The Ultimate Guide to the 30 Best Elk Rapids MI Things to Do

Our guide to all the best Elk Rapids MI Things to Do…

Elk Rapids is a charming village located in Antrim County, Michigan. It is just a short drive from several of the well-known Northern Michigan cities that including Traverse City and Charlevoix.

Distance from Nearby Cities
Traverse City to Elk Rapids – 17 miles / 26-minute drive
Charlevoix to Elk Rapids – 33 miles / 41-minute drive

Best Elk Rapids MI Things to Do - drive to Traverse City
Google Maps: Traverse City to Elk Rapids is just short drive north on the lake.

Why is it called Elk Rapids?

Local legend claims that Elk Rapids, as well as the river and lake from which it flows, were so named by (Abram) Wadsworth for his discovery of a pair of elk horns in the rapids near the mouth of the river.” Abram Wadsworth is considered one of the earliest settlers in Antrim County.

According to the Elk Rapids Historical Society

What is Elk Rapids MI known for?

Elk Rapids is known for its beautiful sandy shores, quaint shops, and unique restaurants. The Elk River runs through the middle of town which is between Elk Lake and Grand Traverse Bay.

Elk Rapids MI has received state distinction as a Pure Michigan Trail Town which means it has some of the best all-season trails for hiking, biking, and boating.

The Northern Michigan area is known for having some of the best festivals and events in the state. Some of these include:

  • Harbor Days – Elk Rapids Annual Event! Check out the action-packed schedule this year.
  • Cherry Festival – Based in Traverse City, this nationally known festival has been an annual favorite in Northern Michigan.
  • Great Lakes Equestrian Festival – 12 weeks of outstanding international competition at Flintfields Equestrian Center in Traverse City.
  • Traverse City Film Festival – Founder, Michael Moore hosts this annual event since 2005 in Traverse City.
The State Theatre in Traverse City Michigan
The State Theatre in Traverse City Michigan

Where to Stay – Hotels in Elk Rapids MI

Elk Rapids has a brilliant selection of VRBO and short-term stay rentals, along with some charming inns or hotels nearby.

To make your choice easier, our favorite hotel stay is the Spring Lighthouse B & B. It is located in Elk Rapids with easy walking to the restaurants and shops. Spring Lighthouse B & B also has some of the best-unobstructed water views and has its own private beach and garden. An exceptional breakfast is included with your stay.

We often find great deals on Booking.com, getting a discount of up to 60%.

Spring Lighthouse B & B Elk Rapids Michigan - view of bedroom and water outside.
Spring Lighthouse B & B – Elk Rapids Hotels

If you are staying with a large group for more than a couple of days, you definitely need to look at the wide offerings of a short-term rental. The added space, privacy, and ability to cook or do laundry after a day at the beach make these options very attractive. When staying with family, we find this is the best option so we have a common space to hang out. Here is a list of the highest-rated stays for VRBO Elk Rapids.

Our Favorite Elk Rapids MI Things to Do

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Grand Traverse Michigan Beach View
Grand Traverse Michigan Beach View

Hit the Beach at Veterans Memorial Park

Elk Rapids beach view with gorgeous blue green Traverse bay water views.
Look at the incredible views of Traverse Bay in Elk Rapids area – Veterans Park

Bring your family to an ideal spot for enjoying a Northern Michigan beach! Veterans Park tops our list of best things being fantastic for all ages.

It features basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts, an impressive kids playground (one is built to look like the Mackinac bridge), picnic tables, outdoor grills, and public restrooms. The southern tip has a small forest that is ideal for spotting birds and other wildlife. The opposite end (closest to downtown), connects to a picturesque walking path to the Elk Rapids Library.

Veterans Park in Elk Rapids has a very nice kids playground area.
Take the kids to the playground with Grand Traverse Bay views.

Here you can sit in the sand, stroll along the walking paths, or on the beach. The park is also considered dog friendly. We ran into several people with their pets.

There are plenty of things to do in Veterans Memorial Park on Grand Traverse Bay. Being located on the edge of downtown, you can easily eat at one of the Elk Rapids restaurants or grab a quick ice cream after a hot day at the beach. Spring Lighthouse B & B is just around the corner from this lovely park.

