Michigan has some tough winters, but the peak of summer in July and August is simply idyllic: sunny days, breezy nights, sapphire lakes, lightning bugs, fresh berries, the smell of pine trees… This isn’t the time to be holed up in a museum, though we do love our museums. It’s time to enjoy the outdoors, and here’s where you can start:
Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan is a quiet little piece of heaven. This wide open beach has grassy sand dunes stretching on forever, and since Lake Michigan is so vast, you get the serene feeling that you’re sitting next to a very calm ocean. This protected National Lakeshore also has hiking trails and the swimming is great, if a little chilly, even during the summer. There are several campgrounds available, and if you stick around until autumn, you’ll see the trees explode in color.
The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City is one of a kind. This annual, week-long, outdoor fair grew from a more modest “Blessing of the Blossoms” back around 1910. In 1926, Hawkins Bakery made a giant cherry pie that was three feet in diameter for President Coolidge. In 1931 a national celebration was formed, and in 1987 a world record was set for the largest cherry pie: 17.5 feet in diameter, clocking in at a ridiculous 28,350 pounds. Not only does the festival show off the region’s tart and sweet cherry harvest, but it features any cherry-related food you could think of, plus live music.
Interlochen Center for the Arts hosts numerous outdoor concerts on its beautiful wooded campus, attracting renowned classical musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, not to mention popular icons like Aretha Franklin. Founded in 1928, Interlochen is both a summer music camp and boarding school, and is arguably America’s original band camp, à la American Pie. The quality of instruction is unparalleled, preparing students for Juilliard and beyond, so even if you just drop in for a student performance, you won’t be disappointed.
Mackinac Island sits peacefully between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. This state park banned cars back in 1898 (funny enough, since Michigan was so integral to the automotive industry), but you can get around by bike, horse, or carriage just as well. There are views from limestone bluffs, trails through thick green forest, and several historical museums. We already said that summer isn’t the time to be stuck inside, but at least check out the view from the top of the Mission Point Tower Museum.
What’s your favorite summer spot in Michigan?