People say you're never more than 10 km away from a lake or river in Michigan. Follow us to the fascinating "Water Wonderland" of the USA and find out what other highlights the Great Lakes State has to offer.

Michigan facts

Capitol Lansing
Area about 250,000 km²
Population about 9.9 million
Location North of the USA, Midwest of the USA
Nickname The Great Lakes State, The Wolverine State
State animal American robin, white-tailed deer, brook trout
Time zone UTC − 5 (Eastern)

Michigan: location & population

The US state of Michigan has a very unusual shape because it consists of two parts: the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula. Today, the two parts are connected by the massive, eight-kilometer long Mackinac Bridge.

Wisconsin is the only state that borders the Upper Peninsula. To the south of the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula are Indiana and Ohio. Lake Superior separates Michigan from the Canadian province of Ontario.

Michigan is located in the north of the USA and borders four of the five Great Lakes: Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior. It’s more than 5,000 km of shoreline form the longest freshwater coastline in the USA. With this vast amount of water, Michigan has more than earned its nickname "Great Lakes State!"

Beginning in the 1920s, the automobile industry provided an economic boom for Michigan, which became one of the world's major manufacturing centers. The prospect of jobs brought many immigrants to the state, especially to the Detroit area and the rest of the Lower Peninsula.

Although the population has declined slightly in recent years, the state of Michigan still has the eighth largest population in the USA, with nearly 10 million people. Michigan residents come from all parts of the world, but many are of German or Dutch descent. A large population of Finnish descent lives in the Upper Peninsula.

The largest cities in Michigan

The most populous city, Detroit, is the economic and cultural center of Michigan. But since it is so close to the Canadian border, the state decided to move its seat of government to Lansing in the center of the Lower Peninsula.

Based on their number of residents, the largest cities in Michigan are:

City Population
Detroit 911,000
Grand Rapids 194,000
Warren 134,000
Sterling Heights 127,000
Lansing 114,000

Nature and climate

Michigan is home to more than 11,000 lakes, about 58,000 km of waterways, and 199 waterfalls. In addition, four of the five Great Lakes of North America are located on the shores of Michigan. Due to this fact, the state is also called "Water Wonderland."

Michigan's two peninsulas, however, have very distinct landscapes. The Lower Peninsula and the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula are known as the Great Lakes Plains and consist primarily of rolling hills, sand dunes, and farmland.

Overall, the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula has a pristine wilderness, dominated in the western part by the mountains of the Superior Upland. Here you'll find dense birch, maple, and beech forests, the rugged hills of the Porcupine and Huron Ranges, and Michigan's highest point, Mount Arvon.

Due to its proximity to the Great Lakes, Michigan's climate is very mild compared to other regions at the same latitude. The state is in the cool, moderate climate zone, with much lower temperatures in the upper part than in the lower one. Upper Peninsula winters are severe, and summers are mild. In Detroit on the Lower Peninsula, the temperature difference between the warmest and coldest months remains relatively small at 18 °C.

Best time to travel to Michigan

Beautiful Michigan is a fascinating vacation destination in summer as well as in winter. Cities like Detroit or Ann Arbor are always worth a trip. When you can best enjoy Michigan's nature is entirely up to your personal preferences.

Michigan in summer

Moderate temperatures and low levels of rainfall make June through September the best time to visit Michigan. Now, you can roam barefoot through the dunes of the Lower Peninsula or take long hikes through the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan in winter

In Michigan, there are more than 40 ski resorts that lure you to the slopes for snowboarding or skiing when the temperatures drop below zero. You'll find them all over the state on both peninsulas. Copper Peak is home to the only ski-flying hill in the US.

Traveling to Michigan

If you're flying into Michigan, you'll most likely arrive at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), which is by far the most important airport in Michigan, serving more than 14 million passengers annually.

Other major airports in Michigan include:

  • Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids
  • Bishop International Airport (FNT) in Flint
  • Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) in Traverse City

Air France offers connections from Frankfurt to Detroit Airport with a stopover in Atlanta. From Paris, you can fly to Detroit with United Airlines via Washington or Chicago

If you book a few weeks in advance, you should budget around €700 to €800 for your round-trip flight between Frankfurt or Paris and Detroit.

Travel authorization Michigan

As a citizen of one of the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program (e.g., the DACH region, Japan, Australia), you can most likely relax. You usually do not need a US visa but can apply for an ESTA travel authorization. With this permit, you can easily enter Michigan and stay there for 90 days without a visa.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Transfer from Detroit Airport

When you arrive at the airport in Detroit, you have the following transfer options:

Taxi from Detroit Airport

Cabs stop at Detroit Airport at both the McNamara Terminal and the North Terminal. However, the most convenient way to travel is not the cheapest: you can expect to pay around $65 for a ride downtown.

Public transport from Detroit Airport

You can easily travel from Detroit Airport on the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) bus line 261. The express bus route serves the McNamara Terminal and the North Terminal and takes you to the Rosa Parks Transit Center in downtown Detroit. Buses run every 30 minutes for a ticket price of $2.00.

