Port Clinton, Ohio
One doesn't usually immediately picture Ohio when thinking of a scenic, out-of-town weekend, but Port Clinton, Ohio, certainly fits that bill. The town is part of the Sandusky and Lake Erie Islands and is close to Kelly Island and Put-in-Bay. Stay in a quaint bed and breakfast right on the water, visit a historic home-turned-restaurant, hit up a winery, shop at a few adorable antique shops, or just drink beer with your toes in the sand — it's all possible in Port Clinton.
St. Joseph, Mich.
Known affectionately as St. Joe's to locals, the community located on Lake Michigan has also been nicknamed the Riviera of the Midwest. The city has a small-town feel, with a quaint downtown area replete with little shops and cafés, plus a beautiful stretch of beach that might convince you you're vacationing in Florida, not southwest Michigan. If you find yourself bored with sun and sand, you're also not far from Chicago — just a measly 90 miles.
One of Detroit's many quirks: It's the only location in the continental United States that is located north of Canada. However, it seems like after once the novelty of legally being able to drink as a 19-year-old wears off, most metro Detroiters tend to forget about our international neighbors. A relatively quick trip over the Ambassador Bridge brings you to Windsor's offerings, which include a club scene, Caesars Windsor casino, and beautiful waterfront parks. Other compelling reasons to cross the border: duty-free prescription drugs, absinthe, and Cuban cigars, which are still banned in the U.S. despite President Barack Obama's recent diplomacy efforts toward the country. Also, same-sex couples can legally marry in Canada, and Canada has no residency requirement for marriage, so Windsor makes an attractive destination for gay Michiganders to tie the knot while our government continues to lag behind the rest of the nation on that issue.
Silver Lake State Park, Mich.
Though it's a wonderful place to swim, bike, fish, and hike, Silver Lake State Park with undoubtedly best-known for its sand dunes. Not only are they spectacular just to look at, but it's one of the only parks in the Midwest that lets you drive your own vehicle across the dunes. Its 450-acre off-road vehicle area and its incredible views of Silver Lake and Lake Michigan make the park a must for any lovers of the outdoors. Come for just a day and see as much as you can, or stay a while at Silver Lake's campground and you explore everything it has to offer — make sure you check out the historic Little Sable Point Lighthouse as well.
9679 State Park Rd., Mears; 231-873-3083; michigandnr.com
Hell freezes over every winter in this Michigan town 40 miles outside of Ann Arbor, but when summer arrives, it's nothing but fun. At Go to Hell, Michigan, the town's premier tourist attraction, you can purchase a piece of Hell, get a degree from Damnation University, and scream for ice cream at Scream's Ice Cream and Diner. But Hell has more to offer than just its unique namesake. Explore the area's gorgeous lakes and wildlife with the numerous hiking trails, kayak and boat rentals, and campgrounds. Hell Creek Ranch is a must for people looking to explore Hell's outdoors.
4025 Patterson Lake, Hell; 734-878-2233; gotohellmi.com
You can't call yourself a true Michigander if you've never had a chicken dinner at Frankenmuth. Whether you prefer the Bavarian Inn or Zehnder's, you obviously need to go if you've craving big, delicious meals. However, Frankenmuth offers a lot more than just some of the best food in the country, with plenty of old-world charms and modern entertainment. Spend the night at the Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark, do some Christmas in July shopping at Bronner's, or take a trip back into old Bavaria at the summer festivals. If you've never been before, you're about to discover one of Michigan's best towns, and even if you're a regular, you can find something new to do every time you visit.
635 S. Main St., Frankenmuth; 800-386-8696; frankenmuth.org
Whether your idea of a great weekend is relaxing with a good beer or exploring through trails and over rivers, you'll be more than happy in Kalamazoo. Known best as the home of Bell's, you can tour the whole beer scene by visiting any of the city's 12 breweries. If you'd like to take a break from that, you can shop downtown, visit the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, or bike on the River Valley Trail. A hub for music, breweries, cars, art, and explorers, Kalamazoo is the kind of place you can come back to again and again. With a number of performances and art showcases that would befit a much larger city, the uniqueness of Kalamazoo combines the personal touch of a small town with the resources of a much bigger one.
Little River Railroad, Mich.
Taking a break from the hectic rush of city life is kind of like traveling into the past. We seek a slower pace, simpler pleasures, and glimpses of what life used to be like. (Some of us even unplug our phones!) And what better way to explore the old ways than to take an excursion on a steam railroad? Yes, we still have steam rail trips, courtesy of the Little River Railroad, out in Branch County. The trains run out of the city of Coldwater, pulled by a 58-ton 4-6-2 Pacific type locomotive, throwing smoke and squalling at intersections. They have an upcoming Father's Day run ($20 for adults, $13 for kids 3-11, ages 1-2 free, dads free as well), and weekend excursions all summer long.
