Michigan is a very underrated state and one thing that makes the state even more amazing are the several places to visit there. These are the best small towns in Michigan!
If you’re looking to escape for the weekend, definitely consider one of these Michigan small towns. Some are situated near the lake and others are close to nature… but they are all fantastic getaways!
Did we miss any small towns in Michigan (or lesser-known cities!) on this guide that are cozy and charming? Let us know in the comments! Thanks!
Best Small Towns in Michigan
Officially dubbed The Magic Capital of the World, Colon is a hotspot for budding and professional magicians, housing a number of well-known magic companies, such as the FAB Magic Company, the Sterlini Magic Manufacturing Company, and the Abbott Magic Company which also hosts a 4-day magic convention each year called the Abbott’s Magic Get-Together.
History buffs should also check out the Colon Magic Museum, as well as the Colon Historical Museum.
Foodies can grab a bite of delicious traditional American food at Curlys Inc. or the famous bulk pork sausage patties at Dawn’s Café. Make sure you also check out the Village Market Food Center and the Five Star Pizza.
If you’re more of an outdoor person, then the beautiful Colon Community Park is the place to be! Colon is also home to a large number of churches which also double as tourist hotspots.
Mackinac Island is a National Historic Landmark that has been a hit with tourists for over 150 years. It is one of the best tourist destinations in the United States!
Almost all of its historical buildings, such as the Victorian Grand Hotel, have been preserved. The Biddle House, the McGulpin House, and the Agency House of the American Fur Company are some of the historical buildings which you can visit.
Another popular spot is the Mission Point Museum, showcasing the history of Mackinac Island.
The island is home to the oldest church in Michigan, the Mission Church, as well as the Catholic Saint Anne Church. Speaking of oldest, check out the Wawashkamo Golf Club, the oldest active golf course in Michigan.
Other interesting locations are the Indian Dormitory, the Round Island Lighthouse, the various children’s parks, and the Matthew Geary House.
In terms of delicacies, Mackinac is famous for its delicious fudge, which you can find in shops around the island!
Hillsdale is the largest city in Hillsdale County. The first thing you’ll notice as you walk in is the beautiful Victorian-era buildings that have been preserved since the 19th century, some converted into inns and eateries (e.g., Heart of Hillsdale Inn & Suites).
Hillsdale is famous for the historical Hillsdale College built in 1844, which itself includes the Slayton Arboretum and the Liberty Walk, a walkway in the campus that includes statues of notable people such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
The Historic Dawn Theater is also a big hit, as is the Hillsdale Country Fair during the fall season.
If it’s food you’re looking for, try Sharon’s House of Pancakes, the Finish Line Family Restaurant, and the El Ceritto Mexican bar and grill.
Make sure to visit Stocks Park, which is located on the St. Joseph River bank, another historic Hillsdale attraction.
South Haven, known as “The Catskills of the Midwest,” is a major tourist hotspot due to its harbor, beaches, as well as the Kal-Haven and Van Buren trails.
There are a lot of cultural attractions you can check out, such as the Michigan Maritime Museum which hosts the Friends Good Will ship, the crowning jewel of South Haven.
You can buy tickets to ride the ship, as well as the Lindy Lou, a historical powered river launch.
Let’s talk food: Clementine’s, previously a bank, is the most famous eatery in South Haven, followed by the Black River Tavern. Do not forget to grab a cup of coffee at the Flying Saucer coffee shop!
South Haven also offers great accommodation options such as the Cherry Blossom and MichiMonaMac Lakeshore cottages, the Yelton manor, the Carriage House, and others. And that’s not all. There’s more to South Haven than meets the eye!
Copper Harbor is the perfect quiet getaway in Michigan, especially since its natural attributes allow it to be a tourist hotspot throughout the year.
The area is full of cultural destinations, such as the Schoolhouse (a 140-year-old one-room school), the Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, and the lighthouse built in 1849.
Visiting the Michigan lighthouse will require an open vessel ride from the Marina, after which you can visit the museum inside the lighthouse.
Aside from the historic state park, popular natural wonders in Copper Harbor are Lake Fanny Hooe and Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary.
