A majestic jewel among the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan presents a playground of diverse experiences that cater to every traveler’s whims and fancies. From the bustling cities that fringe its edges to the serene beachfronts, historical landmarks, water adventures, and cultural escapades, no matter what time of year you visit, there are so many experiences waiting to be had. Here are the best things to do in Lake Michigan.

Cultural Activities

things to do in lake michigan4

Attend Local Events and Festivals

While exploring Lake Michigan, make sure you immerse yourself in the local culture by attending events and festivals. Chicago, on the lake’s southern shore, hosts various cultural events throughout the year, such as Lollapalooza and the Chicago Jazz Festival. Smaller towns, like Holland in Michigan, are known for their charming, annual events like the Tulip Time Festival. These lively gatherings offer fantastic opportunities for enjoying music, food, and local traditions, so don’t miss out on this unique experience.

Visit Cultural and Heritage Sites

Lake Michigan is rich in history, and visiting cultural and heritage sites is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the region’s past. For example, Petoskey, Michigan, is home to several historical sites, such as the Gaslight Shopping District and Stafford’s Perry Hotel. Art enthusiasts will love exploring the vibrant art scene in Chicago, which boasts numerous art galleries, museums, and public art installations.

Engage in Traditional Experiences

One of the best ways to experience the culture and heritage of Lake Michigan is by engaging in traditional activities. Fishing has always been an integral part of life on the lake, and there are plenty of guided fishing tours available for both beginners and expert anglers. While in Holland, Michigan, be sure to visit the iconic Windmill Island Gardens, where you can see a working Dutch windmill and gain insight into the area’s Dutch heritage.

To make the most of your Lake Michigan adventure, keep an open mind and immerse yourself in the local culture. From attending lively events to exploring historic sites and engaging in traditional experiences, there are many opportunities for deepening your connection to this unique region.

Stay Updated on the Best Travel Destinations and Tips!

Things to do in Lake Michigan: Outdoor and Nature Activities

things to do in lake michigan2

Nature Trails and Hiking

Looking for the best things to do in Lake Michigan that are outdoors? Lake Michigan, with its vast shoreline and scenic parks, offers plenty of nature trails and hiking opportunities. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a must-see, featuring miles of sandy dunes, dense forests, and picturesque lakes. Here, you can wander the numerous hiking trails and enjoy the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and its surroundings. Another great location for hiking enthusiasts is the Black River Preserve. With diverse flora and fauna, this hidden gem is perfect for a peaceful stroll along the riverside and boardwalk.

Water Activities

There’s no shortage of fun water activities when you’re at Lake Michigan. From adventurous kayaking trips to relaxing swimming sessions, the crystal-clear waters are waiting for you. Don’t forget to hop on a boat and explore the beautiful shoreline and charming harbor communities. If you’re seeking a more tranquil experience, rent a canoe and meander through the serene waters, embracing the surrounding nature.

Adventure Sports

Craving some adrenaline-pumping activities? Northern Michigan has you covered. From state parks to the vast expanse of Lake Michigan itself, you’ll find ample opportunities to satisfy your adventurous spirit. Try your hand at sandboarding on the towering sand dunes or dive into wilderness camping in one of the many national and state parks. Longing for a bird’s eye view of the area? Embark on an exciting paragliding journey over the stunning landscape and marvel at the beauty below you.

Relaxation and Wellness

Spas and Wellness Centers

Are you looking for the best things to do in Lake Michigan where you can relax and unwind? Lake Michigan has several spas and wellness centers that offer an array of relaxation treatments and well-being activities. One example is Shanty Creek Resort, located in Bellaire, offering a four-season spa and wellness center with facilities like a fitness center, dry sauna, and steam room.

Beaches and Pools

With over 1,000 miles of coastline, Lake Michigan provides plenty of opportunities for you to kick back and relax on its beautiful sandy shores. From the picturesque New Buffalo Beach to the captivating Grand Haven shoreline, you’ll find many family-friendly beaches with natural beauty, lighthouses, and picnic areas along the coast. Don’t forget to also explore the numerous waterfront pools where you can take a refreshing dip.

Parks and Gardens

Lake Michigan offers numerous parks for picnics, hiking, and outdoor fun. Lambeau Field, for example, is not only a football stadium, but also features a park with green spaces perfect for a family outing.

Food and Culinary Activities

things to do in lake michigan3

Local Cuisine Tasting

One of the top things to do in Lake Michigan is to indulge in the mouthwatering local cuisine. Traverse City, known for its annual Cherry Festival, offers cherry-based dishes and treats that shouldn’t be missed. Head to South Haven or Ludington, two charming towns with a variety of dining options—restaurants here serve up flavorful food ranging from fresh seafood dishes to hearty Midwestern fare.

Cooking Classes

Want to bring home a taste of Michigan? Enroll in a cooking class to learn the tricks of the trade. In Kalamazoo, you can find cooking classes that focus on Michigan flavors, including wine-infused meals and farm-to-table experiences. Traverse City also offers cooking workshops where chefs and local food enthusiasts share their secrets to creating scrumptious dishes.

Visit Local Markets

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Lake Michigan’s culinary scene is by visiting local markets. Stroll through bustling downtown areas, browsing farmers’ markets and specialty stores selling local products. Keep an eye out for fresh produce, handmade artisan goods, and gourmet treats that showcase the region’s unique flavors.

Don’t forget to explore nearby wineries and join winery tours around Michigan. Wineries in South Haven, Ludington, and Traverse City await you with splendid selections of vintages to please your palate. Sample local wines, and enjoy picturesque views of Lake Michigan as you sip.

Happy eating as you experience the vibrant and delicious culinary scene that Lake Michigan has to offer!

Practical Tips

Local Etiquette and Customs

When visiting Lake Michigan, it’s important to be aware of local customs and etiquette. In the states surrounding the lake (Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana), people are generally friendly and welcoming. It’s common to greet others with a smile and a “hello” as you pass by. While participating in activities like boating, fishing, or visiting attractions like Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, always be respectful to both the people and the environment. Maintain a reasonable distance from wildlife and keep the area clean by disposing of your trash properly to preserve the natural beauty of the region.

Safety and Precautions

When you visit attractions around Lake Michigan, such as Grand Haven State Park or Hiawatha National Forest, prioritize your safety. Here are some safety tips for your Lake Michigan visit:

  • Swimming: Always pay attention to the lifeguards or flags indicating water conditions. Use a buddy system and never swim alone.
  • Boating: Wear a lifejacket and assess the weather conditions before heading out. If possible, take a boating safety course beforehand.
  • Hiking: Stick to marked trails, use appropriate footwear, and carry enough water and snacks.
  • Wildlife: Keep a safe distance and don’t attempt to feed or interact with any wild animals you might encounter.

Cost and Budget Tips

To make the most of your Lake Michigan trip without breaking the bank, consider these budget-friendly tips:

  • Accommodation: Look for vacation rentals or budget-friendly hotels in the area, or consider staying a bit further from popular attractions.
  • Activities: Opt for free or low-cost activities such as hiking, visiting state parks, or enjoying beaches like Silver Lake State Park.
  • Eating: Explore local markets and grocery stores to make your meals or choose budget-friendly restaurants for dining options. Alternatively, pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
  • Transportation: Rent a car only when necessary, and otherwise look into public transportation, carpooling, or bike rentals.

Sign In


Reset Password

Please enter your username or email address, you will receive a link to create a new password via email.