Hidden Gems That Only True Michiganders Understand

If you live in Michigan, you've probably heard the state referred to as "the mitten," since it's shaped as such. And this nickname is also pretty fitting (see what I did there?), because the state of Michigan also holds a lot of hidden gems — ones that only the true locals know about.

Wondering what to do in Michigan? For starters, Michigan is steeped in history and tradition. When you think of the state, you probably think about the music, cars, the two "big ten" colleges, and the major professional athletic teams that keep it on the national radar. But don’t overlook all the other hidden gems in Michigan — both big and small — that this state has to offer. For example, Michigan is home to world class museums that trend from the historic to the modern. And Michigan has got you covered when it comes to arts, culture, and year round outdoor recreation. There are also places in Michigan where you'll find a melting pot of amazing food. In fact, Michigan has more food and music festivals than almost anywhere in the country.

There is so much to love about Michigan, including that no matter where you are, you are at most 85 miles away from a beautiful body of water. Here are a few of Michigan's hidden gems.

This post is sponsored by Nordstrom Rack. The new Nordstrom Rack opens on August 26th at West Oaks in Novi, MI. Get details here!

1. A Budding Art Scene That Pays Tribute To The City's Roots

The art scene in Michigan has grown steadily. The Detroit Institute of Art is currently showcasing an art exhibit that pays tribute to the work of manufacturing and labor in this country. If you're looking for a more avant-garde art display, check out the Heidelberg Project, on Detroit’s east side. The open-air art space is a 30-year work in progress, designed to engage the neighborhood in creative collaboration.

2. Fall Foliage And Fresh Cider

When the temperature gets cooler and the leaves start to change, there's no better way to spend an afternoon in Michigan than taking in the fall foliage. While you're out on your tour of the picturesque autumn outdoors, stop half way between St. John and Mount Pleasant to sample the offerings at Uncle John's Cider Mill. It's a time-honored fall tradition; Michiganders have been coming to pick pumpkins, walk the corn maze, and of course, to warm up with Uncle John's signature hot cider for generations.

3. Up-And-Coming Eateries

Northern Michigan is absolutely ripe with hot new restaurants. So much so, in fact, that even celebrity chefs have been spotted vacationing here, sampling the fine food offerings. Visit Leelanu Peninsula near the Traverse City area, and sample everything from artisan cheese shops to seafood restaurants featuring freshly caught local fish and more.

4. A Global Competition That Turns The City Into A Work Of Art

ArtPrize, an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, draws over 400,000 attendees every year. The art entries take over the town — 171 non-traditional spaces within three square miles, to be exact, showcasing works in local restaurants, galleries, parks, museums, auto body shops, and even bridges and walls.

5. Cherries Galore In Traverse City

Traverse City, Michigan is known as the cherry capital of the world, since much of the U.S. cherry production takes place here. In fact, the city is number one in the nation for growing Montmorency tart cherries, commonly used for baking. Take in the glorious cherry trees of Traverse City, and get your fill of homegrown cherries by the pound.

6. Impeccable Outfits In Birmingham

Shop Coats & Jackets at Nordstrom Rack

If you're looking for some outfit inspiration, take a seat at an outdoor cafe in Birmingham and watch the locals going about their day on main street. Tiny Birmingham, Michigan may only have 20,000 residents, but it has nearly 300 shops, including some of the best high end fashion along its quaint main street.

7. Entertainment At The Great Lakes Crossing

Looking to see the latest action flick? There's a 25 auditorium movie theater that has got you covered. Want to get in touch with your inner child? The Legos Center at Great Lakes Crossing will bring you a much needed dose of nostalgia. Or, channel your inner mermaid at the Sea Life Michigan Aquarium, home to over 5,000 aquatic species. No matter what your particular taste for entertainment may involve, chances are that you'll find something to appease you at Grand Lakes Crossing.

8. Emerging Fashion Designers

When you think of design in Michigan, you probably think of shiny new rides with the hottest tech. But don’t sleep on the fashion that's being born here. Fashion incubator The Detroit Garment Group is drawing aspiring designers from across the state who want to create clothing collections and launch their careers. In Lansing, Michigan's capital, the Runway project has launched a similar effort, which displays designs from students for the public several days out of the month.

9. Historic Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is a historical treasure. No cars are allowed on the island, so you'll need to board one of the ferries that service the route to Mackinac. Once you're there, take a bike tour of the rich history of the island. The island's 130-year-old grand hotel has even been immortalized in major motion pictures.

Images: Wikimedia Commons (4), Fotolia (2), Pexels (3), Detroit Institute of Art, In Our Element by Ruben Ubiera, winner of the ArtPrize 2015 Juried Installation Category Award, courtesy of ArtPrize.org.