What Is Michigan Known For?

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Michigan is the United States of America’s 26th state, and it is filled with interesting places, people and traditions that make it a must-visit destination. Michigan is nicknamed the Wolverine State, taking this name from its early days in the fur trading industry of the 1800s. It joined the USA in 1837 and its state flower is the apple blossom because Michigan is well known for its orchards and apple production, ranking third-highest in the USA.

A visit to Michigan between April and May will reveal these delicate pink and white blooms in Michigan’s parks, private orchards and even along the roadside. Michigan’s human history dates back for more than 12,000 years. The states name comes from the Native American name for Lake Michigan, which means ‘big lake’ and there are 11 Native American tribes living in Michigan today. Following the settlement of the area in 1618 by the French and the English in 1700, the state officially became a US settlement in 1805.

Since then Michigan has been home to some of the best musicians in the world including Stevie Wonder and Madonna. It became the home of Motown records, the modern motorcar and even Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. The state is also famous for its natural beauty. Michigan lies within the Great Lakes region and has plenty of breathtaking natural destinations to enchant visitors. Its cities are vibrant and friendly, and filled with sports teams, delicious local dishes and of course music. Here’s what Michigan is famous for.

What Is Michigan Known For?

1- Motor City

Cityscape Of Detroit Skyline In Michigan
The Detroit skyline is one of the scenes Michigan is famous for.

Detroit, or Motor City as it has become to be known, got its nickname in the early 20th century.

Motor City was the home to many famous motor company start-ups including Ford and Olds.

Ransom Olds created his Oldsmobile in the early 1900s, and quickly decided to outsource production of parts which created a booming motorcar industry in the city.


Suppliers from all over the country began to send parts to Detroit to help Ford and Olds create their cars, with some including Henry Leland taking advantage of this new industry to produce their own vehicles, rather an simply supplying others with engines.

Leland, following his success in engine supply, went on to found Buick and Cadillac.

Olds invented the assembly line which sped up production and, following Ford’s automation of the line using conveyor belts, the pair created a mass-production line allowing cars to be made quicker, and therefore increasing availability.

The city quickly became the heart of America’s car industry and remains so today, with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all headquartered in Detroit.

Recommended tours:

  • Motor City Ghosts Tour
  • Detroit Scavenger Hunt: Roll Through Motor City

2- Sleeping Bear Dunes

Empire Bluff Scenic Lookout, Empire Bluff Trail
Sleeping Bear Dunes is what Michigan is famous for among nature lovers.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is a National Lakeshore on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The dunes unique name comes from an oral tradition story passed down in by the Anishinaabe.

The story tells of a mother bear and her two cubs having to leave their home in search of food during a famine.

The bears eventually had to stop walking and take to the lake to swim where one cub gradually weakened and sank, before the other drowned.

The mother bear was heartbroken, and once she reached land, she simply lay down looking back at the water where she lost her cubs, and fell asleep.

The two islands off the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes are the bear cubs, and the larger dune looking out over them is their mother.

Despite this sad tale, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a beautiful destination on the shores of the lake.

The National Lakeshore is a protected area of 71,199 acres and has been named as the ‘most beautiful place in America’ by Good Morning America.

There are many opportunities for hiking, camping and taking to the water on boats to see more of the dunes and the surrounding area.

3- Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls In Autumn, Michigan
The stunning Tahquamenon Falls is a what Michigan state known for. Pictured here is the upper falls.

To truly appreciate the beauty and power of the natural landscape in Michigan, head to Tahquamenon Falls.

Located in a state park of the same name, the falls are surrounded by 50,000 acres of woodland and water.

The falls are split into two; the upper and the lower falls.

The upper falls is 200ft (60.96m) wide and 50ft (12.24m) high, and is coloured amber due to tannins from nearby cedar, spruce and hemlock trees.

A nearby viewing platform offers visitors a chance to admire this spectacular waterfall, and even feel the spray from its powerful cascade.

The lower falls are the most accessible of the two, as they can easily be viewed from the banks of the river, a bridge and even from the water itself.

While visiting the falls look out for the areas endemic wildlife including black bears, porcupines and beavers.

4- Superman ice cream

Beautiful Girl Holding Two Colorful Ice Cream
Superman ice cream is what Michigan is known for in the food department.

A must-try sweet treat when in Michigan is a cone or cup of Superman ice cream.

The history behind this colourful ice cream is a mystery, as its true origins are unclear.

It is however commonly believed that this unique ice cream dates from Prohibition Era Michigan where brewery Stroh’s started making ice cream instead of beer.

They combined lemon ice cream, strawberry soda ice cream called Redpop and blue moon ice cream, making a swirling primary-coloured dessert.

