Looking to spend your summer attending events and experiencing activities around the state, some perhaps for the first time?
Hopefully, this Ultimate Michigan Summer Sports Bucket list will help.
Here are 50 things worth considering between now and Labor Day.
1. Whitewater rafting the Menominee River
Think whitewater rafting is not possible in Michigan? Think again. A stretch of the Menominee River in the southwestern Upper Peninsula, near Norway known as Piers Gorge, offers just that, including a series of Class IV rapids. Regulated by a dame, the rapids remain strong and swift throughout the summer. Northwoods Adventures in Iron Mountain (michiganrafts.com) offers guided, half-day trips through the gorge.
2. Book a Lake Michigan fishing charter
Grand Haven is one of the best places to book a Lake Michigan charter fishing boat because the ports have been ranked at the top most years in several DNR surveys for number of charter trips run, number of fish caught and number of fish caught per angler. Also, Lake Michigan is the top Chinook Salmon fishery in the world. The area also is known for steelhead and lake trout. Visit michigancharterboats.com for options.
3. Try an adventurous race
Adventure racing has gained popularity in recent years and there are many summer events around the state to consider, all offering something different. Some options are the Warrior Dash (July 29 in Mt. Morris, warriordash.com), which takes participants through a muddy, 5-kilometer obstacle course and the Xterra Rugged Triathlon (Aug. 19 in Alpena, 3disciplines.com), which features Lake Huron swimming, mountain biking and trail running. The Epic Adventure races (Cadillac, July 28-30, miadventurerace.com) offers a series of team races that are between 6 and 20 hours, featuring kayaking, mountain biking, trail running and orienteering.
4. Take part in the Port Huron Float Down
The event draws thousands every year and is a day of gliding down the St. Clair River from Lighthouse Beach in Port Huron south to Chrysler Beach in Marysville. Participants must use a small, inflatable craft. This year's event is Aug. 20. See porthuronfloatdown.com for details.
5. Enjoy the legendary Mac Wood’s Dune Rides
Since 1930, Mac Wood’s Dune Rides have offered 7-mile guided dune trips through a portion of Silver Lake State Park in Mears, about 40 miles north of Muskegon, aboard one of their many open-air dune cruisers. They boast a unique fleet of four-wheel drive dune cruisers with modified aircraft tires ideal for tackling the 450 acres of the park designated for Mac Wood's Dune Rides (macwoodsdunerides.com).
6. Paddleboard the Traverse City area
With scores of inland lakes, the beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes and expansive Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City offers the greatest variety of paddleboarding within a fairly short distance. Places like The River Outfitters in Traverse City (therivertc.com) and Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak in Empire (sbsurfandkayak.com) offer lessons, rentals and insight to the best spots for paddleboarding.
7. Journey to the top of Copper Peak
The world’s largest ski jumping structure, Copper Peak sits 1,180 feet above Lake Superior north of Bessemer and is the only ski flying hill outside of Europe. Getting to the top requires an 800-feet chair lift ride followed by an 18-story elevator trip and an eight-story stair climb. The view is unmatched, overlooking 2,500 square miles. It’s possible to see parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario on a clear day. See copperpeak.com for details and hours of operation.
8. Camping on South or North Manitou Island
Getting to both Lake Michigan islands requires a 1.5 to 2.5-hour passenger ferry ride from Leland, but great camping near the beach awaits. Both islands offer plenty to explore, including Valley of the Giants, an old-growth stand of white cedar trees that dates back 500 years, on South Manitou. North Manitou is known for the solitude of backcountry camping amid 15,000 acres of wilderness. See manitoutransit.com for ferry rates and details and nps.gov for camping rates and other information.
9. Great Lakes kayaking
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising and Port Austin at the tip of Thumb are two hotspots for Great Lakes kayaking. Pictured Rocks kayakers can paddle around and under the area’s famous rock formations and near waterfalls flowing into Lake Superior. Paddlingmichigan.com offers a variety of trips. At Port Austin, kayakers can paddle 7 miles out to Turnip Rock, one of the state’s most unique natural features. See portaustinkayak.com for details and rental rates.
10. Rent an ATV
With some 4,000 miles of trails for off-road vehicles, Michigan's possibilities are endless. One option is the Little O ATV Trail near Baldwin, a 41-mile loop that winds through Huron-Manistee National Forest and features sandy flatlands, rolling hills, meadows and thick woods. The Wolf Lake Motel (wolflakemotel.com) rents Honda Recon 250 and Yamaha Wolverine 350 ATVs.
