A change of scenery is often the elixir that lifts the spirits. A quick weekend getaway can make all the difference when you need to relax, but responsibilities may prevent a full-blown vacation. So to make things interesting, I like to check into a historic venue and learn how it became the place it is today.
From a luxury three-room bed and breakfast to large historic hotels with almost 400 guest rooms, these charming places showcase Michigan’s history. From former fire stations to homes of judges, lumber barons, and corporate leaders, you’ll find these overnight accommodations throughout the state.
Here are seven of many charming historic places in Michigan, starting in southeast Michigan, moving north, and ending in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Note: Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and Hotel Earl hosted my visits at their properties. All opinions are my own.
1. Detroit Foundation Hotel, Detroit
Located in the Detroit Fire Department’s 1929 headquarters, the Detroit Foundation Hotel still sports the architectural details of a fire station. With the fire pole in the dining room and the red arched doors, you can still imagine firefighters dashing out to a fire.
The 100-room hotel features exposed brick, earth tones, and bright white linens that together offer a respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. In addition, it provides many complimentary amenities, including Wi-Fi, bike rentals, a car service, and newspapers.
Today, this industrial-chic hotel focuses on local Detroit-made. You’ll find Bon Bon Bon candy and Germack nuts in the minibar. The wall art features local artists, and the hotel restaurant bartenders wear Detroit Denim vests.
Pro Tip: Art lovers won’t want to miss the Detroit Institute of Arts in midtown. The museum showcases one of the largest art collections in the United States, with over 100 galleries covering 658,000 square feet. The selection is significant, featuring works like Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait and Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry mural.
For activities while you’re in Detroit, check out 7 Fantastic Things To Do In Downtown Detroit.
2. The Cochrane House, Detroit
Dr. John Terry, a Detroit eye doctor, only lived in the house for a year after it was built in 1870 before Lyman Cochrane bought it. Elected to the Michigan State Senate in 1871 to represent Detroit, Cochran served for 2 years. In 1873, he was appointed Judge of the Superior Court of Detroit. Cochrane served as a Superior Court judge until he died in 1879.
The Italianate-style Cochrane House is an art-filled, 18th-century mansion turned luxury bed and breakfast in Detroit’s historic Brush Park. The adults-only venue offers three guest rooms with many amenities, including complimentary Wi-Fi and in-room Bluetooth speakers.
When you stay at Cochrane House, a customized Southern-style breakfast will be delivered to your room each morning so that you can enjoy breakfast in bed before you tackle the day.
Pro Tip: Many attractions, including Comerica Park Stadium, Ford Field Stadium, Little Caesars Arena (the new home of the Red Wings), Fox Theater, and Detroit Opera House are within walking distance.
Wondering where to eat while you’re in Detroit? Try some of the delicious restaurants recommended in Best Places To Eat And Drink In Detroit, Michigan.
3. English Inn, Eaton Rapids
Located 7 miles south of Michigan’s capital city, Lansing, you’ll find the English Inn on the Grand River’s shores. The inn, rich with history, was constructed in 1927 for Irving J. Reuter — then general manager of the Oldsmobile Corporation. Stained-glass windows, original white ceiling tiles, and a roaring fireplace help maintain the building’s historic atmosphere. You’ll find the English Inn on Michigan’s State Register of Historic Places.
Being a Lansing local, I often enjoy dinner at the English Inn starring French cuisine — escargot, baked brie, and French onion soup. The chateaubriand for two is a 16-ounce center-cut beef tenderloin carved tableside. If you prefer to stay closer to Lansing, at least drive out for a meal and explore their beautiful summer gardens.
OpenTable chose the English Inn as one of the most romantic inns in America, and the roaring fireplace and live piano music playing softly during dinner contribute to the romantic atmosphere.
Pro Tip: Even if you are only dining there, you can explore the historic inn through its open-door policy. It means that if the overnight room’s door is open, you can peek.
4. Amway Grand Plaza, Grand Rapids
Situated on the Grand River, the Amway Grand Plaza originally opened in the early 1900s as the Sweet’s Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids. J. Boyd Pantlind renovated the hotel and reopened it as the Pantlind Hotel in 1916. The hotel’s designers, Warren & Westmore of New York City, also designed the Biltmore Hotel and Grand Central Station. The Pantlind Hotel, known as “One of the Ten Finest Hotel in America,” in 1925, eventually closed as visitors became attracted to the suburbs.
Amway Corporation purchased the Pantlind and restored the building to its original splendor. In 1981, they reopened as Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and added the new Glass Tower in 1986. Today, the Amway Grand Plaza is a part of Historic Hotels of America.
