Michigan is a special state with coastal access to four of the five Great Lakes. The combination of peaceful landscapes, quaint towns and booming cities creates the perfect learning environment. Students will be blown away by the hidden gems in this Midwest paradise.
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts has revived the downtown area and helped turn Detroit into the creative, passionate city that stands today. From classical to contemporary, DIA has numerous displays of art and culture on permanent exhibition. The museum offers guided behind-the-scenes tours and drop-in workshops where students can bring out their inner artist.
The Henry Ford
Students will love the immersive learning experience at The Henry Ford. Located in Dearborn, this all-inclusive museum, historic village and working factory is a great educational destination. Explore Greenfield Village, where students can ride in a Model-T automobile, see a working farm and learn about the struggle for women’s suffrage through fun, educational activities. The Henry Ford Museum allows students to see some of the automaker’s iconic inventions, hear stories about the failures that helped Ford learn and learn how he changed the world. They can then head over to the Rouge Factory to see Ford’s success in action. Students can tour the factory, see assembly lines where robots build cars and take a look at the innovative living roof.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Head to northeast Michigan to enjoy Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Students can venture out on Lake Huron to explore shipwrecks and see protected wildlife from an educational glass-bottom boat tour. They can even dive into the water to snorkel near shipwrecks and learn to observe and protect the fragile historic sites. On land, students will be immersed in the world of marine technology while they build their own underwater robots.
Tulip Time Festival
For one week every May, the Tulip Time Festival takes over Holland, Michigan. The entire town transforms into a carefully landscaped tulip garden where students can experience Dutch culture through authentic markets and elaborately costumed dancers. Take a trolley tour of the city to see the tulip paths or explore Windmill Island Gardens, aptly named for the large tulip garden in the shadow of a vintage windmill. This festival is a great place to learn about traditional Dutch culture and history.
Fresh fruit always tastes better when it’s hand-picked. King Orchards in Central Lake allows students to stretch their legs and explore the rows of fruit trees. Students can pick their own fresh fruit and discover the different varieties and tastes of common fruits. From Michigan cherries and raspberries to nectarines and apples, King Orchards offers a changing list of U-Pick fruits as the season goes on. Cherries are ready to harvest as early as July, and apples last well into November.
On the Water
Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Ludington, Michigan is home to the landmark Big Sable Point Lighthouse. With panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the white sand beaches of Ludington State Park, this destination provides an educational experience that students won’t forget. Groups of all sizes are welcome to tour the tower and learn about the 12 shipwrecks off the coast of Big Sable Point, as well as the history behind its distinctive black and white color.
Tall Ship Manitou
Brave the freshwater seas aboard Tall Ship Manitou. Sailing out of Traverse City, this replica 19th century cargo schooner allows students to see Lake Michigan in a new way. They will have the chance to explore the ship and learn the basics of sailing on a short cruise. For even more fun, enjoy a night on board the ship sleeping in bunks or under the stars on the deck. Students will be amazed by a colorful sunrise over Lake Michigan the next morning.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Just a few minutes outside of Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes is the perfect place to enjoy a day in the water. Students can explore trails with the help of a ranger, canoe down one of the many rivers and hike through the giant dunes. They can see a demonstration of the lifesaving Lyle Gun used to rescue people during shipwrecks and can assist in one of the rescue drills.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Make the trek to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Students can hike along the sandstone cliffs and explore the forests around the famous landmarks or relax on a guided cruise to see these natural wonders from a new angle. Pictured Rocks is a great place to learn about erosion, sedimentation and other natural processes by which the strange rock formations were created.
By Sara Stokes