North America

10 great reasons to put Michigan on your family to-do list now

Last updated 2nd January 2024

The list of places to go in Michigan on a family holiday is practically endless. So to help you out we’ve handpicked 10 of the must-sees from Detroit in the south to Traverse City in the north. The rest is up to you.


Summer, Traverse City, Michigan

Direct UK flights to Detroit Michigan take from just over 8 hours year round. That in itself is reason enough to put the state on your to-do list for 2024. But convenient travel is a very small part of what makes this the ideal holiday destination for families.

You really do get some of everything in Michigan, it even has fabulous beaches thanks to its enormous Great Lakes’ coastline. As far as urban adventures go, they don’t come much more exciting than Detroit or Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids or Traverse City. Some of America’s greatest museums are at home here too, as well as wildly exciting state parks, jaw-dropping natural phenomena and quite a few seriously lovely road trips.

Thanks to the experts at Pure Michigan we’ve managed to pick 10 of the top places to go in Michigan with your kids. But once you’ve had a read, take a closer look, we’ve only lightly scratched the surface.


Detroit skyline, Michigan

Detroit: one of the top places to go in Michigan

In 2022, Time Magazine named Detroit as one of its Greatest Places and you won’t get an argument from us on that. Even just walking around this legendary city is an adventure. Especially if you hit Detroit International Riverwalk: over fives miles of everything from amazing views to cafés, restaurants, splash parks, carousels and green spaces.

Try to hang around for the weekend so you don’t miss Eastern Market on a Saturday; the largest outdoor farmer’s market in America it’s been around since 1841 and just keeps getting bigger and better.

If time is tight make the most of it by fitting in some of Detroit’s many museums. Older kids will enjoy the legendary Detroit Institute of Arts or the Motown Museum, but the interactive Michigan Science Centre is a must-do for younger ones. And amazingly enough, Detroit even gives you a beach break. Head to Belle Isle State Park to spread out on the shores of three lakes, hire a bike and take on the cycle trails or just go for a hike in the woods.


Detroit Institute of Art, Michigan

Detroit Institute of Art

Its collection of over 65,000 works makes the Detroit Institute of Art one of the most important art museums in the US. Not only does it contain the country’s first, dedicated Center for African American Arts, it has a collection entirely devoted to puppets – another first – and, of course, it’s home to the astonishing Diego Rivera, ‘Detroit Industry’, murals.


Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

This exciting, interactive museum has thrilled visitors the world over with its one-of-a-kind exhibits: where else can you step on to the bus where Rosa Parks took a stand in 1955? Kids also get to explore the achievements of the Wright brothers while playing pilot; discover the playful side of numbers in Mathematica, and even feel what it’s like to be a motor racing champion in the Winner’s Circle.

Of course, everything is designed to inspire, so there’s plenty of room for children to be innovative in their own right here too.


Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum

Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum

This is one of the most extraordinary museums anywhere, not just in Michigan. As a public sculptor for over 70 years, Marshall M. Fredericks amassed a vast body of work and from the monumental to the mythical, his sculptures are stunning and exhibited beautifully in this light, airy, purpose built space.

A glimpse into his studio gives artistic older kids an insight Fredericks and his working life. Although you can probably expect younger ones to prefer the freedom of the outdoor sculpture garden. And in extra good news, it’s all free.


Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor: Michigan’s university city

Less than an hour’s drive west of Detroit, you’ll find Ann Arbor and if the name sounds familiar that could be for a great many reasons.

For a start the University of Michigan is at home here, which gives the city a young, creative energy. That much is very obvious in the number of outstanding restaurants, craft breweries and independent local shops that thrive here too. And on a side note, the largest football stadium in the US, known as ‘The Big House’ is also an Ann Arbor native.

