While Michigan offers no shortage of places to see on your own, sometimes visitors—especially newcomers—can benefit from the availability of a guide. These knowledgeable folks keep tourists apprised of important historical information, noteworthy stories and even recommendations. There’s an abundance of guided tour opportunities across the state, and here are our 10 favorites.
Head out to Lansing to check this one out for yourself. The state capitol building is already one of the leading examples of architectural brilliance in the state, and by taking the guided tour, tourists will be able to check out not only nine solid acres of hand-painted art, but also get some insight into Michigan's past. These stories will help underscore the construction of the capitol, and the circumstances under which it was built. With 115,000 people visiting annually, there's a lot to see, and a guide will help.
Frankenmuth's Bavarian Belle represents one of the best guided tours of all: A boat tour of Frankenmuth. While it's a seasonal event—a riverboat tour in winter could be a disaster—those who get in on this trip get a one-hour tour of the Frankenmuth area on a restored stern-wheel paddlewheel riverboat, itself an historical attraction. Throw in a variety of amenities on the boat itself from snack bar to souvenir stand and the Bavarian Belle will make a great start for tourism in Frankenmuth.
Lighthouses are a big part of Michigan—it's impossible not to be, given Michigan's extensive maritime history. Tawas Point Lighthouse, not far from Tawas City, is one of the major lighthouse names around. With a guided tour featuring several times running between noon and 6 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day, summer in Michigan can mean great things for lighthouse buffs. Oh, and birdwatchers? Tawas Point is also widely renowned for its varied bird populations. It's even possible to give tours of the lighthouse in exchange for a place to stay; it's a condition of staying in the lightkeeper's quarters.
Traverse City once again brings an outstanding proposition for our lists with the Traverse City Tours company, a group offering tours of a variety of Traverse City's major points. Traverse City Tours offers a slate of wine and brewery tours, but the big offering is the Wine and Water package. Wine and Water delivers not only a four-hour wine tour of the Leelanau Peninsula's wine offerings, but also a 2.5-hour sunset sail on the Sailing Yacht Scout, providing a land-and-water tour of a hefty chunk of the region.
Ever want to see a copper mine from the inside? Well, if that's your adventure of choice, Michigan's got it ready for you with the Adventure Mine tour in Greenland. A combination of several separate mines, the Adventure Mine features five separate shafts, allowing tourists to see firsthand what copper miners in the late 1800s to early 1900s saw. There's even an annual bike race known as Miner's Revenge that runs in and around the mine, so for added fun, consider checking that out.
What exactly is an art park? You'll find out at Michigan Legacy Art Park around Thompsonville, but suffice it to say that this one is a 30-acre park that comes complete with 40 works of art—including lots of large-scale sculpture installations—as well as 1.6 miles of hiking trails. Founded by late artist David Barr—and containing some of his works—the art park tells visitors all about Michigan in sculpture and in art, a development which makes a guided tour particularly valuable. They'll even take volunteer tour guides, so you can not only take a guided tour, but you can be a tour guide too!
For those who want the macro view when it comes to tourism, brace yourselves for the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. A tour so guided that the very roads of Michigan serve as a guide—and even go out of the state somewhat—the Lake Michigan Circle Tour will take visitors completely around the perimeter of Lake Michigan, pointing out a variety of attractions along the way. Some of the United States' greatest cities will be on hand, from Traverse City to Green Bay and even Chicago itself.
Make no mistake, Michigan is a motoring state, and so anything that relates to cars gets point of pride around here. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour, part of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, offers one of the best tours in the state by some reasoning. From explanations of Ford's early days to the importance of the assembly line to even a starkly ahead-of-its-time look at how community and business can comfortably live and work together, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour brings insight to all it touches.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of Michigan's greatest natural landmarks, so it's not surprising that tourism has sprouted up to check this out more thoroughly. Paddling Michigan near Munising, meanwhile, has hit upon one of the most exciting methods to check this wonder out for yourself: By kayak. With several tour packages available, you'll be able to go back several times just to check out the fullest range of possibilities along this breathtaking excursion.
We've seen tours run by kayak, by van, by paddleboat and by foot. How about one by train? If that catches your interest, head on out to Charlotte or Blissfield for the Old Road Dinner Train, itself an historical attraction as the “longest continually operating dinner train in North America.” Featuring a slate of special events including a murder mystery train, a pizza-themed train, an Easter train, those who take this trip will get to see a large portion of Michigan's east side by rail in the ultimate of comfort.