Looking for the perfect wedding venue or gathering space for a large company function? You definitely want to check out Jack Blesma Pavilion located on the water just a few steps from the park. It has spectacular views of the Edward C. Grace Memorial Harbor.


Stroll the Elk Rapids MI Stores & Galleries

Depending upon your tastes, you may want to do a lot of shopping or perhaps just stop in to browse the local offerings.

For those who love antiques, there are a few shops to see like Blue Owl Antiques, and Harbor Antique Mall.

I couldn’t leave without buying some local merchandise at Elk Rapids Harbor Wear Inc. A few other best things to do in Elk Rapids for shopping include Tiny Traveling Boutique, Nature Connection, and Nifty Things.


Rent a Boat or Slip from Elk Rapids Marina

elk rapids marina with a photo of grand traverse bay and boats.
Boating or fishing tops the list of fun Elk Rapids MI things to do.

Enjoy a day on the water! Nothing better than the pristine water views in this lovely part of Northern Michigan. Rent a boat at the marina or bring yours here for the perfect Northern Michigan weekend getaway. Elk Rapids Marina makes it easy and affordable for day-trippers to experience what the area does best!

General offerings at the marina include a boaters lounge, bathrooms, showers, and an outside common area that has gas grills, picnic tables, and additional seating. There is also a food truck with daily specials.

Elk Rapids Marina is an ideal location with easy walkability to the shops and boutiques on River Street.

Fun Fact: Elk Rapids Marina has partnered with Windemuller to be the first location in Northern Michigan to receive an all-electric boat and power charging station. With rising costs and fuel prices, this will be a game changer!


Eat at Some of the Best Elk Rapids Restaurants

pearls elk rapids things to do just outside of downtown area.
Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen is one of the best Elk Rapids Restaurants

Eat at Pearl’s for some of the best Cajun or Creole food in Northern Michigan. It is located just outside downtown.

Pearls Elk Rapids has a wide offering of excellent choices. Some of the favorites by locals include the Crawfish Chowder, Louisiana Jambalaya, Southern Fried Chicken, and the Shrimp Po’Boy. We even loved their Cherry Pecan Salad (but you’ll have to like cherries!). They also offer a frequent diner discount program.

A few other Elk Rapids Restaurants we need to mention are Cellar 152 Gourmet Market & Wine, American House Woodfired Pizza, and Town Club Elk Rapids.

All are conveniently located off River Street in the heart of the downtown. It truly depends on what cuisine you are in the mood for since they are all good choices!


Get a Beer at Short’s Brewing Company

Short's Brew, photo taken at the production facility.
Photo: Short’s Brewing Company

Short’s Brewing Company is one of the most fun things to do in Elk Rapids! It began as a brewpub and microbrewery based in Bellaire, Michigan. In 2008, Short’s Brewing Co. expanded to Elk Rapids with a large-scale production facility.

Short’s has 20 or more drafts of locally made beer, cider, seltzer, or wine options. Their flagship brews are a variety of beers from India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Fruit Rye Ale, and American Lager. One of their newest favorites is Lil’ Huma which is only 95 calories, 4.5% ABV.

Come get a seat indoor/outdoors, or bring your own chair if you prefer lawn seating. Check out their website which provides a current list of what’s on tap and daily food specials.


Stroll the Walk of Art Sculpture Park

The Elk Rapids Day Park is one of those unique hidden gems you sort of stumble upon unless you know much about the area. And I really do mean hidden, since the entrance needs more navigational signs.

Walk of Art Sculpture Park you will get to see 36 different sculptures along your journey.
Walk of Art Sculpture Park is one of our favorite scenic things to do.

Elk Rapids Day Park is located south of town on the water. It currently has 36 outdoor sculptures you can see on your art walk. The trail dead ends into a beautiful beach area.

Each year, Art Rapids hosts a free summer concert series. This is one of the more popular things to do in Elk Rapids. The park also offers workshops and classes, along with other events throughout the year.