However, we think kids will particularly love the bike and people-friendly Downtown area during the day. Although it’s also worth dropping by at night to be dazzled by glittering Main Street. Other things not to miss include the excellent University of Michigan Natural History Museum, the historic Detroit Observatory – one of the oldest in the country, as well as free to visit – and Ann Arbor Hands On Museum: a great fun introduction to science for under-12s.


Traverse City, places to go in Michigan

Traverse City: one of the award-winning places to go in Michigan

Way up in the north west of the state on the shores of Lake Michigan, Traverse City might be known as the Cherry Capital of the World, but it could just as easily claim the title of Lighthouse Capital or even Amazing Natural Phenomena Capital.

No fewer than six historic lighthouses make their home here, including the delightful Mission Point Lighthouse. The city also happens to be the best base for visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; a natural wonderland of forests, beaches, islands and dunes – of course – where it’s possible to do anything from stargazing and cycling to wine-tasting and kayaking.

Come in early July and you can catch the annual Cherry Festival: one of the longest running and most colourful in the whole state. Visit in autumn for leaf peeping that rivals anywhere else in the US. Or come any time of year to stroll around the friendly Downtown area, discover farm-to-fork restaurants at their best, and gaze at Lake Michigan from just about the best vantage point.  You can really see why Good Housekeeping named Traverse City 2024 its Family Travel Award Winner.


Inuit art, Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City

The Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City

Traverse City has no shortage of great museums with a family-friendly attitude, Great Lakes Children’s Museum is fantastic fun for under 12s, and raising the standard on curious and fascinating are the likes of Guntsviller’s Spirit of the Woods.

However, if you only have time for one make it The Dennos Museum Center. This fabulous space not only contains one of the finest collections of Inuit art in the world, it has regular family days at the weekend, invites under-4s to visit free and features a year-round events programme that’s never anything less than original and thought provoking.


Windmill, Holland, places to go in Michigan

Grand Rapids: home to the #2 botanical gardens in the US

Grand Rapids is the largest city in the west of Michigan and famous for quite a few things, including its many award-winning craft breweries, as well as the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and one of the best Botanical Gardens in the entire country. It also has a truly delightful downtown where well preserved 19th century industrial architecture and intact cobbled streets, mix with cool restaurants, cafés and independent stores.

If you feel like a day at the beach, Grand Rapids is just over 30 minutes’ drive from Holland on Lake Macatawa. This quaint town, you may not be surprised to hear, grows millions of glorious tulips, comes with a wonderful old windmill, and even has its own tulip festival in spring. Alternatively you could just give kids the run of Nelis’ Dutch Village: part theme park, part living museum and all-round great, authentic fun – right down to the clog dancing lessons.


Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. is not only one of the most amazing places to go in Michigan, it’s one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world. And it’s never short of spectacular, in any season: the vast glasshouses draped in snow are a sight to behold.

Although it’s probably fair to say that you’ll see the gardens at their loveliest in spring and summer when the mix of mid-western planting and plants from around globe are all in full bloom. There’s a pretty, children’s garden as well as a farm garden which exactly replicates a smallholding from the 1930s.

But what really gives Frederik Meijer the edge and probably contributes to it being one of the most visited gardens in the US, is the Sculpture Park which features remarkable works of art from the 19th century to the present day, linked by waterways and glorious natural landscaping. Sounds a lot for little legs? Hop on the tram, another thing that makes a day out here so much fun for kids.

Spillman Carousel, Grand Rapids Public Museum

Grand Rapids Public Museum

One of the oldest museums in the US, Grand Rapids Public Museum covers three floors and could have been designed for the sole purpose of delighting children. In fact, it’s so intent on pleasing them, under 17s visit for free.

Then there’s the full size Spillman Carousel, which dates back to 1928 but is in such perfect working order you can still ride it today – that’s free too. The Chaffee Planetarium features family-friendly presentations year round. And it’s a rare visit to this great museum that doesn’t let you catch some sort of fresh and exciting family event.

Now visit America As You Like It and find out more about Michigan and how to plan a family trip any time of year