The flavour alongside its origins is up for debate as the taste of blue moon ice cream can vary from vanilla to raspberry.

Regardless of the flavour, each manufacturer of Superman ice cream produces their own unique and interesting blend that is instagrammable and delicious to eat.

Superman ice cream can be purchased at grocery stores in Michigan and in Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as at ice cream parlours.

5- Coney Island Hot Dog

Coney Island Hot Dog Classic American 'Diner' Dishes
Coney Island hot dogs is a food Michigan is known for.

Hot dogs are a popular quick and easy bite to eat wherever you are in the USA, and many states have their own twists on this classic dish.

Michigan’s answer to the traditional hot dog is a Coney Island Hot Dog, which are made with beef frankfurter sausages in a steamed and soft white bun topped with a bean-free all meat chilli, diced white onions and mustard.

Despite its name, the Coney Island Hot Dog does not originate from Coney Island, New York.

The truth behind this hot dog is unclear, however many believe that it was created by Greek immigrants who passed through Coney Island on their way to Michigan, taking inspiration from the hot dogs served there.

Today there are a number of locations across the state where Coney Island Hot Dogs can be found, particularly in Detroit where local establishments American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island compete for the best version of this iconic state dish.

6- Michigan Wolverines

College football is a big deal in the USA, and one of its most exciting teams is the Michigan Wolverines.

The Wolverines are the college team for the University of Michigan famous for having the most all-time wins in the history of college football.

The stadium rivals those in the NFL with the games regularly breaking attendance records.

The Wolverines stadium is nicknamed The Big House, as it seats 107,601 fans and often sells out, making it the largest stadium in the USA.

The team played their first game in 1879, and went on to win a record of 962 games.

The team has seen many footballing greats come through its locker rooms including Tom Brady, arguably the best quarterback the game has ever seen.

Michigan Wolverines were the stars of an All or Nothing Amazon Prime documentary, an exclusive behind-the scenes look at the teams winningest college football program.

All or Nothing documented the teams 2017 season under Jim Harbaugh and shed light on the students playing, the coaching team and of course the legacy they are a part of.

7- The Great Lakes

Michigan is often referred to as the Great Lakes State, as it is bordered by Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Michigan.

These vast bodies of water are connected to each other through rivers and other smaller lakes, creating the largest freshwater body in the world, with more than 20% of the worlds freshwater within them.

As these lakes are so vast, Michigan has the largest freshwater coastline of any US State.

Lake Michigan is unique within the Great Lakes as it is steeped in legend and mystery.

This lake has its own ‘Bermuda Triangle’ area, where ships have disappeared and planes have gone missing.

Despite the mystery, Lake Michigan remains a popular vacation destination with many camping grounds, beautiful and tranquil beaches, and plenty of water-based activities for all the family.

8- Lighthouses

Sand Point Lighthouse Nautical Beacon Escanaba Lake Michigan
Sand Point Lighthouse is one of the lighthouses Michigan is known for.

Michigan is famous for its lighthouses, as it has more of these lifesaving waypoints than any other US state.

Michigan has a large area of freshwater coast line spanning 3200 miles (5190 kilometres) and as a result there are 129 lighthouses protecting ships out on its lakes from underwater rocky areas and cliffs.

Many of the lighthouses along Michigan’s coastline are open to the public for tours of both the lighthouses and their surrounding areas, all of which offer spectacular views across the lakes.

Some of Michigans lighthouses are no longer in active use and have been transformed into quaint bed and breakfasts and museums documenting the history of the lighthouse in Michigan.

The oldest lighthouse in Michigan is Fort Gratiot which dates from 1825.

This lighthouse is still operational and even allows brave visitors the opportunity to climb its spiral staircase up to the top of the lighthouse and out onto its catwalk for impressive views over the lake.

9- Stevie Wonder

One of Michigan’s most famous residents is Stevie Wonder, who was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950 and was a child prodigy thanks to his incredible multi-instrumental talents.

Wonder has been blind since birth due to complications however has always had a passion for music.

Stevie Wonder was nicknamed Little Stevie Wonder by Motown who singed him aged 11, before his first Number 1 Billboard Hot 100 single, Fingertips, was released in 1963 when he was just 13.

Since then Stevie Wonder has gone on to sell more than 100 million records, has won 25 Grammy Awards and an Academy Award.

Stevie Wonder’s passion for music has seen him inducted into many musical Hall of Fames including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.

10- The Great Outdoors

Pictured Rocks - Michigan UP
Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the stunning natural areas Michigan is known for.

Michigan is a diverse state with chaotic, energetic and bustling cities juxtaposed by tranquil natural landscapes.

