What is Michigan Known For? 16 Things Michiganders Love About Themselves

Written by Chanel Coetzee
Updated: October 31, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Two music legends–Madonna and Stevie Wonder–were born in the great state of Michigan.
  • On a map, Michigan has the shape of a giant mitten, hence the nickname “Mitten State.”
  • Detroit, Michigan is home to the U.S. auto industry.

The state of Michigan in the United States is thought to have gotten its name from an Ojibwe word that means “large lake.” This state is the only one that borders on four of the five Great Lakes, namely Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron. Therefore, it is often known as the Great Lakes State. Also, it is the state with the most coastline, and its capital city is Lansing. Additionally, Michigan offers rugged forests and vast plains with rolling hills. But what is Michigan known for? There are many exciting things in and about Michigan. Some are well-known, others not so much, which include people, food, historical sites, and a few “firsts.”

1. Madonna

One of the most famous artists of all time is Madonna, and she was born in Bay City, Michigan. This incredible singer’s career began in the early 1980s with her first album, “Madonna.” Following that, she has sold more than 300 million records and more than 20 albums. Furthermore, she is a flourishing businesswoman with her own perfume, clothing line, and fitness equipment.

Madonna Rebel Heart Tour 2015

One of the most famous artists of all time is Madonna, and she was born in Bay City, Michigan.

©chrisweger / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

2. Stevie Wonder

This world-famous songwriter, singer, and musician was born in Saginaw, Michigan. Six weeks after he was born, he lost his sight because of a condition called retinopathy of prematurity. However, even without his sight, he went on to become one of the most successful artists in the music industry. Additionally, he has been inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won 25 Grammys. Furthermore, he has more than 30 albums and has sold an impressive 100 million records all over the world.

Stevie Wonder

This world-famous songwriter, singer, and musician was born in Saginaw, Michigan.

©Thomas Hawk / CC BY-NC 2.0 – License

3. Coney Island Hotdog

This Detroit staple is a favorite among locals and tourists. The Coney Island hotdog is a grilled hotdog smothered in mustard, chili, and onion and served on a bun. Therefore, it is known as a “Coney” or a “chili dog.” Furthermore, it is shrouded in mystery as some people believe it originated in the early 1900s and was invented by Greek immigrants. However, others say it was created by a New York City hotdog vendor who thought to add chili to his hotdogs to make them more appealing to his mainly Greek customer base. However they came about, they are now an iconic Detroit food found all over the city. The best ones, however, can be found at Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. 

Coney Island Dog

This Detroit staple is a favorite among locals and tourists. The Coney Island hotdog is a grilled hotdog smothered in mustard, chili, and onion and served on a bun.

©LG2 / public domain – License

4. Traverse City Cherries

Known as the Cherry Capital of the world, Traverse City coined this nickname because it has many cherry orchards. Additionally, it hosts a Cherry Festival every year. This festival celebrates everything cherry, including juices, pies, and arts and crafts. Also, they have a Cherry Pit Spitting Championship, where many people compete to see who can spit a cherry pit the farthest.

Traverse City cherries

Known as the Cherry Capital of the world, Traverse City coined this nickname because it has many cherry orchards. Additionally, it hosts a Cherry Festival every year.

©ClarkHarrisinTonkawaOK / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 – License

5. The Great Lakes

What is Michigan known for? Most famously, Michigan is The Great Lakes States. This is due to the fact that it is bordered by four of the five Great Lakes. These lakes include the majestic Lake Erie, the stunning Lake Huron, the lovely Lake Superior, and the picturesque Lake Michigan. Additionally, 60% of Michigan’s coastline is on these lakes.

Furthermore, these lakes are so enormous they contain more water than all the rivers in the world together, with 21% of the world’s freshwater surface. Not only are the lakes a physical presence, but they are also an essential part of the development and history of this state. They played an important role in transportation routes for people and goods. Also, they have been a significant source of tourism and recreation. Lastly, these lakes are important for Michigan’s economy today, as there are multiple marinas, lakeside resorts, and beaches that benefit from them.

Ludington light, Lake Michigan, June 2015. Credit: NOAA

What is Michigan known for? Most famously, Michigan is The Great Lakes States. This is due to the fact that it is bordered by four of the five Great Lakes.

©NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

6. Bi-Peninsular State

Michigan is the only bi-peninsular state in the United States, with the lower Peninsula shaped like a mitten with the upper Peninsula above it. Interestingly, these two Peninsulas have many differences. The upper Peninsula is rural, with multiple lakes, forests, and outdoor activity options. Whereas the lower Peninsula houses most of the state’s population as well as its major cities. These cities include Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Detroit.

Michigan Regions

Michigan is the only bi-peninsular state in the United States, with the lower Peninsula shaped like a mitten and the upper Peninsula attached to it at the north.

©Michi906 / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

7. Mitten State

Michigan’s shape has earned it the nickname of the Mitten State. Looking at a map of the United States, you can clearly see that Michigan looks like a mitten. In fact, it is so popular that it has made it onto their license plates. Michiganders are so proud of the shape of their state they use it to support sports events, such as during the 2014 Winter Olympics, to show support for Team USA.

