10 hidden gems to visit on Memorial Day weekend

9:32 AM, May 24, 2013   |    comments
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Ellen Creager, Detroit Free Press -- Michigan is more than Sleeping Bear Dunes and Mackinac Island.

While those iconic and worthy spots shape our state's tourism image, the bits of Michigan that I really treasure are the ones I've stumbled upon or found on the way to somewhere more famous.

So as we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, appreciate the fine, secret spots you love. Not all of them are as glamorous as Mackinac Island. But each can make a memory.

Though this is not a ranking, here are my picks for Michigan's top 10 underrated attractions:

1.) Lumberman's Monument, Oscoda Township: The 14-foot monument in the Huron-Manistee National Forests overlooks the wide Au Sable River, which looks much as it did a century ago. Free. www.fs.usda.gov/main/hmnf/home; 800-821-6263.

2.) Agate Beach at Hunter's Point, Copper Harbor: Clear, bracing air and these shiny stones make an unforgettable beach north of town. Be sure to wear shoes. Free. www.hunters-point.org, 906-289-4292.

3.) Air Zoo, Kalamazoo: This spectacular air museum is right off I-94; the kids will love it. $8 general admission; free for ages 4 and younger. Tickets for amusement park-style rides can be purchased separately or as part of a package. (9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.) www.airzoo.org, 269-382-6555.

4.) Route M-22, near Arcadia: Rolling up and down along the Lake Michigan coastline, this drive is among the prettiest in the state. www.m22colortour.com.

5.) MSU Dairy Store, East Lansing: Bike around Michigan State University's scenic campus (now that school is out, it won't be crowded) and enjoy treats at the famous store's two campus locations: 1140 S. Anthony Hall (9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and noon-6 p.m. Sat. and Sun.); 107 MSU Union Building (noon-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and noon-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun.) http://dairystore.msu.edu, 517-353-9988.

6.) Hartwick Pines, Grayling: This is the largest stand of virgin white pines left in the state. The walk is humbling, and the small chapel is a classic. A Michigan Recreation Passport is required. www.michigan.gov/loggingmuseum, 989-348-2537.

7.) Lake Hudson Recreation Area, Clayton: Come to Michigan's first Dark Sky Preserve at night to see an amazingly clear view of the heavens. You can camp here, too. A Michigan Recreation Passport is required. www.observingsites.com/ds_mi.htm, 517-445-2265.

8.) Isle Royale National Park: This trip is not for the faint of heart. A five-hour ferry ride from the Michigan mainland takes visitors to a remote spot populated by moose and wolves. It is closed Nov. 1-April 16. $4 per person per day for adults; free for ages 11 and younger. An individual season pass is $50, and a season boat rider pass is $150. www.nps.gov/isro, 906-482-0984.

9.) Elk herd, Gaylord: The town has its own resident herd right in town at Elk View Park near, you guessed it, the Elk's Lodge. Stand at the fence and see all the grazing up close. www.gaylordmichigan.net/elk-viewing--40, 800-345-8621.

10.) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary's Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, Alpena: With 200 shipwrecks in Thunder Bay, this big, interesting museum tells that story. The best part is the re-created portion of a Great Lakes schooner. Free. (10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily during the summer.) http://thunderbay.noaa.gov/maritime/glmhc.html, 989-356-8805.

 

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