Experiencing Pure Michigan (In Photos)

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All right, I have a confession to make, guys.

Even though I have lived in northern Ohio pretty much all my life, I had never been to Michigan.

Well, sure, I'd flown through the Detroit airport a few times. But I'd never actually spent any amount of time IN the state of Michigan.

I decided to change that this year.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

A few months ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing a joint birthday trip since our birthdays are only a couple weeks apart in the fall. We tossed around beach vacations, California road trips, and even a trip to Iceland. But, in the end, a wedding invitation made the decision for us.

Elliot's best childhood friend was going to be getting married in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Elliot insisted that we couldn't miss it. So our vacation plans shifted from the warm and exotic to something a little closer to home: a weeklong getaway to northern lower Michigan.

It may not SOUND like the dream vacation. But 4 days in Traverse City followed by 4 days in Grand Rapids actually turned out to be a GREAT idea.

I finally got the experience “Pure Michigan” — and in the fall, no less, when all the trees were bursting into all sorts of vibrant colors and a massive art competition was going on.

Here's a look at some of the highlights, in photos:

Fall colors in Michigan

Trees just starting to hit peak color in the tiny village of Cedar.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Sand dunes and shades of blue — Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. 


Old Mission Peninsula winery, Michigan

Looking out over wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula, not far from Traverse City.


Grand Haven Lighthouse

Grand Haven Lighthouse — an easy afternoon trip to the lakeshore from Grand Rapids.


The Village at Traverse City Commons

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. This used to be the Traverse City State Hospital, a mental institution. Now it's being revitalized and turned into shops, restaurants, offices, and even condos.


Fall colors in Michigan

Fall colors along the roadside.


Lake Michigan

A pretty scene on the shores of Lake Michigan.


ArtPrize in Grand Rapids

An artist working on a mural during ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.


Windmill Gardens in Holland, Michigan

A traditional, 250-year-old Dutch windmill at Windmill Island Gardens in Holland, Michigan.


Downtown Traverse City

Charming downtown Traverse City, in full fall color.

Lake Michigan at sunset

Lake Michigan sunset, as seen from the Bayshore Resort's beach in Traverse City.


Mission Point Lighthouse

Mission Point Lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula.


Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Climbing a giant sand dune at Sleeping Bear Dunes!


Fall colors in Michigan

Fall colors spotted while driving from Traverse City to Grand Rapids.


Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan

Downtown Grand Rapids on a sunny day.


Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids

Art at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.


Grand Haven Lighthouse

Kite-flying at the beach at Grand Haven Lighthouse.


Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids

A Rodin piece at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.


Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan

Looking out over a vineyard on the Old Mission Peninsula.


American Horse at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids

The “American Horse” in Grand Rapids. This thing is HUGE!


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan.


Fall harvest in Michigan

Fall harvest in Michigan.


Grand Haven Lighthouse

One last look at Grand Have Lighthouse and Lake Michigan.


Does this inspire some #PureMichigan in you, too? Which photo is your favorite?



*Note: Big thanks to Traverse City Tourism, Experience Grand Rapids, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, and the Bayshore Resort for hosting us during our trip!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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41 Comments on “Experiencing Pure Michigan (In Photos)

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  1. Great photos! How ironic that I’m actually planning a relatively similar trip for next June: I have to be in Grand Rapids for a wedding also and am hoping to round out the rest of the week with a little Michigan sightseeing. Thanks for the photo inspiration 🙂

      I highly recommend spending some time up in Traverse City, too! I LOVED it – so pretty.

    Isn’t Michigan awesome? I grew up near DC, and had no idea that Ann Arbor was within an easy day’s drive until I actually went. My parents and I did a road trip of the Upper Peninsula and the Traverse City area a few years back and it was honestly one of our best family trips. I love your photos of the fall colors – being there in summer, I missed that part of the state’s beauty!

      It was so fun to drive around and spot all the colors this time of year. And the Traverse City area… talk about gorgeous! It’s crazy that a Great Lake can look like the Caribbean Sea sometimes!

    I only spent a couple of days in Michigan around Holland, New Brighton and Saugatuck, but I loved it. We were there during a heat wave last summer so we did a lot of lake swimming, raspberry picking, pie eating and a bit of hiking. It looks stunning in Fall also

      That sounds fun! So many outdoor activities to do year-round, especially near the lake. I really had no idea!

    Wow, I’ve never been to Michigan (or even the MIDWEST! at ALL!) but you make it look so beautiful! Looks like a wonderful trip.