Michigans shoreline is filled with pebble or sand-covered beaches that make for a relaxing day by the water whatever the season.

Away from the water, Michigan is home to the Porcupine Mountains, a Wilderness State Park that offers breathtaking landscapes.

Porcupine Mountains spans 60,000 acres of forests, hills, streams and waterfalls and a stretch of the shoreline of Lake Superior.

Within Porcupine Mountains are 90 miles (144.84 kilometres) of hiking and biking trails, and plenty of campgrounds allowing you to extend your stay.

Another spectacular natural landscape in Michigan is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, on the shores of Lake Superior.

Here you will find colourful eroded rock forms coming out of the emerald waters of the lake.

Head onto the lake in a kayak or on a tour to see these rocks from the water, or hike along the cliffs and through the forests to see them from a different angle.

11- Henry Ford

Henry Ford was born in Springwells Township, Michigan in 1863.

Ford showed a passion for engineering from a young age and at just 15 he could disassemble and accurately reassemble watches.

After a move to Detroit, Ford began working for Westinghouse, an electrical company.

Discovering his passion for cars, Ford, Alongside Ransom Olds, created the assembly line which allowed him to produce more cars at a greater speed.

In 1903 Ford founded the Ford Motor Company with his first production car, the Model T, launching in 1908.

The Model A Ford was created in collaboration with his son and became a vehicle that revolutionised car manufacture.

As well as inventing vehicles and modernising production, Ford also invested in aerospace, purchasing an airplane company in 1925.

12- Mackinac Bridge

Mackinaw City Bridge Michigan
The Mackinaw City Bridge is a sight that Michigan is known for.

The Mackinac Bridge has become a true Michigan landmark and one that is instantly recognisable in the state.

The bridge crosses the Straits of Mackinac, the area of water that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Huron.

Mackinac Bridge is a suspension bridge that stretches for 8038 m (26,371 ft), making it the fourth longest suspension bridge on earth.

David B. Steinman, an engineer designed the bridge which opened in 1957.

The bridge is a toll bridge exclusively for vehicles, however each year on Labor Day, the bridge is closed to vehicles to allow the Mackinac Bridge Walk to take place.

Like many large bridges applying paint is no small feat, with a compete paint job taking seven years from start to completion.

Recommended tours:

13- Detroit Lions

The Lions franchise began in 1930s Ohio as the Portsmouth Spartans before being moved to Detroit in a buyout by George A. Richards, a radio executive.

Richards changed the teams name to the Detroit Lions, where during their second year as the Detroit Lions they won the NFL Championship game.

The Detroit Lions began the tradition of some NFL games being played on Thanksgiving.

The teams first Thanksgiving game was in 1934, and they have played on the holiday every year since, with the brief exception of 1939-1944 when America was involved in WWII.

The Lions have played for 94 seasons since they were founded, however have never won a Super Bowl.

Detroit Lions have a fierce rivalry with the Green Bay Packers from Wisconsin which dates to the teams founding making it one of the oldest rivalries in NFL history. Book your tickets to a game here.

14- Tulip Time Festival

Several Colorful Tulips In Purple And Yellow-Red
Tulip Time Festival what fruit is Michigan known for.

One of the most well-known Michigan festivals is the annual Tulip Time festival, held each year in May.

The Tulip Time festival has been held since 1929 in the Michigan city of Holland, and will celebrate its 95th year in 2024.

Holland takes its name from the Netherlands and has close ties to the country.

When the festival was first discussed by Lida Rogers, a local high school biology teacher in 1927, a high emphasis on this historical tie was desired.

The festival sees the city bloom with thousands of colourful tulips and includes parades, concerts and family friendly activities.

The first Tulip Time festival saw 100,000 tulips planted from bulbs sent over from the Netherlands.

Tulip Time has won awards for the Best Flower Festival in the USA, and has been named one of the top 20 festivals to attend by the International Festival and Events association.

15- Floating Post Office

Michigan is well-known for its unique post office; the only floating post office in America.

The post office has been in use for 140 years and is ran by the J.W. Wescott Company.

This unique post office offers an unusual service in that it delivers parcels letters and other goods to the boats and ships along the Detroit River, one of the busiest waterways in the world.

The post office moors alongside the shops and delivers sailors their mail between April and December each year.

For many of the ships on the river who are making long journeys, the stops from the floating post office are their connections back to their homes and to land.

Throughout its history the floating post office has delivered everything from standard letters, parcels containing cigarettes and candy, to the more unusual items such as a live goat for a petting farm.

Map Of United States With Michigan Highlight

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Sarah Holmes
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.