Are you weighing whether you can afford a summer vacation this year? You can in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We specialize in relaxation that doesn’t empty your wallet. Use these FREE things to do in the U.P. to plan the best vacation ever.

Play on over 1,000 miles of free Great Lakes beaches

The U.P. is one of the few places where the land touches three of the largest freshwater lakes in the world — Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. With 1,700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, most of it with free access, you will have no trouble finding a place to spread your blanket, toss a frisbee, build a sandcastle or splash in the water. Our beaches offer a variety of picturesque landscapes. There are towering dunes, soft, golden sand, black lava boulders and some of the most colorful stones you will ever see. Find a beach near where you are staying.

Visit 40+ historic lighthouses

As you drive along the Great Lakes coasts, pull off to see our life-saving sentinels. Most U.P. lighthouses have weathered brutal storms since the mid-1800s. Some charge for touring their lighthouse keepers' quarters or museums, but it's free to view or photograph them from outside. Add these lighthouses to your itinerary.

Relax or play in 4,300 inland lakes

You probably can’t visit all the Upper Peninsula’s refreshing inland lakes in your lifetime, although it’s worth the challenge. Make one of them your summer destination if you like to swim, boat, fish, water ski, kayak, picnic or read a book while listening to the haunting call of the loons. You can find free public access, beaches and parks at many of them. The largest inland lake is Lake Gogebic. Other popular places to spend days at a time are the Manistique Lakes, Trout Lake and Portage Lake.

Explore free museums from Ironwood to Drummond Island

Several free museums across the Upper Peninsula share fascinating stories about its history and culture. As you plan your travel itinerary, include the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace to learn more about the original inhabitants of the Great Lakes. 

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee takes you on a journey from iron’s ancient geologic origins through the 20th century. You will leave knowing how the U.P.’s iron ranges played a huge role in the industrialization of America. 

Be sure to visit two of the U.P.’s newest museums in Escanaba. The U.P. Military Museum pays tribute to the brave women, men and animals that helped preserve America’s freedom from the U.S. Civil War until now. It’s a rare opportunity to learn more about the U.P.’s Polar Bears of World War I and the Fly Girls of World War II.

Another museum is the Webster Marble: Inventing the Outdoors Museum. Many say Marble put the Upper Peninsula on the map. He became one of the early 20th century’s greatest entrepreneurs, inventors and marketing geniuses by setting the standard for knives, axes and other tools for millions of outdoor enthusiasts. Among his most famous customers were Robert Peary, Teddy Roosevelt and Charles Lindberg. Explore all of our museums (the list includes free and those charging admission).

Listen to 300+ waterfalls thunder and whisper

Most of the Upper Peninsula’s waterfalls are accessible by foot and you can reach several by wheelchair. Park your vehicle and hike to see magnificent sites such as Black River Falls, Bond Falls, Eagle River Falls or the Great Conglomerate Falls. Visit as many waterfalls as you can!

Paddle on 12,000 miles of streams and rivers

Put in your kayak or raft and ride the whitewater rapids of the Menominee River. Ease your canoe down the Two-Hearted River, made famous by author Ernest Hemingway. Take a day or multi-day kayak trip on the magnificent, 71-mile Manistique River that flows through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. These are only a sampling of where to dip your paddle! Kayak our scenic waters.

Hike thousands of miles of Upper Peninsula trails

If you are a casual walker searching for some of America’s most beautiful wilderness and Great Lakes scenery, find it here. Or, to test your grit on mountain climbs or over long distances, grab your boots and start hiking. The North Country Trail crosses from Ironwood to St. Ignace, the Piers Gorge and Canyon Gorge Trails take you to breathtaking waterfalls and the Mt. Arvon trail brings you to the highest point in Michigan. Choose your paths to adventure.

Ride Michigan’s most scenic road and mountain biking trails

If you like biking, there is no place in Michigan more picturesque, more varied in its terrain or more thrilling in its adventures than the Upper Peninsula. Besides 28 designated mountain biking trails, there are thousands of miles of logging roads, abandoned railroad grades, state and national forest trails, single tracks, off-season cross-country ski trails, low-traffic highways and paved road bike trails. Lone riders to tour groups are welcome.

Join us at free music concerts, parades, classic car shows and events

Week after week, all across the U.P., you can show up for free outdoor music concerts — often by the water — parades, classic car shows, amazing fireworks displays, art shows, free fishing and ORV weekends and rollicking festivals. Check out our summer events.

Gaze at spectacular sunrises, sunsets and countless stars

The horizons in the Upper Peninsula put on the most incredible sky shows at dawn and dusk. Blazing colors as the sun rises and sets, summer storms, Northern Lights and a dome of twinkling stars and shooting meteors. Some of the darkest skies in the world are over the Upper Peninsula, including the free Keweenaw International Dark Sky Park in Copper Harbor. Stargaze at the best places in the U.P.


You can explore Mackinac Island, also called the “Big Turtle,” by foot! While you pay to ride the ferry to the island, it’s free to walk around and enjoy its historic charm and natural beauty. There is a motor-vehicle-free 8-mile paved road that encircles this top tourist attraction. It takes you by iconic landmarks such as the Grand Hotel, downtown gift and fudge shops, historic mansions, Fort Mackinac and hike-stopping views of Lake Huron and the Mackinac Bridge. 


Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a treasure trove for rockhounds. Find a rich variety of minerals, gemstones, and fossils that reflect the geological diversity of the region. The U.P. is particularly famous for its native copper, agates, and Lake Superior greenstones (chlorastrolite)–Michigan's state gem. The ancient volcanic activity and glaciation have scattered these geological wonders across the landscape, making the U.P. a prime location for rockhounding. Beaches along Lake Superior, old mines, and riverbeds are among the best spots to start your search.


Also known as the "Dog Meadow Lights," the Paulding Mystery Light is a fascinating and unexplained phenomenon that has captivated locals and tourists alike for decades. Near Paulding, this mysterious light appears in the night sky along a stretch of Forest Highway 45. Despite numerous investigations and theories ranging from ghostly apparitions to natural gas emissions, the true origin of the lights remains a mystery.

If you’re looking for more of the strange and mysterious, check out our adrenaline-inducing blog on creepy hikes in the U.P.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, the U.P. has something special for every summer traveler. This is our most popular season, so book your stay early.

Share with Us

We would love to see your favorite summer scenes and adventures! Use our hashtag #uptravel for an opportunity to be featured on our social media, website or in our marketing materials. You can also upload your photos to our Summer Photo Crowdriff Collector below.