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Though it's barely two counties past the Michigan border, most metro Detroiters don't think of Fort Wayne as a getaway location. Perhaps they still consider it the kind of small, wholesome Midwestern city that was the fictional birthplace of MASH's Frank Burns (and the resting place of the legendary Johnny Appleseed). But did you know it has a shit-kicking punk bar called the Brass Rail, a brewery named after Detroit war hero "Mad" Anthony Wayne, and records stores like Neat Neat Neat, Entourage, and the Wooden Nickel? Stores like Books, Comics, and Things, or Clem's Collectibles? Such apparel and resale shops as Mercantile on Main, Viva Vintage 4U, Saving Grace Vintage, and Vintage Glory? Yes it does. And it's only three hours away.
Wellington Farm, Mich.
Did you know that Michigan has a 60-acre living history museum depicting life in the rural Midwest during the Great Depression? It's called Wellington Farm, and proprietor Howard Taylor opened it as an attraction in 1997. It displays his significant and growing collection of post-1900 farm machinery, and a large and growing collection of buildings, now 24 in all, including the Stittsville Church (built 1882, moved to Wellington 2005), an 1870s Grayling sawmill, a working gristmill, a Civilian Conservation Corps-built structure, and more. Why a museum dedicated to such a dark time? Taylor says the tough times have lessons still worth teaching. He says, "They made do with everything that they could. Nothing was thrown away. You never know when you might need that thing or part of it to make something else." Upcoming celebrations include Sticky Bun Day (June 20), Dairy Days (June 27-28), and, of course, a show celebrating Wellington's many tractors (Aug. 7-9).
Open 9-5 Friday-Monday after June 20; 6944 S. Military Rd., Grayling; 989-348-5187
If it's good enough for LeBron James and the Republican National Convention, it's probably good enough for you. We'll start with a short list of cultural touchstones — world-class art museum, Rock Hall, a world class orchestra — and then add in the exploding brewery scene, the foodie scene that's blossomed thanks to Iron Chef Michael Symon and others, plus beautiful Lake Erie and a variety of beaches that'll make you forget you're in Ohio. It's only three hours down the road and one of the more affordable destinations in the Midwest. Whatever you're into, there's a neighborhood perfect for you
Porcupine Mountains, Mich.
While it's one of the furthest points away from metro Detroit in the Mitten, the Porcupine Mountains are a must-do for any Michigan resident. Today, it stands as one of only a few massive landscapes of pure wilderness that remains in the Midwest. We'd feel like jerks if we didn't warn you that, unlike say, Camp Dearborn, this is the real deal for camping fanatics. The last time we visited, signs were scattered across the state park warning of wild hogs. That's right. But it's worth the fear, because it's arguably the most beautiful point in the state. The Lake in the Clouds (Google it) will take your breath away, and the hikes are lovely. Sure, you could drive in the opposite direction and, in as much time, end up in New York City, but the mountains here are worth the trek.
Ontonagan County, Michigan; porcupinemountains.com
Bald Mountain, Mich.
It's easy to forget you're in Oakland County while hanging out at Bald Mountain. The recreation area that surrounds the mountains provides steep hills and picturesque scenes; there are 15 miles of trails that traverse around lakes, streams, and forestry. Easily one of the biggest catches here is the opportunity to camp in one of only two rustic cabins. The cost for one night comes in at $86. Talk about a remote, quick getaway.
Oakland County, Michigan; michigandnr.com
Perhaps you've taken our advice to head north to the Porcupine Mountains; if so, then listen up. The Yoopers have a reputation to some as being a reclusive, small-town bunch, but Marquette stands out as one of the most enjoyable college towns in Michigan. Bookworms can get down at Snowsbound Books, water lovers can enjoy the Marquette Maritime Museum, and restaurants abound will appease your palate. If anything, with the wide range of camping opportunities in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette's a nice break from the action of Mother nature.
Chicago (by Megabus or Amtrak)
It's a bit of a rite of passage for metro Detroit kids to eventually make the trek for a day trip to Chicago. The Windy City has sick restaurants, bodacious record stores, and wonderful sites to see. But, man: driving there and back in one day is the worst. Luckily, there's other means to teleport westward. Megabus, for instance, offers tickets as low as $1, and sets sail in Detroit and Ann Arbor. The Amtrak costs more than a round trip in a vehicle — but the upshot is you wouldn't have to drive. That beats driving drowsy.