It’s that time of year again. Winter is finally loosening its grip, and the sunshine is beginning to work its magic and awaken the world around us. Birdsong and wildlife make their presence known again, the snow is finally starting to melt, and lines are beginning to form at the ice cream stores again. Hope of warmer, brighter days is in the air. Spring is finally on the horizon. Life feels lighter and brighter in every way.
Although nearly everyone is eager for the ever-popular summer season coming along behind spring, spring in Northern Michigan doesn’t always have as many fans. Often considered “the shoulder season,” the rainy, muddy, messy Spring months can leave folks unsure of what to do. There’s not enough snow to play in – and it’s not quite warm enough to pursue the beloved summertime activities. Sometimes it feels like yet another waiting game until summer arrives.
Spring has its own unique qualities and benefits, though, and is definitely a season to be appreciated and enjoyed. There are plenty of things to do during the months before summer; this list is merely a starting point. Take a look below and explore the links to learn more ways to enjoy this beautiful spring season.
- Go morel hunting. Want to learn more about morel hunting? Check out the morel hunting page for additional info. Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Teresa Marrone and Kathy Yerich is also a great resource and can likely be ordered from your favorite local bookstore. Also, keep an eye on NE Michigan’s Regional Calendar, as there are often mushroom hunting guided walks hosted by conservation groups and nature preserves throughout the region. Want to connect with others who enjoy mushroom hunting? Join the Mushroom Hunting interest group through NE Michigan’s Facebook page! Interested in doing a guided hunt? Book a guided hunt with Rick Fitzgerald @ Northern Pickers on May 13th.
- Celebrate morel season at Lewiston’s Morel Celebration Love morel’s but don’t want to go looking for them yourself? Or maybe you just want to enjoy celebrating one of the highlights of spring in NE Michigan. Either way, you are in for a treat at Lewiston’s Morel Celebration on May 13th in Downtown Lewiston. Celebrate this treasured sign of spring Lewiston style during their annual festival. Also, you can book a guided hunt with Rick Fitzgerald @ Northern Pickers on May 13th.
- Go ATV Riding – Nothing celebrates the season of mud and puddles better than ATVs! For all things ATV related (including trail info), check out the ORV/ATV page on the NE Michigan website. Don’t have an ATV? Check out the Outdoor Gear & Outfitters page to find places where you can rent them and/or book guided tours. Big Bear Adventures in Indian River offers guided tours. Move over snowmobiles…it’s time to bring out the ATVS!
- Get your Farmer’s Market fix at Downtown Cheboygan’s Indoor Spring Farmers Market. Although farmers do not yet have the abundance of harvest typically present during the summer season, local Farmers Markets are great fun any time of year. Grab some maple syrup, fresh baked goodies, microgreens, or any number of other items available. Make a day of it and check out a few parks, walk around Downtown Cheboygan, or grab lunch! The Cheboygan area has a lot to offer! Also, be sure to check out the Farmers Markets by you to see when your local Farmers Market plans to get started.
- Go Hiking Although the ground can still be slushy and muddy during the spring, it’s a great time to hit the trails! The temps are a little warmer (but not too warm!), you can grab some views through the trees that aren’t always visible once the leaves come out, and you can literally witness the earth coming back to life! It’s fun to hear the increased birdsong, see the changes in the leaves as they grow back, and spot flowers (or mushrooms!) along the trails. It’s also a great way to get some exercise and spend some energy; it feels wonderful to breathe in the fresh air and be outside again after a long winter! Shingle Mill Pathway in Pigeon River Country is always a great trail – with varying lengths, depending on your goals and fitness level. Highbanks River Trail along the AuSable River has some amazing views! Wakeley Lake outside of Grayling is a personal favorite, and the Hoist Lake Foot Travel Area and Reid Lake Foot Travel Area are both great trail systems. Want to find some new trails to hike? Check out the Hiking page for a comprehensive listing of trails throughout the region.
- Go Fishing Whether fishing by stream, river, or lake, NE Michigan abounds with opportunities to cast into the water. Don’t miss the opportunity to win $100,000 and a new Lund Boat from Spicer’s Boat City of Houghton Lake during the Catch Us If You Can Fishing Contest sponsored by the Houghton Lake Area Tourism Bureau. Fishing is also full swing on the AuSable River according to AuSable River Angler located in Mio. Check out the Fishing page for additional information, locations, and resources throughout the NE Michigan Region.
- Go Trillium Hunting These beautiful white flowers are a sure sign spring has arrived in the woods of NE Michigan. Go for a drive and see them flowering alongside the roads – or hit the trails and see them scattered throughout the woods. Take some pics, feast your eyes, and revel in the beauty of new life springing forth throughout the land. Check the NE Michigan website for Scenic Drives and Hiking Trails.
