Get to know Michigan’s vibrant local culture

Michigan State University Content 08

Forests, lakes, cars, and festivals are all important part of Michigan’s cultural heritage. The state’s Great Lakes create the perfect conditions for growing cherries, too, so you’re never far from a great cherry pie. Get to know the local culture when you’re studying at East Lansing’s Michigan State University (MSU) or at Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan (U-M) as an SAF Scholar. These are some of the cultural highlights you won’t want to miss.

Fairs and Festivals

Whatever time of year it is, somewhere in Michigan, there’s a fair or festival happening. These events celebrate the state’s thriving arts, culture, and agricultural life and showcase community and a fun-loving spirit. Near Michigan State University campus is the East Lansing Art Festival and the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival. Ann Arbor hosts its popular independent film festival, an annual summer festival of art and music, and their Fool Moon and Festifools events bring fantastical papier mâché creations to Main Street.


Michigan is probably most famous for bordering four of the five Great Lakes – Superior, Huron, Michigan, and Erie. If you can, it’s well worth taking a trip to visit one of these vast lakes and its beaches, dunes, water activities and cute resort towns.

Closer to campus, you can still find lakeside fun when you’re not in class. East Lansing is near 500-acre Lake Lansing and its fantastic beach – perfect for a study group on a summer’s day. Watch an MSU regatta while you’re there.

Near Ann Arbor, you could take a day trip to Independence Lake County Park or Van Buren State Park for lake swimming, boating, fishing, or just catching up on some reading on the beach.

The Automotive Industry

Michigan is the heart of America’s automotive industry, reaching back to the 19th century. In 1886, Ransom E. Olds patented the first gasoline-run car and founded Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, which became home of the Oldsmobile. Henry Ford founded the Henry Ford Company in Detroit in 1901 producing the Model T – America’s first affordable car. If you’re studying at Michigan State University, visit R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing to see restored classics produced in the city and learn about America’s auto history.

Tree Town

Ann Arbor’s nickname is Tree Town, thanks to the abundance of trees filling the tree-lined streets, urban parks, and surrounding woodlands. The broad branched oak tree is depicted in the city’s logo and sits in the city among maple trees, crabapple trees, spruces, pines, and sycamore trees.

Ann Arbor has a well-funded forestry program investing in protecting and growing more trees, and the locals are rightly proud of their tree canopy. Explore the trails and see Ann Arbor’s trees at U-M’s Nichols Arboretum for a nature-filled escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.