      Well, if you ever want to come get a Midwest introduction, you know where to find me! 😉

      And yes, it was a great trip! (We really lucked out with the weather, too!)

    I live in Michigan and this post is totally reminding me why!!! 🙂 I love West Michigan but I have never been to Traverse City and now I am aching to go! 🙂 These are beautiful pictures!

      It’s definitely worth a visit, Erika! (And I’ll be writing more about it next week!)

    Amazing fall colors captured! Autumn is my favorite season and I am looking forward to clicking some autumn pictures of my city soon. Michigan looks picture perfect. I loved all your pictures (difficult to pick one favorite, but yes, the pumpkins were too cute.)

      Autumn is my favorite, too – I LOVE the colors!

    I’ve only been to Michigan once, It was too Flint and I did not leave feeling like I wanted to post a bunch of pictures of the place. Its good to know there is more to the state! It looks beautiful

      Haha, yes, there’s definitely more to the state! (After all, it’s a pretty big state!)

    I fly through Detroit so much – and Kalamazoo too – but have not had a chance to overnight there and I truelly want to. I hear so much about Michigan and your photos show how beautiful it is. Hopefully I get some time to spend a few hours, rent a car and drive around. Same with Ohio – if I ever get a layover with a lot of time I will see if you’re in town for any travel talk if you’d like!

      We stopped in Kalamazoo, too, because my boyfriend basically grew up there. The western side of Michigan is really pretty (especially this time of year!)

    A friend of mine is from Michigan, and she raves about it. Now I know why. I can’t believe Lake Michigan is that blue! Fall is so beautiful there. I’m just a few hours away from Michigan, yet I’ve never been… might be time to change that 🙂

      Lake Erie (the closest great lake to me in Ohio) can be that blue sometimes, too! But yeah… very pretty, especially up around the dunes! Maybe you’ll have to plan a fall trip next year. 😉

    Sooo.. I’ve always thought Michigan is just another boring mid-west state… I guess not, huh!? Time to plan a road trip to that part of the country soon! Beautiful photos!

      The Midwest is much prettier (and cooler!) than most people give it credit for!

    Those that only spend time in the Greater Detroit area would never suspect that the rest of Michigan could ever be this beautiful or urbane (in the case of Grand Rapids) … thanks for breaking new ground!

      I know! I kind of always thought of Michigan in terms of Detroit and Flint and other cities like that. But the state is so much more! I’m happy to be able to show that.

    Don’t feel too bad- I spent the first 25 years of my life living in Michigan and only made it up to Traverse City for the first time in August! I love your photos. The fall colors are absolutely stunning.

      Same for me with some places in Ohio… I know they’re there, but there are still plenty of places I haven’t been yet!

    That lighthouse is a stunner. Love its red color! Love the the rest of the photos too. Great post! Beautiful places and moments you captured there.

      Thanks so much, Vanessa! I really loved that red lighthouse, too!

    Difficult to believe you’d lived in Ohio so long, and had not spent time in MI! And judging from the comments, sounds like more people need to get up there! I love Michigan in the spring, summer, and fall, and you visited some of my favorite places. Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Meijer Gardens – really beautiful spots, and you’ve captured them wonderfully in your photos!

      We always tend to look over what’s right in our own backyards! Glad you like the photos. 🙂

    #MittenPride! I love my state and I don’t think that you could have displayed it any better! Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous. And I’m so glad that you enjoyed your time! Grand Rapids and Traverse City are two of my favorite places.

      Thanks so much, Allison! And yes, really enjoyed the trip – this part of Michigan is gorgeous!

    these autumn pics looks stunning!

    and I’ve seen the same sculptures, these guys made of letters, in Prague and recently in Yerevan! 🙂

      Thanks, Kami! And cool about the letter sculptures!

    Now you’ve discovered the reason I’ve traveled to Northern Michigan so many times throughout the years! The Traverse City area has been a long-time favorite of ours, and we’re out to the Grand Rapids area fairly frequently as Tim’s parents live out there. Recognize and have visited pretty much all of the places you’ve pictured here. It’s long been our ambition to have a place “Up North” 🙂

      Yes, I totally understand why you would keep returning to this area! Traverse City especially is amazing! So pretty this time of year.

    […] when I discovered that I would be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the city’s annual ArtPrize event, I was a bit wary. A whole city decked out in art? It […]

    The mission point lighthouse is absolutely stunning! Michigan is simply one of the best states ever in terms of beautiful views and sceneries.

      It really is awesome! It’s a state I know I’ll definitely be returning to!

        Summer is almost here! I think the best time is sooner or later, right? 🙂

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