As the weather improves, some students may want to get out of town and explore the other cities in the Great Lakes state. Two places in particular, Mackinac Island and Traverse City, combine the popularity of tourist cities with the quaintness of small-town America. For those who may venture to these getaways in the coming months, here is a guide to get started:

Beth Dykstra
The lakeshore near Traverse City features about 20 inland lakes and more than 50 shipwrecks. (Julia Tapper/Daily)

 

Mackinac Island

Arriving at Mackinac Island — the small, historic northern gem that considers itself America’s all natural theme park — is a picturesque ride in its own right. Three ferry lines leave from both Mackinac City in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The two peninsulas are connected by the Mackinac Bridge, a five-mile suspension bridge that runs right over the Straits of Mackinac. Though visitors traveling to the island do not have to take the bridge to get to the island, the extra trip is well worth it.

A popular way to see the historic land is by taking a horse-drawn carriage tour. A tour lasts about an hour and 45 minutes, but allows visitors to stop at various popular locales including the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, an informative landmark where patrons can spend time walking through a garden amidst 500-700 butterflies from around the world.

Tours also stop at Fort Mackinac, a National Historic Landmark built by British soldiers during the American Revolution. Visitors may spend as long as they wish at the various stops along the tour, and can simply join the next carriage that arrives at their locale to continue along the tour.

Another popular way to see the island is by bike. Several bike rental shops are located throughout the island and carry a variety of bikes available by rent at daily or hourly rates with a small deposit.

A trip to Mackinac Island would not be complete without sampling its world-famous fudge. Arti Dhuper works at the Island’s Murray Hotel Fudge Company on Main Street. The shop that offers over 52 flavors of fudge.

According to Dhuper, the fudge at Murray Hotel Fudge Company is made fresh daily. “We offer unique flavors, many of which are not found at any other place on the Island,” he said.

 

Traverse City

Traverse City, a beach town famous for its annual National Cherry Festival every July, is full of attractions that extend far beyond this summer favorite. For example, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, located just over 20 miles west of Traverse City, form an extraordinary arc around Lake Michigan.

Climbing and rolling down the dunes are a visitor favorite in addition to exploring the lakeshore, which contains seven watersheds, about 20 inland lakes and the remains of over 50 shipwrecks.

Like Mackinac, Traverse City has its own historical landmarks. As a beach town, the historic impact of shipping — namely its difficulties when it first started — is evident in many of the city’s attractions.

According to Mike Norton, a Traverse City Visitors Bureau employee and University alum, the outdoor beauty of the city does not come from it’s charm alone. “Traverse City is a place that still has some small town qualities,” he said.

One attraction, built in 1871 to guide ships through the Manitou Passage and shelter them through Lake Michigan’s tumultuous storms, is the South Manitou Island Lighthouse, which today stands with the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve. Visitors can dive in the preserve to investigate various ship remains.

These small-town qualities should not deter city-oriented visitors, because, according to Norton, a decent night life still exists, especially in the summer and on the weekends.

No matter where visitors to Michigan travel, there will be a piece of Americana to take home with them.

“People are friendly here, and there’s still eye contact when you speak to them,” Norton said.

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