22 off-the-beaten-path Michigan attractions to check out

I am often asked as a Detroit local what there is to do around here, by out-of-towners or neighbors that don’t get out much.

Common answers (my answers are anything but common) might include the Detroit Zoo, the DIA, Belle Isle, or the Riverwalk, and while all are fantastic and very entertaining answers, I like to give suggestions that are a little bit more like me: odd, weird, quirky, funny, or obscure perhaps.

Not only do I try to give different suggestions, but I love to get people out of the Downtown area to explore what our state has to offer. Below you’ll find a bucket list of places to visit around the state that are not your run-of-the-mill spots. You may have never heard of these places, some were new to me as well. Happy touristing!

Detroit / Metro Detroit

  • John K. King Used and Rare Books – Home to over a million books, this four-story book store in Downtown Detroit is overflowing with entertainment, literally. Whether you visit to search for rare literature or the ghosts that supposedly live on the fourth floor, John K. King has something for you among his shelves.
  • Dequindre Cut – An urban recreational path built on the former Grand Trunk Railroad Line, this two-mile greenway offers a pedestrian link between the East Riverfront, Eastern Market, and several residential neighborhoods along the way. From Gratiot Ave to Mack Ave, users can observe urban artwork and graffiti on the 20-foot-wide paved pathway that includes separate lanes for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
  • Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum – Calling all gamers! Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum features over 5,000 square feet of vintage coin-operated machines, macabre, oddities, unusual nostalgia, and the newest video game crazes. The best part is, admission is always free. Let the child at heart roam free in this museum, enjoy a snack, free Wi-Fi, and prizes from playing the vintage games.
  • Mallie’s Huge Burger – Located in Southgate, Mallie’s Sports Grill and Bar is home to the world’s largest commercially available burger. Their menu features a long list of food available, but what catches the eyes of most is the 10-pound burger available for $75. But wait there’s more. Just below the 10 Pound Burger is the Guinness World Record-breaking 1,800 Pound Burger available to the average Joe for $10,000.
  • Lincoln Street Art Park – A side street in Midtown is an ever-evolving exhibit curated by local artists. Adjacent to Recycle Here! drop-off facility, the art park features art, a seating area, a mini-library, a giant dinosaur, and more. Open 24/7, rain or shine, located at 5926 Lincoln St, Detroit, Michigan 48208.
  • Edison’s Last Breath – One may argue that the Henry Ford Museum should be on this list, but I want to dig deeper and more obscure than that. But yes, please visit the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, they are both wonderful. Featured INSIDE the museum is Thomas Edison’s last breath in a test tube. Henry Ford admired Thomas Edison so much that he had Edison’s son bottle his father’s last breath and give it to him as a keepsake. I hope he brushed his teeth.

Traverse City

  • Traverse City State Hospital – The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, formerly known as Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane features a variety of sights to see. From abandoned buildings to spacious park areas, winding hiking paths, renovated shops, office spaces, condos, and restaurants, this campus is nearly a million square feet. Guided historic walking tours, twilight tours, asylum flashlight tours, and more are available to the public.
  • World’s Largest Cherry Pie Tin – Not sure if much explanation is required, but the Guinness World Record for the largest cherry pie was given to Chef Pierre Bakeries after they celebrated Traverse City being the Cherry Capital of the World with a 28,350-pound cherry pie in 1987. The 17 feet , 6-inch diameter pie tin can be seen in Traverse City, and although the largest cherry pie record was taken in 1990, Traverse City is still home to the largest pie tin in the world.
  • Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park Fairy Trail – In August 2020, The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park designed and created a fairy trail. The trail is a loop with a small creek and many nooks, perfect for fairies. The Fairy Trails are open year-round and free to visit. You are also welcome to add your own fairy house at any time as long as it’s made of all-natural materials and built near the trailhead.