- Grab some Ice Cream Don’t we all scream for ice cream?! It’s the best part of spring: all the DQs and local ice cream shops open up after winter hibernation. Nothing celebrates the hope of warm weather quite like some soft serve or waffle cones. Hit up your local DQ or ice cream business - or go for a drive and check out Downtown Scoops in Alpena! You won’t be disappointed.
- Pack a Picnic and visit your favorite summer destinations. Enjoy the scenery and beauty without all the crowds. The art of picnicking may be a bit lost in our preference for fast food and convenience these days. But oh, what fun it is to pack up some of your favorite foods, find a beautiful beach, roadside park, or natural area, and enjoy the nice weather and the chance to be outside while eating. Although we are a little more restricted with our ability to enjoy the outdoors as summer hasn’t quite arrived, it’s so wonderful to be surrounded by beauty and have the place to yourself! It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy your favorite places without the crowds. It also hints at the fun that lies ahead…once summer arrives. Need some ideas on where to picnic? Check out the County Parks, Natural Areas & Nature Preserves; the State Parks page, visit the Outdoors Page to check out more options for where to enjoy the great outdoors, or search for a state forest campground (which are nearly empty this time of year)! Duncan Bay Nature Preserve in Cheboygan, Rifle River Recreation Area in Ogemaw County, and Harrisville State Park in Alcona County would all be great options! Just be sure to pack out everything you packed in to preserve our beautiful destinations for others. And be sure to have the appropriate park passes for the places you visit.
- Tawas Point Migration Days This spring birding event is set to take place May 12th & 13th at Tawas Point State Park. This area is considered a hotspot for birds during their migration back to their summer nesting grounds. Even if you aren’t able to make the actual event, a visit to the State Park and Lighthouse anywhere around this timeframe is sure to fill your ears, eyes, and spirit with the sounds of spring.
- Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area in the Iosco County is a delight any time of year! Springtime is no exception, though, as the birds and wildlife are getting out and about in greater measure. This 5,000-acre wetland complex is especially great for birding; however, other water loving wildlife are usually spotted, as well. Take a day – and maybe a picnic! – and explore, look for wildlife, listen to the sounds of spring, and capture some great photos.
- Take an Art Class Not interested in heading outside? Or maybe you want a rainy-day activity to enjoy inside? Take an art class! Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned artist, there are plenty of options to start and grow your skill level. This is a great way to meet new folks, create something beautiful, and develop a skill you can use for a lifetime! Although there are many options for art classes throughout the region, check out the following: Gaylord Arts, AuSable Artisan Village in Grayling, Art in the Loft in Alpena, Tawas Bay Art Gallery, and Cottage Vision Designs in West Branch.
- Dust off the bikes and go for a bike ride! Now that the snow is off the ground, it’s time to hit the trails with our bikes! There are biking opportunities for every interest level throughout NE Michigan. If you are interested in a fun, easy family bike ride, check out the Grayling Area Bike Path which goes all the way to Hartwick Pines State Park, the Huron Sunrise Trail which travels about 8 miles from Rogers City to the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse along Lake Huron, and the Tawas Bay Pathway in the Tawas Area. If you prefer getting into the woods for some trail riding, check out Norway Ridge Pathway in Alpena, Black Mountain Trail System in Cheboygan County, and the Rifle River Recreation Area in Ogemaw County. Are you an avid mountain biker looking for single tracks? We’ve got you covered, too! Check out Chippewa Hills Pathway in Alpena, Ogemaw Hills Pathway outside of West Branch, Hanson Hills Recreation Area in Grayling, Aspen Park in Gaylord, and Pigeon River Country outside of Vanderbilt. Interested in riding bikes or trying out some mountain bike trails but don’t have one of your own? Check out our Outdoor Gear and Outfitters page to find rentals near you!
- Spring Camping – enjoy the solitude, beauty, and relaxation of camping without the crowds. That’s right! Although the weather is a bit cooler and unpredictable, spring camping is where it’s at! You can enjoy the beauty, relaxation, and fun of camping without the crazy summer crowds. Check out the NE Michigan Camping page to start planning your spring camping adventure. You can almost hear the campfire crackling…
- Visit a Dark Sky Park Did you know NE Michigan is home to THREE (3) Dark Sky Parks?! That’s nothing short of amazing. These Dark Sky Parks are located in Thompson’s Harbor State Park, Negwegon State Park, and Rockport State Recreation Area. Learn more about these Dark Sky Parks here and start planning your visit today.
- Check out a State Park or a Natural Area you’ve not yet visited. Did you know NE Michigan is home to 17 State Parks & State Recreation Areas?! That’s incredible! There are also a large number of county parks, natural areas, and nature preserves throughout the region. Have you visited all of them? If not, pick out a new to you park or natural area and plan a visit! You can hike a new trail, try a new outdoor activity, go for a drive, take some photos, pack a picnic lunch, ride a bike, or any number of things. The Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve in Cheboygan County is especially magical and beautiful! There is a giant nature megaphone and beautiful views of the Pigeon River. Roger’s City is home to a plethora of beautiful parks – many along the Lake Huron shoreline. Take a day and visit them all! Marguerite Gahagan Nature Preserve in Roscommon has a number of trails, educational programming, and events. It’s definitely worth checking into if you haven’t visited before – or even if you have!
