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4 Michigan Destinations Under 2 Hours from Ann Arbor

Robert English:

Robert English:

When Michiganders think of escaping, they often think of the usual spots: Petoskey, Traverse City, and Grand Rapids, to name a few. But you don’t have to drive more than two hours from Ann Arbor to find lovely towns full of fall activities. In fact, fall is the best time of year to enjoy much of Michigan’s scenery. So get in the car, grab a map and head to one of these lesser-known spots to turn your weekend into something special.


1. A perfect blend of past and present, Marine City sits on the shores of the St. Clair River. It is heralded as the capital of Great Lakes’ wooden ship building, and still retains nautical charm. Victorian-style homes and cottages dot the quaint streets of Marine City, taking travelers back in time with just a glance. Visitors will rejoice in riverside restaurants, shopping that includes antiques and collectibles and five waterfront parks. In addition to the Peche Island Lighthouse, Marine City also boasts a ferry that provides quick crossing to Sombra, Ontario – Canada is visible across the river and also features riverside shopping and dining.

Travel Time: 1 hour 30 minutes; travel due east on I-94


2. Hastings is a small town earning a lot of attention. Located in Barry County, it was named one of the best small towns in America by Norman Crampton, author of “The 100 Best Small Towns in America.” While this accolade generally refers to quality of life, visitors will be rewarded by Hastings’ eagerness to please. For instance, the family-owned Walldorff Brewpub & Bistro says, “We work hard to provide you great food from our kitchen and premium hand crafted ales.” But you might want to wait before you start tossing back a few – the Hastings Riverwalk was featured in the 2014 Michigan Trails Magazine and is a popular site for rollerblading, bike riding, jogging, and strolling. Because this trail is nestled along the Thornapple River, the changing colors of fall will delight the senses. Bicycle and kayak rentals available.

Travel Time: 1-hour 50-minutes; take I-94 west to MI-50


3. Often overlooked because of its proximity to Kalamazoo, Portage is a city of leisure. It provides the perfect opportunity to head outdoors and enjoy nature in all its autumn glory. Your first stop might be the West Lake Nature Preserve, offering a winding trail through shaded forest – a panorama of color in the fall – and a view of West Lake. Maybe you’ll want to visit Bishop’s Bog Preserve, a rare gem of 125 acres completely untouched by modern civilization. You can find more walking trails in Celery Flats, a place described as a park within a park. These three are in addition to 15 other parks, some of which touch one of the several bodies of water to which Portage is home. If you get tired of being outdoors, you can visit Southwest Michigan’s largest retail center – Crossroads Plaza.

Travel Time: 1 hour 40 minutes; west on I-94


4. Grosse Pointe Farms is a self-proclaimed “upscale” and “beautiful” city, meaning it’s an ideal destination for anyone in need of a day trip. Head east on I-94 and you’ll arrive at Kercheval on The Hill, Grosse Pointe Farms’ fashionable business district with lots of shops and restaurants. Find a gift, a piece of home décor, or a new outfit. The Hill has everything from seafood and steak to sushi and ice cream. The crisp autumn air off Lake St. Clair will clear your mind and lift your spirits. Before heading home, remember to stop by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford home. It’s really a mansion, with different guided tours available for purchase. Enjoy the ample grounds while you’re there, again with a beautiful view of the lake and lots of colorful trees.

Travel Time: 1 hour; east on I-94

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