Driving a big rig down some of these quaint small town streets can be a challenge, if downright impossible. Take the toad or choose to park on a side street or grocery store parking lot so that you can walk into town.
Driving Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Distance: 85.3 miles
The drive to Hillsdale is, frankly, boring. It’s a sleepy place at first glance, especially when the educational institution, Hillsdale College, isn’t in session. The downtown is a blend of historic buildings and modern business names. The college, established in 1844, has architecture European cities would envy. The campus layout, exterior façade of the buildings, and library-designed interior with dark wood and coffered ceilings, will make you feel as though you’ve stepped back to the 19th century. Take a free self-guided tour of the Slayton Arboretum while you’re here, and kids will enjoy the Children’s Garden.
Nearby… The Farmer’s Market takes place on Saturday mornings at the historic Courthouse Square. Buy some fresh goodies (maybe a handmade item or two), pack them up, and bring them to the nearby Sandy Beach area for a picnic. Parking is free.
History buffs and those who appreciate history will greatly enjoy little Manchester, whose roots are deep in history – and the townsfolk are proud of it. It’s a very community-oriented town, more like how it was a when it was founded nearly 200 years ago. This is the perfect town to slow down and take it easy, because you feel that the place deserves it. And let’s face it, so do you. With four parks, plenty of shops and restaurants, and an early American town vibe, it’s
Nearby… Manchester sits on the River Raisin. About an hour down highway 50 and near the town of Monroe is the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, one of Michigan’s national parks. These battles took place in 1812 and 1813, with defeat coming to the U.S. against the American Indians.
Saline takes its name from the natural salt springs nearby. But this place is more sweet than salty. This is a lively community with an event always going on as well as a bustling downtown. But remember, it’s a quaint place with one main road of traffic. The downtown buildings, lovingly preserved, take you back to a simpler time. You may find a gem or two in the shops. Visit Salt Spring Brewery, a brewpub, for an unforgettable meal and visual experience; the brewpub is located within a converted church and the owners kept the stained glass windows and overall architecture.
Nearby… The Rentschler Farm Museum, just east of Saline, has fourteen historically significant structures. It was also the location for filming Cedar Rapids, starring Ed Helms (The Office). If you love steam engines, the Depot Museum is located just four easy walking blocks from downtown.
There are few places as picturesque as Dexter. Famous artists would have loved to capture its wilderness and water (Dexter is on the banks of the Huron River and Mill Creek) on canvas. It’s a perfect spot for a leisurely meander along one of the nature trails, but don’t forget the historic downtown – complete with a tall four-sided clock in the center. Walk the waterfront and stop in the shops to see some friendly faces. It’s small town charm at its finest.
Nearby… If you’re in the area August-November, go to the Dexter Cider Mill, the oldest continuously operating cider mill in the state. They have fresh cider, hard cider, and donuts and homemade pastries that can’t be beat.
Located only 15 minutes away from college town Ann Arbor, Chelsea is quiet and clean in comparison. Drive around the neighborhoods to take a gander at the historic homes. It’s the American Dream. It’s easy to walk anywhere downtown, including to the Jiffy-Mix plant. Take a photo with the historic and unique brick clock tower, and make sure to stop in at the Common Grille or the Irish pub for some good eating. Actor Jeff Daniels founded the Purple Rose Theatre, so try to catch a performance while you’re in town.
Nearby… As already mentioned, Ann Arbor is an easy drive away. For a sweet treat, stop in at the Michigan Creamery, which has ice cream and frozen yogurt. There’s also a full coffee and espresso bar for coffee aficionados. (Hint: Don’t skip on the gourmet chocolates, either.)