  • Address: 920 S Bay Shore Dr, Elk Rapids, MI
  • Website: Art Rapids

Guntzviller’s Spirit of the Woods Museum & Guntzviller’s Berry & Vegetable Farm

Founded in 1928, the Guntzviller family museum is one of the more unique things to do in Northern Michigan. The Spirit of the Woods Museum is an educational family-friendly small museum experience showcasing taxidermy of some of Michigan’s wildlife.

You will see displays that include Elk, Mountain Lion, Deer, Bear, and Fish. The Museum also has a collection of Indian artifacts, and antique fishing and hunting gear, and sells a variety of gifts including Minnetonka moccasins.

Depending on the season, you definitely should check out Guntzville’s Berry & Vegetable Farm while you are nearby. They have u-pick available for strawberries and raspberries from mid-May to the beginning of September. This is another great place to bring the family!


Check out Twisted Fish Gallery

Elk Rapids MI Things to Do
Photo: Twisted Fish Gallery

Bob and Charlotte Steit’s Twisted Fish Gallery is an alluring indoor and outdoor gallery accessible to all visitors.

We considered it one of the fun things to do in Elk Rapids because of the many special handmade pieces you won’t find elsewhere. This award-winning gallery has a wide spectrum of art from glass, jewelry, wood, and sculpture.


Elk Rapids Golf Club

Photo: Elk Rapids Golf Club and the putting green with gorgeous bay views.
Photo: Elk Rapids Golf Club

Get back into the swing of things at the Elk Rapids Golf Club! While it is not a full 18-holes, this 9-hole historic course created by Donald Ross won’t disappoint. It has beautiful scenic views of Elk Lake and is well maintained.

The Elk Rapids Golf Club is open to the public except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until 6 pm, and Thursdays until 1 pm. The course offers off-season discounts, as well as discounts for joining as a member.


See a Show at the Historic Theater

Screen Shot 2022 07 07 at 4.59.43 PM Elk Rapids MI Things to Do
Photo: Elk Rapids Cinema

Head to the beautifully restored theater to take in a show at the Elk Rapids Cinema. This art deco-style building was built in 1940 and is located on the west end of downtown.

Fun fact: The Elk Rapids Cinema has the world’s largest black ceiling mural.

It has updated reclining seats and sound system, while still maintaining the charm of old-school concessions. Tickets and food prices are reasonably priced which adds to the fun experience.

  • Address: 205 River Street, Elk Rapids, Michigan
  • Phone: (231)264-8601

Walk along the Elk River | Zupin-Anderson Memorial Garden

Don't miss this lovely spot in Elk Rapids Mi with views of the river.
Don’t miss this lovely spot on Elk River

It is a pleasant walk to town from the Elk Rapids Marina. We opted to check out the crystal clear waters of Elk River to Zupin-Anderson Memorial Garden on Dexter Street. This scenic walk provides plenty of photo opportunities of Elk River!


Visit The Island House | Elk Rapids Library

The Elk Rapids Library is located in The Island House, a historic structure and the prior residence of Edwin S. Noble. He designed and built this home for his family in 1865. It has been a public library since 1949.

This lovely structure sits on a 4-acre island at the mouth of the Elk River which flows into the Grand Traverse Bay. Whether you come here to visit the library or walk the beautiful grounds, there is something here for everyone to appreciate. This is also a great place to take photos from the pedestrian library bridge and you can walk down the hill to the Elk Rapids Marina.


Ethanology Distillation

Ethanology Distillation
Photo: Ethanology Distillation

This is one of the best places in town to get specialty drinks! Ethanology Distillation is deeply committed to creating spirits and cocktails with local quality ingredients.​ They offer a creative menu with a distinctive ambiance. Enjoy live music on Friday and Saturdays from 8 pm to 11 pm.


Visit the Dam Beach

 Dam Beach at Elk Rapids
The Dam Beach, Hydroelectric Power Plant

The Dam Beach is located off of the Elk Rapids Hydroelectric Power Plant. It’s a nice rustic beach park with tables and grills, plus views of the dam.

