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  • Summer fun at colorful Campus Martius Beach in Detroit
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    Detroit: On the Go Exploring Museums and a Local Hot Spot

  • Couple enjoys craft beer at Wolverine State Brewing Co.
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    Ann Arbor: College Town, Cultural Capital

  • Sunset cruise on the Bavarian Belle in Frankenmuth, Michigan
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    Frankenmuth: Michigan’s Little Bavaria

Dusk serves as the perfect contrast to the illuminated Detroit skyline
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Vito Palmisano

On the Town in Michigan’s Must-see Cities

By Idoia Gkikas

  • Route distance:
    330.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    4 days

Explore vibrant city life in Detroit, college town fun in Ann Arbor and charming culture in Frankenmuth.

With diverse culture spanning from French settlers and German immigrants, to its rise as a busy commercial port and now a burgeoning food, beer and entertainment scene, Michigan is chock-full of landmark attractions and history just waiting to be explored. Check out the three iconic stops in this road trip to experience what makes Michigan a must-visit destination.

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Summer fun at colorful Campus Martius Beach in Detroit
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Detroit: On the Go Exploring Museums and a Local Hot Spot

Now’s the time to visit Detroit and experience how it blends old and new in a seamless way. Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) provides easy access to the “Motor City,” along with car rentals to begin your road trip. The city’s storied history as an automobile mecca can’t be understated. After all, it’s where Henry Ford founded his auto company and where Ford and General Motors are headquartered today. Take the Ford Rogue Factory Tour to see how the popular Ford F-150 truck is made. Car fans should plan to spend at least half a day exploring the rest of the museum, which includes a staggering array of auto-related exhibits and memorabilia. Be sure to also take advantage of the free tour (twice daily, Monday through Friday) of the GM Renaissance Center for a detailed look at the company’s impact on the city.

Another industry that’s left its legacy in Detroit is music, particularly the Motown sounds of Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder. All these artists have roots here, making the Motown Museum a special spot. Register for a guided group tour to get the most out of your visit. Detroit’s evolution is on display along its riverfront, home to scenic walking and running trails, green spaces, parks, river cruises and events throughout the year. A visit to Campus Martius Park, a major gathering place in the heart of downtown, is the ideal way to end your Detroit tour. Relax on the urban beach, take in city skyline views, catch a free event and grab some dinner and drinks at surrounding hip restaurants and bars.

71 km
0.45 hours by car
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Couple enjoys craft beer at Wolverine State Brewing Co.
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Ann Arbor: College Town, Cultural Capital

It’s just a short drive to Ann Arbor, a charming Midwest college town abundant in arts, culture and technology. The University of Michigan is the central attraction, and its beautiful campus is worth a visit. Wander around campus eyeing the historic buildings and tour the collections of African, Asian and Western art at the free Museum of Art. Be sure to stop by the immense Michigan Stadium (a.k.a. “The Big House”), where the Michigan Wolverines football team plays. It’s the largest stadium in the USA and the second-largest in the world. Register in advance for a guided tour of this impressive facility. Relish the scenic outdoors at Gallup Park Canoe Livery, where you can explore nature trails and rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboat for a relaxing ride on the Huron River. Downtown Ann Arbor deserves a visit as well. Spend your time browsing the appealing boutiques, and kicking back in restaurants and pubs. Ask any local for a lunch recommendation and they’ll likely direct you to Zingerman's Deli. Satisfy your appetite with artisanal cheese, deli meat, in-house baked goods, made-from-scratch gelato and some of the best crafted sandwiches you’ll ever bite into. Round out your visit with an indie film, comedy act or concert at the circa 1928 Michigan Theater. Next on your itinerary is a taste of Germany in America: Frankenmuth.

126 km
1.15 hours by car
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Sunset cruise on the Bavarian Belle in Frankenmuth, Michigan
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Frankenmuth: Michigan’s Little Bavaria

After just a short drive directly north, you’ll be transported to Frankenmuth, one of Michigan’s most famous immigrant communities. Settled by German Lutherans in 1845, Frankenmuth is replete with Bavarian-inspired architecture, culture and charm. Downtown is a great photo op and a shopper’s delight with more than 40 small shops and bakeries at River Place Shops, a Bavarian-themed outdoor shopping center. Cruise on the Cass River aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat or Frankenmuth Funships for a family-friendly boat ride. It’s especially scenic in the fall with the brilliant autumn leaves coloring the landscape. No visit to Frankenmuth is complete without a stop at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, billed as the world’s largest Christmas store. Make memories and experience yuletide good cheer year-round. Feeling hungry? Savor an all you can eat family-style chicken dinner complete with homemade sides, as well as German favorites, at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, also served across the street at Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. Partake in a class such as pretzel rolling, strudel making or German wine tasting to add to your fun. It’s only 1.5 hours back to the Detroit Metro Airport for your return flight home.