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What Michigan Is Known For & Famous For
Thinking about vacationing in Michigan? That’s a decision you won’t regret. Michigan has a lot to offer to any visitor interested in anything.
Michigan is known as the Wolverine State. It has over 21 percent of the world’s freshwater, which is home to many marine species. Mackinac Island, Mackinac Bridge, and the Porcupine Mountains are other attractions in Michigan. The state is also home to the car capital of the world — Detroit.
Keep reading to learn more about what makes Michigan a great destination for your next vacation. We’ll give you a complete list of all the places that make Michigan a great state.
Known As the Wolverine State
Amongst the many things Michigan is known for, one of the interesting ones is that it’s called the wolverine state. Is Michigan the natural habitat of wolverines? Well, no.
There are different theories about the reasons behind this moniker. One of the most likely ones was put forth by a football coach named Fielding H. Yost, who thought it might’ve originated from wolverine pelt trading in Sault St. Marie many years ago.
The great lakes of Michigan were the main highway for transferring the pelts and furs from the north to the east. That’s why traders may have labeled them as “Michigan wolverines.”
Another theory is related to the native Indians of Michigan. Some believe these Indian tribes were angry about the presence of European migrators in their land, so they called them wolverines – the animal they despised the most.
Yet another theory concerns a border dispute between Ohio and Michigan in 1803, recognized as the Toledo War. Reportedly, Ohioans described the Michiganders as wolverines at that time, perhaps because of the voracious nature of this animal.
Regardless of its origin, now the people of Michigan take pride in the nickname. They enjoy being called wolverines, especially because of the University of Michigan.
The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are five large lakes in Michigan, which are partly shared with Canada. These include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario in order of volume from the largest to the smallest. Together, they’re over 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) and span from west to east.
This group of lakes forms the largest freshwater inland seas on earth, providing water for domestic consumption, power generation, and transportation.
These lakes are considered natural treasures. They date back to about 10 thousand years ago, when the last ice age ended, and ice sheets were receding, leaving behind a considerable amount of meltwater.
A mind-blowing fact about the great lakes is that they comprise 84% of the surface fresh water in North America and about 21% of the world’s freshwater surface. These lakes are also the main water source for over 40 million people.
The occurrence of unexplained events like ships or planes disappearing in a specific area of Michigan lake has made people believe there’s something similar to the Bermuda Triangle. It’s even called the Michigan Lake Triangle, or more commonly, the Michigan Triangle.
You may have seen this breathtaking, iconic bridge on social media without knowing its name and location. Well, here it is, in Michigan state.
Mackinac Bridge is a masterpiece designed by David B. Steinman, one of the most renowned bridge engineers of the time, to connect Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. The bridge’s construction took more than 48 months and was finished in 1957.
Since then, people of the two Michigan peninsulas have been safely crossing this giant steel bridge, and over a million tourists visit it each year.
Mackinac Bridge (also called Mighty Mac or Big Mac) is considered the longest suspension bridge on the western side of the earth, with 7,400 feet length (2,256 m) of its roadway from one cable bent pier to the other. Its total length is about 26,000 feet (7,925 m) and has four lanes.
Mackinac island is another famous attraction in Michigan. It’s located in Lake Huron (one of the great lakes) between the two Michigan peninsulas.
Mackinac island has the best tasting water in Michigan, which is also one of the cleanest waters in the world.
This island is one of the most beautiful and romantic destinations, especially in spring and autumn. One of the reasons why tourists love this island is the slow pace of life since there are no cars on the island.
Since more than a century ago, Mackinac residents have banned motor vehicles from their island. The only vehicles to move around the island are bicycles and carriages drawn by horses. So, the peace you feel on the island is beyond description.
Mackinac island is also home to a historic fort from the colonial era. The Mackinac Fort was built during the American Revolution, but the British forces took it during the war of 1812. The abandoned fort is now a tourist attraction of the Mackinac, with old buildings and canons from that era.
The Porcupine Mountains or “Porkies” refer to an area of 60,000 acres (24,281 hectares) of wilderness, the largest state park in Michigan. This park is home to the grandest tract of virgin Northern Hardwoods in North America and is considered one of the national natural landmarks of the US.
The mountains in this park are around 2 billion years old. They’re part of one of the most ancient mountain chains globally. The trees (hemlocks and hardwoods) of the Porcupine Mountains are also the most ancient trees on earth, now preserved inside the park.
You may have heard the ‘big three” in Porkies. They’re the three most popular park attractions, namely the Lake of the Clouds, which provides a breathtaking view of the park; the Summit Peak Observation Tower, which is 50 feet (15 m) and the tallest point in the park; and the Presque Isle River Waterfalls.
