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Think Northern Michigan stuns from the ground? Catch the view from on high. We’re going up, up and away on these incredible air tours. 

Bucket-List Bargain

Thirty dollars could get you dinner—or a flight over the Lake Michigan shoreline and Manistee National Forest. You don’t even need to pre-reserve flights peak season (though it’s not a bad idea) with Orchard Beach Aviation. Just show up—and go up. Located five miles north of Manistee on U.S. 31. 

Glide Like an Eagle

It’s the silence that strikes you first as you glide like a hawk on the thermals high above the North. Then there’s the occasional roller coaster-style thrill as you catch an air current and both glider and tummy leap. Seek views from as high as 7,000 feet—that Northern quilt pattern of lakes, forests, rivers and rolling hills—from a glider with a pilot (and you). Cadillac, the “high and dry” base for the Northwest Soaring Club, has perfect glider conditions, says president Erik Saxon. Sandy, dry soils create great thermal updraft, he explains, especially when the sun is out and clouds white and puffy. Book flights with club members ($125) on Saturdays and Sundays, but call on Thursdays to confirm if weather conditions are right.  

Catch a Flight

Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City is the North’s welcome wagon with its Frank Lloyd Wright-style décor and increasingly local offerings like craft beer, wine and spirits in the airport restaurant. It’s also a gateway for locals traveling across the country.

By the numbers: 

  • 3: Ranking in Michigan airport size after recent growth
  • 4: Number of air carriers offering flights
  • 11: Non-stop flights during peak season (Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, LaGuardia, Newark, Sarasota, Charlotte, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Denver) 
  • 76: Daily direct flights in and out of TC June to Labor Day
  • 500,416: Total passengers flying through in 2018—an all-time record

New! Cherry Capital Airport just announced three new non-stop Allegiant flights starting October 16, 2019, with fares starting as low as $69. Tampa/St. Pete and Orlando service will run year-round every Wednesday and Saturday. Punta Gorda/Fort Myers service will run seasonally.

Make a Grand Gesture

It can set you back as much as $1,000 for two passengers but will make quite the impression. Pick up your date or business colleague by float plane and head off for a round of golf at Arcadia Bluffs or to a dinner date in the Upper Peninsula. TC Helicopters offers float plane trips to various locations (dinner and golf extra) along with more affordable helicopter tours over the bays in Traverse City

Soar Over Mackinac

Great Lakes Air offers views of the Mackinac Bridge, Island and Straits from its base in St. Ignace. Fall color tours can take you anywhere in the forest-covered Upper Peninsula. And while the best value is from St. Ignace, they’ll fly to your home airport and pick you up, too. Thirty-minute sightseeing tours run at $125 for one to five people, depending on weight.

Photo(s) by Taylor Brown