This is not a rushing-around type of vacation. Here, you can expect a lot of fresh air and natural beauty. The Upper Peninsula -- the northern part of Michigan -- houses 4,300 inland lakes, more than 150 waterfalls, and seven million acres of forest. Families can enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities in the U.P. (locals pronounce it "yoo-pee"), from hiking to fishing (and skiing in the winter), but also unique treats like a shipwreck boat tour, a ghost town, a fun train ride, and more.
Summer and fall are the peak seasons here. Spring, however, is long, cold, and muddy, and it's hard to say just when the ground will turn from slushy muck to firm soil again. While many tourist destinations open mid to late May and remain open through Labor Day -- making summer the best time to visit -- the gorgeous fall colors also warrant a trip. If your family can stand cold and snow, the U.P. is a white wonderland during the winter months; a great time to try skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even dogsledding.
Average temperatures vary across the U.P., but the differences between winter and summer are extreme across the region. Areas closer to Lake Superior will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than areas farther from the lake. Summers are warm, but not hot: The average high in Sault Ste Marie in June is about 76 degrees, with a record high of only 97. The average high in September is about 65 degrees, and by November, the average high has dropped to about 38 degrees. Even if you're visiting in summer, bring jackets and sweaters for the evenings, and dress warmly for fall. Get more weather info.
There are small airports in northern Michigan: Cherry Capital in Traverse City (TVC), Houghton County Memorial Airport (CMX) in Hancock, and the limited Sault Ste Marie Airport (CIU). Cherry Capital Airport is the closest -- about a three-hour drive from Sault Ste Marie -- but features a small selection of flights.
Most visitors drive in from neighboring states or fly in to major airports in the Lower Peninsula. Either way, getting there will take some time. You could fly into the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids, Bishop International Airport in Flint, or the Detroit Metropolitan International Airport (DTW), rent a car, and be in Sault Ste Marie in four to five hours.
If you're not driving here, you'll definitely want to rent a car. Public transportation is scant, and the region is spread out. Good news is, parking is abundant and free to inexpensive.