OT - Michigan Road Trip Ideas

Submitted by 1989 UM GRAD on June 27th, 2014 at 4:36 PM

So the 1989 UM Grad family is about to embark on a "Pure Michigan" road trip.  We've taken the kids to multiple places around the state...but this is our first time doing an old-school road trip with multiple stops...rather than spending a weekend in one place.

Looking for suggestions on the weird/unusual/goofy attractions at which we can stop along the way...things like The World's Largest Ball of Twine...etc.

We are coming from the Birmingham/Bloomfield area...with the 1st night in Grand Rapids, 2nd in Traverse City, 3rd on Mackinac Island, 4th in Paradise (Tequamenon Falls)...and then back home.

On the way to GR, we are planning a stop in Hell...so the theme of the trip is "From Hell to Paradise."  (yes, it took many hours of brainstorming to come up with that)

I figured this topic might be useful for others planning Michigan road trips...or inspire some of you to hit the road and enjoy this beautiful state.

Thanks for your tips!


SATURDAY EDIT:  Thanks to all of you for your suggestions.  Even though I'm a life-long Michigander/Michiganian, there were quite a few I hadn't thought about. 



June 27th, 2014 at 5:04 PM ^

If the waves are good along US 2 along the N. Shore of L. Michigan the body surfing is great.... even better if you have a body board.  Amazing how many miles of beautiful public beach are available.  Pick up some smoked whitefish and chubs before heading north from there.  If you want mix it with some cream cheese and do it on crackers with red onion and capers ... The pasties in the bar (forgot the name) in Germfask (headed north on 77 after you're done with US 2) are very good.  Read Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, Tom McGuane's "The Sporting Club", Traver's "Laughing Whitefish" or "Anatomy of a Murder", or Harrison's "Brown Dog" amongst many others.  All set in northern MI.  Michigan seems to breed competent musicians and outdoor-themed writers about as well as any place on earth.  Have fun.


June 27th, 2014 at 4:52 PM ^

at Hartwick Pines - if your children haven't seen the trees before, it is about time. The White Pine is such a rich part of Michigan's heritage, and even the entire country. Those trees won't be there forever.

In Flint, there was a little carriage shop. Part of the reason for it's existence was easy access to timber. The Durant-Dort Carriage Company evolved into a small corporation headquartered in the Ren Cen.



June 27th, 2014 at 4:59 PM ^

Not really weird, but you can rent dune buggies and go riding on the dunes. It's awesome! We have taken our kids on this since they were 2 and 4. They just strap a car seat in the buggy. Super fun and super messy (sand everywhere). Also, the Whippy Dip right by Silver Lake Sand Dunes is a great place to catch sunset.


June 27th, 2014 at 5:01 PM ^

I don't have any Ball O Twine suggestions, but the next time I design a trip that includes heading as far north as the T Falls, I think my path will be making a constellation of that and these:

(1) Isle Royale (if you go there and stand on Moose Boulder before Moose Flats dries after the winter thaw, you have the distinction of being one of relatively few people to ever stand on the largest island in the largest lake in the largest island in the largest lake in the largest island in the largest lake in the world)

(2) Fox River, the scene on one of Hemingway's first short stories, Big Two-Hearted River, written soon after he returned from the first Great War. It's also the eponym behind the famous beer from Bell's.

(3) Sleeping bear dunes

(X) Maybe Frankenmuth is Ball O Twine-ish, for you. And it's a cool place with legendary chicken.


June 27th, 2014 at 5:50 PM ^

If you go to Frankenmuth, I almost feel like a trip to the Frankenmuth Brewery is more essential than the chicken at Zehnder's, but that's just me (I'll be honest, I get the sauerbraten there). In any case, the brwery has a great selection of beers and family-friendly pub food plus a decent pizza and a few other goodies, so it is a win-win if everyone wants to enjoy themselves. Also, at this time of the year, if you can get a table right on the Cass River, it's great scenery too. 


June 27th, 2014 at 5:12 PM ^

Sleeping Bear Dunes/NW Lower Michigan is a great place to go. 

My honeymoon was on Isle Royale and I can't wait to get back there.  It is the least visited NP, so there aren't many people there.  There is great hiking and some great views.  It is very peaceful.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  If you camp check out Little Beaver Lake Campground.  there are only about a dozen sites, but there is 1-1.5 mile path that leads to a quiet Lake Superior beach.  You can hike along the shore for quite a ways without running into anybody.  If you are not afraid of the dark make that hike at night with a clear sky. 

Porcupine Mountains State Park.

Castle Rock is a quick stop and pretty neat.

Sea Shell City.

Depending on your interest in Catholicism/Christianity The Cross in the Woods at Indian River can be a nice stop.

Have lunch or dinner at The Turkey Roost in Kawkawlin.


June 27th, 2014 at 5:29 PM ^

Sleeping Bear Dunes.....have to agree with Club2330.  I was there with my family last week, and it was amazing,.  There is a scenic car tour and make sure you stop at the Dunes and at Lake Michigan (believe stop 6).  There is a dune that goes down 450 feet to the lake.

