More, more, more – Michigan is the Midwest state that cranks it up. It sports more beaches than the Atlantic seaboard. More than half the state is covered by forests. And more cherries and berries get shoveled into pies here than anywhere else in the USA. Plus Detroit is the Midwest's most exciting city of all, reinventing itself daily with street art and fresh architecture.
Michigan occupies prime real estate, surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. Islands – Mackinac, Manitou and Isle Royale – freckle its coast and make top touring destinations. Surf beaches, colored sandstone cliffs and trekkable sand dunes also woo visitors.
The state consists of two parts split by water: the larger Lower Peninsula, shaped like a mitten; and the smaller, lightly populated Upper Peninsula, shaped like a slipper. They are linked by the gasp-worthy Mackinac Bridge, which spans the Straits of Mackinac.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Michigan.
One of the oldest and largest year-round bazaars in the United States, Eastern Market draws Detroiters of all types to its six-block spread of wares. Looking for a vegan rum-raisin donut? Grow-your-own mushroom kit? Duck sausage? Fragrant lilac bush? Vendors sell these items and more along the market's brick halls that overflow with produce, meats, cheeses, spices and flowers. Saturday is the busiest day, when some 40,000 people come to browse. On summer Tuesdays, a smaller market takes place with yoga and Zumba classes added to the mix, and on summer Sundays, the popular Street Market with art, crafts, food trucks and live music sprouts up. On other days you can visit the specialty shops, galleries and cafes that flank the halls on neighboring streets, or check out the murals splashed across local warehouses. The area has become an international sensation for street art, with more than 100 cool works on walls. At Detroit's Eastern Market, food trucks and live music sprouts up © Maskot/ Getty Images Eastern Market stores and vendors The five halls — or sheds, as they’re called — are the core of the market. Sheds 2 and 3 are the biggest and busiest, packed with vendors shouting over piles of colorful fruits, veggies, breads, teas, pies, smoked fish and grass-fed beef. Shed 4 is smaller, with open-air sides. It’s a good spot to pick up fresh lemonade in the summer or fresh apple cider in the fall. Shed 5 holds the community kitchen with cooking demonstrations, while Shed 6 is dedicated to vendors selling flowers, plants and garden decor. Shed 1 was torn down in the 1960s to make a parking lot. The Sunday market swaps out many of the farm vendors for makers hawking jewelry, paintings, hand-carved furniture, soy candles and knit scarves. To see who will be selling on the day of your visit, check the shed-by-shed vendor list posted before each market. The shopping doesn’t end there. Loads of foodie stores and artsy boutiques line the streets around the market halls. On the west side along Russell Street, follow your nose to Rocky’s, an old-fashioned, family-owned peanut roaster that also sells candy and chocolates. On the market’s east side, Cost Plus Wine Shoppe (2448 Market St.) stocks a lovely selection of reds and whites in a heritage storefront. Nearby Henry the Hatter has been making hats since 1893, dressing the noggins of everyone from President Dwight D Eisenhower to Kid Rock. A few blocks onward, Vintage Eastern Market lets you roam through a mishmash of retro lamps, ticking clocks, porcelain vases and mounted deer heads. Restaurants and bars Eating and drinking continue beyond the market in the many taverns, cafes and tap rooms that pop up on surrounding streets. For breakfast, head to the market’s west side to Russell Street, where Germack roasts its own coffee beans and transforms them into rich espresso and chili-spiked mocha drinks. A few steps away Zeff’s Coney Island (2469 Russell St.) fries up diner-style platters of eggs, pancakes and corned beef hash. Stay on the block for local favorite Supino Pizzeria 's crisp, thin-crust pizzas. Or, sniff your way to Bert’s Market Place, where ribs sizzle on the grill and musicians belt out jazz and blues. On the east side of the market, Vivio’s, the neighborhood’s oldest bar, pours wildly garnished Bloody Mary’s to go with burgers and mussels in its cozy, 130-year-old digs. Nearby Detroit City Distillery concocts whiskey, gin and vodka for inventive cocktails in its industrial tasting room, while Eastern Market Brewing Co brings on mango sour beers and honeyed kölsches in its festive beer hall. Events Flower Day is Eastern Market’s biggest event. It’s a springtime tradition, usually held the third Sunday in May, when a mind-blowing array of annuals, perennials, blossoms, bulbs, bushes and shrubs are for sale. In 2021, it was spread over four Tuesdays in May to keep crowds smaller due to Covid-19 precautions. Check the website for updates on future events. The Detroit Festival of Books puts out a stash of used books, antiquarian books, comic books and vinyl records at the market the third Sunday in July. The Detroit Festival of Books puts out a stash of used books, antiquarian books, comic books and vinyl records at the market the third Sunday in July © Alexis Kriticos / 500px Tours Eastern Market’s murals include more than 100 works in the compact area’s buildings, so it’s easy to walk around and get your Instagram fill. Murals in the Market has maps with locations and artist info for self-guided tours. RiDetroit offers 1.5-hour tours by foot or two-hour tours by electric bicycle that focus