These are often associated with the concept of Southern hospitality. While the southern portion of the U.S. is known for having this quality in spades, venture a few hundred miles north and you can also find it in the lake-lined lands of Michigan.
From the waters near the Canadian border to the northern edge of Ohio and Indiana, you will cross an array of landscapes: deep green forests, pristine beaches, cosmopolitan cities and quaint towns. In between it all are hidden—and not so hidden—treasures that lend to Michigan’s hospitable nature, artistic power and distinctive experiences.
A Great Lakes State
It’s no secret that Michigan is surrounded by water. Bordering the Lower Peninsula are Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and a portion of Lake Erie, while the Upper Peninsula is served by Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. These large bodies of water create an opportunity for unlimited aquatic recreation and outdoor adventure. You can enjoy a day of kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming or sailing. You can bask in the sun on one of Michigan’s more than 100 public beaches, explore its dozens of lighthouses or dive to the depths of the lakes to see century-old shipwrecks.
Located “Up North” in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Traverse City has gained a reputation for its gorgeous scenery, clear lakes and golden beaches. It’s become an escape for urbanites seeking relief from congested cities.
Over in Flint and Genesee County, you will find Michigan’s largest county park system with 11,000 acres of lakes, wetlands and woods. The system is made up of 21 parks, where visitors can take part in a wonderful outdoor retreat any season of the year.
Up in the Great Lakes Bay Region is the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. You can take a boat tour of this 9,800-acre park filled with marsh, grasslands and hardwood forest. The refuge specializes in ecotourism and has been designated as a sanctuary for migratory birds. If you enjoy bird watching, this is the perfect place to spot some waterfowl from various parts of North America.
A Hops and Grape State
Beer is almost synonymous with Colorado, while wine is still heavily associated with California. Michigan is giving both states a run for their libations. In case you didn’t hear, Michigan is home to Beer City, USA, also known as Grand Rapids. It has been named Best Beer Town and Best Beer Scene by USA Today readers. To back up the acclaim is a vast collection of craft breweries, including Founders Brewing Co, one of the top 20 largest craft breweries in the country; Grand Rapids Brewing Co.; HopCat; Brewery; and Vivant. Grand Rapids has over 40 breweries, more per square mile than almost anywhere else on earth.
Mt. Pleasant has quickly become a top destination in the state for craft beer, mostly because the region offers a great environment for growing hops and producing delicious brews. Mt. Pleasant is home to four breweries—Cranker’s Brewery, Hunter’s Ale House, Mountain Town Brewing Company, and Mountain Town Station Brewing—and more are on deck.
Holland boasts both craft beer and wine. New Holland Brewery has been creating hoppy goodness since 1997 and has expanded its distribution to 31 states. Just down the road from New Holland is Warner Vineyards tasting room, one of many located in western Michigan. Founded in 1938 in Paw Paw, Warner is one of Michigan’s oldest wineries. Flint and Genesee feature a wine and beer trail that will introduce visitors to creative craft beers and hard ciders, as well as oak barrel-aged, high-quality wines. Lansing offers a range of wineries where you can tour and enjoy free tastings. The city is also home to many craft breweries.
An Artistic State
Michigan has been fostering artistic talent for decades. It is home to painters, musicians, writers, photographers and dancers who are eager to showcase their talents in a place that highly encourages it.
If you’re a big art buff, Ann Arbor is the place to visit. The Ann Arbor Art Fair is one of the largest outdoor art fairs in the nation. In July the city is transformed into an open-air gallery. Made up of four different fairs, the art fair is a loved summer tradition where locals and visitors can experience original works of art, street performances and sidewalk sales.
Flint is home to the second largest art gallery in Michigan, the Flint Institute of Art (FIA). FIA is renowned for its collection because of the depth of its European and American paintings and sculptures. FIA is also one of the largest museum art schools in the nation, and it is dedicated to making art accessible and approachable to everyone.
Due to the many artists, musicians and craftsmen that have settled in Traverse City, there is an unbelievable number of quaint art galleries and boutique shops where you can pick up some locally made trinkets and works of art. A simple stroll down the streets will reveal distinctive treasures that could become mementos of your visit.
ArtPrize, in Grand Rapids, is arguably one of the most-attended public art events in the world. Started nearly eight years ago as an experiment, Art-Prize is a completely different kind of art event. For 19 days each fall, downtown Grand Rapids becomes an art display where anyone can view the pieces, discuss them with their peers and focus on the importance of art.
What really adds to Michigan’s charm are its small towns and communities. These cities are filled with a simplicity and spirit that evoke a sense of comfort and compassion. Residents welcome guests whole-heartedly, eager to share their favorite museums, attractions, restaurants and more.
When you think of Southern hospitality, don’t limit the possibilities to geographically suggestive spots on the map. Charm, warmth and culture can be found throughout Michigan. An infinite collection of experiences that will leave a lasting impression and beckon you back time and again.