The Pantlind side highlights the old-world charm of the original era. The lobby includes three stunning Austrian crystal chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, approximately 4,000 pounds each. With over 7,000 square feet of the domed ceiling area covered in hand-applied gold leaf, this is the nation’s largest gold-leaf installation. The original charm is still evident through details like the brass railing with antique finials and the turn of the last century gaslight torchieres. In addition, you’ll find many Duncan Phyfe and English Adams period pieces, including a late 1800s Sheraton sideboard.
Pro Tip: Be sure to have dinner at MDRD, the Spanish restaurant on the hotel’s 27th floor. Choosing a dinner selection is difficult because everything is wonderful. I enjoyed the paella, but you could make a meal from a selection of their traditional Spanish tapas.
For more information on Grand Rapids, see Grand Rapids, Michigan: Where To Stay, Eat, And Play.
5. Hotel Earl, Charlevoix
The Hotel Earl of Charlevoix in downtown Charlevoix is a 56-room boutique hotel with a chic, retro vibe, initially built as the Weathervane Lodge in 1959. The atmosphere is a nod to the original hotel combined with modern amenities, like Tesla charging stations and free Wi-Fi.
A live edge design incorporates the wood’s natural edge on headboards, boardroom tables, and communal lobby tables, making each piece unique. In addition, custom millwork showcased in the lobby area provides a warm earthy atmosphere in the glow of a stone fireplace.
Named for Earl Young, a local architect, and builder known for his unique design style referred to as the “mushroom houses.” Look carefully; original elements from Earl Young’s Weathervane Lodge are present. For example, the stone fireplace graces the hotel lobby in Earl Young-style.
Pro Tip: Located north of the Charlevoix Bascule bridge, the hotel is within easy walking distance from local shops and restaurants.
Spend some time exploring Charlevoix with How To Spend The Perfect Weekend In Charming Charlevoix, Michigan.
6. The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island
Built in 1887, The Grand Hotel sits on a cliff on Mackinac Island overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. Originally a summer getaway for tourists taking lake steamers from Chicago, Detroit, and Montreal, this National Historic Landmark and four-star resort now hosts 130,000 of Mackinac Island’s million-plus annual visitors.
Each of the 390 guest rooms is unique. Wallpapered and carpeted in a wide variety of styles and furnished with antiques and chandeliers, the Grand Hotel truly lives up to its name. You’ll find the hotel’s red geranium logo everywhere, even woven into the parlor’s carpeting. While the characteristic Victorian-era beds are high, step stools quickly appear when requested. A no-tipping policy accompanies the hotel’s all-star service.
The fresh air and view of the Mackinac Bridge melted away the mainland’s stressors. I was so relaxed sitting in the white rocking chair on the 660-foot-long, colonial-style front porch – the world’s longest – and gazing out over the Straits of Mackinac that I had to force myself to leave the porch to discover the rest of the island.
We played the Jewel, the hotel’s award-winning 18-hole golf course, where we took a horse-drawn carriage from the front nine to the back. Cool off in the Grand Hotel’s 220-foot, heated outdoor swimming pool. Lawn games like bocce ball and croquet are a fun way to relax.
They don’t allow motorized vehicles on the island, so rent a bike and go for a ride or take a horse and buggy carriage tour to see its attractions.
Pro Tip: You can reach the island by plane or ferry. I typically use Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and choose the departure where they take you on a detour under the Mackinac Bridge. Shepler’s services both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.
For more information on Mackinac Island, check out these stories:
7. Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, Copper Harbor
Located in Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge was built in 1934 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Many of the area mines closed, leaving an almost 80% unemployment rate in the area, so they started the emergency program. The lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The cabins are a perfect fit for family trips where everyone wants to be together yet still needs some space of their own. The two-bedroom, two-bath cabin with one entryway offers two areas separated by doors that effectively creates two apartments. The two living rooms make for collaboration and privacy. The kids can have a play area while the adults enjoy a quiet conversation. The Keweenaw Mountain Lodges offers an assortment of cabin floor plans, so one will surely meet your needs.
The Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) offers guided mountain bike rides and social and adventure hikes. In addition, they feature a nine-hole golf course and provide periodic stargazing and astrophotography courses.
The on-site restaurant highlights rustic, worldly cuisine. Another option is ordering one of the grill kits that include equipment and ingredients to cook out on your cabin’s grill. Then, have dinner al fresco at your cabin’s picnic table.
Pro Tip: Be sure to request the self-guided tour booklets of the property and the lodge.