11. Golf Michigan’s highest-rated public course
Arcadia Bluffs, nestled above the shore of Lake Michigan south of Frankfort, is No. 13 on Golf Digest’s latest 100 Greatest Public Courses in the nation list and is the only Michigan course in the top 15. The sweeping views, impeccable course conditions and top-notch facilities all play a role in its ranking. A second 18-hole course is being constructed south of the current one with a planned completion date of next summer. See arcadiabluffs.com for rates and other information.
12. Hike to Michigan’s highest publicly-accessible waterfall
Laughing Whitefish Falls, which gradually drops 100 feet down a limestone bluff into a ravine below, is contained in a 960-acre day use park near Chatham, about 30 miles southeast of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula. After a 1-mile hike through a hardwood forest filled with trilliums in the summer, visitors reach an observation platform at the top of the falls. A staircase provides access to the bottom. Take North Sundell Road north from M-94 to reach the trailhead at Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic site.
13. Learn to surf Lake Michigan
An ocean is not required for surfing with Lake Michigan close by. Third Coast Surf Shops in St. Joseph and New Buffalo – rated as one of the best places to learn how to surf in North America by Outside Magazine -- offers everything needed for Lake Michigan surfing, including lessons, apparel and equipment. See thirdcoastsurfshop.com for details.
Just outside of Marquette on the west end of Presque Isle Park are the Black Rocks, a 20-foot high section of ancient stone known as the safest place to dive, jump or cannonball from a cliff into Lake Superior. The activity appeals to those of all ages and backgrounds. Even guberatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer talked about leaping off Black Rocks last summer in a Marquette Mining Journal article. The water is warmest in August. See mqtcty.org/parks-presque-isle.php for details.
15. Experience nationally ranked Oval Beach
One of the top attractions in one of the Midwest's best beach towns, Saugatuck's Oval Beach, nestled between large dunes, has been ranked one of the top 25 beaches in the world by Conde' Nast Traveler and one of America's top two freshwater beaches by National Geographic Traveler. There is a $10 entrance fee, but bicyclists enter free. See saugatuck.com for details.
16. Ride Michigan's only alpine slide
The 250-foot-high Crystal Coaster at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville is one of the few alpine slides in the Midwest and offers two parallel, 1,700-foot-long curved tracks. Riders take a chairlift to the top before hopping into a sled. Riders must be at least 52 inches tall and between 100 and 300 pounds. See crystalmountain.com for hours and rates.
On your own or with a guide, flyfishing the AuSable River, which extends more than 135 miles across the northern Lower Peninsula, can't be beat. In fact, it was named one of the American's Top Five Flyfishing Desinations by CBS travel writer Randy Yagi. The 9-mile stretch east of Grayling from Burton's Landing to Wakely Bridge is designated flyfishing only. Among the many guide services and outfitters is Streamside in Fairview (michiganstreamside.com).
18. Tackle the dune climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes
From the parking lot about 5 miles north of Empire on M-109, the dune climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore awaits. The challenging 260-foot ascent through the sand is well worth the effort with sweeping views of Glen Lake at the summit. From there, continue to Lake Michigan or scamper back down. See https://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm for details.
19. Slide down a summer luge track
The only wheel luge track in North America is at Muskegon Sports Complex with the average run taking approximately 9 seconds while covering 334 feet of track at a top speed of 24 m.p.h. Cost is $10 per person, which includes instruction and four rides. See msports.org for details.
20. Take a guided ride on horseback
Maybury State Park’s riding stables in Northville offer guided horseback rides through the park’s 1,000 acres for all experience levels, making the facility perfect for first-timers. Private rides, group rides, lessons and $5 corral rides also are available. Riders must be at least 8 years old and weigh no more than 240 pounds for trail rides. See mayburyridingstable.com for information.
21. Ride a zipline
Zipline options around the state are numerous. Wildwood Rush and The Zipline Adventure at Boyne Mountain are two of the best and located only 9 miles apart near Boyne City. Wildwood Rush (wildwoodrush.com) features a 2.5-mile journey through the forest canopy on nine lines and five aerial suspension bridges. It has over 1.5 miles of zip lines and a 1,200-foot triple racing line. The Zipline Adventure (boyne.com) has 4,300 feet of lines and drops more than 50 stories.
