27 Unique Things to do in Michigan That You Need to Try

Lake of the Clouds Porcupine Mountains Michigan

Things to Do in Michigan: Ultimate Adventure List

Michigan is anything but average.

Not only to we have amazing beaches, vacations, festivals and free things to do, but we’ve also got unusual things to do that will make your TikTok account go viral.

In Michigan, you don’t have to get on a plane to ride a pirate ship, swim in Carribbean blue waters or see alligators up close.

This post is for those of us who want to get off the beaten path or just try something completely outlandish.

27 Michigan Hidden Treasures You’ll Love

1 – visit the alligator sanctuary

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary
1698 M-66, Athens, MI 49011

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Alligators in Michigan? That’s right! Bearded dragons and giant tortoises, too!

This sanctuary, located 35 miles southeast of Kalamazoo, is home to hundreds of reptiles who arrive at this new home via adoption, donation, rescue, or from other institutions. 

There are hands on opportunities, free guided tours and lots more to do at this facility that lovingly cares for these rescued creatures.

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Critchlow Animal Encounters
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary

2 – zoom over sand dunes in an orv

Silver Lake State Park
Silver Lake, MI

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Considered one of the best places in the nation to “sling sand,” Silver Lake Sand Dunes is one of the few places east of the Mississippi where you can enjoy a dune ride.

And even though there are lots of parks out west with amazing dunes, do any of them lead to Lake Michigan’s glittering shoreline? No.

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silver lake sand dunes orv area (4)
Off-Road Vehicles at Silver Lake

3 – Ride a Pirate Ship to Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Where else can you ride a freaking pirate ship?? To an island with no cars or trucks?

A trip to Mackinac Island is a gem in itself, but add in the pirate ship, and ahoy – you’ve just booked the most historic vacation in Michigan.

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starline-pirate-ferry-to-mackinac-island

4 – kayak the Detroit canals

Detroit River Sports
14601 Riverside Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Yes, Detroit has canals and you can kayak in them!

These canals have been a part of Detroit’s story since at least the time of the Underground Railroad.

Located adjacent to the Detroit River near the northern end of Belle Isle, visitors today can paddle the canals on a guided tour, learning the history of the canals as you go.

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detroit canal kayaking

5 – row a boat in lower Tahquamenon falls

Tahquamenon Falls State Park
41382 West M-123, Paradise, MI 49768

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Two of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls are located at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, an amazing Michigan State Park in the Upper Peninsula.

In addition to epic scenery, plentiful walking trails, and camping, visitors can row a boat to an island in the middle of the lower falls!

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Tahquamenon Falls State Park row boat lower falls
Tahquamenon falls Hunt

6 – Jump Off of the Black rocks

Presque Isle State Park
Peter White Dr, Marquette, MI

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

First of all, the black rocks are at Presque Isle State Park, which is a spectacular visit in itself.

There is so much to do here, but a visitor’s rite of passage is to take in the views atop the massive black rock boulders at Lake Superior. And if you’re brave enough, jump off of the 10-15′ high rocks into the icy lake. (Yeah, it’s icy even in July.)

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black rocks marquette upper peninsula michigan

7 – go midnight stargazing on the dune climb

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Stargazing on a sand dune overlooking Lake Michigan. Does this awesomeness need to be explained?

With the growth of cities across the nation, there are fewer and fewer spots to get some solid stargazing in. But Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the few remaining places where the skies get truly dark enough for a complete starry-eyed experience.

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stargazing sleeping bear dunes

8 – dig for fossils in a giant quarry

Rockport State Park
Alpena, MI

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

This is a rock lover’s paradise! Kids and adults alike can spend hours happily hunting for fossil treasures.

And when you tire of digging in the rocks, you can snorkel to historic shipwrecks, hike to massive water-filled sinkholes, or explore the nearby ghost town.

Rockport State Park is full of lots of unusual adventures.

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rockport state park recreation area michigan (5)

9 – cruise the Caribbean blue waters of torch lake

Alden, Michigan

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

This endless chain of sandbar lakes is the ultimate water rec experience in Michigan. Jet ski, wakeboard, boat, tube, swim.

Get out on Torch Lake and party with your best summer friends. It’s the place to spend an entire day in the water.

