Located in central Michigan’s Tri-Cities region, Midland sits 20 miles from the Saginaw Bay. If you picture the mitten when finding cities in Michigan, it’s near the crook of the thumb. The town grew from the logging industry and, after Herbert Dow founded Dow Chemical Company in Midland in 1897, morphed into today’s science-forward center. Today, several of the city’s attractions carry the Dow name.
Add some of these activities and restaurants to your trip plan if you want to spend a perfect day in beautiful Midland, Michigan.
Things To Do In Midland
While Midland has various activities, those that stand out are related to art and architecture or nature and the great outdoors. Here are a few to consider putting on your itinerary.
Tour The Alden B. Dow Home & Studio
Alden Dow didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps of chemistry and engineering but instead became a well-known architect. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio is a 20,000-square-foot mid-century modern construction submerged into a pond. The home connects and integrates you into nature. After Alden’s passing, the family decided to share the house with the community and help others learn to think creatively. They offer public tours of the home and studio regularly.
Alden Dow inspired other architects, and now Midland is home to over 400 mid-century modern structures. Download the app Mid-Century Modern Midland to provide pre-designed itineraries, maps, and more information about the architects.
Explore Chippewa Nature Center
An excellent place to start your visit to Chippewa Nature Center is at the visitor center, where you can get an overview of the 1,200-acre retreat of wetlands and woodlands. While they have 19 miles of trails to explore from dawn to dusk, we particularly enjoy the ability to observe wildlife from inside the visitor center. The facility has two indoor viewing areas: the Wildlife Viewing Area and the River Overlook. If you love watching wildlife, but the uneven surfaces of the outdoors are a challenge, these indoor viewing areas are perfect.
The Wildlife Viewing Area has comfortable, indoor benches where you can observe wildlife through one-way glass, and speakers allow you to hear the sounds of nature. You’ll see squirrels, wild turkeys, and songbirds eat from the feeders or quench their thirst at the water feature. The River Outlook area offers couch seating, where you can see nature through floor-to-ceiling windows. You might see deer crossing the river, an owl nesting, or even a muskrat having lunch. Entrance to Chippewa Nature Center is free.
Stop And Smell The Flowers At Dow Gardens
Dow Gardens is a 110-acre garden open throughout the seasons. While the size of this garden requires a lot of walking to see the entire grounds, I registered ahead of time for a guided tour via a golf cart. They charge a small fee for the tour, but it not only makes it easy to see if walking is a challenge, but the guide also provides the garden’s history. The tour is a good overview of the park.
The Conservatory, a glass-walled building, changes throughout the seasons. In winter, it features a 13-foot poinsettia tree, and in spring, it’s home to over 3,000 butterflies. In summer and fall, it features indoor plants like orchids, begonias, and bonsai.
While you’re at Dow Gardens, get a glimpse into Herbert H. Dow’s life by touring his home, the Pines. Dow built the home in 1899. Today, guided tours provide historical information on the house. The Pines is a National Historic Landmark.
And Commune With Nature In Whiting Forest
Play in the treetops four stories above the forest floor at Whiting Forest, which is within Dow Gardens. It offers the longest canopy walk in the United States at just over a quarter-mile long.
The Pond arm extends 25 feet above Lake Margardor. If you’re quiet, chances are good you’ll see some wildlife in the lake below. Nestled in a spruce tree grove, the Spruce Arm Overlook suspends you in a cargo net 25 feet above the forest floor. While it might seem “dangerous,” the three layers of netting are made from a braided cord, and each layer supports 36,000 pounds. On a hot summer day, this canopy area is the place to be as misters cool you off. At 40 feet off the ground, the Orchard Overlook is the highest point on the Canopy Walk. The large deck offers panoramic views of Whiting Forest.
The best time to visit is during the summer for abundant summer leaves or autumn for the fall foliage. The walk is ADA accessible and great fun for all ages.
