Family Travel: Top 5 Things To Do in Northern Michigan

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Four years ago I moved away from one of the most beautiful states: Michigan. Ever since I was little, I always had the desire to live in a city so my husband and I moved to Washington, D.C. to satisfy the craving. City life is such a great departure from my time spent in the great state of Michigan, aka the mitten.

I grew up in Southeast Michigan, went to Michigan State University, and always enjoyed all that the state had to offer. When I was younger, we would always travel to northern Michigan to vacation throughout the year. The summer always offered great times on boats and beaches, the state was coated in the most beautiful colors during fall, and the ski hills always resulted in great adventures during the winter.

Collage of beautiful Northern Michigan scenes

When I met my husband, I was immediately shocked to find out that instead of growing up in southern Michigan, he spent his childhood years in northern Michigan, specifically in Charlevoix. To me, this was unheard of since "Up North," aka northern Michigan, meant vacation to me. I asked question after question about how he spent his years in one of my favorite areas in the state.

We try to escape to Michigan as much as possible to see family and friends, spend time riding boats on many of the beautiful lakes, attend sporting events, ski and snowboards at some of our favorite ski resorts, and take in all the local flavor of the small towns in northern Michigan.

Top 5 Things To Do in Northern Michigan

The following are some of my favorite things to do in northern Michigan:

1) Visit the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. The Sleeping Bear Dunes found along the Lake Michigan shoreline can be enjoyed by way of Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, located between Glen Arbor and Empire. Drive up and down rolling hills and through the woods and dunes. This is truly one of the most scenic areas in the state.

2) Eat fudge and bike around Mackinac Island. This island is the truly "all natural" theme park of America. Limited to transportation of horse and buggy, bicycle or foot, surrounded by water, it has escaped the vast changes of time. Motorized vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898, with the exception of snowmobiles during winter, emergency vehicles, and service vehicles. Travel on the island is either by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. The island is filled with fun activities and delicious food, especially the fudge!

3) Attend the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City. This festival entails a week of parades, concerts, cherries, and family fun. The Grand Traverse region, known for its world-record tart cherry harvest, bursts with visitors eager to savor the flavor of cherries tucked into everything imaginable. Each day, Festival-goers find cherry delights along with parades, family and kids events, and entertainment.

4) Visit the small towns for local food and boutique shops. Northern Michigan is filled with small towns such as Charlevoix, Glen Arbor, Petoskey, and Harbor Springs that are filled with lakeside fun, beautiful galleries, local food, and unique shops.

5) Go to the beach, play in the sand and water, and check out the lighthouses. From Lake Michigan to the Glen Lakes, from kayaking to charter boat fishing, getting on the water is a must-do in the state of Michigan. When I lived in Michigan, hardly a day went by where I didn't go out on a lake. With 3,177 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, and that doesn't even include the other lakes throughout the state, it is easy to see why Michigan boasts a thriving recreational industry. Plus, there are tons of historic lighthouses that make for great adventures and amazing photographs.

For more ideas, please be sure to visit

Where did you grow up? What was your favorite part about living there?

Jen Tilley has an insatiable appetite for all things related to baking and cooking. She is the author, photographer and recipe developer on How To: Simplify, a blog that shares tips, tricks and recipes to simplify life in the kitchen. She enjoys sharing recipes that require very few ingredients and only a small amount of prep and cook time, all of which make time spent in the kitchen simple and enjoyable. Find her online at How To: Simplify@HowToSimplify, and Jen Tilley Photography.

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