22. Journey to Michigan's highest point
Getting to Mt. Arvon, the state's highest point at 1,980 feet, is an adventure in itself, requiring a 27-mile drive from L'Anse, which is in the Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior. The route is partially comprised of narrow logging roads through a very sparsely populated area, but blue ovals posted on trees mark the way. http://www.summitpost.org/mount-arvon/151786 offers detailed directions. A short hike from the parking lot gets to the top and a panoramic view of Lake Superior, roughly 10 miles away, awaits.
23. Experience Isle Royale's wilderness
Nearly 900 square miles of unspoiled wilderness crisscrossed by 165 miles of trails and teeming with some 1,600 moose, Isle Royale National Park offers a unique outdoor experience. However, getting to the least-visited national park in the lower 48 states (18,216 visitors last year) requires a three-hour boat trip from Copper Harbor, a four-hour boat trip from Houghton or a seaplane flight from Houghton. Comfortable accommodations are offered at the Rock Harbor Lodge and backcountry camping is available at 36 campgrounds. See nps.gov/isro for details.
24. Take on Copper Harbor's mountain biking trails
Unlike any other mountain bike trail system in Michigan, Copper Harbor's 35 miles of trails have been designated a silver-level ride center by the International Mountain Biking Association. The single tracks wind over bedrock, cobbled rock, rooty surfaces with lots of climbs, technical descents, berms, rustic bridges and boardwalks. It’s located near the top tip of the Upper Peninsula, about 45 miles northeast of Houghton. Bike rentals, equipment and other information is available from the Keweenaw Adventure Company (keweenawadventure.com).
25. Attend a Traverse City Beach Bums game
A fun outing in the Traverse City area is taking in a Beach Bums minor league baseball game. The Frontier League franchise offers promotions like Family Funday Sundays (kids run the bases and a post-game autograph session), Thrifty Tuesday (hot dog or brat, chips and a fountain drink for $5) and Super Hero Saturdays (dress as your favorite super hero and receive a voucher for a hot dog, chips and fountain drink). See traversecitybeachbums.com for details.
Michigan's only designated wilderness river, the Two-Hearted stretches for more than 100 miles from Muskallonge Lakes State Park to where it empties into Lake Superior near Crisp Point Lighthouse north of Paradise. A popular trip begins at High Bridge north of Newberry and ends at Lake Superior. Along the way, paddlers wind through forest, sandy dunes and observe wildlife such as otters and bald eagles. There are several campgrounds along the river. Search North Store Follow Me Outfitters on Facebook for canoe rental information.
27. Attend Sunday Kids Day at Comerica Park
Anytime is a good time to attend a Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park, but, for families, Sunday Kids Day is ideal. It features a pregame interactive kids area and a free promotional item is given to all children 14 and under. There are free rides for kids on the Ferris wheel and carousel. Kids also get to run the bases following the game. See mlb.com/tigers for details.
Now in its second year, the USPBL averages more than 3,000 fans per game at Jimmy John's Field in Utica by offering an inexpensive and entertaining minor-league experience. The league's All-Star Game on July 8 will feature the top players from its four teams and includes an appearance by the husband and wife Quick Change magic act that appeared on “America's Got Talent.” See uspbl.com for details.
29. Compete in a Titanium Triathlon race
Looking take part in a full-distance ironman triathlon without leaving Michigan? The Aug. 20 Michigan Titanium Triathlon in Grand Rapids is your only opportunity accept the challenge of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26-2-mile run. Many shorter-distance events are also offered on the same day. See mititanium.com for details.
30. Check out an international soccer match
International soccer is returning to Detroit on consecutive days next month. On July 18, Detroit City FC takes on Italy's Venezia Club at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck (https://tickets.detcityfc.com/). The next day, Italian powerhouse AS Roma and French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain clash in the first-ever professional soccer match at Comerica Park (http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase).
31. Watch portions of the AuSable River Canoe Marathon
It's billed as America's Toughest Spectator Event, but the AuSable River Canoe Marathon is well worth the effort. This year's race begins at 9 p.m. July 29 in Grayling and finishes 120 miles and roughly two days later in the Oscoda. Fans usually begin staking out spots on the river banks six hours before the race and pre-race activities begin at 6:30 p.m. There are many checkpoints to view the race from after it starts. See http://www.ausablecanoemarathon.org/spectators/ for a complete guide.
