Photo: David Prahl/Shutterstock

6 Differences Between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas

Michigan Insider Guides
by Nicole Wildman Jan 13, 2017

Most of Michigan’s population and its major cities are in the lower peninsula, while much of its beauty is in the upper peninsula. Although the two peninsulas make up one state, there are some major differences from one side of the Mighty Mac to the other.

1. The food

Most of Michigan’s major cities are in the south, and that’s where most newcomers live when they move to the state, bringing new kinds of food with them. Due to the real estate crash a few years ago, chefs from out of state are moving in and opening restaurants of all kinds, especially in Detroit.

Detroit is also known for pizza, Grand Rapids is known for its breweries, Frankenmuth is known for its chicken… while the upper peninsula is known for more traditional foods like pasties, fresh fish, and homemade jam.

2. The accent

A Yooper accent, also called Yooper English, definitely sets those from the upper peninsula apart from the lower peninsula. While all Michiganders can sound Canadian at times, it’s likely for different reasons.

In the U.P., Yoopers tend to accentuate the first syllable of every word, which probably comes from the Finnish immigrants who felt at home in the cold forest and lake covered peninsula. In the lower peninsula, we’re known for accentuating the letter ‘a’ and making things plural when they’re not.

3. The people

Yoopers, or people from the U.P., tend to be more outdoorsy, more resilient to the cold weather, and most of them have been in small town Michigan for much longer than those in the south. All of these are almost necessary to survive there.

Those who live south of, or under, the Mackinac Bridge (which connects the two peninsulas), are called trolls. Major cities, the auto industry, and currently, cheap real estate, attract a variety of people to Michigan, so the L.P. tends to be home to city folk, out-of-towners, tourists, and a variety of people.

4. The tourism

Tourism in Michigan is a big deal, but tourism in the upper peninsula is not the same as tourism in the lower peninsula. In the lower peninsula, tourists come from all over the world. Along the west coast and Lake Michigan, people from Chicagoland tend to vacation in large numbers. Out of state visitors might even make it as far north as Sleeping Bear Dunes or Traverse City. Farther east, however, is mostly Michiganders, from the dark sky park to Lake Huron. Vacationers in the lower peninsula like to relax at the lake, be in the sun, and enjoy the fine wines, beers, and foods Michigan offers.

The Upper Peninsula attracts a more adventurous traveler. Most of the tourists who make it that far north are true outdoorsy people, and they’re ready to explore land or lake without worrying about things like bears, cell phone service, or sleeping in a tent.

5. The guns

Unfortunately, the way guns are used tends to vary between the peninsulas. Michigan is a big hunting state, and guns are common. However, because the major cities are in the south and both Detroit as a city and Michigan’s economy went downhill in recent decades, gun violence is a major issue in the south, especially around Detroit, Flint, and the state capital – Lansing.

In the UP, however, hunting is definitely the most common use for guns.

6. The winters

Michigan is notorious in the United States for its miserable winters. Because of the lakes, however, there is a huge difference between winter in the U.P. and winter in the L.P.

The U.P. tends to be much colder and get much more snow, and it’s not uncommon for those who reside there in the winter to own skis, skates, snowshoes, and snowmobiles. In the LP, although residents are well prepared for cold and all sorts of winter weather, the amount of snow is much lower, temperatures tend to be warmer, and outdoor activities tend to be fewer and farther between.

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