on the mural scene. Wheelhouse Detroit leads 2.5-hour tours on standard bicycles that cover the murals, shops and area history. The Detroit Experience Factory offers two-hour walking tours that explore the murals, as well as the market’s role as an urban agriculture center. History of Eastern Market Eastern Market’s first sheds rose up at the current location in 1891, providing a central place for farmers to sell their goods. After WW2, several wholesalers and food processors moved into the area, and the market became a wholesale food distribution hub. It remains so today and provides meat and produce for many of Detroit’s restaurants. The market and its environs are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The storefront brick buildings have a distinctive look, with flat roofs and late Victorian features. Opening hours The Saturday market is open year-round from 6am to 4pm. The Sunday Street Market is open June through September from 10am to 4pm. The Tuesday market is open June through September from 9am to 3pm. Most of the specialty stores, bars and restaurants are open Tuesday through Saturday. Location Eastern Market is located 2 miles northeast of downtown via I-75. Parking is free in the garage on Riopelle St. and in the large lot near Russell St. and the Fisher Freeway Service Drive. Many visitors cycle to the market from downtown using the Dequindre Cut Greenway path. Eastern Market is located 2 miles northeast of downtown via I-75 © f11photo / Shutterstock
The DIA holds one of the world's finest art collections. The centerpiece is Diego Rivera's mural Detroit Industry, which fills an entire room and reflects the city's blue-collar labor history. Beyond it are Picassos, Caravaggios, suits of armor, modern African American paintings, puppets and troves more spread through 100-plus galleries. Try out the Lumin augmented reality tour that takes you to 18 museum highlights; the devices are free, available first come, first served from desks near the entrance. It's hard to believe the museum's collection was about to be sold to pay off the city's debt back in 2013. Luckily, donors saved the day.
This 1928 masterpiece from the man who built Detroit, Albert Kahn, has an imposing art deco exterior made from Minnesota granite and Maryland marble, and an interior to rival any Italian cathedral. From the soaring vaulted ceilings, featuring an array of intricate, hand-painted patterns, to the sparkling mosaics by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti and gleaming marble on the walls, the visual inspiration here is endless. The Fisher Building is just a short walk from the Grand Boulevard QLine stop.
Commissioned as a 'cathedral of finance,' this distinctive, 40-story, redbrick building with green and white accents was the world's tallest masonry structure when it opened in 1929. The interior is a colorful explosion of marble, mosaic and murals that draw from Aztec, art deco and local influences. It's certainly the prettiest Bank of America you'll ever see. Pure Detroit, whose flagship store is in the building, leads tours most Saturdays and Sundays. Keep an eye out for the blood-red Numidian marble on the walls, and don't miss the dazzling mural of Michigan at the end of the banking hall, painted by Ezra Winter.
Renowned architect Albert Kahn designed this 3.5-million-sq-ft factory, which opened in 1905, but after years of neglect it became one of Detroit's most iconic ruins. Now, a Peruvian developer has plans to turn it into an office and entertainment complex over the next decade. Phase one of the project broke ground in 2017, but it has been progressing more slowly than anticipated due to finance issues. Meanwhile, you can tour the site on Saturdays with Pure Detroit. Book in advance.
This public space in the heart of Detroit's downtown is the perfect spot to while away a sunny afternoon. A fountain dots the middle, surrounded by umbrella-shaded tables. Beside it, a sandy beach with lounge chairs appears in warmer months; in winter, the space becomes the city's most popular ice rink. There's a stage for concerts and, in summer, a pop-up restaurant and bar. At the foot of the park is the Michigan Soldiers & Sailors Monument.
Pretty Belle Isle floats in the Detroit River. The entire expanse is parkland where kayaking, walking trails and a glass-domed conservatory await. There's a beach, zoo, aquarium and maritime museum, too. Once you pay the entry fee, the individual sights are free. The cycling here is terrific.
One of the state’s most visited parks, Holland offers a lovely huge beach on Lake Michigan that’s stellar for sunset gaping and lighthouse views. A cafe, playground and pier where anglers cast their lines add to the scene. A second silky sand beach edges inland Lake Macatawa, where the boathouse rents canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (from $10 per half hour). The park holds two modern campgrounds: one on Lake Michigan with 98 tent and RV sites and another on Lake Macatawa with 211 tent and RV sites. Both charge $33 to $45 per night.
The forest-cloaked Manitou Islands provide an off-the-beaten-path adventure. They’re part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, hence the entrance fee. North Manitou is known for star-speckled backcountry camping, while South Manitou is terrific for wilderness-rich day trips. Kayaking and hiking are the big to-dos, especially the 7-mile trek to the Valley of the Giants, an otherworldly stand of cedar trees on South Manitou. Manitou Island Transit runs ferries from Leland; the trip takes 1½ hours.