- Go coffee shop hunting and find your favorite one! Are you a coffee shop lover? They are wonderful and charming in and of themselves, but they have the added bonus of creating some wonderful atmosphere for reading a good book, having a meet up with a friend, or getting some work done outside of the house or office. And sure, do they smell good! There are a number of local (and not so local) coffee shops throughout NE Michigan. Check them out and figure out which one is your favorite!
- Laser tag anyone?! Need a rainy-day activity? Or just not quite ready to venture outside? Check out Alpena’s Laser Team Challenge. It’s held inside the Alpena Armory building; it’s such a cool location! You can make reservations and they are open every Saturday for open game play.
- Axe Throwing Yet another inside activity or date night idea: axe throwing. It’s become quite the popular new activity. Rebel Axe Co in West Branch and Tawas Axe in Tawas City are both great options!
- Spring Golfing Let the golfing games begin! If you are an avid golfer, this is the time you’ve been waiting for all winter. Whether you are experienced or new to the sport, spring is a great time to hit the golf courses. Are you used to golfing at a certain course? Change things up a bit and check out a new golf course in the region. Check out the golfing page on NE Michigan’s website to learn more about the courses and begin planning your next game today.
- Walk the Lake Huron beach/coastline. Although it might be a little chilly to get in the water just yet, it’s beautiful to walk along the shoreline! Enjoy the sound of the waves, go rock hunting, get some exercise. Oscoda Beach Park is one of the top-rated beaches in Michigan with a beautiful pier to boot! Hoeft State Park outside of Rogers City, Cheboygan State Park, and both Negwegon State Park and Harrisville State Park in Alcona County all have beautiful beaches and shoreline you can walk. There are plenty of other places to visit, as well. Check out the State Park page or the US23 Heritage Route website to discover more places to explore along the beautiful Lake Huron shoreline.
- Check out the regional lighthouses It only seems natural to have a number of lighthouses throughout NE Michigan since so much of the region lies along the Lake Huron shoreline. It is often easy to forget about these iconic structures in the hustle and bustle of life, though. Although many do not open until later spring, it can still be fun to visit them, take some beautiful photos, enjoy the scenery, and even enjoy a picnic lunch! There are typically beautiful views near lighthouses. Not only is there a cool lighthouse at Gordon Turner Park in Cheboygan, you can also hike to some lighthouse ruins in Cheboygan State Park. Both the new and old lighthouses in Presque Isle are beautiful and fun to see. Sturgeon Point Lighthouse in Alcona County is incredible. And we can’t forget the Tawas Point Lighthouse in Tawas Point State Park or Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City. You can learn more about other lighthouses in NE Michigan by visiting the US23 Heritage Route website and clicking on the lighthouse icon in each of the regions.
- Love you some craft beer?! Check out the breweries throughout the region and hit up the live music scene. Keep your eye on the NE Michigan Regional Calendar to learn about live music available throughout the spring and summer months.
- Did you know our region has several quilt trails?! Go for a drive to enjoy “leaf and bloom peeping” this spring – and see if you can find the various barns with quilt blocks on them. Make a day of it: research the areas around the quilt trails and explore the towns, try a new restaurant, or hit up some local entertainment. Some of the popular quilt trails include: Alcona County Quilt Trail, Roscommon County Quilt Block Trail, and the Ogemaw County Quilt Trail. This could be a great way to capture photos of some picturesque barns throughout the countryside.
- Downtown Hopping. Do you love exploring new places, shopping at unique gift shops and boutique stores, trying new restaurants, or hitting up some local breweries, wineries, or cideries? There are some adorable and thriving downtown scenes scattered throughout the NE Michigan region – and a number of new businesses have opened over the winter. Research the various entertainment options, area attractions, and places to eat and drink under NE Michigan’s Communities tab and plan your trip today! Some of the top recommendations to check out would be: Roger’s City, Alpena, Grayling, East Tawas, Roscommon, Cheboygan, Gaylord, and West Branch.
- Last, but certainly not least: Find out where the NE Michigan Local Meetups are taking place this spring and join the fun! Meet new people, learn more about the region – and learn ways you can get connected to your community and others during these casual get togethers. Check the Regional Calendar or join the I Love NE Michigan FB group to learn about the upcoming events. There will be one meeting in each county throughout NE Michigan.
Have more ideas to add to the list? Check out this blog post on the NE Michigan Facebook page – and leave your suggestions in the comments for others to enjoy! Also, be sure to check out NE Michigan’s Interest Groups and connect with others throughout the region! If this list inspires you to do something new, feel free to share it in the I Love NE MIchigan Facebook Group. We'd love to see your adventures!