Top 17 Things To Do In Empire, Michigan - Updated 2024

things to do in Empire MI
Contributing Writer
| 7 min read

Known for its stunning coastlines, Empire is a charming little town featuring some of the most scenic views in Michigan. Whether you’re after the striking views, a place to unwind, or the perfect adventure, Empire will provide you everything to make your visit a remarkable one. From white sandy beaches, parkways, high dunes, endless trails, and places to explore, wanderers who love nature are never short of things to do. Destinations like the Empire Beach, Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail Head, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, and Lake Michigan Beach Park are some of the beautiful attractions in Empire. In case you have decided to experience everything that it has to offer, find an Airbnb vacation rental first then check out the things to do in Empire, Michigan, to find out more.

1. Eat comfort food at Empire Village Inn

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

It's Taco Tuesday at The Empire Village Inn. Great deals on Taco's and Mexican Cerveza. The VI opens at 3pm with both dine in and carry out available. For more info call them at 231-326-5101

Posted by The Empire Village Inn on Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Looking for good food in Empire, Michigan? If so, try having a memorable meal at Empire Village Inn. This classy establishment has served traditional American-style dishes since 1958. The extensive menu consists of everything from pizzas to sandwiches and salads to burgers. You can also taste delicious cheese pretzels, brussels sprouts, and chicken pita wraps.

The restaurant also sells craft as well as local beers - loved by beer enthusiasts. You can savor root beer, wine, and plenty of bar snacks. While here, do not forget to try the salmon burger, a well-loved dish by patrons.

Eat comfort food at Empire Village Inn

Address: 11601 S Lacore Rd, Empire, MI 49630, United States

Website: Empire Village Inn

Opening hours: 3pm - 9pm (daily)

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2. Rent a kayak from Sleeping Bear Surf

Sleeping Bear Surf is a surf shop located on West Front Street. Established in 2004, this shop specializes in selling surfing equipment and essentials such as clothes, fins, leashes, board bags, and much more. You can even purchase hammocks, can chillers, and snorkeling gear here. The surf shop also sells toys for the little ones and offers surfing lessons for beginners.

Kayaking enthusiasts can rent a kayak from Sleeping Bear Surf and even buy kayaking accessories such as paddles, spray kits, and float bags.

Rent a kayak from Sleeping Bear Surf

Address: 10228 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630, United States

Website: Rent a kayak from Sleeping Bear Surf

Opening hours: Mon & Fri: 12pm - 5pm; Sat: 12pm - 3pm (closed on Sun, Tue, Wed, & Thu)

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3. Travel back in time at Glen Haven Historic Village

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Located along the shorelines of Lake Michigan, Glen Haven Historic Village is a small community that takes you back in time. It features historic buildings that go back to the early settlers. Some of the structures here include Glen Haven General Store, Cannery Boathouse, Glen Haven Inn, and Blacksmith Shop—all preserved to tell the story of how the village started as a stopping point for steamships going and coming from Chicago in the mid-1800s.

Glen Haven is also a popular tourist spot because of its beautiful beaches. So after visiting the historic spots, you can take a relaxing stroll on the beach while enjoying the amazing views, or better yet, take a refreshing dip.

Glen Haven Historic Village

Address: Glen Arbor Township, MI, USA

Website: Glen Haven Historic Village

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4. Enjoy stunning views and fun outdoor activities at South Bar Lake

Sleeping Bear dunes from Empire Bluffs
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nakor used under CC BY-SA 3.0

For some Empire camping in Michigan, check this out. South Bar Lake is a small lake that is parallel to the much bigger Lake Michigan. This body of water is 69 acres (28 hectares) big and offers a stunning view of the pristine bar lake itself as well as the wooded surrounding areas.

While the amazing scenery is enough to draw lots of tourists in, South Bar Lake is actually also a great destination for outdoor recreation. Some of the fun activities here include swimming, kayaking, hiking, fishing, camping, and more.

South Bar Lake

Address: Empire Township, MI 49630, USA

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5. Go hiking on Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail

Running between Empire on Lake Michigan and Oscoda on Lake Huron, The Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail is a 220-mile-long (354 km) trail open to adventurers looking for an adventure. It’s open to horseback riders and hikers alike. It provides a full experience of the wilderness that tourists will surely enjoy. Also, upon arrival to the trail, breathtaking views will welcome you. Lush trees lining the trails with the sun gazing down at you, it’s the best experience to make you feel alive. Moreover, it’s the perfect activity to indulge in if you want to be one with nature.

Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail

Address: Empire, MI 49630, United States

Website: Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail

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6. Experience the beauty of Empire Beach

If you’re looking for the perfect spot to recuperate or wash away the heat of the sun after a long hike at the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Empire Beach is the place to be. It’s a family-friendly beach featuring a playground, a historic lighthouse, grilling equipment, and fire rings. Whether you’re after a morning dip or a stroll, Empire Beach will give you the best experience. Crystal clear water, golden sands, and landscape views; it’s the perfect place for travelers looking for tranquility. On top of that, sunsets here are something that you will want to see for yourself.

Empire Beach

Address: Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: Empire Beach

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7. Visit the famous Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse

Summer Clouds at Manning Memorial Lighthouse, Empire Beach, Lake Michigan, near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore!...

Posted by James Eye View Photography on Tuesday, 25 June 2019

One of the things you wouldn’t want to miss while traveling in Michigan is its historic lighthouse that’s standing tall on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Listed in the Coast Guard’s Light List as Manning Light, Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse aid fishers by emitting a white flash every four seconds that will help them navigate the water safely during their evening trips to the shore. Also, the lighthouse is a tribute to Empire’s lifelong resident and fisherman, Robert H. Manning, who often wished for his hometown to have a lighthouse.

Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse

Address: Lake Michigan Dr, Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse

Opening hours: 12am - 12pm (daily)

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8. Explore the history of Empire at Empire Area Museum

Traveling to foreign cities would not be complete without knowing their history, thus, museums should be on your itinerary. Through hundreds of historical artifacts and antiques, Empire Area Museum tells the history of Empire from its humble beginnings to what it is now. Its main building features the famous Roen Saloon, which was a local watering hole used during the bloom of lumbering in Empire, during the ‘90s. Its main floor features the original parlor from the salon while the lower floor contains a woodworking shop, blacksmith shop, along with some railroad and lumber company displays. If you want to know more about the history of Empire, you can go to the original schoolhouse behind the main building.

Empire Area Museum

Address:11544 Lacore Rd, Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: Empire Area Museum

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9. Bike around the beautiful Sleeping Bear Heritage Trailhead

If you want to see everything Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has to offer, biking around the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail will give you that. Its multi-used trail which spans up to 27 miles (43km) connecting to park attractions and the town of Glen Arbor. Also, It’s a handicap accessible trail which is open to walkers, runners, bicycle users, babies in strollers, and people on wheelchairs. Some stretches have steep gradients and you’ll see the trailhead and warning signs on the trail. But, all in all, it’s a great experience to indulge in, specifically if you’re a big fan of nature.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trailhead

Address: N Bar Lake Rd, Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: Sleeping Bear Heritage Trailhead

Opening hours: 12am - 12pm (daily)

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10. Play golf at Dunes' Golf Club

Located in the Glen Lake- Sleeping Bear Dunes Area, Dunes’ Golf Club is the perfect image of enjoyment, giving you many opportunities to enjoy all of Northern Michigan’s wonders. It features a casual, friendly course with 5730 yards (5240 meters) to use for a game of relaxing golf. It is known for its course rolls, twists, and winds, which is in some of the finest landscapes of Bruce Peninsula. If you’re one of those people who love playing outdoor activities like golf, this is the perfect place for you.

Dunes' Golf Club

Address: 6489 W Empire Hwy, Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: Dunes’ Golf Club

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11. Admire the lovely view at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Located along the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the must-visit destinations in Empire. Miles of sandy beach, lush forests, bluffs towering above Lake Michigan, clear inland lakes, and exotic fauna make up the beauty that is Sleeping Bear Dunes. Whether you’re on the bluffs overlooking the beauty of Lake Michigan, hiking simple trails through the forest, or in a canoe of many inland lakes, you’ll surely have the best opportunity for wildlife viewing, bird watching, and plainly enjoying nature in all its glory.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Address: Leelanau & Benzie counties, Michigan, US

Website: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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12. Go on a road trip along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Sign
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Royalbroil used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re someone who loves road trips and beautiful sceneries, you might want to try going on a trip via the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It’s a scenic route within the stunning Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The roadway contains amazing views and gentle curves that will make your ride an enjoyable one. Also, the 7-mile (11-km) route will give you breathtaking panoramas of the dunes, Lake Michigan and Glen Lake. Whether you’re looking for the perfect activity to unwind or seek adventure, taking a road trip will give you an experience you won’t forget.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Address: Michigan, USA

Website: Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

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13. Shop at Jojo and Bucky

Posted by JoJo and Bucky on Saturday, 2 July 2016

Showcasing a lovely collection of art and antiques, funk and junk, Jojo and Bucky have everything you’ll want to see. From local art pieces to gorgeous jewelry pieces that you will not be able to pass up. Whether you’re an art collector or someone who loves seeing uniquely crafted arts, Jojo and Bucky will give you nothing but the best experience. Upon arriving at the place, you will see a cute little white building with a touch of minimalism. But the inside is way better than its outdoor look. Every nook and corner of the place, you will see something that will pique your interest. It’s a worthy place to visit.