While it is worth visiting, our favorite park is Veterans Memorial Park since there are more things to do with kids.


Townline Ciderworks

Torline Ciderworks - samples of their various flavors of cider.
Photo: Townline Ciderworks

Just south of the town of Elk Rapids is Torline Ciderworks. Since it is a short drive from town we added it to our list of favorite things to do in Elk Rapids.

This is a fun place to do a cider tasting and spend some time with family or friends since it has beautiful outdoor farm scenery and orchard views. They also have a selection of wines.

It is a kid-friendly atmosphere and dogs are welcome too! There is a food truck on-site Friday thru Monday, as well as music on Friday nights during the summer.

  • Address: 11595 US-31 S, Williamsburg, MI 49690
  • Phone: (231) 883-5330
  • Website: Townline Ciderworks

Get a Sweet Treat

Boating days are the best with a fresh scoop of ice cream or dessert! There are couple of delicious options for both in Elk Rapids.

Elk Rapids Michigan things to do

The Flour Pot Bakery and Coffeeshop

The Flour Pot Bakery and Coffeeshop is located downtown across from the Post Office. You will want to come early to not miss some of their mouth-watering donuts while enjoying a cup of Joe in their coffee shop. They have a whole list of other great options including cookies, apple fritters, pecan rolls, bear claws, or decadent cakes.

Ice Cream Peddlers

Ice Cream Peddlers is a small window serve ice cream shop also downtown. You definitely should try the strawberry shortcake when it’s available. But we even liked their plain vanilla ice cream. Don’t forget – this little shop only takes cash!

  • Address: 141 River St, Elk Rapids, MI 49629
  • Phone: (231)264-6866

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17 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to the 30 Best Elk Rapids MI Things to Do”

  1. Looks like a lot of interesting spots and a unique town. I’ve wanted to check out Northern Michigan for a while now, definitely saving this for later. Ethanology DistillatioN looks like a cool experience, and that cinema’s ceiling looks so cool. Also intrigued by the Pearls New Orleans kitchen – checking out that page next.

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  2. This looks like such a fun, relaxing place to hang out. I’d love to take a stroll along the Elk River and enjoy some of the restaurants in the area. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. So much to do. This world is full of great destinations near and far. The Cherry Festival sounds like a lot of fun along with visiting Guntzville’s Berry & Vegetable Farm.

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  4. This is such a nice article! I like that there are so many things to do and drinks and food to try!
    But also it seems a great place to relax and enjoy life! Thanks for sharing it!

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  5. Ugh, I really need to venture out from the East Coast. Didn’t expect this area or Michigan in general to offer so much variety – rivers, beaches, cute towns. Love that most of the attractions you listed were outdoors / partially outdoors. Could make for a great summer getaway.

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  6. You did a great job of covering Elk Rapids. I was born in Michigan and hope to go back sometime so I pinned this article for later. At the top of my list are the sculpture park and Peal Elk River (I’m ordering all of that! No way could I choose)

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  7. All the fun local places to get my drink on 🙂 They all are on my list now! I really want to try to go to the Cherry Fest too someday.

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  8. Wow, the views from the B & B are stunning!!! Thanks for sharing all these tips about Elks Rapids. I didn’t know there was so much to do there. I’d love to hire a boat; it’s always fun! 🙂

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  9. I have never heard of Elk Rapids but it certainly sounds like there is plenty to do and it looks to be a beautiful area! Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Looks like a fun place in Michigan! I would love to go for long walks along the river and take boat rides. The choice food and restaurants are great. Adding this to my bucket list. 🙂

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  11. What a fantastic town. I love the little shops and diverse restaurants. The B&B you stayed at seems lovely.I would also enjoy hiking, the beach, and the sculpture garden. Will certainly keep this place in mind for a future visit.

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  12. I absolutely love this part of Michigan, although I don’t think I’ve ever been to Elk Rapids! Will definitely stop by next time I’m in the area 🙂

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  13. What a charming little getaway with tons of things to do! I’ve love to hang out at the cidery and I love the look of the old theatre. Lots of outdoorsy things to do which would be right up my alley!

    Reply

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