Fun Things to Do in Northern Michigan

The natural wonders of northern Michigan are within driving distance for families in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. Take advantage of everything the great state has to offer.

The incredible sights in northern Michigan — from crystal clear natural springs to amazing cliff faces — rival the coasts.

The Great Lakes have created a unique place for families to explore and unwind. And for families who enjoy a quirky detour, northern Michigan is the place for that, too.

Take little ones on a walk through an enchanted fairy garden. If your kids are older, try the winding trail that ends in icy caverns. Interested in art? Stop by Lakenenland in Marquette for an outdoor art experience unlike any other.

Northern Michigan (and no, we aren’t only talking about the Upper Peninsula here) is the perfect place for families in Ann Arbor and metro Detroit/Chicagoland to explore. Find some of our favorite options here.

Eben Ice Caves and Canyon Falls

The Hiawatha National Forest is always worth a trip, but in colder months, breathtaking ice formations take center stage. The trail to the caves can be tricky, so this excursion is better suited to teens and adults.

Fairy Trails at The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

The fairy houses in this Traverse City park are delightful works of art sure to surprise kids and adults alike. 

Forge A Memory 

Visitors can forge their own metal knife (blunted for kids, of course). The shop also sells metal pieces made from salvaged bits from the Mackinac Bridge.

Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours 

While the view of intact shipwrecks through the glass-bottom boats on this boat tour draw a crowd, the surrounding Grand Islands cliffs are just as impressive.

Kitch-iti-kipi Spring 

Michigan’s largest freshwater spring gives visitors a stunningly clear look at the animals and plants typically hidden in the bed.


This slightly bizarre sculpture park is an incredible feat. Created by one artist, the over-the-top sculptures are whimsical and ingenious uses of scrap metal.

Mackinac Island

If no cars, historic hotels and world-class fudge on every corner sounds good to you, Mackinac Island might be the perfect vacation spot. 

Pictured Rocks 

There’s a reason Pictured Rocks is one of the most well-known spots in the Upper Peninsula — the stunning 15 miles of cliffs along Lake Superior feature interesting rock formations, waterfalls and dunes. Be sure to explore the forest trails, too.

Presque Isle Park

The untouched beauty of the island (although it is technically a peninsula) offers visitors excellent spots for swimming, hiking, biking and more.

Shale Beach

Shale Beach is among the eastern-most points in the Upper Peninsula. The picturesque shoreline is dotted with smooth shale stone and is best traversed by ATV (which requires State of Michigan ORV license). 

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Many Michiganders have fond childhood memories of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The Dune Climb, with facilities and picnic tables, are a good starting point for families. 

Soo Locks

Visit and see the engineering marvel of freighters lifted and lowered to the 21-foot difference between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. 

Tahquamenon Falls 

These iconic waterfalls stained brown by tannins found in the cedar swamp in the surrounding forest are the largest falls in Michigan.

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Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn is a freelance journalist, copy editor and proud Detroiter. She is a graduate of Wayne State University’s journalism school and of the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford University. Amanda is a lover of translated contemporary fiction, wines from Jura and her dog, Lottie.


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