The state's second-largest city has developed a big reputation when it comes to culture and cuisine. A main driver is the city's focus on the arts, which culminates each year in ArtPrize, a 19-day festival featuring more than 1,500 pieces. Every fall, roughly 400,000 people show up to cast a vote for their favorite among the works displayed at more than 160 venues, indoors and out.
Top-rated restaurants and the innovative Grand Rapids Downtown Market celebrate the local foods that are a key draw in this part of western Michigan. "Beer City USA" -- a title Grand Rapids won in national polls -- is home to more than 40 breweries along the Ale Trail.
Few places combine scenery, food and arts like this town at the base of Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay. Downtown runs right up to Clinch Park Beach -- an ideal spot to play in the bay's waters.
The restaurant lineup supplies a solid two weeks of great meals with little repetition, and driving tours on the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas lead to dozens of wineries. In the evening, the marquee lights up at the State Theatre, a restored venue for indie films (and 25-cent kids' movies on Saturdays). The nearby Bijou by the Bay presents another film option each night next to Clinch Park Beach. If you visit on a rainy day, stop into Horizon Books for a cup of coffee and three floors of shelves to browse.
With more restaurants per capita than New York City, the University of Michigan's home can satisfy just about any craving. The local classic: smoky pastrami sandwiches at Zingerman's Deli (a "nosher" is hearty, a "fresser" is enormous). For an upscale night out, try the locally sourced five-course tasting menus at Grange Kitchen and Bar.
Shopping in the Kerrytown Market and Shops complex reveals kids' delights at Mudpuddles Toys, eclectic hand-crafted objects and art at 16 Hands, and museum-worthy decorative papers at Hollander's. From the historical neighborhood, it's a quick and charming stroll through downtown. Victorian houses converted to shops dance cheek to cheek with sleek modern buildings.
Hogback Mountain's bare, humplike peak provides panoramic views of the Upper Peninsula's largest city (home to Northern Michigan University). In the downtown district, independent shops, microbreweries and eateries sit blocks from beaches, lakefront paths and a lighthouse.
Located between the Porcupine Mountains and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Marquette sidles up to Lake Superior's southern coast. At Presque Isle Park -- a trail-lined woodland of craggy cliffs and bogs --visitors jump from Black Rocks cliffs into the crisp water before warming up on the pebble beach.
On the scenic Grand River, Lansing manages to project a feeling that is equal parts state capital and openhearted small town. Anchoring it all is the neoclassical Capitol. Dedicated in 1879, the National Historic Landmark was meticulously restored in 1992. Though Michigan's legislature uses the building year-round, daily free tours introduce visitors to extraordinary examples of Victorian decorative arts, such as when artisans painted pine to appear like gleaming walnut and made cast iron look like refined marble.
Outside, the Lansing River Trail runs alongside the Grand River, giving pedestrians and peddlers the best view of the sparkling waterway as it ribbons through the city and highlighting new breweries, eateries and boutiques along the way. Neighboring East Lansing is home to Michigan State University, meaning visitors get access to numerous Big Ten sporting events and must-see arts venues.
For more details and ideas on Michigan vacations, visit michigan.org.