High detailed Michigan physical map.

Michigan’s shape has earned it the nickname of the Mitten State. Looking at a map of the United States, you can clearly see that Michigan looks like a mitten.

©BardoczPeter/iStock via Getty Images

8. Motor City

Michigan is the home of the American auto industry, and Detroit was once the leading producer of automobiles in the United States. What is Michigan known for? It is known for many museums dedicated to the auto industry and cars. These include the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit and The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Additionally, there are tours on offer of active auto assembly plants, including the Fiat Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant.

Detroit, Michigan, USA downtown skyline from above at dusk.

Michigan is the home of the American auto industry, and Detroit was once the leading producer of automobiles in the United States.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

9. Lighthouse Capital of the World

There are many lighthouses to explore in Michigan. This state has more than 115 of them. Many of them can be found along the Great Lakes and have always been essential to Michigan’s maritime history.

Aerial view of Big Sable Point Lighthouse near Ludington, Michigan; Ludington State Park; Lake Michigan

There are many lighthouses to explore in Michigan. This state has more than 115 of them.

©Frederick Millett/Shutterstock.com

10. Great Berr State

With a flourishing craft beer industry, Michigan has more than 130 breweries. These breweries produce various beer styles; no matter what type of beer you like, it can be found in this state. Some of the most popular ones include Bell’s Brewery and Atwater Brewery. In addition, even if you don’t want to drink the beer, you can still tour local breweries. 

Atwater Brewery

With a flourishing craft beer industry, Michigan has more than 130 breweries. Some of the most popular ones include Bell’s Brewery and Atwater Brewery.

©JolonHull / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 – License

11. Outdoor Activities

With more than 19 million acres of forestland and more than 11,000 lakes, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to be found in Michigan. These include things such as hunting, hiking, camping, and fishing.

Tourists enjoying beautiful sunset scenery at the Empire Bluff Scenic Lookout, overlooking Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and the Manitou Island

With more than 19 million acres of forestland and more than 11,000 lakes, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to be found in Michigan.

©Bo Shen/Shutterstock.com

12. Floating Post Office

Operational since 1874, Michigan boasts the only floating post office in the United States. J.W. Westcott ll, a 49-foot-long boat that delivers mail to ships that pass through the Detroit River. Furthermore, J.W Westcott ll sells stamps and postcards and is manned by a crew of four.

J. W. Westcott II

Operational since 1874, Michigan boasts the only floating post office in the United States. J.W. Westcott ll, a 49-foot-long boat that delivers mail to ships that pass through the Detroit River.

©Notorious4life / CC0 1.0 – License

13. First State to Abolish the Death Penalty

Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty in 1847. A decision that was made at the time because of all the wrongful convictions that were happening. This decision was controversial and had several opponents, but eventually, Michigan was the first state to end the death penalty.

Electric chair in the dark room, 3D rendering

Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty in 1847. A decision that was made at the time because of all the wrongful convictions that were happening.

©AlexLMX/iStock via Getty Images

14. Mackinac Island

It is a must-visit island for anyone interested in Michigan’s history. Mackinac Island is a small island in Lake Huron that was once an integral trading post for the British and the French. Also, during the American Revolution, it changed hands between the British and the Americans multiple times. These days, this island is a favorite among tourists and has many shops and restaurants. Additionally, there are some historical sites to visit, such as the Grand Hotel and Fort Mackinac.

The Harbor at Mackinac Island

It is a must-visit island for anyone interested in Michigan’s history. Mackinac Island is a small island in Lake Huron that was once an integral trading post for the British and the French.

©Michael Deemer/Shutterstock.com

15. Henry Ford Museum

Classified as one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations, the Henry Ford Museum is all about the history of transportation and innovation. Here, you can find many exhibits, such as a replica of the Wright brothers’ workshop and the world’s most extensive collection of automobiles. Furthermore, if you love cars or the history of transportation, this is a must-see museum.

Henry Ford Museum

Classified as one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations, the Henry Ford Museum is all about the history of transportation and innovation.

©Michael Barera / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

16. Mackinac Bridge

One of Michigan’s most iconic landmarks is the Mackinac Bridge. This enormous suspension bridge is more than five miles long and connects the state’s upper and lower peninsulas. Also, it is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. Mackinac Bridge was completed in 1957. This bridge has terrific views and is a much-loved spot for fishing.  

The Mackinac Bridge on a summer day. A suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. Puffy clouds in a blue sky

One of Michigan’s most iconic landmarks is the Mackinac Bridge. This enormous suspension bridge is more than five miles long and connects the state’s upper and lower peninsulas.

©Craig Sterken/Shutterstock.com

Summary of 16 Things Michiganders Love About Themselves

Reason
1Madonna
2Stevie Wonder
3Coney Island Hot Dog
4Traverse City Cherries
5The Great Lakes
6Bi-Peninsular State
7Mitten State
8Motor city
9Lighthouse Capital of the World
10Great Beer State
11Outdoor Activities
12Floating Post Office
13First State To Abolish the Death Penalty
14Mackinac Island
15Henry Ford Museum
16Mackinac Bridge

The photo featured at the top of this post is © DeLoyd Huenink/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

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