If you are looking for very good food in Traverse Cty, try the Cooks House.


Really good ice cream, try Moomers.



June 27th, 2014 at 5:19 PM ^

Not really weird, but Leland is a great place for familes, there is a great harbor and a waterfall. Fishtown is an awesome historical place with cool shops, fudge, ice cream, and the best smoked fish. And Leland beach is gorgeous! They just dredged the harbor and now there are some awesome sand bars off the shore that make for great kid swimming. Oh and the Sleeping Bear Dunes are about 30 minutes south.

Everyone Murders

June 27th, 2014 at 5:23 PM ^

If you want to traipse around Chippewa County a bit (where Paradise is), head up to Whitefish Point and see the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.  If in Sault Ste. Marie, a stop into Antlers Restaurant will be a cheap meal - we saw the Michigan Hockey team there after they played Lake Superior State several years back, so you may be using a fork once used by Marty Turco, Red Berenson, or many other players.  And if you are heading up to Whitefish Point, stop by Brimley Bay - the water there is really shallow for quite a ways out, so you can actually swim in Lake Superior comfortably.

Have fun!

rob f

June 27th, 2014 at 8:39 PM ^

Brimley Bay is one of the few places where the water is warm enough for us "trolls" to swim.  I've been to Brimley State Park a couple of times and very surprised how nice the water was----everywhere else I've ever taken a dip in Lake Superior it felt like ice water.


June 27th, 2014 at 5:55 PM ^

Try to have a meal at The Doherty Hotel in Clare. Al Capone used to hang out there and there are newspaper articles on the wall about a mob hit that happened in the hotel.


June 27th, 2014 at 6:16 PM ^

If you are heading up I-75, maybe Bronner's near Frankenmuth - It is a gigantic xmas store open 365 days. Very kitchy.

Tony's is a truck stop restaurant/diner outside of Birch Run that serves gigantic portions of food.  It is pretty much just diner food, but ik kitchy is what you are after, and you are driving up I-75, I'd say stop in. 

Soo Locks up in the UP



June 27th, 2014 at 6:36 PM ^

Take the Soo Locks boat tour.  Did this when I was 11 or so and thought it was really cool.  Also, at Tahquamenon Falls you can do canoe or kayak rentals (or, you could back then.)

The Grand Rapids Public Museum is worth a couple hours and it has a focus on the state of Michigan.

I'm sure you're planning on seeing the fort while you're at Mackinac, but also there's a museum on Market Street which I totally forget exactly where, but it's there somewhere and it's got some interesting stuff about the island too.

Michigan Arrogance

June 27th, 2014 at 7:15 PM ^

Traverse City area is highly recomended. I love the minor league ball park just south of the city. The dunes are great as is M-22 up to leelenaw (sp). Stop for a wine tasting. then find another winery and do it again. then, 3 for the hat trick.


June 27th, 2014 at 7:19 PM ^

Last summer, I found myself with 3 free days and just took a trip around the coast of Michigan. I didn't really have a plan, just stopped at places I thought looked interesting or had heard about. It was alot of fun. Alot of fun.


June 27th, 2014 at 7:23 PM ^

I took a family road trip to Paradise a few years back. Didn't come back through Hell. Taquamenon Falls and the shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point are interesting. The beaches on 2 west of St Ignace are great.  St Ignace has enough kitsch for the whole trip. Mackinaw City has more if you need it.  Eat at Scalawags in Mackinaw. Indian River maybe.  Take a big detour to Iargo Springs on the way back. Final stop in Frankenmouth for dinner.  Home by 9.


June 27th, 2014 at 7:40 PM ^

in between Traverse City and Mackinaw. I didn't know about it till my parents told me about it last year but it's got some awesome views and definitely beats just travelling up 31 the whole way. It's (somewhat) known for the 'Tunnel of Trees'. Awesome drive

A5 - GoBlue

June 27th, 2014 at 8:05 PM ^

Clyde's Drive Inn in either st Ignace or the soo

Or if near sleeping bear dunes hit up arts bar in glen arbor great burgers and old school decor


June 27th, 2014 at 8:09 PM ^

Lived there for many years and was friends with the Dam Site owners. Hell is a great time and the Dam Site Bar is the only business besides an ice cream shop. The bar is fun, but can be a llittle rough. You will be fine, just go in and enjoy it. If you get into shit ask for Cowboy Bill and say Aaron from Portage lake sent you. Have fun!

rob f

June 27th, 2014 at 8:36 PM ^

It was one of my favorite destinations on the Lake Huron coast back in the mid/late 90's when I lived in the Midland area.  Some nice shops and local restaurants, but a bit out of the way unless you're looking for a relatively quiet destination to spend some time just relaxing. 

Then again, haven't been there in about 17 or 18 years since moving back to the SW corner of Michigan...