Top 5 Must-Visit Locations on Your Next Great Lakes Visit

The Great Lakes of the USA, comprising Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, are the largest body of freshwater on the planet. These gigantic sea-like lakes offer many activities like biking, boating, hiking, and scuba diving, but it’s not only the things that you can do on the lakes and their beaches that make them a great place. These lakes are surrounded by some of the most interesting and visit-worthy places in the United States. The next time you find yourself at the Great Lakes, visit one of these five amazing destinations near them.

Traverse City, Michigan

Ranked ‘Number-2 Small Town Travel Destination” by TripAdvisor, Traverse City, Michigan, is definitely one of the places worth checking out if you are near the Great Lakes. It features multiple natural attractions, including vineyards, freshwater beaches, downhill skiing areas, a National Lakeshore, and numerous forests.

The chief attraction in this small city is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This mesmerizing 64-mile curve consists of beaches, islands, coves, and dunes, some of which are as high as 400ft. You can witness the grandeur of the lakeshore from the top of one of the dunes or just simply take a relaxing walk along the beach.

If beaches are not your type of outing, you can go shopping, walking, or bicycling at the Grand Traverse Commons, an 83-acre wooded campus that once used to be a mental asylum and has now been converted into a complex of apartments, shops, galleries, offices and restaurants.

Other than that, you can celebrate the National Cherry Festival, tour the Traverse Wine Country, aka the ‘Cherry Capital of the World,’ stroll the Interlochen Center for the Arts, sail the tall ships, or simply enjoy farm-fresh food, including cherries, fruits, and vegetables.

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Chicago, Illinois

There are more things to do in Chicago this weekend than you can think of or any other weekend, to be frank. The Windy City is definitely the most interesting place near the Great Lakes. The third-largest city in the US, Chicago is famous for its unique architecture, delicious cuisine (if you haven’t tried Chicago-Style deep pan pizza, you really should), live music, world-famous festivals, and, of course, the Chicago River flows right across downtown.

To be honest, Chicago needs an itinerary of its own, being the enormous city it is. The things you can do in this city also depend on the time of the year you happen to be there. Some of the things you can do any time of the year include day cruises, historical tours, art, science, history, and photography museums, and culture tours.

Chicago also has a lot of free attractions and activities, including the Lakefront Trail, Chicago Riverwalk, City Gallery at the Historic Water Tower, Grant Park, and various live musical performances that are usually held in public parks on Saturday nights.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Home to some of the most talented and friendly people in all of the US, Grand Marais, a town of just under 1,500 people, has been named America’s Coolest Small Town (Budget Travel Magazine) and the Next Great Adventure Town (National Geographic Adventure Magazine). Surprisingly, this tiny town is home to the oldest art colony in Minnesota. The Grand Marais Art Colony started as a summer refuge in 1947 for artists who wanted to study in the wilderness.

You can watch cute otters playing, kayak beneath the cliffs at Lake Superior, shop at the boutiques, or just wander through the historical art galleries. You can also discover the traditional crafts of the Northern hemisphere at the North House Folk School or even sign up to start the journey of becoming an artisan yourself.

If you are of the more adventurous type, you can always take one of the numerous hiking and motorcycling trails near the city.

Marquette, Michigan

On the shore of Lake Superior is the city of Marquette, the largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Known primarily for iron ore mining and the University of Marquette, this town is named the most worth-visiting city in Michigan. The main reason for that is the natural beauty of this city. The combination of towering granite cliffs, a picture-perfect harbor, and an iconic lighthouse give this city a unique, satisfying look.

Marquette also offers tons of indoor and outdoor things to do. There are thousands of miles of back roads, marked and unmarked trails, cross-country ski tracks, logging roads, state and national forest trails and paved biking paths near the city. All these things make Marquette a must-visit location near the Great Lakes for outdoor enthusiasts.

Indoor activities in Marquette include shopping at places like Gathered Earth Gift Store, Boomerang Retro and Relics, and Chickadees. Or you can enjoy the delicious local cuisine at places like Aubree’s Pizzeria and Grill, Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery, or Rotations Deli.

Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan

These twin villages are often dubbed the ‘Art Coast of Michigan’ due to the abundance of art galleries there. However, it’s not only art galleries that these villages have to offer. All the things, from the harbors to the marinas and from the world-famous Oval Beach to the view atop Mount Baldhead, have earned this place its reputation.

From observing the sunset at the Oval Beach to getting a view of Lake Superior from the top of Mount Baldhead, there are many outdoor things that you can do in and around these villages.

Downtown Douglas is also known as the best destination for LGBTQ couples.


The Great Lakes are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US, but it’s not only the lakes that are worth visiting. There are a number of very interesting and attractive locations around the lakes too that you can visit on your next tour to the lakes. These include Traverse City, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, Grand Marais, Minnesota, Marquette, Michigan, and the twin villages of Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan.

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