Pure Michigan road trip, optimized

Written by: Randy Olson

Primary Source: Randal S. Olson

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been computing optimal road trips across the U.S. and Europe. This time, as a shout-out to my current home state, I made a road trip around Michigan. With the snow melting and a warm summer right around the corner, it’s about time we start planning our summer fun.

If there’s one thing I know about Michiganders it’s that they love their state more than anything, so I’m undoubtedly stepping on thin ice by picking only a handful of sites to visit in Michigan. Regardless, I thought I’d try my hand at creating the ultimate Pure Michigan experience by mapping out all of the Pure Michigan “hot spots.”

Below, I’ve mapped an optimized road trip circling the entire state of Michigan, hitting 43 sites along the way that are integral to the Pure Michigan experience.



Click here for the interactive version

This trip makes a 2,098-mile (3,377 km) circle around the great state of Michigan, only spending 40 hours on the road so you can spend more time taking in the state’s natural beauty. Feel free to start at any point on the circuit; as long as you follow the route in order from then on, you’ll eventually hit all of the points and end up where you started.

You may want to plan to take this trip sometime in the Fall so you can enjoy the Fall colors as you drive around the state. When you make your stop at St. Ignace, don’t forget to hop on a ferry to enjoy a day of bike riding and eating fudge on Mackinac Island.

I recommend checking out the Pure Michigan web site for advice on what to do at each stop.

Here’s the full list of stops in order:

  1. Ypsilanti, MI
  2. The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI
  3. Detroit, MI
  4. Port Sanilac, MI
  5. Flint, MI
  6. Frankenmuth, MI
  7. Bay City, MI
  8. Mt. Pleasant, MI
  9. East Tawas, MI
  10. Alpena, MI
  11. Gaylord, MI
  12. Cheboygan, MI
  13. Mackinaw City, MI
  14. St. Ignace, MI
  15. Mackinac Island, MI
  16. Sault Ste. Marie, MI
  17. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Grand Marais, MI
  18. Marquette, MI
  19. Mt. Bohemia, Grant, MI
  20. Keweenaw Peninsula, Schoolcraft, MI
  21. Escanaba, MI
  22. Manistique, MI
  23. Harbor Springs, MI
  24. Petoskey, MI
  25. Charlevoix, MI
  26. Traverse City, MI
  27. Leelanau Peninsula, Leelanau, MI
  28. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, MI 49630
  29. Cadillac, MI
  30. Manistee National Golf & Resort, Manistee, MI 49660
  31. Ludington, MI
  32. Michigan’s Adventure, Muskegon, MI
  33. Muskegon, MI
  34. Grand Rapids, MI
  35. Holland, MI
  36. South Haven, MI
  37. Kalamazoo, MI
  38. Binder Park Zoo, Battle Creek, MI
  39. Coldwater, MI
  40. Lansing, MI
  41. Jackson, MI
  42. Tecumseh, MI
  43. Ann Arbor, MI

Make your own road trip

If you’d like to customize your own road trip, I’ve released the Python code I used in this project with an open source license and instructions for how to optimize your custom road trip. You can find the code here.

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Randy Olson is a Computer Science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University in Dr. Chris Adami’s lab specializing in artificial intelligence, artificial life, and evolutionary computation. He runs a research blog where he writes about Python, scientific computing, evolution, and AI. Randy is an ardent advocate of open science and regularly travels the U.S. to teach researchers scientific computing skills at Software Carpentry workshops.