As the weather gets warmer and summer months draw nearer, it won’t be long before road trip season is in full swing. And since it will coincide with all U.S. adults becoming eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, it’ll be far safer to take a trip in 2021 than it was last year. There’s more good news: leaving the state isn’t necessary. It’s not only possible to road trip within Michigan, our state’s coastline, scenic drives and natural landmarks guarantee that it’ll be beautiful.
At Pride Source, we’ve compiled a list of our top five LGBTQ-friendly road trip destinations from across the mitten. We even calculated the drive-time from our office in Ann Arbor for reference. You’re welcome.
Filled with historical structures like The Guardian Building, landmarks like Hart Plaza and must-sees like Eastern Market, Detroit has no shortage of social distancing-friendly sights for both vacationers and day-trippers alike. Called the Motor City for a reason, Detroit is filled with automotive history that can be viewed both on foot and comfortably on a drive. For history buffs, notable stops include the Ford Piquette Plant, the GM Renaissance Center, the Russel Industrial Center and the Indian Village neighborhood. Those who’d like a more nature-focused trip should check out the Detroit Riverwalk or take time to enjoy the nearly 1,000-acre Belle Isle Park.
And, of course, the city has plenty of LGBTQ-affirming nightlife options like Menjo’s Entertainment Complex, The Woodward Cocktail Bar and more. It’s also the location of Motor City Pride, Michigan’s largest Pride celebration that draws thousands annually.
Drive time from Ann Arbor: 45 minutes
Arguably Michigan’s premier LGBTQ-friendly getaways, the neighboring towns of Saugatuck and Douglas boast over 100 LGBTQ-owned and affirming restaurants, stores and lodgings.
“Whether it’s scenic natural beauty, a thriving arts scene or disco balls and drag queens that you’re looking for, you can find it here along with some amazing experiences you can’t find anywhere else,” reads the official Saugatuck website.
City-recommended, LGBTQ-affirming places to stay in Saugatuck include The Dunes Resort, Blue Star Motel and Hidden Garden Cottages. Once in town, fans of the arts might enjoy local galleries like Water Street Gallery or the Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ ongoing array of events and exhibits. Or the more adventurous might try a Saugatuck Dune Ride. Beyond the city, beach lovers will certainly find a piece of Lake Michigan’s coastline to enjoy, with Saugatuck recommending Oval Beach as especially friendly to LGBTQ visitors.
Drive time from Ann Arbor: 2 hours, 30 minutes
3. Mackinac Island
Though this trip requires a tad more travel than driving, the quick ferry ride across Lake Huron is worth it to see Mackinac Island’s bustling downtown, natural wonders like Arch rock and preserved historic buildings like Fort Mackinac. Since the island prohibits almost all motorized vehicles, road trippers can enjoy the fun of travel to the ferry and then take a trip back in time to enjoy bikes and carriage rides on the island. And while many take brief day trips to the island, Mackinac has options for nightlife and overnight stays, too. When asked if the island town is LGBTQ-friendly by Lavender Magazine, Executive Director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau Mary Slevin said:
“Because we are a tourist town, we open our eyes a bit more and learn from the people who come to visit. We are exposed to people from all walks of life and all over the world, so there is a certain wisdom that comes with the territory. There is a motto here with the year-round folks: If your head and your heart aren’t connected, and you aren’t who you are, then you won’t make it here emotionally. I think it’s a great motto for life.”
Drive time from Ann Arbor to Mackinaw City: 4 hours
Ferry ride to Mackinac Island: 16 minutes
4. Traverse City
Lovers of wine and spirits will have plenty to do in this town, as Traverse City is home to award–winning wineries, microbreweries and distilleries. Many of these locations also feature tastings and private tours that can be booked in advance. And for those who don’t drink, a trip up Leelanau Peninsula offers breathtaking views and gives way to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Up North Pride calls Traverse City “one of the most beautiful, progressive and unique LGBT vacation destinations in the United States.”
And for those looking to stay closer to town, Traverse City is filled to the brim with a mix of locally owned shops, restaurants and boutiques, so eager shoppers will have hundreds of options when buying keepsakes as well.
Drive time from Ann Arbor: 4 hours
While only a quick drive away, Ferndale is easily one of Metro Detroit’s most LGBTQ-friendly communities. Home to the Affirmations LGBTQ+ community center, the host of Michigan’s second-largest Pride festival and filled with dozens of LGBTQ-owned businesses, visitors can feel safe that homophobia won’t have a place on their trip. Filled with dining, theater and nightlife options, visitors can stop by to comfortably enjoy a day, or night, in an affirming city. In fact, it has consistently received a perfect human rights score from the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.
In a Royal Oak Tribune piece, Affirmations Executive Director Dave Garcia talked more about the city’s acceptance and continued economic growth as a result.
“There’s a reason Affirmations is here in Ferndale,” he said. “It shows that cities that embrace the LGBT community thrive while those that don’t do not thrive.”
Drive time from Ann Arbor: 45 minutes