Once you’re done exploring the historic side of things, grab a bite to eat at the Brockway Inn, Jamsen’s Bakery, the Harbor Haus Restaurant, as well as a cold pint at Brickside Brewery!
And if you ever visit here on the 4th of July, don’t miss the 4th of July fireworks show!
A beautiful city with a scenic lake, Cadillac is an ideal location to relax in. It’s home to a number of historic landmarks which you can visit, including the Cadillac Carnegie Library, Charles T. Mitchell House, Cobbs & Mitchell Building, and the famous Shay Locomotive.
The Greenwood Disciples of Christ Church is also popular among visitors.
If you’re looking for a resort to stay in, we recommend the Caberfae Ski Resort, after which you can also visit the Beatie’s Bar & Grill. Speaking of food, Cadillac has no shortage of great eateries.
Grab a bite at Lakewood Grill, Burke’s Waterfront, and the Coyote Crossing Restaurant. Fancy a beer? Try Clam Lake Beer Company.
Cadillac also hosts a ton of fun events: the Mesick Mushroom Fest, Festival of the Arts, Freedom Festival, and the popular Craft Beer Festival! So much going on in such a small city!
Paradise (Tahquamenon Falls)
A town aptly named, Paradise is a nexus for hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, and similar outdoor activities. It’s also known for its sandy beaches where you can enjoy the beautiful sights of Lake Superior and hunt Yooperlites at night!
Neighboring the town is the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, famous for its Tahqua Trekker, a shuttle that transports visitors to different parts of the park.
Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub is a big hit with food enthusiasts, just like the famous Wheelhouse Diner & Goatlocker Saloon and the Inn Gastropub & Smokehouse.
If it’s history you’re looking for in Paradise, then make sure you check out the Shipwreck Museum to discover maritime secrets and insightful knowledge.
For accommodation, look at Tahquamenon Suites lodging, the Paradise Shore Cabins, and the Shelldrake Roadhouse.
Recognized as the number 2 small town travel destination in the US, Traverse has many attractions to offer.
From historical markers such as the Grand Traverse County Courthouse, the Boardman River, the South Union Street Bridge, and the State Theater. to outdoor areas such as the State Park, the city is full of sights to behold.
Traverse is also a favorite spot for wine aficionados, with the Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn and Chateau Grand Traverse being two of the most popular.
The Michigan town is very lively, which is why you can find a lot of sports areas such as the Huntington Rink indoor arena. Visitors are often in Traverse to attend events such as the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival.
Foodies should definitely check out spots like the Aerie Restaurant & Lounge, Hearth & Vine Cafe at Black Star Farms, and many others.
If it sounds German, it should! Frankenmuth, aka Little Bavaria, is home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Christmas store.
As you can guess, the town becomes a tourist hotspot during the giving season, with activities ranging from the Frankenmuth Ice Rink to Zehnder’s Snowfest.
The German-heritage town has a lot to offer: the Frankenmuth Brewery with its Christmas Town Ale, Bavarian Inn Castle Shops, ziplines at Frankenmuth Aerial Park, and even blacksmithing courses!
The experience wouldn’t be complete with some great food, which is why you should try the town’s famous chicken dinners at places like the Lorelei Lounge and Cass River Bar & Grill.
Other notable places include Zehnder’s Holzbrücke, a wooden covered bridge a-la the German bridges, Heritage Park with all of its amenities, and a replica of the Austrian Silent Night Chapel. A little slice of Germany in Michigan!
Tecumseh is certified as one of the best U.S. small towns to visit (and live in). Here’s why:
The quiet little town houses a portion of the Southern Michigan Railroad Society, a railroad museum that is still operating.
This is a tourist hotspot, but more so are the cultural events that take place in the town each year, such as the Tecumseh Ice Sculpting Festival, the Classic Car and Bike Show, the Annual Pet Parade, and Sidewalk Sales.
If you’re into picnics, then the many green areas in the town will provide the perfect spot. The Art Trail is a popular outdoor sculpture exhibit as well, same with Kiwanis Trail.
Beautiful, cozy accommodation is available at the Vintage Boulevard Suite and Union Block Suits. In terms of dining, you have a ton of 5-star award-winning restaurants to choose from, and don’t forget to try the homebrews!
