15 Important Things to Know Before Traveling to Michigan

Now that I’m almost over-the-hill (gross), I’ve lived in every time zone in the Continental United States. And while I have started to answer “Earth,” when someone asks me where I’m from, I have lived in Michigan for close to half my life. Here are some important things you need to know before visiting the Mitten State.

One. On the subject of the Mitten State, Wisconsin tried to steal the title a few years ago. To which I say, “Wisconsin, you have cheese and Aaron Rodgers. Everyone knows Michigan is America’s High Five! Leave Michigan alone.”

Two. People in Michigan drink pop. Not soda. Not soda pop. Not Coke or Pepsi Coke (something I could never figure out when I lived in Texas). Just pop. You can say it too!

Three. People who live in the Upper Peninsula are Yoopers and people who live in the Lower Peninsula are Trolls. This is because trolls live under a bridge and the Mackinac Island Bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Also, say Mack-In-Naw not Mack-In-Ac. It bugs us and we will retaliate by saying IllinOYS.

Four. Thanks to the “Michigan Left Turn,” driving in Michigan will drive you slowly mad. Example: Say you want to simply cross through to the other side of a four-lane divided highway. First, turn right and accelerate to 60MPH so you can get into the fast lane in the span of 0.2 miles. Slam on your brakes as you make a U-Turn and skid into the designated turn lane. Wait until there’s an opening in the fast lane of oncoming traffic and repeat the NASCAR maneuver in the opposite direction.

Michigan International Speedway or the Michigan Left Turn?

Michigan International Speedway or the Michigan Left Turn?

Five. Yellow and blue make green, but not in Michigan. You are a Spartan or a Wolverine and the college rivalry has split the closest of families.

Six. Michiganders generally eat soft serve ice cream and are unaware of the delicious high-calorie, heart clogging, egg-based alternative known as custard. Purple Cow ice cream is served at Meijer (formerly Meijer Thrifty Acres), which is basically like being in Target and Super Wal*Mart at the same time. If you go to Meijer, keep your eye out for an abandoned penny as you will need one to ride the famous mechanical Penny Pony located near the check out stands.

Don't leave those kids unattended, Sandy can practically fly!

Don’t leave those kids unattended, Sandy can practically fly!

Seven. Because Michigan is on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone, the sun does not set until long after your kids normally go to bed. If you are visiting near the summer solstice and want to cross “Lake Michigan Sunset” off your bucket list, you will be at the beach until after 10PM.

Eight. West Michigan is obsessed with its Dutch heritage. In the town of Holland, main tourists attractions are the Tulip Festival, Windmill Village, and Dutch Village.  (Although Dutch Village was a bit cooler when I was a kid, as evident by the old photo of me below. Wooden shoes AND buckets of water! Disney World? Never heard of it!) If you have never heard of the expressions “Dutch treat” or “going Dutch” look them up. Remember: If you can’t find a coupon, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Where are all the roller coasters?

Where did they hide the roller coasters?

Nine. People in Michigan “lend” things and eat Rice Krispie treats. In Minnesota, the term is “borrow me” and in Iowa the same ingredients are used to make Rice Krispie bars. Also, Michiganders eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner not breakfast, dinner, and supper. Supper? What’s that?!?

Ten. If you have never played Cribbage, Keno, or Euchre, do not admit this to anyone—especially if you are in the U.P.

Eleven. Highlights of a visit to Grand Rapids were once a fish ladder and the Gerald R. Ford Museum. Now you can enjoy craft beer, a thriving art scene, and the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Meijer Gardens

Kids enjoy soaking their clothes at the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Twelve. About the U.P. … Try and make it through the movie Escaba in da Moonlight. Doing so will help prepare you for a dialect that is strongly influenced by a close proximity to our friendly neighbors to the north (Canada, eh!).

Thirteen. If someone invites you to go smelting, this is an honor but you should probably still wear clothes you don’t mind throwing away.

Fourteen. Back in my day, boater safety received more classroom time than sex ed. Needless to say, while I was unprepared for college, I can still tell you port from starboard.

Fifteen. In many convenience stations (AKA party stores) across the state, you may be presented with the opportunity to purchase “bullets, beer, booze, and bait” at the same time. This is especially handy if you drove your snowmobile into town and are trying to save on gas.

Convenience Store

Coldest Beer in Town!

In general, Michigan is AWESOME. Go see the dunes, the waterfalls, the Detroit Art Museum, Pictured Rocks, and the groovy new Michigan’s Heritage Park. Happy trails!

P.S. What did I miss? Did I accidentally insult anyone? Leave a nice comment below.

Happy Trails!

15 Important Things to know before traveling to Michigan

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. In March 2018 Julie Henning published the book "100 Things to Do in Eugene Before You Die" (Reedy Press). She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. She has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, Travel Wisconsin, Travel Oregon, Hometown News Group, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine (DNR publication), Experience Michigan Magazine, the Official Oregon Wine Touring Guide, Metro Parent Milwaukee Magazine, Eugene Cascades & Coast Official Visitors Guide, Trivago, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, Amtrak.com, Eugene Magazine, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio. She has produced episodes for Journey of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. Julie has also produced travel apps with Sutro Media and Bindu Media. She works full time in marketing. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.

8 Comments on "15 Important Things to Know Before Traveling to Michigan"

  1. I love this so much!!! Lifelong Michigander here and this is spot on. Go GREEN!!!

  2. In the UP we always said breakfast, dinner, and supper. LOL Your trollish ways are here! I should do one that is UP specific ;).

  3. Please, please, please! A true Michigander would NEVER refer to the Mackinac Bridge as the Mackinac Island Bridge. Sheesh! As for supper, lunch and dinner? Depends on what part of Michigan you are from. Lake Michigan sunset after 10 pm? Try a Lake Superior sunset at midnight from the farthest point west before entering the county that is in central time zone. (One of four in Michigan)

  4. Good points. My friends from the UP also called me out on the Mackinac Island Bridge slipup (I’m going to correct it in the story).

  5. Amanda, are you sure you aren’t from Iowa? 😉 I also wanted to mention about how watching bears at the dump is a big deal up in Copper Harbor, but left it out. Wink. Thanks!!!

  6. Thanks Deb! Love that you know where KC’s Party Store is. 🙂

  7. OK, love ya Julie, but an article about Michigan is incomplete without mentioning the comeback of Detroit. Detroit is BOOMING right now! The city is, for the first time in over thirty years, full of activity downtown. Quicken Loans bought up 19 buildings downtown when the city was on it’s knees and now that influx of jobs was the new heartbeat that has the city going again. Just this past week it was announced that thousands of new apartments are being built to meet the demand of new workers moving into the city.

    The Slow Roll movement starting up in other cities started in Detroit: http://slowroll.bike/

    The Heidelberg Project is the most grass roots art installation ever (and a Geo Cache mecca) http://www.heidelberg.org/

    The new stadiums for the Lions and Tigers (oh my) are gorgeous. And there has been talk of a new one for the Red Wings.

    Detroiters don’t give a rats ass about soft serve or custard. They eat ice cream at Astoria in Greektown or Ray’s in Royal Oak.

  8. Annie Kassens | November 2, 2016 at 11:23 am |

    its “Escanaba in the Moonlight”…. home of the U.P. State Fair. You don’t want to send visitors on a wild goose chase! Come up and I’ll tell you all aboot it, eh?

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