lighthouseI’m a born and raised Michigander and have lived in several different cities around the state. And what I’ve learned over time, is something that many travelers are also coming to know – that Michigan has so much to offer for family-friendly vacation options.

Whether you’re a fan of winter sports, or summer sun and beaches are more your thing – there’s a lot in the Mitten State to do. Here’s a quick crash course in the different areas around the state.

There are two main parts to the state of Michigan, obviously the upper (UP) and lower (LP) peninsulas. But even just within the LP, there are some major differences in terrain and vacation options. Most of the state’s larger metropolitan areas are to the south, with easy freeway access to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and even Canada.

The Detroit area in the state’s southeastern corner provides shopping and cultural destinations on a larger scale, with many choices for hotels, restaurants and more – including Michigan’s only Ikea store. Travel destinations include the Detroit Zoo, the Detroit Institute of Arts (one of the top 10 museums in the country) and The Henry Ford (includes the Henry Ford Museum,  Greenfield Village and more). Seasonal offerings include the North American International Auto Show in January (among the most prestigious auto shows in the world), the Detroit International Jazz Festival in September, and the Michigan Renaissance Festival (runs late August through early October). Plus there are the sporting events – the greater Detroit area is home to the Red Wings (NHL hockey), the Pistons (NBA basketball), the Tigers (MLB baseball) and the Lions (NFL football). Find out more or plan your Detroit area vacation at visitdetroit.com.

The second-biggest city in Michigan is Grand Rapids – ranked #3 in the US for fun and recreation by Placed Rated Almanac, and home to the amazing and unique ArtPrize international art competition (now in its second year), the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum and many more attractions and events. Downtown Grand Rapids is the “cultural and entertainment center of West Michigan”, and provides a variety of places to work, eat, shop and live – all highlighted by a beautiful skyline along the Grand River. For outdoor enthusiasts, Grand Rapids is also home to one of the US’s largest urban parks – Millenium Park.

The many other smaller cities throughout the southern portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula each also offer their own attractions and amenities for visitors:

There are so many other places that I haven’t mentioned yet too and in the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing more about some of my favorite travel destinations, both in my home area of West Michigan and throughout the state. Whether you’re planning your annual summer vacation or just a quick weekend get-away, Michigan has so much to offer!