The Getaway
Embark on a Small Town Journey Through Michigan

When people from Michigan come across each other in the wild, i.e., beyond the state, they point at their hands to indicate where they're from exactly. Michigan's map does look a lot like two hands touching. But for everyone else, Detroit is the touchstone. There are dozens of fetching towns close to Motor City that are worth your attention. We guarantee you'll return home gushing over Great Lakes State.


01 Traverse City

Downtown Traverse City Michigan

Traverse City in Grand Traverse Bay is a favorite with couples. Not only does it have excellent restaurants for date nights, but there are many all-year cultural and natural attractions to appreciate without busy crowds affecting the experience. The tart cherries are divine; you can sample them at the local vineyards and orchards. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a stone's throw away.


02 Mackinac Island

"Harbor View Sunrise" Mackinac Island , Michigan

Families tend to make glorious memories on this island in Lake Huron. It's known as the Jewel of the Great Lakes and one of the best islands in the country. A 20-minute ferry ride is all it takes to feel like you've been transported to another place and time. Cars can't operate in this small town, so to get around, you have to cycle or, get this, hop on a horse-drawn carriage. Whichever form of conveyance you choose, you'll be whizzing past Victorian cottages and adorable candy shops—the local fudge is famous. Make sure you visit the Grand Hotel and see the cannon firing at Fort Mackinac—costumed individuals milk the moment for the crowd.


03 Charlevoix

Charlevoix, Michigan, August 8, 2016: one of the unique "hobbit homes" that serve as a local attraction in Charlevoix, MI Alexey Stiop /

You know your eyes are about to be blessed when a town tacks on "the Beautiful" after its name. Charlevoix the Beautiful is just that—gorgeous views of the Pine River Channel and Round Lake accompany you wherever you go. Nearby, Beaver Island is full of bars and birch trees and is known as "America's Emerald Isle." It takes just over four hours to get here from Detroit.


04 Petoskey

The historic business district on Mitchell Street Roberto Galan /

Drive four hours out of Detroit, and you'll encounter Petoskey. This small resort town in Little Traverse Bay is a boating and floating kind of place, which might explain why Hemingway lingered here. There's a marina, and the downtown Gaslight District is full of bookshops and cafes—it's a lot more harmless than it sounds. Comb for stones in Petoskey State Park and try all the tasty preserves at American Spoon. Petoskey's open spaces, ski slopes, and Victorian architecture give it a charm all its own.


05 Saugatuck

Waterfront buildings near the entrance to the Oval Beach on Lake Michigan. Young couple waiting a ferry ride to cross the Kalamazoo River. Saugatuck Chain Ferry PQK /

Saugatuck and the next town over, Douglas, are judgment-free vacation destinations for queer folks and fantastic places to unwind. With its powdery sand and sundowner potential, Oval Beach is a highlight. Grab a Saugatuck fruit pie, bury your toes in the beach, and enjoy life's simple pleasures. If you enjoy live music, the town hosts weekly concerts in Wicks Park. The Ox-Bow school will teach you how to blow glass or forge metal, and if it's nature you're after, an offroad dune ride in Saugatuck Dunes State Park will do the trick. The dunes are 200 feet tall.


06 Calumet

Abandoned Industrial Site. Mine cars abandoned in a field at the Quincy Mine in the Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet, Michigan.

The village of Calumet in the Keweenaw Peninsula is stunning—the forest scenery is spectacular, and the night skies are impossibly bejeweled. This is Copper Country, and you can learn all about the metal's influence on the region at the Keweenaw National Historical Park. If you're craving a rewarding walk, there are loads of hikes, or you could skate the day away at the Calumet Colosseum, North America's oldest indoor ice rink.


07 Frankenmuth

Aerial view of Frankenmuth city in Michigan, known for its Bavarian-style architecture. SNEHIT PHOTO /

With a name like this, you'd be forgiven for thinking of Frankenstein. But thankfully, the two entities have little in common. Frankenmuth is a German-infused town with settlers from the European nation and generations of influence over the local architecture, culture, and cuisine. Take the Bavarian Belle Riverboat through town, watch for the cuckoo clock on the Glockenspiel Tower, and check out Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the world's biggest Christmas store, for all your festive season needs. Frankenmuth Aerial Park is fun for all ages. You'll need to drive just an hour and a half out of Detroit for a getaway.