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torch lake sand bar

10 – uncover all of the hidden gems in downtown grand rapids

Grand Rapids, MI

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Grand Rapids is one of the friendliest urban spots in Michigan and offers lots of fun gems to discover on an afternoon walk.

There’s a calder, fish ladder, mega-sized tire swing, pedestrian bridges, murals and a giant red button you can climb on, to name a few.

It’s a great place for interesting photo ops and has a great downtoown restaurant game to refuel you along the way.

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11 – show up for open cockpit time at the air zoo

Air Zoo
6151 Portage Rd, Portage, MI 49002

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Let your imagination soar with airplanes and rides galore! This is a wild aviation park with lots of hands on activities and things to drop your jaw.

Fun rides for the entire family, a 3D movie theater, and vintage planes, with a view of the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport.

And, if you time it right, you might just be able to sit in the cockpit of some of these treasures.

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Soar through the air at the Air Zoo in Portage, MI

12 – book the tunnel tour at Grand Traverse Commons

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
1200 W Eleventh St, Traverse City, MI 49684

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Who wouldn’t want to explore the underground steam tunnel system of an old asylum?

Guided tours range from historic to twilight to asylum flashlight. Tour the old state hospital, historic buildings on the grounds, and the fascinating steam tunnels.

Special tripod photography tours are also available, if you want to really capture the eerie aura of the place.

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Grand Traverse Commons steam tunnel tour Hunt

13 – go for a night swim in the infinity pool at portage point resort

Portage Point Resort
8567 Portage Point Dr, Onekama, MI, 49675

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

A calming saltwater pool that melts into the Portage Lake horizon offers the best views, and without worry of boats coming through with a wake. Hope in at night time for an even dreamier experience.

Portage Point Resort has adorable cottages for rent, a picturesque porch begging you to sit (designed by the firm that did the world-renowned porch at Grand Hotel), and lots of activities.

They’ve been revamping more and more each year so hurry and get there before everyone else discovers this hidden gem in Northern Michigan.

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portage point resort night swim

14 – Walk in the treetops at dow gardens

Whiting Forest at Dow Gardens
1809 Eastman Ave, Midland, MI 48640

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

You could walk the trail along the the forest floor, or you could walk in the trees, 40 feet above.

Dow Gardens has 54 acres of beautiful Michigan majesty, including woodlands, ponds, an apple orchard, meadows, and streams.

It also has Whiting Forest across the street, the nation’s largest canopy walk. It is 1,400 feet long and 40 feet above the ground.

There’s even a clear viewing platform at the end where you can look straight down to the ground below. (And try not to get queasy!) Adventurers love the rope grid that they can climb on and feel like they’re just floating up in the treetops.

The dramatic wooden pods along the walk are a midcentury modern delight, like much of the town of Midland. It’s a really unique take on building around nature.

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Whiting Forest Dow Gardens pod
Walk through the trees in Whiting Forest at Dow Gardens in Midland, MI

15 – Swim in lower michigan’s only waterfall

Ocqueoc Falls
M-68, Millersburg, MI 49759

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

While Ocqueoc Falls is small when it comes to waterfalls, it makes one fabulous swimming hole, just asking you to jump in.

Slide into the waist-deep water (on adults) and just enjoy the brisk water or cross the river, climb up, and jump off of the upper ledge of the fall.

Hiking upstream from the waterfall to the old bridge is another fun way to enjoy this lower Michigan waterfall – just remember to bring water shoes or water sandals.

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Ocqueoc Falls

16 – hike to narnia

John Arthur Woollam Nature Preserve
M-134, Cedarville, MI 49719

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Take a magical hike through an open forest with fern and wildflower-laden floors as you search for the secret place known to the locals as Narnia.

Your trip starts at the John Arthur Woollam Nature Preserve.

Eventually, you will weave your way through moss-laden boulders that tower overhead.

Adventurous kids and adults can scramble over these sleeping giants. (And don’t forget to spot the magical lamp post!)

Your hike ends with sweeping views of Lake Huron and more boulders to climb as you watch the waters for freighters in the distance.

