beauty in her own backyard.
Michigan is an extraordinarily beautiful place – surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes – and filled with over 11,000 lakes! No wonder Michigan is called the Great Lake State. While there are many, many places to visit outdoors in Michigan, here are five of my favorites in the Lower Peninsula.
Jessie Voigt’s Top 5 Picks for Exploring Michigan’s Great Outdoors
1. Playing at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. While this is the only museum on the list, it’s a world-class treasure and a must-visit. Called one of the world’s 30 Must See Museums by Patricia Schultz, it’s located in Grand Rapids. You can explore 132 acres of wetlands, woodlands, and a variety of gardens. While there are hundreds of sculptures (both indoors and out), families will love one of the US’s biggest children’s gardens! It will be difficult to tear your kids away from playing with the musical instruments, splashing and running boats on the topographically accurate Great Lakes water garden, and discovering spiders, birds, and dragons.
2. Exploring the beautiful beaches of Michigan’s Sunset Coast. Start at Saugatuck’s Oval Beach (named one of the top 25 beaches in the world) and dig in the sand, play in the waves, and fly kites all the way up the coast. There are many beaches worth visiting, and small towns (and ice cream stands!) provide shopping, great food, and plenty of fun.
3. Climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes. Named the most beautiful place in America, Sleeping Bear Dunes (pictured above and at top) is a National Park sporting an enormous set of dunes! Once you hike to the top, you’ll have quite a walk to the edge closer to the water. Some people climb down and play in the big lake, but it’s a big hike back up. The story of Sleeping Bear Dunes is a beautiful one, with a big mama bear and two babies, a fire, a swim for their lives, and the dunes and two islands as a result. Located west of Traverse City, near the small town of Empire (which also has a great and — free! — beach).
4. Visiting Hartwick Pines. Located in Grayling, this is the largest State Park in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and the largest virgin white pine forest in the lower peninsula. At the Michigan Forest Visitor Center, you can learn about logging (including enormous Overpack wheels), forestry, and trees, naturally. You can head inside the museum and see how loggers lived (bunk beds, hanging red flannel longjohns, etc.), or walk amongst the tall white pines, treading the same ground that people have done for hundreds and hundreds of years.
5. Biking around Mackinac Island. The first cool thing about Mackinac Island is that you have to take a ferry to get there. The second cool thing? Autos aren’t allowed, but bikes are! Bring your own, or rent bikes and ride the ring road all around the island (8 mile circumference). If you get hot, you can jump into Lake Huron, which is cold and refreshing. The whole island is a National Historic Landmark, and you can shop, eat, play and discover nature here, including the famous Arch Rock. You can also get a pound or two of the famous Mackinac Island fudge to fuel your exertions.
Want to learn more about Michigan? Families will love the Twelve Months of Michigan, by AnnieMarie Chiaverilla – it’s inspiring!