Roadschooling, nomadic education in other words, has blossomed the past several years as remote work better enables working parents to travel more accessibly. An RV helps to make that possible, as everything you need is at the ready when you need it.
The beauty of roadschooling is that students get to experience history, art, culture, and nature hands-on. Think of it as immersive learning. Even though there are book and homework components, and activities that can go along with a particular topic, roadschooler education is complemented by using the five senses in other ways. And for active kiddos, it’s a great way to learn as well as explore the wider world first-hand.
The destinations below are broken down into three primary categories of Arts & Culture, History, and Ecology & Wildlife – all topics at which the state of Michigan excels. Each topic is further broken down by either Upper Peninsula or Lower Peninsula. Some destinations make for a perfect field trip – part of a day or all day – while others are more of an immersive experience – use it as a base for several days while incorporating the surrounding area and its unique offerings to round out the week’s education curriculum.
ARTS & CULTURE
- Gitche Gumee Agate & History Museum, Grand Marais: A small, profound, and very different museum with a diverse mineral display of lumbering and commercial fishing items, a wide variety of Lake Superior agates and a worth-visiting gift show that has agate products and other unique items for sale. Open year round.
- Marquette Arts & Culture Center, Marquette: Located in the lower level of the Peter White Library, the Arts & Culture Center hosts musical and lecture series, and regional and national exhibits monthly.
- The Museum of Ojibwa Culture, Saint Ignace: Both indoor and outdoor exhibits that allow you a glimpse into the Ojibwa culture and the lifestyles of the Huron. This is also where the French Jesuit Mission was located, where Father Marquette resided, and is the final resting place for Father Jacques Marquette.
- Winter Carnival, Houghton: Michigan Technological University’s Winter Carnival is an annual celebration that takes place every winter, typically in February. It is a time to celebrate the large amounts of snowfall Michigan’s Upper Peninsula receives each winter. Winter Carnival is characterized by snow statues, outdoor games, and many student activities. It’s the snow statues that make this worth seeing – definitely works of art!
- Air Zoo, Kalamazoo: From rare and historic to inspiring artwork and exhibits, there’s always something new to discover at the Air Zoo. The Air Zoo is a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum with over 100 air and space artifacts, inspiring interactive* exhibits, full-motion flight simulators, indoor amusement park rides and hands-on, science-based camps and classes.
- Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids: One of the nation’s most significant sculpture and botanic experiences, Meijer Gardens includes Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; five indoor theme gardens; outdoor gardens, nature trails and boardwalk; sculpture galleries and permanent sculpture collection; library; café; gift shop; education center and meeting rooms. Both indoors and outdoors, the 158-acre main campus is barrier free and handicap accessible.
- Belle Isle Park, Detroit: Rich with history and natural beauty, Belle Isle Park is a Detroit gem and a Michigan state park. The 987-acre island park features the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Aquarium, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, giant slide, athletic fields, picnic areas, tennis courts, Belle Isle Nature Zoo, the James Scott Memorial Fountain and more attractions popular with all ages and interests. The park includes three lakes, 150 acres of wooded area and spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor skyline. Rentals available for: Watercraft, Bike, Snow Sports. Recreation Passport Required for entry.
- Jordan Valley Glassworks, East Jordan: Jordan Valley Glassworks is a family-owned glass blowing studio. For over twenty years we have been creating beautiful, custom glass pieces that have been purchased all across the United States.
- Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, Mohawk: The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and museum complex is open from mid-June to early October. Located at the west end of Eagle Harbor, the present brick structure was built in 1871. It is now a part of the Keweenaw County Historical Society’s Light Station Museum Complex and is open to the public.
- Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie: Affectionately called the “Linchpin of the Great Lakes” by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Soo Locks are an engineering marvel with roots dating back to the mid-1800s. Take in the sights, sounds and vibrating feelings of being up close and personal with some of the Great Lakes largest freighters with the observation platform located in the Soo Locks overlooking the MacArthur Lock. The Soo Locks Park has many great vantage points to take in the sights of the historic locks, too.
- Adventure Mining Company, Greenland: Experience the mine as the miners would have over 160 years ago with a single light on your hard hat. Our tours provide guests with experiences that are anything but average. Each one of our underground mine tours provides a truly unique experience. Learn about the history of the copper mine, get hands-on with different mining techniques, and explore the depths of this 1800s copper mine.
- Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Paradise: With more than 200 shipwrecks lying in the immediate vicinity, the area is known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. The museum features top quality exhibits of shipwreck artifacts, artwork, shipwreck models, new exhibits and lifelike mannequins. There is a series of maritime history programs featured throughout the season. Admission includes the Shipwreck Museum gallery, a 15-minute video and tour(s) of the restored 1861 Lightkeeper’s Quarters and the 1923 Lifeboat Station Surfboat House. The bell of the famous steamer Edmund Fitzgerald is on display and serves as a memorial to her crew. The famous Whitefish Point Light Tower is open for tours, with all fees benefiting its restoration. The museum is open every day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May 1 to October 31. Overnight lodging is available in the 1923 restored Coast Guard Lifesaving Crew’s Quarters. The Crew’s Quarters is open April 1st through November 10th. Special discounted rates during April and May.