Shuttles from Detroit Airport

Terminal-to-terminal shuttles run every 10 minutes between the McNamara Terminal and the North Terminal. Shuttles also depart from both terminals to take you to nearby hotels if your hotel provides a shuttle service.

National parks and natural wonders in Michigan

Many travelers visit the Great Lakes State to enjoy the beauty of its nature and parks. These four natural wonders in Michigan are our absolute favorites:

Isle Royal National Park

Not too many visitors come to the relatively remote Isle Royale National Park located right by the waters of Lake Superior. Getting there is a bit of a hassle, as you can only travel to the island by ferry or plane. However, the breathtaking wilderness and magnificent tranquility will reward you for your efforts! Exploring the landscape on foot or by kayak or canoe, you'll encounter moose, wolves, loons, and other wildlife along the way. If you don't want to explore alone, you can also join a guided moose watch expedition.

Note: Isle Royale National Park is closed all winter.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The towering dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, up to 140 m high, will leave you speechless! Located on the lower peninsula of Lake Michigan, they are a popular destination that offers a variety of sports and recreational activities, including stargazing and snowshoeing.

Tip: Just keep following Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to get to the best viewpoints and beaches.

Mackinac Island National Park

Between the two peninsulas of Michigan lies the "Land of the Great Turtle." This is how Mackinac Island National Park was named by the Native Americans because the island is shaped like a turtle's back. Cars are strictly prohibited in this popular recreation area and fishing spot. Just ride a bike or take a horse-drawn wagon tour to explore the unusual Devil's Kitchen and Skull Cave rock formations.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

You may know the sandstone cliffs of Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from various photo opportunities. The nature park on the shores of Lake Superior is one of the most popular tourist areas in the state and offers beach coves, sand dunes, waterfalls, lakes, and forests as far as the eye can see.

After your extensive hikes, you can also enjoy camping, paddling, climbing, and many other sports and recreational activities in the park.

Tip: Don't miss out on a boat trip to Spray Falls or a sunset tour to see the magical glow of minerals on the rock walls.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights Michigan

Breathtaking natural wonders, exciting urban landscapes, technological highlights - Michigan has it all! These 10 attractions are the most popular in the state:

  • Mackinac Island
  • Isle Royale National Park
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Henry Ford Museum
  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
  • Detroit Zoo
  • North Country Trail
  • Tahquamenon Falls
  • Belle Isle

City highlights in Michigan

There are many exciting places to explore in populous Michigan. These four are our favorites:

City highlights Detroit

Detroit is the largest city and the cultural and economic heart of Michigan. The "Motor City" became known not only for its thriving automotive industry but also for a creative music scene, where the Motown sound originated in the 1960s and rapper Eminem grew up.

You can relax or play sports on the banks of the Detroit River, which is lined with numerous green spaces and parks. Campus Martius Park is a popular meeting place, where free events are regularly organized and many restaurants and bars are located nearby.

These are the must-see highlights in Detroit: 

  • Pittock Mansion
  • Oregon Zoo
  • Portland Japanese Garden
  • Portland Art Museum
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

City highlights Ann Arbor

The lively college town of Ann Arbor is nicknamed "Tree Town" for its abundance of parks. It is home to North America's largest college football stadium, the historic University of Michigan, and a wide selection of museums.

Besides the many cultural highlights, Ann Arbor is known for its great culinary scene. Many bars and restaurants, but also innovative boutiques and craft stores, can be found around Main Street in Old Town.

You can visit these highlights in Ann Arbor:

  • University of Michigan Museum of Art
  • Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
  • Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols
  • University of Michigan Museum of Natural History
  • University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum

City highlights Lansing

In the capital city of Lansing, you can take a guided tour to see the center of Michigan's political power. The neoclassical Capitol is even an official National Historic Landmark.

Furthermore, a wealth of interesting museums opens up to you, such as the Michigan History Museum or the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, where legendary American classic cars are on display.

These city highlights are waiting for you in Lansing:

  • Michigan State Capitol
  • Impression 5 Science Center
  • R.E. Olds Transportation Museum
  • Hawk Island Park
  • Potter Park Zoo

City highlights Grand Rapids

Michigan's second-largest city, Grand Rapids, features a vibrant arts, brewing and dining scene.

Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing - you're in the right place for all kinds of outdoor activities, too, because Grand Rapids is rich in golf courses, parks, and pristine lakes, streams, and rivers.

Tip: The scenic Kent Trail is only about 2.5 km from downtown and ideal for a bike ride.

These city highlights belong on your travel bucket list in Grand Rapids:

  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum
  • The Gerald Ford Presidential Museum
  • John Ball Zoo

Road trip in Michigan

There's no better way to explore the Great Lakes State than on a road trip. Here are a few Michigan highlights you won't want to miss:

Mackinac Bridge

With a total length of eight kilometers, "Mighty Mac" or "Big Mac," as the Mackinac Bridge is also known, is one of the largest suspension bridges in the world. The four-lane bridge provides a fixed link between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. If you haven't driven over it at least once, you haven't really been to Michigan!