Take In A Baseball Game
Sports fans will want to go to a minor league baseball game with the local team, the Great Lakes Loons, who play their home games downtown at the 5,500-seat Dow Diamond stadium. The Loons are a High-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Minor league games are more affordable than major league games and have fun, family-friendly activities happening on the field between innings. If you’ve brought the grandkids along on your trip to Midland, this might be the perfect activity.
Cross The Tridge
Where the Tittabawassee River and Chippewa River converge in Chippewassee Park, you’ll find one of Midland’s most popular attractions, the Tridge. People come from all over the United States to see this three-legged footbridge that spans out to St. Charles Park, Chippewassee Park, and the farmer’s market.
The bridge has a 31-foot-tall central pillar that supports three spokes. Each spoke is eight feet wide and 180 feet long. To access the bridge, head to downtown Midland. While the Tridge is a footbridge, they also allow skateboards, bicycles, and in-line skates on the bridge.
The community offers summer evening concerts at the Tridge. We also enjoy seeing the various color-based light schemes that light the bridge during each holiday.
Bike Pere Marquette Rail Trail
The Pere Marquette Rail Trail starts at the Tridge. The Pere Marquette Rail Trail offers 30 miles of flat, paved, beautiful trail between Midland and Clare. The path is one of the twenty-five Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame trails in the US. You’ll find a map of the trail here, which indicates stops for restroom breaks, food, or other activities.
Best Restaurants In Midland
Midland’s restaurant scene offers a variety of cuisines, from casual barbeque restaurants to fine dining experiences. Here are four you’re sure to enjoy.
Located inside the H Hotel downtown, while Café Zinc serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We ate breakfast in this European-inspired restaurant. Their French pastry chef creates bakery offerings daily. Buy some extra for the road trip home. The atmosphere is a fun play on the Periodic Table, in a nod to the Dow Company.
Located in downtown Midland on Main Street, Gratzi offers upscale Italian dining. Gratzi makes artisanal pizzas in their gas-fired stone pizza oven that make the perfect shared appetizer. Another favorite at Gratzi is the Alfredo Classico. They toss fresh al dente fettuccine in creamy Alfredo sauce and top it with parmesan. You can add your choice of chicken, salmon, or shrimp to round out the dish. If you’re looking for a place with stellar service and you want to be taken care of on a special occasion, Gratzi is the go-to place.
Located about four miles from Dow Gardens, Lucky’s Steakhouse is worth seeking out for the bread alone. Served fresh from the oven, the house-made, garlic-flavored, baguette-shaped loaf comes in a paper sleeve. I’ve had to restrain myself from requesting a second loaf for the table. The filets are a favorite here. One of our family go-to dishes is the Monterey chicken, a grilled chicken topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, onions, peppers, and mushrooms, then served with a honey mustard sauce. If you’re looking for a fish dish, I enjoy the fish tacos. While they are on the menu as a starter, I’ve found them to be the perfect light lunch.
Molasses Smokehouse + Bar
Molasses Smokehouse + Bar offers a St. Louis-style barbeque in downtown Midland. Brisket, pulled pork, turkey, St. Louis-style ribs, sausage, tri-tip, and salmon. Many dishes highlight their namesake ingredient, including the molasses baked beans. They bake the beans until tender and sweeten the dish with brown sugar and molasses. Then they mix in pieces of brisket for a high-protein side. Another dish featuring molasses is the burnt ends. They slow smoke the meat, fire roast it, and then cover it with their signature Molasses barbeque sauce.
Midland Area Farmers Market
Located at the end of Ashman Street downtown, near the Tridge, the Midland Area Farmers Market is open from May through October. They run on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. You’ll find local produce, honey, Great Lakes fish, meat, cheese, baked goods, kettle corn, and Michigan maple syrup. Stop by and take some of Midland home with you.
Pro Tips: If you decide to extend your stay beyond one day, Hotel H is a 132-room boutique hotel located close to local attractions. And while you’re in the Great Lakes State, consider: