Michigan Road Trip Ideas: Enjoy History, Great Food, Scenic Drives and More

Because time off was made for exploring and fulfilling your bucket list.

Road trips have long been a popular option for those inclined to venture out. Here are some Michigan road trip ideas to consider for your next getaway.

Detroit Day Trips

Street view of Capitol Park surrounded by buildings in Downtown Detroit, Michigan iStock

Westin Book Cadillac Detroit

When Detroit’s premier hotel opened its doors in 1924 on the “Fifth Avenue of the Midwest,” Washington Boulevard, the fancy Book-Cadillac Hotel ranked as the world’s tallest at 33 stories. It was the place to see and be seen for visiting politicians and for celebrities such as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Katharine Hepburn. But time and falling fortunes took their toll, and by the mid-1980s the hotel had closed.

By the early 2000s, small saplings grew from the roof, and rainwater pooled in guest rooms and banquet halls. A major renovation was undertaken in 2007, restoring the grand hotel to its earlier glory.

Today, the AAA Four Diamond Westin Book Cadillac Detroit gleams with crystal chandeliers, marble floors and decor that fuses contemporary luxury with the building’s original Italian Renaissance glamour. It’s a great addition to your Michigan road trip ideas.

Musical Detroit

Sure, Detroit is known for its automotive heritage, but music comes in a strong second. See the places that make the music happen.

Control room with recording equipment at the Motown Museum in Detroit Bill Bowen

Motown Museum

See the studio (a.k.a. Hitsville U.S.A.) where legends such as Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye recorded the Motown sound.

Music exhibit showcasing costumes, instruments and more at the Detroit Historical Museum Detroit Historical Society

Detroit Historical Museum

Artists with Detroit ties—Bob Seger, Madonna, Eminem and Kid Rock—take center stage among exhibits highlighting the city’s automotive, cultural and musical legacies. Advanced ticket purchases are highly encouraged.

Third Man Records

Pick up souvenir vinyl at this shop founded by The White Stripes’ Jack White.

Saugatuck and Holland

Onlookers watch the Saugatuck Chain Ferry escort visitors across a river in Michigan Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau

Saugatuck Chain Ferry

Since 1838, residents of Saugatuck have used a chain ferry to cross the Kalamazoo River from the resort community’s downtown to the Lake Michigan shore. Thought to be the only remaining ferry of its kind in the United States, the small wooden boat traverses the river by means of a hand crank that pulls the ferry along a chain that stretches from one bank to the other.

If a ride on Saugatuck’s chain ferry seems like a quaint way to cross the river, the ferry also provides a convenient shortcut to Oval Beach, one of west Michigan’s most popular strands, without the worry of parking. Across the water, it’s a half-mile walk to Lake Michigan via a wooded trail. The chain ferry is open Memorial Day through Labor Day.


Holland is just a 20-minute drive from Saugatuck—long enough to catch your breath, short enough to have time for sightseeing.

A red lighthouse sits at the entrance to a channel in Holland Harbor in Michigan iStock

Holland State Park

Walk the dunes and take photos of the Holland Harbor Lighthouse, aka Big Red.

Holland Peanut Store

Pick up chocolates made in-house or fresh-roasted nuts for a between-meals treat.

Rows of colorful tulips in full bloom in Holland, Michigan Ganeshkumar Durai/Alamy Stock Photo

Veldheer Tulip Gardens

Visit in mid-April through mid-May to tiptoe through more than 6 million brilliant tulips and other spring blossoms.

Kalamazoo and Marshall

An exhibit featuring classic cars at the Gilmore Car Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan Gilmore Car Museum

Gilmore Car Museum

No place celebrates car shows quite like the AAA GEM-designated Gilmore Car Museum. One of North America’s largest automobile museums, it occupies 90 acres in Hickory Corners, near Kalamazoo.

More than 500 vehicles, from an 1899 steam-powered pre-Model T to the muscle cars of the 1960s and ’70s, make up a collection that began as the personal hobby of Donald Gilmore, formerly of the Upjohn pharmaceutical company.

While you’re there, check out the authentic 1930s-era Shell gas station and stop for lunch at the museum’s 1941 roadside diner, the Blue Moon, serving up Chicago- and Coney-style dogs, homemade pies and old-fashioned custard.


Marshall is a 40-minute drive from Kalamazoo—heading east on Interstate 94.

A Hawaiian-inspired historic house with green columns and a white fence in Marshall, Michigan Choose Marshall

Historic Marshall

See the Honolulu House Museum, the Governor’s Mansion and 850 historic homes and buildings.

Two young girls play with a magician’s hat and wand at the American Museum of Magic Choose Marshall


Specialty museums include a postal museum, a gasoline museum and the American Museum of Magic.

Vintage housewares and dresses on display inside a small boutique shop Choose Marshall

Vintage gifts

Six antiques shops line Michigan Avenue. Among the finds: furniture and home decor at Amazing Grace Antiques, and dishes and garden art at The Plaid Herb.

Upper Peninsula

Green trees and blue sky reflecting against the surface of Lake Kitch-iti-Kipi Roving Wanderer/Getty Images

Lake Kitch-iti-kipi

Lake Kitch-iti-kipi, or the Big Spring, gleams a spectacular azure within Palms Book State Park, northwest of Manistique in the Upper Peninsula. A self-operated wooden observation raft carries visitors across the glass-smooth surface of the lake, which was named generations ago by the Chippewa.

An interpretive sign aboard the raft explains the geology of the freshwater spring. This natural wonder is Michigan’s largest and is continually fed through underwater fissures at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute. But it’s the lake’s crystal-clear water that commands attention: It’s so clear that brook trout and ancient tree trunks are easily seen 40 feet below the surface, and lines of bubbles reveal the streams of incoming water that feed the spring.


In your Michigan road trip ideas, don’t neglect the Upper Peninsula. Switch from the Lake Michigan side of the state to the Lake Superior side in less than two hours with this beautiful forested drive from Lake Kitch-iti-kipi to Marquette.

Family biking on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail along Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan Aaron Peterson

Iron Ore Heritage Trail

Pedal along one of the most picturesque Great Lakes, Lake Superior, past the Ore Dock and through downtown Marquette.

Pinnacle Falls on the Yellow Dog River in Marquette, Michigan Travel Marquette


Marquette is an easy drive from four spectacular cascades: Morgan Falls, Dead River Falls, Yellow Dog Falls and Pinnacle Falls.

A red and white lighthouse and a sandy beach along Lake Superior in Michigan iStock

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse: A trek up this 1866 lighthouse promises unforgettable Lake Superior views—and there’s a museum to explore.


Ice cream sodas and handmade fudge? Yes, please!

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