Hillsdale Highlights: The Top 16 Things to See and Do

Hillsdale, Michigan / Source: Efficiency Smart

With its quaint downtown, scenic parks, and historic charm, Hillsdale makes for an engaging southern Michigan getaway.

Outdoor recreation, unique shops, cafes, and cultural attractions give visitors plenty to enjoy. Here’s my guide to the top things to see and do in Hillsdale, Michigan.

1. Hike Hidden Lake Gardens

Hidden Lake Gardens / Source: American Public Gardens Association

Just 7 miles north of Hillsdale, Hidden Lake Gardens is a botanical garden spanning over 1,100 acres of diverse plants and landscapes. Hiking trails wind through scenic collections of conifers, hostas, bonsai trees, wildflowers, and more artfully arranged across rolling hills, lakes, and woodlands.

Themed gardens like the Hosta Garden, Azalea Way, and Circle Garden showcase different varieties and colors. Benches scattered throughout provide spots to relax and take in the natural beauty. Open daily dawn to dusk.

2. Tour Historic Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College / Source: Homeschooling for College Credit

Address: 33 E College St, Hillsdale, MI 49242

Founded in 1844, Hillsdale College is a private liberal arts college known for its conservative values and traditional curriculum. The gorgeous campus is highlighted by Neo-Gothic architecture dating back to the late 1800s.

Free student-led tours provide a great glimpse of campus highlights like the Greek Revival styled Central Hall, Victorian Gottfried Home, and the Dawn Treader statue. Tours are available weekdays during the school year.

3. Browse Eclectic Downtown Shops

Downtown Hillsdale / Source: Hillsdale College

Downtown Hillsdale offers a wonderful collection of indie boutiques, bookshops, antique stores, and cafes showcasing the town’s artsy vibe. Top picks for shopping and strolling include Waz’s Vintage Kitchen, Reads Bookstore, Dale’s, Courthouse Cafe, RCA Studios, and Brad’s Toys.

4. See a Film at the Dawn Theater

Dawn Theater / Source: The Dawn Theater

Address: 110 N Broad St, Hillsdale, MI 49242

First opened in 1936, the Dawn Theater in downtown Hillsdale transports visitors back to the golden age of cinema with its Art Deco marquee and intimate theater space.

Inside Dawn Theater / Source: The Dawn Theater

This historic single screen theater shows classic films, new Hollywood movies, and family-friendly seasonal favorites. With just 300 seats in the main auditorium, the affordable tickets provide a night out full of old-fashioned movie magic.

5. Hike the Lakelands Trail

Lakelands Trail State Park / Source: TrailLink

The Lakelands Trail State Park runs 15 miles from Hillsdale northeast to Coldwater. Following a former railroad corridor, the paved trail provides a smooth, accessible path for walking, jogging, biking, and skating through scenic southern Michigan countryside.

Parking lots at access points like Lains Road, Rice Road, and Orchard Road make it easy to hop on and off the trail. The wooded sections and rural farm views make for a peaceful outdoor adventure.

6. Tour the Hillsdale County Courthouse

Hillsdale County Courthouse / Source: Flickr

Address: 29 N Howell St, Hillsdale, MI 49242

Built in 1869, the stately Hillsdale Courthouse showcases striking Second Empire architectural details. Free guided tours run April through August on Saturdays at 11AM.

The informative hour long tour takes visitors throughout the historic courthouse to see original tin ceilings, marble floors, ironwork, and furnishings while learning intriguing stories about the building’s past along the way.

7. Enjoy a Day on Baw Beese Lake

Baw Beese Lake / Source: Munro House Bed and Breakfast

Nestled in the hills 5 miles north of Hillsdale, this scenic 428 acre lake is a summertime oasis. Visitors can relax on the public beach, launch boats at the ramp, paddle kayaks and canoes, fish from the pier, and picnic lakeside.

Grills, playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts round out the amenities. The walking path loops 1.3 miles around the lake. $7 daily entry fee in season

8. Go Rock Climbing at Stony Ledges

Stony Ledges / Source: Walking Man 24 7

Just 8 miles south of Hillsdale, this county park offers scenic sandstone cliff ledges towering up to 40 feet tall – perfect for rock climbing adventures.

Outfitters like Adventure Calls provide gear rental, intro lessons, and guided climbs for all levels amidst the peaceful wooded setting. Permits are required.

9. Mountain Bike at Potato Creek State Park

Potato Creek State Park / Source: Visit South Bend

Located just over the state border in Indiana, Potato Creek State Park has over 15 miles of flowing single track mountain bike trails ranging from beginner to advanced.

Built across hilly glacial terrain, trail highlights include tight turns, bridges, and fun technical features. Trailhead parking off Worster Road provides easy access to the entire loop network.

10. Ride the Sauk Rail Trail

Sauk Rail Trail / Source: TrailLink

Stretching 12 miles from Hillsdale to Addison, the paved Sauk Rail Trail follows the old railroad bed northeast through rural Michigan countryside.

The multi-use trail provides a smooth path for walking, jogging, biking, rollerblading, and wheelchairs through small towns and scenic farmland along its route.

11. Catch a Baseball Game

Hillsdale Hornets high school / Source: Hillsdale Daily News

Enjoy America’s pastime under the lights by catching an exciting Hillsdale Hornets high school or American Legion baseball game during spring and summer.

Played at Hillsdale High’s baseball field, the small town atmosphere and passionate crowds make for an fun evening out supporting the hometown teams. Game schedules posted online.

12. Tour the Mosher House Museum

Hillsdale County Historical Society / Source: Hillsdale County Historical Society

Take a step back into the late 1800s at this Italianate Victorian historic home, now the Hillsdale County Historical Museum. Period rooms are decked out with antique furniture, décor, and local artifacts providing an intriguing glimpse into the past.

Inside the museum / Source: Hillsdale Collegian

13. Go Wine Tasting at Local Wineries

Wineries near Hillsdale / Source: Yelp

The Hillsdale area offers several scenic local wineries within a 20 minute drive of town. Tiburon Golf Club, Drewry Farms Vineyard, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, and Canterbury Country Wines provide charming tasting rooms, vineyard views, and samples of regional wines like ciders, fruit wines, reds, and whites. Most offer live music on weekends.

14. Shop the Hillsdale Farmers Market

Hillsdale Farmers Market / Source: Hillsdale Farmers Market

Open Saturday mornings May through October, the lively Hillsdale Farmers Market features 30+ local vendors selling fresh fruits and veggies, meats, baked goods, flowers, and handmade crafts.

Live music fills the air as patrons chat with growers and artists. A great outing to gather ingredients for a picnic or hike.

15. Explore and Bike Thompson’s Field Trial Area

Thompson Field / Source: AllTrails

Just north of Hillsdale, this large state park has 50 miles of trails open to hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing.

Maps located at the parking area trailhead help orient visitors through the park’s beautiful meadows, pine forests, wetlands, and rolling terrain.

16. Enjoy Squaw Lake County Park

Squaw Lake / Source: The Dyrt

Located 13 miles north of Hillsdale, this scenic county park sits along the shores of inland Squaw Lake. Visitors can sunbathe on the sandy beach, splash in the designated swim area, cast for fish from the pier, and picnic under shade trees during summer.

Playground equipment, grills, and volleyball complete the amenities at this relaxing lakefront destination. $2 daily admission fee.

From scenic parks and trails to indie shops, museums, and cafes, Hillsdale provides a nice blend of natural beauty and small town charm. The variety of attractions and outdoor recreation offer fun for all interests during a Hillsdale getaway.

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