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Nature, history top state’s attractionscomment (0)

July 16, 2009

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

Michigan may be known as the home of America’s automobile industry, but its bustling urban centers and beautiful natural areas drive state tourism.

Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, is known as the Motor City for good reason. It’s home to the nation’s three largest automakers — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler — and the history of the automobile is on display throughout the city.

Visitors to the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex can see where the automotive assembly line was first used. Car buffs will also enjoy the Detroit Historical Museum, the Automotive Hall of Fame and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, all of which offer a closer look at the history and future of American automaking.

The wealth created by the industry is also evident. The homes of Henry and Clara Ford, Edsel and Eleanor Ford, Matilda Dodge Wilson and Lawrence Fisher, who served as president of Cadillac Motors, are open to the public, giving visitors a glimpse into the lives of these automotive giants.

The Detroit River forms the city’s border with Canada, and in the river, Belle Isle has a host of fun activities for natives and visitors alike. The largest island park in the United States, Belle Isle offers 982 acres of athletic fields, beaches and areas for hiking, picnicking, fishing, boating and golfing.

One of Michigan’s top tourist destinations is Mackinac Island State Park, which lies between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. Cars have been banned from Mackinac Island since 1898, so visitors must see the island by foot, bike, horseback or carriage.

More than 80 percent of Mackinac Island lies within the state park, which charges no admission and is open all year. It features a variety of attractions, including the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House & Insect World and the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory.

History buffs will enjoy Fort Mackinac, Michigan’s only Revolutionary War era fort, and the downtown historic district, where blacksmith and crafts demonstrations highlight the historic buildings of the area.

The island is also home to numerous rock formations, scenic shoreline, caves and cemeteries, all accessible by the 61 miles of roads and trails within the state park. Maps are available at the Mackinac Island Visitor’s Center, which is open May through October.

Traverse City is another popular tourist destination, with miles of sandy shoreline and crystal clear lakes. In addition to water sports, visitors to the Traverse City area can tour several historic lighthouses scattered along the Lake Michigan shore.

North of Detroit, the city of Frankenmuth welcomes visitors to “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” Shoppers will find the world’s largest Christmas store here, along with traditional Bavarian treats, including bratwurst and pretzels.

Michigan’s oldest community, Sault Ste. Marie, also offers a glimpse of another time and place. Located in the state’s Upper Peninsula, the town was home to native Americans and later fur-trappers and colonists. Today much of the area remains wilderness and shoreline. Visitors here can tour the Soo Locks, the busiest lock system in the world, with the largest lock in the Western Hemisphere.

The site of the famous 1975 wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is here as well, along with Tahquamenon Falls, the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Sault Ste. Marie is also one of the few places in North America where the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, can be seen.

So whether you are interested in an escape to nature or a city adventure, Michigan is worth the drive.

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