Belle Isle

The MacArthur Bridge takes you to the beautiful Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit River. The 3.9 square kilometer park features a botanical garden, a zoo, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Belle Isle Casino, the Detroit Yacht Club, a golf course, and the only city beach in Detroit.

Sault Ste. Marie

More than 10,000 ships a year pass back and forth between Lake Superior and Lake Huron via the sluice gates of the Soo Locks near Sault Ste. Marie on the Canadian border. Here, technology fans can watch floating giants overcome a height difference of over 9 m in just a few minutes.

Henry Ford Museum

The Henry Ford Museum Complex in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn is so impressive that it made it onto the National Historic Landmark list. The museum's most famous exhibit is the limousine in which John F. Kennedy was shot. Vehicles of other presidents, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, or Ronald Reagan, can also be seen here. But it's not just cars that are on display in the 49,000 m² complex, but every kind of American invention – from antique machines and pop culture items to locomotives and airplanes.

Motown Museum

The legendary record label from Detroit shaped the sound of the 1960s and 1970s with great artists of R&B, soul, and pop music.

The Motown Museum, located in the original Motown Records headquarters and recording studio, is a great place to indulge in nostalgia. Among the many company artifacts, photos, costumes, and other memorabilia, you'll quickly feel transported back to the era of Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, and The Jackson Five.

Little Bavaria

It doesn't get any more German than this! To differentiate themselves and boost tourism, the descendants of German immigrants in the town of Frankenmuth built "Little Bavaria," a miniature version of Bavaria, in the 1950s. Of course, you can also visit the Oktoberfest and enjoy some German beer. Lastly, don't forget to pick up a souvenir of your trip at Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, which refers to itself as the world's largest Christmas store.

Instagram hotspots Michigan

Michigan is so exciting that you really shouldn't keep your best moments from your friends! We'll tell you where you can take the perfect Instagram photo. Here are our top 5 Instagram hotspots in Michigan:

  • Silver Lake Dunes
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
  • Motown Museum
  • Belle Isle
  • Little Bavaria

Culinary Highlights in Michigan

Cherries, strawberries, cucumbers, and much more: Michigan is one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the USA. As a result, you can taste a variety of fresh, local foods here.

Even grapes grow in the Great Lakes State, which is located at roughly the same latitude as the wine-producing regions of France. Michigan is also known for its excellent craft beer breweries.

Other typical Michigan specialties include:

  • Detroit-Style Pizza (usually rectangular pizza with a thick crust, traditionally topped with tomato sauce and Wisconsin brick cheese) Coney Dog (also known as
  • Coney Island Hot Dog; a hot dog with a savory meat sauce and other toppings)
  • Mackinac Island Fudge
  • Pies in different variations

Michigan fun facts

The US state of Michigan has a lot of exciting and curious things to offer, such as these interesting facts:

  • The name Michigan comes from the Chippewa word "michi-gama" meaning "big lake."
  • Michigan is home to more than 120 lighthouses - more than any other US state.
  • In 1846, the state of Michigan became the first English-speaking government in the world to abolish the death penalty.
  • When it opened in 1913, the now disused Michigan Central Station in Detroit was the tallest station building in the world at 113 meters.
  • Kellog's cornflakes were first manufactured in Battle Creek in the late 19th century by the brothers Will Keith and John Harvey Kellogg. In 1906, Will Keith founded the Kellogg Battle Creek Toasted Cornflake Company, which later became the world-renowned Kellogg Company. The company headquarters are still located in Battle Creek.
  • The 38th president of the United States, Gerald Ford, grew up in Grand Rapids.
  • The largest mosque in North America, the Islamic Center of America, is located in Dearborn near Detroit.

Immigrate to Michigan

Michigan's long stretches of coastline make you want to never leave? The following tips will give you some pointers on how to best tackle the project of immigrating to the Great Lakes State.

Working in Michigan

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Michigan, and especially Detroit, has been the heart of the American car industry. The largest car manufacturers in the USA - General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler - are based here. But there are also many job opportunities in Michigan in industries such as the computer industry, communications technology, or tourism.

The Lower Peninsula is rich in agricultural land, growing many types of vegetables (e.g., cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes), fruits (e.g., apples, cherries, and strawberries), and also grapes. Michigan is also the largest producer of dairy products in the United States.

Living in Michigan

According to the Cost of Living Index, the state of Michigan is about 10% less expensive to live in than the United States on average. You can save especially on housing, which is 35% cheaper on average in the Great Lakes State. Even in Michigan's largest city, Detroit, housing is as affordable as in the rest of the state.

However, you will have to pay a little more for living in the student city of Ann Arbor, which is 20% above the US average in terms of costs.

Moving to Michigan with a Green Card

If you want to stay in the United States for a long time, you need a Green Card. There are several ways to obtain it, but the Green Card Lottery is the most straightforward as there are few eligibility requirements.

The lottery is held once a year by the US authorities offering 55,000 Permanent Resident Cards for the USA.

Green Card CheckAre you eligible?