There’s a reason why they say the Midwest is the best. When it comes to things to do in Michigan – you’ve practically hit the motherload. Especially Southwestern Michigan. Wineries, sand dunes and outdoor recreation, sandy beaches, breweries, restaurants, shopping – all just a hop, skip and a jump away from Chicago. (For a big list of things to do in Illinois, and Chicago, click here!). Plus, it’s centrally located, so it’s a moderate drive from lots of other major cities in the Midwest too!
Check out this big list of things to do in Michigan – no matter which area you’re heading to or where you’re coming from.
New Buffalo, Michigan
New Buffalo Michigan has a lot going for it. An easy jaunt from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and even Wisconsin, it’s a one-stop-shop of fun and an incredibly simple way to take a vacation without hopping on a plane or spending a lot. Fun fact(s): it’s on the Amtrack train line (you can get there directly from Union Station!) and it’s home to 132+ wineries. We’ll hold your glass while you book a hotel.
Hotels in Southwestern Michigan
The wonderful thing about New Buffalo is that there are a TON of options all over the spectrum – from upscale boutique hotels (that still won’t break the bank) to bed & breakfasts, rentals – you name it, there’s definitely an accommodation to fit your needs. A few of our go-tos:
Things to do in Michigan: Get Local & Rent a Cabin
Summer can prove to be a little pricey (it is peak season, being in the Midwest (but oh – don’t miss the fall!) – but if you book early enough, you should be fine. The other option is to rent a cabin! One of our favorite experiences to date is the Little Bit O’ Heaven Cottage in Lakeside, Michigan (a straightforward 9-minute drive from the bustling New Buffalo Michigan downtown area, but without the high prices). 2 bedrooms, plenty of space, plus LOTS of other amenities – like a private beach (because sandy beaches top the list when it comes to things to do in Michigan).
Stuff Your Face or Imbibe a Little
We could spend a whole post diving into our favorite watering holes and restaurants in New Buffalo, but we’ll spare you and just let you know that you won’t be wanting for good food. In no particular order, some of our favorites include:
- Mesa Luna
- Rios Mexican Grill
- Stray Dog Bar & Grill (best sunset spot ever!)
- Bentwood Tavern
- Terrace Room
- Round Barn Winery
- Beer Church Brewery
Things to Do in Michigan: the New Buffalo Edit
As far as things to do in Michigan goes, you definitely need to make Lake Michigan one of the core features when deciding all the activities you want to try. Here are a few of our favorites:
Spend a day on the beach: there are tons of public beaches in New Buffalo Michigan, along with places to rent kayaks and paddle boards. Warren Dunes State Park is just a 15-minute drive away, if hiking over the sand is more your speed than lying in it. OH – and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention just taking in a sunset on the beach; since you’re on the east side of the lake, you’ll get at different angle – and those famous Midwest colors.
Boutiquing + antiquing: One of our favorite ways to remember a trip is to frequent the local boutiques for something to take home – whether that be a new wardrobe staple, décor or gifts for family and friends. Some of our favorite spots in New Buffalo include Hidden Gem, the Whittaker House, Custom Imports (super unique worldly goods sourced globally!).
Not quite a small boutique but still just as great, are the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets (a short 17-minute drive from the downtown area) – a great stop for a little retail therapy. Major tenants include Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, H&M, Le Creuset, Levi’s, Naturalizer, The North Face and Under Armour.
Silver Lake, Michigan
Silver Lake, Michigan is just a few more hours’ drive from New Buffalo but it’s definitely worth it – these ‘dune cities’ offer something special in addition to some serious R&R. Here are a few reasons why, plus places to stay, things to do and places to eat to keep you busy.
Where to Stay in Silver Lake
Whether hotel or house (rental) Sliver Lake, Michigan affords a lot of options in a central location. Some hotels include the Dunes Waterfront Resort or the Hexagon House Bed & Breakfast and as always, you can opt for a home rental instead.
Where to Eat in Silver Lake, Michigan
We couldn’t talk about Silver Lake, Shelby or the surrounding area without mentioning Stony Lake Inn – a family-owned small-town joint that has some of the best ribs you’ll eat in the area. They’re also known for their deep-fried asparagus in the summer months (but if you blink you’ll miss the window of availability!). Cherry Point Farm & Market is an adorable roadside stand that offers the best of Michigan’s cherry bounty – everything from turnovers to pies, jellies and just straight up crates of fruit. They also have a great selection of soy candles! Other spots to check out include the Antler Bar and House of Flavors diner and ice cream shop.
Things to Do in Michigan: Silver Lake Edition
As with New Buffalo, you don’t have to look far to find a beach here. There are more than 6 gorgeous beaches in the area! You can relax with a book, get active in a kayak or watch the sun go down with a bonfire and s’mores.
Check out the light houses: did you know at one point there were over 247 lighthouses in Michigan?! Nowadays, there are much less in good condition, but still worth checking out. Be sure to head over to the Little Sable Point Lighthouse (admission is only $5 for adults and $2 for kids) and learn about the illuminating history of these gems.
Rent a Dune Buggy: so… before we actually DID this, we thought the term ‘dune buggy’ sounded a little silly. We promise you – it is NOT silly. It’s like driving go karts around the set of Mad Max. It’s amazing. Highly recommended! You do need to be 21+ to rent in your name and 16+ to drive. Also only 2 people are allowed in a buggy at a time. But highly worth it! And don’t forget to bring a bandana for your nose and mouth and sunglasses (so. much. sand. everywhere.). You’ll thank us later.