The UP

  • Mystery Spot – Voted Michigan’s No. 1 unusual attraction, the Mystery Spot in Saint Ignace will have you in awe. Phenomenals can be experienced along with optical contradictions and physical sensations that are hard to believe. Is the ball really rolling upwards, or is it the Mystery Spot at work? There is also an 18-hole mini-golf course and two ziplines. Combination tickets for the Mystery Spot, the mini-golf, and zip lines range from $7-$9.
  • Kitch-iti-kipi – Michigan’s largest natural freshwater spring is located in Palms Book State Park, 12 miles from Manistique. More than 10,000 gallons of vibrant aqua-colored water erupt each minute from the fissures in the limestone base 40 feet below. The water maintains a constant 45 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, never freezing. No fishing or swimming is allowed, but raft rides can take you out to reflect on this natural beauty.
  • Da Yoopers Tourist Trap – This store has very unusual gift lines of Yooper-made products including one-of-a-kind items and beautiful collectibles. Yooper innovations are also on display such as the world’s largest working chain saw and the largest working rifle in the world. Admission is free, as well as the bathrooms.
  • Lakenenland – Tom Lakenen has spent over 25 years building more than 100 sculptures out of scrap iron. He calls this park his junkyard. It is a free sculpture museum in Marquette, Michigan, and is open 24/7.
  • Pickle Barrel House Museum – A Michigan Historic Site, the Pickle Barrel House was designed as a small vacation cottage originally built in 1926. It is located at the end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the town of Grand Marais, and is open daily from 1:00-4 :00 pm. A great history lives within this pickle barrel which can be observed in the now restored museum.

Lansing

  • Moist Towelette Museum – This tiny museum houses over 1,000 moist towelettes from all over the world. Planetarium program assistant, John French of MSU has created this space in his office inside the planetarium building. Visitors can be amazed by his collection of moist towelettes Tuesday-Thursday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm on the Michigan State campus.

Ann Arbor

  • Ann Arbor’s fairy doors – A scavenger hunt around the city, these fairy doors are outside of select businesses. A map of locations can be found on the official Urban Fairies website where the story behind the project also lives. There are also a handful of unofficial doors, not part of the tour, so keep your eyes peeled.
  • Food Gatherers’ Giant Carrots – The ten-foot-tall carrot sculptures are located outside of the warehouse used by Food Gatherers, Michigan’s first food rescue program. A vegetable Stonehenge can be visited on Carrot Way in Ann Arbor.

Other oddball attractions:

  • Hell – Go to Hell . . Michigan! Located just 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, people are told to go to this town more than anywhere on Earth. You can get married in Hell, get ice cream in Hell, have dinner in Hell, you name it! For $100 you can be Hell’s mayor, although you will get impeached at the end of the day no matter how much good you do. You can purchase one square inch of the community, making you a member of the Hell Landowner’s Society. There is a lot to do in Hell, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Cherry Point Farm and Market Lavender Labyrinth – Located in Shelby Michigan, the Cherry Point Farm and Market is one of the oldest operating farms in Oceana County, just a mile from Lake Michigan. Featuring a fruit market and lavender labyrinth, this farm has been around since 1949. The lavender labyrinth has caught the attention of tourists and is now what the farm is most known for. Open May through October every day for various hours, walk the labyrinth, or check out the market just south of Silver Lake.
  • Dinosaur Gardens – An amusement park of sorts is located in Ossineke Michigan. Featuring a fossil dig, gift shop, frozen yogurt, putt-putt golf, and 27 life-sized dinosaurs. The No-Boundaries exhibits allow guests to see what life was like when dinosaurs ruled. Walking tours of the property are also available, ticket pricing for this attraction varies but can be found on their website.
  • The Anatomy of Death Museum – Mt. Clemens Michigan is home to this spooky museum that is dedicated to the dead and the tools used to usher them into the afterlife, according to their website. This spot features over 30 real human medical skulls and skeletons on display among many antique funeral and death-related items. You can visit Thursday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm for just $10.
  • Two-story outhouse – Visit the “double-decker-dumper” in Cedar Lake Michigan. A local landmark with conflicting stories of its origin. This building holds eight separate seats, four on each floor. The roadside attraction is located in town on M-575, south of M-46.

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