Charlevoix is a staple of Northern Michigan. The locals don’t call it Charlevoix the Beautiful for no reason, as the city is full of beautiful landmarks such as the scenic lake named after it, and its neighboring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Beaver Island, and the Ironton Ferry which connects Ironton to Boyne City.
Charlevoix is also active when it comes to sports. High school athletic events are the talk of the town while BMX cyclists and rollerbladers frequent the town’s skate park and skiing becomes a hit during winter.
If you’re into golf, you’ll be right at home at the many golf courses in the city, namely Belvedere, Charlevoix Country Club, and the Municipal Golf Course.
The Hotel Earl of Charlevoix is a beautiful accommodation option, while The Village Pub family eatery will give you the vibes of 50’s Americana. Visit Charlevoix, you won’t regret it!
The largest city in West Michigan, Ludington is actually a harbor town located on the shores of Lake Michigan, which is why it’s famous for its beautiful beaches.
Most tourists recommend Stearns Park beach for its many amenities such as a big playground, mini-golf, and free parking. Speaking of beaches, make sure to take your kids to the Sandcastles Children’s Museum.
If it’s landmarks you’re after, the city won’t disappoint. The majestic S.S. Badger Carferry ports here, and the town houses not one, but two beautiful lighthouses which you can visit, especially at nights.
Popular activities also include fishing at Hamlin Lake and Pere Marquette River. If you want food served with a side of authenticity and history, then grab a bite at the Old Hamlin Restaurant.
The city has many inns and accommodation options including the top-rated Viking Arms.
Petoskey is a coastal getaway town where you can find beautiful buildings and historic inns such as Colonial Inn and Stafford’s Perry Hotel, as well as top-rated restaurants like 1911, Crow’s Nest, and the Dam Inn.
Take a walk near Walloon Lake when outdoors, where you might feel the spirit of Ernest Hemingway, who spent his childhood there.
Speaking of spirits, the town houses Mammoth distilling, the Burnt Marshmallow Brewstillery, and many other wineries.
Meanwhile, get a sense of Petosky’s history by visiting landmarks such as the Andrew Blackbird Museum, Chief Petosega’s Sculpture, the Crooked Tree Arts Center, and the old-timer Petosky Trolley.
For some family time here, we recommend the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, as well as the Avalanche Mountain Preserve which is mesmerizing during winters, when you should definitely check out the area’s many ski resorts.
Adventurous? Throw an ax or two at the Northern Michigan Axe Company!
Saugatuck, with a population just below 1000, has been a tourist hotspot ever since the 19th century. It was smack in the middle of the Arts and Crafts movement, drawing in artists and art enthusiasts just as it does today.
The city is full of beautiful galleries and B&B’s, which are what most tourists are drawn to. However, there is more to do here, such as visiting the Saugatuck Dunes State Park for recreation and checking out the Navigation Structures at Saugatuck Harbor.
The Saugatuck Center for the Arts never disappoints with its exhibits and events, neither do the restaurants.
Visit the Butler, Bowdie’s Chophouse, Guardian Brewing Company, and the Mermaid Bar and Grill for food and drinks you won’t forget.
While you’re here, hop on the city’s very own hand-cranked vessel, the Saugatuck Chain Ferry. No wonder Saugatuck is called one of the coolest cities in America!
Dubbed the “virtual textbook of 19th-Century American architecture,” Marshall is Michigan’s architectural marvel. The Marshall Historic District alone houses more than 800 historic buildings such as the U.S. Postal Service and Honolulu House Museums.
Every year after Labor Day, the city organizes the Marshall Historic Home Tour which showcases a number of Marshall’s oldest homes, museums, and a church.
If you’re in town on the last Saturday of September, be sure to catch the Skeleton Fest. June is fun times in Marshall as well, with the Blues Fest full of music and beer, and the Fiber Arts & Animals Festival which also repeats in October.
Aside from events and historical locations, Marshall has a ton of great food options to offer like Schuler’s American Restaurant and Pub and the Jade Garden.
With a city that is full of interesting sights and beautiful buildings, we‘re sure you’ll be visiting more than once!
Did we miss any of the best small towns in Michigan above? Let us know your favorite Michigan small towns and cities in the comments! Thanks!
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.