08 Leland

Sunset On Fishtown Leland Mi

Leland is arguably one of the top 20 most beautiful small towns in the nation, at least according to a recent Travel + Leisure list. The town is located on Leelanau Peninsula, and about 400 people live here. Fishtown's old fisherman shanties have reinvented themselves, and hip stores do business out of them. When you're done shopping and eating, take a ferry to the Manitou Islands for more photo ops.


09 Mio

Forest walkway bridge with winter snow in Huron-Manistee National Forest near Mio, Michigan Dirk Wierenga /

Ever heard of the Au Sable River? It's a body of water that winds its way through Grayling, Mio, Oscoda, and seven other towns and is known for brown trout fishing. If freshwater fish and canoeing don't interest you, Mio has more up its sleeve. It has a sizable Amish community, and they sell baskets, rugs, and foodie treasures. Mio is three hours north of Detroit.


10 Bay City

Tall Ships line the river's edge at Wenonah Park at sunset for the Tall Ship Celebration Craig Sterken /

Bay City near Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay is a little gem. It's Madonna's birthplace, so it deserves props for bringing us the queen of pop. It hosts fun festivals throughout the year catering to various interests, but there's lots to do even when there's no big event. Picnic at Bigelow Park, climb ladders on the USS Edison, go ice skating at Wenonah Park, or look for ghosts at the impressive but haunted library. You can also get up close and personal with Bay City Hall, a building recognized by the Smithsonian. The old sailing ships add to the town's special atmosphere.


11 Ludington

Big Sable Point Lighthouse sunset - Ludington , Michigan

Ludington State Park is one of the best state parks in the region. Once you've hit your quota of outdoorsy activity, history buffs may want to head to Historic White Pine Village, which is a replica of pioneer life. Ludington has two lighthouses; you can learn more fun facts at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum.


12 Tawas City

View of Tawas Bay, on Lake Huron from the Shoreline Park Roberto Galan /

Sometimes, all you want from a vacation is serenity. Tawas City has got your back. This small town has 1,800 residents and is ideal if you want to take it easy. East Tawas offers turquoise waters, kiting, birdwatching from Tawas Point Lighthouse, and a slower pace, in general. Pick blueberries at a decades-old farm, and stroll along the shoreline park or Anchor Park. Tawas City is just under three hours from Detroit and is named after Chief O-ta-was.


13 Tecumseh

Welcome sign greets visitors to Tecumseh MI one of first three settlements in Michigan. Original settlers were 15 men and 11 women and 6 children from New York. Barbara Kalbfleisch /

Tecumseh was one of the first settlements in Michigan. It's a fab day trip or overnight destination close to Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. If you go, put The Pit right at the top of your schedule. It's a cherished park with a forest and a swimming pond— the northwest corner of the woods may or may not be haunted, so bring your ghostbusting apparel. You can also go skydiving in Tecumseh, which sounds tamer, all things considered.  


14 Gaylord

View of city streets Fsendek /

Nope. This isn't the beginning of a Meet the Parents joke. Gaylord is a lovely small town in Michigan located on the 45 Parallel. Many of its downtown buildings have Swiss alpine motifs and a Tyrolean aesthetic. With more than 90 inland lakes, you'll have many picturesque spots for your splashing and sunbathing requirements, and there's a renowned golf course here, too, if you'd like to practice your swing.


15 Grand Marais

Sable Falls near Grand Marais, Michigan. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Lester Graham /

Grand Marais in Minnesota is better known, but Michigan's Grand Marais has its fair share of appeal. With over 50 miles of shoreline to delve into, your camera roll will fill up in no time with lighthouses, waterfalls, flora, and fauna. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a kayaking paradise with caves and sparkling cliffs—it's a must-see.


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