- Colonial Michilimackinac, Mackinaw City: Treasures from the past come to life at this 18th-century fort and fur trading village, reconstructed based on historic maps and more than 60 years of archaeological excavations. As you walk through the site, you are stepping back in time to 1779, during the American Revolution. Historical interpreters representing voyageurs, British soldiers, and French-Canadian merchant families are stationed throughout the fort to answer your questions and perform demonstrations.
- Henry Ford Museum Complex, Dearborn: Three must-see attractions. 250 acres of unexpected. One awe-inspiring experience. At The Henry Ford, you’ll discover America – its culture, inventions, people, and can-do spirit – and hundreds of hands-on ways to explore it, enjoy it, and be inspired by it.
- Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park, Cass City: The Sanilac Petroglyphs are Michigan’s largest known group of ancient rock carvings. The park covers 240 acres along the Cass River near Cass City in Michigan’s Thumb region and is also home to a one-mile hiking trail that crosses the Little Cass River in two places. The petroglyphs were likely carved within the last 1,400 years, with some possibly created in more recent centuries. Guided tours of ezhibiigadek asin (Sanilac petroglyphs) are available in the summer months. Historical interpretation is provided by the Michigan History Center.
- River Raisin Battlefield Park, Monroe: River Raisin National Battlefield Park preserves, commemorates, and interprets the January 1813 battles of the War of 1812 and their aftermath in Monroe and Wayne counties in SE Michigan. The Battle resulted in the greatest victory for Tecumseh’s American Indian confederation and the greatest defeat for the U.S. The resulting rally cry “Remember the Raisin” spurred support for the rest of the war.
ECOLOGY & WILDLIFE
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Paradise: Tahquamenon Falls State Park encompasses close to 50,000 acres stretching over 13 miles. The centerpiece of the park, and the very reason for its existence, is the Tahquamenon River with its waterfalls. The park is home to multiple campgrounds, overnight lodging facilities, a boat launch, a picnic area and more than 35 miles of trails. Moose are occasionally seen feeding in the wet areas of the park. Black bear, coyote, otter, deer, fox, porcupine, beaver and mink are a few of the other wildlife species that can be seen. The abundant bird life includes spruce grouse, pileated woodpecker, bald eagle, and a variety of waterfowl and songbirds.
- Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Seney: The Seney National Wildlife Refuge and its Whitefish Point Unit are nestled in the eastern portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Slow down, relax and unwind as you enjoy winding roads, beautiful vistas and the local wildlife that populate these forests, wetlands, and waters. These tracts of land are a birders paradise with abundant populations of trumpeter swans, common loons, osprey, bald eagles, and hundreds of other bird species. Visitors may spot red fox, deer, bear, porcupine, fisher, or other mammals on or near the refuge.
- Kitch-iti-kipi, Manistique: Palms Book is home to one of Michigan’s alluring natural attractions – Kitch-iti-kipi. Two hundred feet across and 40 feet deep, Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. By means of a self-guided observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies. Ancient tree trunks, lime-encrusted branches and fat trout can be seen as they slip through crystal waters far below. Clouds of sand kept in constant motion by gushing waters create ever-changing shapes and forms – a challenge to the imagination.
- Arch Rock, Mackinac Island: This natural wonder is a well-loved attraction, drawing visitors from all over the country and a revered site of Native Americans because they believed it to be a place of numinous power. It features steel rails that offer jaw-dropping views of the glimmering lake and the lush environment. Take a pleasant walk up to the arch and then casually make your way back down to downtown Mackinac Island and all its diversions. Of course, it might be worth a stop at one of the historic forts or cemeteries on the way.
- Hartwick Pines, Grayling: The principal features of this park are the 49-acre forest of old-growth pines and logging museum. With 9,672 acres in which to roam, Hartwick Pines is a great destination for paddling, mountain biking, snowshoeing, hiking, picnicking, birding, metal detecting, and exploring Michigan’s great outdoors. Miles of trails offer hikers of all ages and abilities the chance to explore the diverse wildlife and forest landscapes. The Hartwick Pines Logging Museum depicts the state’s 19th-century logging era, when Michigan led the nation in sawed lumber production. The logging museum is open daily May 1-October 31, hours vary. A Michigan State Parks Recreation Passportis required for entry.
- Sarett Nature Center, Benton Harbor: Sarett is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community nature center located in southwestern Michigan, along the Paw Paw River valley. Our primary focus is environmental education, and we also have over 1000 acres, 8 miles of trails, a nature center building, a tree top walkway and live native animals.
- Abrams Planetarium, MSU Campus, East Lansing: The Talbert and Leota Abrams Planetarium, located on the beautiful Michigan State University campus, serves as an astronomy and space science education resource center for central Michigan. The planetarium is an outreach unit of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and as such, we support astronomy teaching on campus as well as offer a variety of planetarium shows to the public.
- Wolf Lake Hatchery and Visitor Center, Mattawan: Located on the grounds of the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery, the visitor center provides programs that tell the remarkable tale of the Great Lakes fisheries and the vital role played by hatcheries. Individuals of all ages will enjoy the opportunity to learn about a variety of fish species, their life cycles and habitats and how we work to protect and conserve Michigan’s lakes, rivers and streams.
The Michigan DNR has several public education programs and home materials that are accessible and usually free. Visit the website for more information. For additional ideas, check out our series of driving tours on our website, which are perfect for roadschooling families who want to immersive themselves in a particular region or follow a particular theme!
*Descriptions come from either Pure Michigan, Michigan DNR, or a destination’s individual website.