When you’re looking for a place to stroll, shop, dine, and spend quality time with loved ones, there’s nothing better than exploring some of the best small towns in Michigan. Our state offers access to endless charm, whether you’re enjoying coffee with a waterfront view or hunting for antiques in a long-standing shop. If you’re a sucker for small towns, you’ll want to read about these seven spots in Michigan that offer truly outstanding downtown areas.
For those who love history, architecture, and a little dash of kitsch, Frankenmuth is an absolute dream. This small town is a favorite among out-of-state tourists and locals alike, offering visitors the chance to immerse themselves in a Bavarian-inspired wonderland. Dig into a famous chicken dinner at Zehnder’s, snag a beer at Frankenmuth Brewing, or venture just outside downtown to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, where the holiday spirit remains intact all year long. Does it get much better than this?
If you find yourself on the west side of the state, a day trip to Saugatuck is a must. This tiny shoreline town offers frontage along Lake Michigan, the Kalamazoo River, and Kalamazoo Lake, so there’s no shortage of natural beauty for those who seek it. Of course, the community’s downtown area is a major point of pride, offering everything from vibrant art galleries to quaint coffee shops to long-standing eateries. We recommend checking out Phil’s when you’re hoping to dine like a local.
Even when the weather outside is frightful, there’s plenty of fun to be had in Gaylord. Regardless of when you stop by, this town of just under 4,000 residents offers an “Alpine Village” downtown that boasts options for dining, shopping, and memory-making. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Alpine Chocolat Haus or pick up some fresh produce at the local farmer’s market. From jewelry shops to bookstores, there’s truly something in downtown Gaylord for everyone to enjoy.
4. Mackinac Island
We’d be remiss not to include Mackinac Island, which stands strong as one of Michigan’s most magical destinations. This charming island, where you’ll notice a distinct lack of cars, is full to the brim with natural splendor, bicycles, historical touches, and family-friendly excitement. Its primary downtown area is like something out of a storybook, expertly combining gorgeous architecture with modern touches. Snag some bonafide Mackinac Island fudge before hopping aboard an enchanting horse-drawn carriage to continue your tour of the area.
Don’t worry, we didn’t leave the Upper Peninsula off our list. After all, the northernmost regions of the Great Lakes State offer a sense of wonder all their own, often combining rugged natural surroundings with manmade attractions and more. Houghton is no exception, offering a downtown space that sits just a stone’s throw from Portage Lake and the Keweenaw Waterway. Grab a beverage at Keweenaw Brewing or head to Roy’s Pasties for a classic Yooper meal. Round it all out with dinner at the famous Ambassador Restaurant or a simple stroll through the campus of nearby Michigan Tech. What’s not to love?
If you appreciate small beach towns, Lexington is sure to capture your imagination. This tiny community along the shores of Lake Huron houses a year-round population of approximately 1,000 residents. Its downtown space might be small, but this lovely locale offers a quaint and welcoming atmosphere in every season — with particular charm during the warmer months. From clothing boutiques to fresh fudge and plenty of dining destinations, there’s lots to explore throughout this shoreline village.
Holland’s location along the shores of Lake Michigan renders it a popular destination for tourists and Michiganders alike, particularly during the spring and summer months. No matter when you visit, though, you’ll find joy throughout its bustling downtown — in fact, the town even prides itself on offering heated sidewalks that make for easy strolling when icy weather arrives. Check out an assortment of breweries, including the beloved New Holland, or do some serious shopping along 8th Street. From Readers World bookstore to a fair-trade shop known as The Bridge, the options are truly endless.
Have you spent time in any of these small towns in Michigan? What were your favorite downtown destinations in each? We’re always eager to hear your suggestions and experiences, so share your thoughts by leaving us a Facebook comment. If there’s a charming community that should have been included on our list, let us know by completing our official nomination form here.