JoJo and Bucky

Address: 11840 S Lacore Rd, Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: JoJo and Bucky

Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 12pm - 6pm (closed on Sun & Mon)

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14. Marvel at the beauty of Lake Michigan Beach Park

If you’re looking for an interesting place to visit while you’re in Empire, Lake Michigan Beach Park will provide you a lot of fun things to do. It’s a lovely park which happens to have a beautiful beach with it. It has picnic tables, a playground, and a lot of sand and water to mess around in- a perfect spot for family bonding. Also, the famous Robert Manning Lighthouse stands in the park. Moreover, its northside has some simple and easy hiking trails you can try. On top of that, Lake Michigan Beach Park is unlike any other, which charges astronomical fees to use the water.

Lake Michigan Beach Park

Address: Empire, MI 49630, USA

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15. Indulge in sweet treats at Grocer's Daughter Chocolate

One of the most attractive attractions in town, Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate is famous among both tourists and locals alike. It’s a small family-owned business located in a bright green building on Lakeshore, in Traverse City. All the chocolate products it sells are in-house, using local ingredients like fruits, nuts, and spices. Upon arriving at Grocer’s Daughter, you will witness tourists walk in to buy one chocolate and then come back for more. One bite is all it takes to find out why Grocer’s Daughter chocolates are the best. One of its treats that you should try is their famous truffles which won’t cost you much.

Grocer's Daughter Chocolate

Address: Michigan 22, 11590 S Lacore St, Empire, MI 49630, United States

Website: Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 6pm; Sun: 11am - 5pm

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16. Buy local products at Empire Farmer's Market

Open every Saturday morning, Empire Farmer’s Market is one of the must-visit places in Michigan. Located in the downtown area, it is known as Lansing’s summer landscapes. Upon arrival at the venue, flowers in bloom and the fragrance of ripened fruits will welcome you. Shoppers will have a plethora of selections to buy, including maple syrup, fresh produce, jams, jellies, and baked goods. Moreover, customers will enjoy indulging in the number of food trucks lining the market street while buying their souvenirs. On top of that, it also features live music for entertainment.

Empire Farmer's Market

Address: 10243 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: Empire Farmer’s Market

Opening hours: Sat: 9am - 1pm (closed from Mon - Sun)

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17. Enjoy burgers and cold drinks at Joe's Friendly Tavern

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Joe's is open for indoor dining as well as carry out. You can call us at 231-326-5506 for more info or to place an order. Visit us at to view our entire menu.

Posted by Joe's Friendly Tavern Empire on Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Located in downtown Empire, Joe’s Friendly Tavern lives up to its name. The place is cozy and has a warm ambiance. It’s a family-friendly food establishment that makes mouth-watering burgers as well as scrumptious appetizers. Named as the best burger in Michigan, Joe’s Friendly Burger is a must-try for everyone visiting the place for the first time. Whether you’re eating solo or with friends, Joe’s Friendly Tavern offers a wide selection of food to indulge in. From greasy burgers to cold drinks, you’ll surely enjoy filling your tummy.

Joe's Friendly Tavern

Address: 11015 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630, USA

Website: Joe’s Friendly Tavern

Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 7:30am - 9pm; Fri - Sat: 7:30am - 10pm; Sun: 8am - 9pm

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Visit the quaint town of Empire

Lake Michigan / Sleeping Bear Dunes
Source: Photo by user Rachel Kramer used under CC BY 2.0

Featuring some of the most breathtaking views in Michigan, Empire is a quaint town that has a little of everything. With crystal coastlines, high dunes, endless trails, and several Empire, Michigan, campgrounds, tourists like you will never run out of things to do. Whether you’re after a relaxing time or an adventure, Empire will give you the best of both. In case you’ve decided to experience the wonders of Empire, listed above are the things to do while in this place.

Frequently asked questions about the top things to do in Empire, Michigan

  • Which are the best attractions to visit in Empire?

    Empire is definitely a nature lover’s heaven as it’s practically filled with many natural attractions including South Bar Lake, Empire Beach, and Lake Michigan Beach Park, among so many others.

  • Which are the fun activities to do in Empire?

    As a place loaded with natural attractions, it’s really not surprising that many of the top activities here involve the great outdoors including hiking at Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail, biking at Sleeping Bear Heritage Trailhead, and simply admiring the stunning views at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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