Adventures You Can Only Have In The Mitten State
There are so many fun things to do in Michigan that you won't find anywhere else!
Walk through tunnels below an old asylum. Hunt for unique fossils found nowhere else in the world. Learn about colorful criminals of yesteryear on a prison tour. Take a trip through musical history in Motown. Or even make a pit stop in Hell! Michigan has unusual destinations to delight the whole family.
1: HUNT FOR PREHISTORIC FOSSILS
Two million years ago, glacial action deposited unique fossilized coral on the Northeastern shores of Lake Michigan. Petoskey stones, which are technically both rocks and fossils, are composed of fossilized rugose coral, consisting of tightly packed, six sided corallites from the skeletons of the ancient coral polyps.
Petoskey stones are treasured souvenirs you can only find in Northern Michigan. Charlevoix stones, a cousin to Petoskey stones, look similar, but consist of smaller, more tightly packed fossilized coral that gives the stones a honeycomb appearance.
The best places to find both Petoskey and Charlevoix stones are on the Lake Michigan beaches between Traverse City and Petoskey. These fossils look much like limestone when dry and unpolished but are fairly easy for even the novice fossil hound to spot when wet. Bring a long shovel for scooping wet rocks from the water and a bucket to haul your treasures.
Please note: Michigan state law prohibits gathering more than Petoskey stones 25 pounds of fossils per year.
2: WALK THE TUNNELS BENEATH AN OLD ASYLUM
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a magnificent and sprawling complex on the west side of Traverse City, has given new life to the elegant yellow brick buildings that housed the Northern Michigan Asylum from 1885 – 1989.
The buildings sat vacant for years until a local real estate development group converted the abandoned complex into the gorgeous cultural hub it is today, packed full of unique shops, restaurants, apartments, offices and event spaces. Tour the historical grounds, walk through the underground steam tunnels connecting the buildings, and learn all about Dr. Munson’s “beauty is therapy” theory on patient care and how the old hospital operated during its heyday.
The entire complex, including the extensive hiking trails on the hills above the buildings, was designed specifically to serve the health and well-being of the patients. Enjoy a tour, then stay for a hike and a fantastic dinner!
3: GO TO JAIL!
Do some time in Michigan’s first state prison, once the largest in the world. The Jackson Historic Prison tours, in Jackson Michigan, are narrated by fun and knowledgeable guides who will delight you with stories of crooks and other characters of the Jackson Prison’s nearly 200 years of history.
The City of Jackson fought hard to have the first state prison built in their town in 1838, and the colorful history of the prison, and the many criminals it housed, is deeply intertwined with the history of Jackson itself.
Learn what a typical day in prison was like in the olden days, tour the old buildings and gain understanding about both the evolution of prison practices and the prison’s ongoing impact on the community within which it was built.
4: TAKE A TRIP TO HITSVILLE, U.S.A
Motown founder Barry Gordy purchased the house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit in 1959, turning it into the first recording studio and the administrative offices for his record label—Motown, and this address into one of the most famous in Detroit.
Today you can visit the birthplace of Motown at the building that was converted into the extraordinary Motown Museum. Learn all about the influential music history made by Gordy and his company, one of the most successful black-owned businesses in the country and one of the most influential record labels of all time. Spend a day learning all about Gordy and the incredible artists he nurtured and made into stars, and you’ll be singing Motown hits all summer long.
5: EAT ICE CREAM IN HELL
What if the next time someone told you to go to Hell, you could tell them you’ve already been, and you had a raging good time? Hell, Michigan, located about 30 minutes northwest of Ann Arbor, is a fun family destination with a quirky name.
Play mini golf, go kayaking, check out Damnation University, shop for souvenirs, then quiet the kids’ screams with ice cream from the Creamatory located inside the Screams From Hell souvenir shop. If you dare, you can earn a “Death Certificate” by eating the monstrous one-pound Gravedigger Sundae – three large scoops of ice cream, a twinkie, pretzel sticks, gummy worms, cherries and other toppings, for $6.66—of course!
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