Endless hiking trails, impressive waterfalls and rivers, mesmerizing scenery, and a host of endangered species such as gray wolf, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and blue-eyed mary are other attractions in the park.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
This is another Michigan landmark with ample opportunities for adventure or simply enjoying nature. It’s where the woods and beach come together, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone and enjoy both.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes is a natural park that borrows its name from an old Chippewa fable about a mother bear and her two cubs. The magnificent dunes of the park were formed as a result of the advancing and receding of giant glaciers over two million years ago.
Some of these dunes are as high as 400 feet above the lake’s level and create incredible vistas.
Other park attractions include spectacular hiking trails, lovely beaches, lush forests, the old lighthouse, and former coast guard stations.
Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National park is a land of 850 square miles on an island northwest of Lake Superior. Despite its breathtaking views and wilderness, it’s one of the least-visited national parks in the US – about 18,000 visitors per year on average.
Accessing the park requires a boat or seaplane trip. Plus, the Isle Royale National Park is closed during the winter and reopens in the spring due to heavy snowfalls.
Nevertheless, it’s worth all the effort to get there. Besides its mesmerizing beauty, you can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, camping, and hiking in an earthly heaven.
The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel
As the name suggests, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is a tunnel between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, connecting the US to Canada. It’s the only international sub-aqueous border crossing that allows motor vehicles to pass through.
The tunnel construction officially began in 1928 and ended in 1930, after about 26 months and several unsuccessful attempts. It’s about 5,000 feet (1,524 m) long and has two lanes in opposite directions, and around 12,000 vehicles pass through it each day.
Ambassador Bridge is one of the most important border crossings in North America. The Ambassador Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning a total length of 7,500 feet (2,300 m). The Bridge wasn’t owned by an America or Canada but an American businessman. Manuel Moroun was an American businessman who owned the bridge for years. The Ambassador bridge is a major artery for trade between Canada and the United States. The bridge is the busiest crossing on the Canada-United States border.
The Kalamazoo Mall
Located in Kalamazoo city, the Kalamazoo Mall is the first downtown pedestrian mall in the US, built in 1959 by diverting traffic from three leading commercial areas on Burdick Street.
You can find a diversity of businesses in the Kalamazoo mall, from luxury boutiques, restaurants, and bars to humble kiosks and sidewalk sales.
Michigan is home to 129 lighthouses – the most in the US – many of which are still active. The Great Lakes are vast and have a dangerous shoreline for ships. That’s why so many lighthouses have been built along the shores to guide them.
Michigan’s most popular lighthouses are the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, The Holland Harbor Lighthouse, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, and Sturgeon Point Lighthouse.
Michigan is famous for its cold and gloomy winters when it gets frigid, and the weather is constantly cloudy for a few months. Winters in Michigan are so harsh that Thrillist has ranked it as the second state with the worst winter – No. 1 is Minnesota.
With such a vast freshwater area, including lakes and rivers, it isn’t surprising that Michigan is the heaven of anglers. It’s home to many fish species, including bass, trout, salmon, walleyes, yellow perch, and lake sturgeon.
You can go fishing on a charter with a local guide or try fly-fishing. Some people go even further and experience the thrill of Ice fishing, thanks to the cold winters of Michigan.
Michigan’s best fishing spots are the St. Marys river, Lake St. Clair, Manistee river, Saginaw Bay, and St. Joseph river.
Automotive Industry – Car Capital of the World
Michigan is recognized for its automotive industry. Nicknamed “Motor City,” Detroit in Michigan has long been the beating heart of this industry. It still reigns regardless of the many challenges they faced, such as World War II and the economic downturn of the 1970s.
The city had ample raw materials for car production, including copper, iron, and coal. As a result, it attracted the best engineers and designers, which turned Detroit into an unbeatable automotive industry pioneer.
Detroit’s car industry is so advanced, innovative, and massive that it’s called “the Car Capital of the World.” The city is home to 96 of the 100 top automobile suppliers in North America, such as Ford, Chevrolet, General Motors, and Dodge, to name a few.
Today’s Detroit is heaven to startups, and they’re growing rapidly. It’s also one of the top 10 innovative cities in the US, not only in the auto industry, but also in science and technology.
Detroit is a thriving hub of art, music, and culture, too. This city is the birthplace of Motown music and has played a pivotal role in developing Punk Rock and Techno music. You can see art on every city corner, from eye-catching murals, graffiti, and sculptures to notable architecture and fountains.
Detroit-style pizza is another landmark of the city that’s hard to ignore. It’s square-shaped and topped with lots of Wisconsin brick cheese and red sauce, so unlike most pizzas, it’s red on top and has a less chewy dough.
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Were Invented Here
Many people don’t know that the delicious Kellogg’s corn flakes were invented in Michigan by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a renowned wellness expert. He headed a world-class sanitarium in Battle Creek.
He invented the corn flakes to produce an easy-to-digest meal for his patients, but soon its popularity led to the mass production of the corn flakes for ordinary people.