32. Attend the start of the Port Huron-to-Mackinac yacht race
A week-long festival (Bluewater Fest) leads up to the start of the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race on July 22. Docked boats can be viewed in the days prior to the race and then spectators line the shore of the St. Clair River to watch more than 200 boats set sail for Mackinac Island. The first class of boats begin racing at 11:30 a.m. See bycmack.com for details.
33. Participate in a bicycle tour
If you are looking for a unique way to spend your time off during the summer and love road bicycling, try one of the state’s organized tours. Among them are The Michigander, which offers several routes from July 15-22 (http://michigantrails.org/events/michigander-bike-tour/2017-michigander-routes/); The Michigan Upper Peninsula Tour, which begins and ends in St. Ignace from July 9-15 (lmb.org); The DALMAC, which offers various routes from Aug. 30-Sept. 3 (dalmac.org) and The Shoreline West Bicycle Tour, which takes riders from Montague to Mackinaw City from Aug. 5-12 (lmb.org).
34. Bike around the Mackinac Island
The 8-mile paved loop around Mackinac Island, known as Lake Shore Boulevard, is ideal for bicyclists because, of course, it’s the only automobile-free stretch of state highway. Riders travel along Lake Huron and encounter unique limestone formations, island streams and historic points of interest. The Mackinac Bridge is visible for a portion of the ride. See bikemackinac.com for rental rates (try a tandem bike), maps and information.
35. Relax with a recently released Detroit sports book
Several books about Detroit sports figures have been released within the past two years, including new biographies of Detroit Tigers legends Alan Trammell (“Trammell: Detroit’s Iconic Shortstop”) and Ty Cobb (“Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty”). On June 30, “Detroit Wolverines: The Rise and Wreck of National League Champion” will be released. It is the story of Detroit’s first major league team. All three are available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. There’s also “The Joe: Memories From the Heart of Hockeytown,” a Free Press book about Joe Louis Arena memories available at freep.com/bookstore.
36. Kayak the Detroit River
There are actually many options when it comes to seeing Detroit from the unique perspective of a kayak on the Detroit River. One is to paddle between the city and Canada before veering into canals on Detroit's east side. Riverside Kayak Connection (riversidekayak.com) and Detroit River Sports (detroitriversports.com) both offer sunset and full moon tours in addition to several others.
37. See the Lions for free
Seven Detroit Lions training camp practices are free to attend and open to the public, starting July 31. There's a family day and mock game at Ford Field on Aug. 5, though it's a ticketed event. Training camp will feature activities that include ticket and merchandise giveaways, autograph opportunities, photos with Roary and the Detroit Lions Cheerleaders and tailgate games. Visit detroitlions.com for a camp schedule.
38. Watch some racin'
NASCAR comes to Michigan International Speedway twice a summer. The first weekend of racing just passed, but the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR race is Aug. 13. There’s also a truck race the day before and practices and qualifying two days before. Visit mispeedway.com for details. The state also boasts more than 30 other asphalt and dirt automobile racing tracks. Kalamazoo Speedway (kalamazoospeedway.com), which bills itself as the fastest 3/8-mile track in the world, has the most noteworthy event of the summer: XXV Kalamazoo Clash on Aug. 9, which will feature NASCAR superstar Kyle Busch competing in two races. Among other options are Flat Rock Speedway (flatrockspeedway.com) and Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run (dixiemotorspeedway.com).
39. Play The Loop reversible golf course
The Loop at Forest Dunes in Roscommon, south of Grayling, is North America's only reversible golf course, meaning it has 18 greens, but 36 teeing areas. It plays clockwise (Black Course) one day and counter-clockwise (Red Course) the next with only the ninth and 18th greens remaining the same. Earlier this year, it was named the nation's Best New Public Course by Golf Digest. See forestdunesgolf.com for details and rates.
40. Enjoy a round of disc golf
With 286 courses around the state, disc golf appears to be growing in popularity. Discgolfscene.com’s top-rated public course in Michigan is at Kensington Metropark in Milford, host of the annual United States Amateur Disc Golf Championship. The 27-hole course overlooks meadows and woodlands. See metroparks.com/Kensington for details.
41. Run a festive summer road race
Some summer road races have been going strong since the 1970s and draw thousands each year. Two of the most venerable are the Crim Festival of Races in Flint (Aug. 26) and Volkslaufe Run in Frankenmuth (July 4). Both offer runners a first-class experience and a variety of distances. The Crim (crim.org/races), which began in 1977, offers distances from one-mile to 10 miles. Volkslaufe (volkslaufe.runfrankenmuth.org), which dates back to 1976, has races from 2K through 20K. Both can help prepare for the Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon (http://www.freepmarathon.com/) in October.