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Narnia Trail Les Cheneaux Cedarville Hunt

17 – Go Glamping on Beaver Island

Beaver Island

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Michigan’s largest island isn’t Mackinac – it’s Beaver Island!

This place is ripe for star gazing and loaded with activities for nature lovers.

Add in a safari tent glamping experience and you’ll be the envy of all your FOMO friends.

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beaver island retreat glamping tent

18 – play mini golf with kitschy dinos

Dinosaur Gardens
11160 U.S. 23 South, Ossineke, MI 49766

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Mini golf and life-sized dinosaurs make for a memorable day near the shores of Lake Huron in nothern Michigan.

Adventure in this whimsical dinosaur garden park with life-size dinosaur sculptures from the 1930’s – 60’s and then win a game of putt-putt along Devil’s River.

Fossil digging experiences also available.

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Dinosaur Gardens park sculpture roaring

19 – whisper into the nature megaphone

Accessible via Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve
Riverwoods Trail, Afton, MI 49705

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Natures sounds all around you are amplified by the megaphone, letting you focus on your senses in a deeper way.

You’ll walk through pine forests and along steep bluffs as you make your way to the megaphone.

The Pigeon River cuts through this woodland area, creating photo-worthy vistas along the route.

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nature megaphone on the pigeon river near Indian River Michigan

20 – see rescued bears at Oswald’s Bear Ranch

Oswald’s Bear Ranch
13814 Co Rd 407, Newberry, MI 49868

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

The largest bear-only ranch in the US boasting 40 roaming black bears in four habitats. View the bears and cubs in barrier free viewing areas and even get your pic taken with a cub!

Oswald Bear Ranch rescues abused and neglected bears and gives them a safe refuge in the Upper Peninsula. They love teaching youth about rescued cubs and how we can protect black bears and their environment.

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Oswalds Bear Ranch bear in a tree

21 – celebrate christmas Year round in Little bavaria

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
25 Christmas Ln, Frankenmuth, MI 48734

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

If you love Christmas, this one might not be “hidden.” Frankenmuth is Christmas USA, with much of the town celebrating the season year round.

Most notable is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. This giant Christmas store is the size of 3 football fields and filled with every holiday decoration imaginable. Kids can even use the in-store phone to call Santa!

And if that wasn’t unusual enough, Christmas USA is found in an old-country Bavarian town replica. Businesses and homes alike boast the alpine style architecture of old Germany and it’s quaint as all get out. There’s even an old wooden bridge you can drive or walk across.

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Bronners Christmas Wonderland Frankenmuth Michigan Santa kids Hunt

22- Get Mystified at the American museum of magic

American Museum of Magic
107 E. Michigan Ave, Marshall, MI 49068

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Did you know Michigan has what’s been called the “Smithsonian of American Magic?”

If you have magic-loving kiddos, this is a must-see. In addition to a giant collection of mysterious items, there are magic shows included with admission at 1:00pm on Saturdays and even magic camp for kids in summer.

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American Museum of Magic

23 – wander the lavender labyrinth

Cherry Point Farm & Market
9600 W. Buchanan Rd, Shelby, MI 49455

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

If you’re truly seeking the “pleasant” part our “pleasant peninsula,” you must see the lavender labyrinth at Cherry Point.

Visitors can see the full bloom between mid-July and early-August. You can, of course, stock up on all things cherry and lavender while you’re there

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Lavender Labyrinth at Cherry Point Farm and Market

24 – Hike Michigan’s Mountains (Yeah, we have mountains)

Lake of the Clouds – Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
311 Steel St, Ontonagon, MI 49953

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Nestled in the Porcupine Mountains, Michigan’s only mountain range, is Lake of the Clouds. This majestic freshwater lake empties into Lake Superior.

The whole place is gorgeous, the lake being the cherry on top. And yeah, our mountains are only 1,000 feet elevation, but we still claim them as mountains.

Pictures don’t do it justice! 

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Lake of the Clouds Porcupine Mountains Michigan

24 – Visit a castle

Curwood Castle
224 Curwood Castle Dr, Owosso, MI 48867

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

A bonafide castle you can visit! Formerly the writing studio of adventure author James Oliver Curwood, it is now a museum open to the public.

This place is over 30,000 square feet and sits on the pretty Shiawassee River.