The First Modern Traffic Light
Remember the Detroit and Motor City moniker? There are reasons behind it, and one is the installation of the first modern traffic light in this city.
The first modern traffic light in the world was a three-color and four-way traffic light installed on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Fort Street in Detroit by an officer named William Potts. This traffic signal is now kept at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
The First Concrete Road
Related to the above, Woodward Avenue in Detroit, which is about 27 miles (43 km) long and connects Detroit to Pontiac, is considered the first paved mile-length road in the world. In 1909, one mile (1.6 km) of this road was concreted, which was an outstanding achievement; seven years later, the rest of it was paved too.
The World’s First Car Wash
With such a long history in the automotive industry, it isn’t surprising that the first car wash in the world opened in Detroit. This rudimentary car wash called “Automobile Laundry” was established by two guys named Frank McCormick and J.W. Hinkle in 1914.
It wasn’t an automatic car wash like the modern ones. People pushed the cars by hand through a tunnel to be washed and dried.
The First Agricultural College in the USA
The first agricultural college in the US was established in Michigan in 1855, and that’s when the first blocks of the Michigan State University (MSU) were grounded. It consisted of three buildings that don’t exist today: The College Hall, Saints’ Rest, and a brick horse barn.
Home to the Only Floating Post Office in the USA
Michigan is also home to a wonderful post office: the only floating one in the US. The J.W. Westcott II is a unique boat operating for more than 140 years as a post office under the zip code of 48222 and delivers mail and even meals throughout the Detroit River.
Scores of famous people hail from Michigan, including Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Serena Williams, and Burt Reynolds.
Yes, Iggy Pop, the famed musician, songwriter, and singer, comes from Michigan. Growing up with the state’s rich music, he played various music styles like rock, heavy metal, jazz, and blues. However, he’s known as the Godfather of Punk for his role as the lead vocalist in Stooges.
Another well-known musician and singer from Michigan. He was born in Redford, but raised in Detroit. He became famous for his energetic guitar performances as the lead guitarist of the psychedelic rock band The Amboy Dukes. He’s also passionate about guns and opposes animal rights.
There’s no need to introduce the Queen of Pop, born in Bay City, Michigan. Her rebellious spirit, represented in her music videos and performances, is a symbol of Michiganders’ nature. She moved to New York when she was 21, and she’s been a highly influential cultural figure since.
The blind genius “Stevie Wonder” is one of Michigan’s most loved and famed musicians. He was so talented that he signed with Motown and Talma labels when he was only 11. His musical genius has inspired generations of artists in many genres, including pop, funk, and jazz.
Serena Williams, The American Tennis player who has won the most Grand Slams (23 titles), is also from Saginaw, Michigan. Coached by her father, Serena has consistently ranked No. 1 among female tennis players. She was the undefeated No. 1 for 186 weeks in a row.
The handsome and famous American actor Burt Reynolds was born in Lansing, Michigan. He was known for his iconic roles in several TV series like Gunsmoke, Hawk, and Dan August. He also played the leading roles in films like Navajo Joe and Deliverance. He isn’t related to the famous actor Ryan Reynolds.
Michigan is an excellent place for your next vacation. Its great lakes, fishing areas, and national parks are great if you enjoy vacationing in the nature. There are also many great malls and historical sites that are sure to make your trip an excellent one, so whatever you enjoy, you’re sure to find something in Michigan!
- Up North Tour: Why is Michigan the Wolverine State? | Up North Tours
- University of Michigan: Victor Views: The History Behind the Wolverine | Campus Information
- EPA: Facts and Figures about the Great Lakes | US EPA
- McGill: Great Lakes
- NPS: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (US National Park Service)
- Detroit Free Press: Where’s the love? Isle Royale among least-visited national parks
- Windsor Public Library: The Detroit-Canada Tunnel | Windsor Public Library
- Michigan Government: MDOT – Detroit/Windsor Tunnel
- Detroit News: The building of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel
- Select Registry: 4 Beautiful Lighthouses in Michigan to Visit | Select Registry
- Detroit Free Press: Study: Michigan has the 49th most enjoyable winters in America
- Fishing Booker: Fishing in Michigan: All You Need to Know
- Vitesser Transport: Why Michigan is Considered American Hub for the Automotive Industry | Vitesse Transport
- Purpose Jobs: 9 Reasons You’ll Love Working and Living in Detroit
- Visit Detroit: 11 Must-See Public Art Pieces in Detroit | VisitDetroit.com
- Eater: What Is Detroit-Style Pizza? – Eater
- History: How an Accidental Invention Changed What Americans Eat for Breakfast – HISTORY
- Click on Detroit: The first tri-color, 4-way traffic light was invented in Detroit 100 years ago
- Car Wash History: From Simple Beginnings to Modern Day Features – Aqua Bio
- Michigan State University: History | Michigan State University
- Atlas Obscura: America’s Only Floating Post Office Delivers More than Mail to Detroit’s Ships