42. Rock climb in Grand Ledge
One of the top rock climbing destinations in the Midwest is located in Grand Ledge on the banks of the Grand River at Oak Park. The 300-million-year-old sandstone and quartzite, 35-foot ledges offer some 50 climbing routes as described on climbmidwest.com. See grandledgeclimbing.com for details.
43. Check out the Moneyball Pro-Am League
Many of the state’s top college basketball players, some professionals and incoming freshmen will take part in the 14th annual Moneyball Pro-Am League at Aim High Sports in Dimondale, outside Lansing, from June 27-Aug. 3. Rivalries are set aside. Last year, for example, Michigan’s Derrick Walton and Mark Donnal became teammates with Michigan State’s Josh Langford and Gavin Schilling. MSU’s Miles Bridges is bound to steal the show again after averaging a league-best 31.1 points per game a year ago. A women’s pro-am league was added last year. Admission is free. See moneyballsportswear.com/moneyball-pro-am for details.
44. Watch racing at Milan Dragway
For more than 50 years, Milan Dragway has been a great place to experience drag racing’s ear-splitting power as dragster’s engines rev to more than 130 decibels just prior to roaring out of the box, front ends lifting a few inches off the ground as they cover a quarter-mile in less than 10 seconds. Milan Dragway has events throughout the summer. See milandragway.com for details.
45. Play pickup basketball at Joe Dumars Fieldhouse
In search of the ideal place to find a pickup basketball game? Joe Dumars Fieldhouse locations in Detroit and Shelby Township hosted more than 100,000 pickup games last year on its four-regulation size courts under 65-foot ceilings. See joedumarsfieldhouse.com for hours, prices and other information.
46. Experience Detroit Hyrdrofest’s new format
Unlimited Hydroplanes return to the Detroit River for the 101st Detroit Hydrofest on Aug. 25-27, skimming the water at 200 m.p.h. High-powered turbo engines produce 3,000 horsepower and leave a 60-foot-high, 300-foot-long wall of water in their wake. The format has switched this year from one race held over two days to two races in two days. There are two sets of preliminary heats Aug. 26, followed by a winner-take-all final for the President’s Cup. Aug. 27 features three sets of preliminary heats before a winner-take-all final for the Gold Cup. See detroitboatraces.com for ticket prices and other information.
47. Check out a demolition derby
With nearly every fair and small-town festival hosting one, demolition derbies, in which the last drivable car left standing is victorious, are easy to find. As far as USA Demolition Derby-sanctioned events, the biggest (60-car limit) take place at the Eaton County Fair (July 15), St. Ignace Nite of Destruction (Aug. 5), Shiawassee County Fair (Aug. 7), Jackson County Fair (Aug. 12), Midland County Fair (Aug. 19), Chippewa County Fair (Aug. 29-30) and Saline Community Fair (Sept. 3). See usademoderby.com for details and a complete schedule.
48. Hike or bike the Potawatomi Trail
Looking for a long loop trail to bike or hike without having to travel north? The Potawatomi Trail in Pinckney Recreation Area is an option. The 17.5-mile loop is popular with mountain bikers due to its challenging, varied terrain as it passes over rolling hills and past streams and several inland lakes. The trail also varies from hard-packed dirt to sand with exposed roots and rocks. Hikers can use the loop for a long day hike or can break up their trek by spending the night at a walk-in, lakeside campground. See michigandnr.com/parksandtrails for maps and details.
49. Watch professional beach volleyball
The Midwest Professional Volleyball Association plays all of its matches at Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon, culminating in the season championship July 29-30. With 40 courts, Pere Marquette is a great spot for anyone to play sand volleyball. It’s also the largest (2.5-miles long, 27.5 acres) free public beach on Lake Michigan. See mpva.com/upcoming-events.
50. Bicycle at a velodrome
An outdoor, 1/8-mile, 200-meter oval with banking from 13 to 44 degrees, the International Velodrome at Bloomer Park in Rochester Hills is the only bicycle racing venue of its kind in North America, though an indoor velodrome is set to open in Detroit in September. Friday evening racing, lessons, bike and equipment rental are available. Every rider’s first trip around the track is free. See ivbp.org for details.
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