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25 – See Historic Petroglyphs up close

Sanilac Petroglyphs State Park
251 Germania Rd, Cass City, MI 48726

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

This state park has rocks covered in petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings), thought to be carved by Native American tribes Hopewell or Chippewa, between 300 and 1,000 years ago.

This 240 acre park is dedicated to the preservation and education of the work of these Native American artists and access is generously shared with the public.

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26 – Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum
31005 Orchard Lake Rd, Farmington Hills, MI 48334

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Marvin’s Mechanical Museum is a land of absurd and mechanical delights. The late Marvin Yagoda turned his fascination with oddities into a massive museum that is 50% hands-on, and 100% spectacle.

Find lots of arcade games, a mini carousel, skee-ball, pinball, and endless bizarre memorabilia to stare at in bewilderment.

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marvins marvelous mechanical museum

27 – Visit the FREE Dino Park in Kalamazoo

Western Michigan University – Rood Hall
2101 Wilbur Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49006

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

It’s an easy outing for the dino-obsessed kid in your house. WMU seems to add new dinosaurs each year to their outdoor garden near Rood Hall and visiting is FREE.

These dinos are large scale and love visitors!

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Dinosaur Park Brachiosaurus Western Mich Facilities

28 – hunt for the mega cracks in the earth

Mystery Valley Karst Preserve and Nature Sanctuary
14715 Leer Rd, Posen, MI 49776

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do in Michigan:

Ever heard of a collapse valley?

Neither have I and it’s hard to explain, but basically, thousands of years ago the earth opened up huge cracks (nightmares, anyone?) that can run hundreds of feet long and who knows how deep. (Websites say 15′ but my fear factor brain says they’re bottomless.)

Lots of cool sciency stuff happening here. There’s a sinkhole, lots of ancient fossils and lake waters that change depending on the season.

Mystery Valley also has caverns deep underground.

You can’t visit these, but trust that they’re there and part of the ecosystem. Also trust that they won’t just …open another hole in the earth while you’re standing there! (Scientists promise that this won’t happen, but I still have a little anxiety about this.)

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Mystery Valley cracks in the earth VanderW

We know there are even more weird things to do in Michigan. We are continuing the search, but if you know of something we missed, let us know in the comments.

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24 thoughts on “27 Unique Things to do in Michigan That You Need to Try”

  1. We love Lake Michigan in the summer!!!! Almost any park is great!! We really love duck lake area for little kids!! The benefits of the big lake with less risk because of the canal!!

    We also love Schwallier’s Country Basket!!! Such a cute apple orchard with lots of kids activities and not too commerialized!!

    Blanford nature Center is great too!!

    I am so happy for this list though!! So many places I haven’t been!! Some things I need to check out for sure!! I need to get to Anderson and Girls and the Deer Tracks Junction!! On the way to the Deer Tracks Junction there is a great ice cream/farm stand called the Red Barn!! We love that place too!!!

    I think we forget how blessed we are to have so much fresh fruit and vegies at our finger tips!! A lot of places don’t have that!!! So many great farm stands!!!

  2. We enjoy Silver Lake area; dune rides, nice shallow inland lake with boating activities/rentals, mini golf, go karts,camping, dune climbing, Lake Mi beach area.

    Robinette’s Apple House, donuts, cider, horse drawn wagon rides in fall, maze too. Fun spot to eat lunch, or donuts and cider.Bounce area.Shop.

    John Ball Park Zoo. Pet the Wallabys, MantaRays and sharks, parakeets.Zip line, rope course, tram.

    Of course, Boulder Ridge.We absolutely love going there. Clean, well kept, animals not found at John Ball Park Zoo( except a couple), picnic area, safari bus ride around the back ,giraffees, camels, and new animals each year. Love it!My husband and I will even go without the kids/grandkids.

    1. Kimberly,
      I love Country Dairy! I’ve been there so many times! I agree, they are one of the best places! Maybe they’ll make our next reader-recommended list!
      -Betsy

  3. Lori VanderLoon

    Oswalds in the upper peninsula..! A bear rescue… You can walk around and see the bears pretty closely… Buy apples to throw to feed them …and get up close you feed bear cubs. 🙂

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