20 Best Things to Do in Pontiac, MI

Pontiac, MI
Jacob Boomsma / shutterstock.com

Just 30 minutes north of Michigan’s biggest city, Detroit, lies Pontiac, a city located in Oakland County.

Founded in 1818, Pontiac is best known for hosting General Motors’ manufacturing plants in the 20th century, establishing Pontiac’s economy, and growing the region's wealth.

The city relies on an automobile-driven economy, not only because car plants operate here.

It even had an automobile model named after it in the 1930s.

Pontiac is rightly proud of its roots and industrial heritage; it is also a great town that offers unique experiences partnered with a Midwestern charm.

Are you ready to explore Pontiac, MI?

Here are the 20 best things to do in the city:

Visit the Eternal Mother Temple (Parasakthi Temple)

Exterior of the Parasakthi Temple
Shibamouli Lahiri, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Built in 1999, the Eternal Mother Temple, also known as the Parasakthi Temple, is a six-path pilgrimage for Hindu worshippers located in the heart of Pontiac.

According to the American Community Survey, not many may know that Michigan has a sizeable foreign population, with South Asians from India being the second biggest group next to Mexicans.

The temple is open to all, Hindu worshippers and visitors alike.

Goddess Adi in Parasakthi Temple
Rashkesh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The temple offers over 6,000 square feet of space for worship and prayer and venues for small events and gatherings.

The temple’s exterior also features a small stream.

Animals such as deer occasionally pass by, coming from the surrounding woods.

A visit to the Eternal Mother Temple is a unique and enriching experience and brings religions and communities together.

Get a Fun Fright at the Erebus Haunted Attraction

Located in downtown Pontiac, the Erebus Haunted Attraction is a four-story haunted house offering visitors a fun and exciting fright.

Visitors looking for a unique experience can test their courage and visit the Erebus Haunted Attraction.

The haunted house features state-of-the-art special effects, similar to Hollywood's best.

You better scream out and run for your life, either facing or avoiding the demons and devils coming out to bite, grab, and attack!

But rest assured, everyone will come out of the Erebus Haunted Attraction unscathed.

Watch Local Performance Art at the Flagstar Strand Theater

Interior of Flagstar Strand Theater
Senator Stabenow, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 1921, the Flagstar Strand Theater is a proud Pontiac institution.

Local architect Lee John Heenan designed the theater in the Renaissance style, spanning three stories.

The theater can seat over 1,200 patrons spread across an orchestra floor and two balconies.

The Flagstar Strand Theater hosts a bevy of live events, from music to plays and performance theater, from local and visiting acts alike.

Stop by Charlene’s, inside the theater, to grab a quick bite and a cocktail or two.

The theater is not only a venue to enjoy live entertainment.

It is also a place that nurtures and educates budding thespians, hosting programs such as a Summer Camp to hone talent.

Theater enthusiasts would have a good time at the Flagstar Strand Theater.

It’s an unmissable destination in Pontiac!

Take a Hike on the Clinton River Trail

With a trail extending 16 miles across Oakland County, the Clinton River Trail is an excellent destination for those looking for a piece of nature in the heart of the suburbs.

The Clinton River Trail was once a rail line known as the Michigan Airline, running through cities in the county from Sylvan Lake to Pontiac.

Visitors can take the challenge of trekking all 16 miles of the trail, doing an inter-city tour on foot.

Hiking the Clinton River Trail is also a great experience where one can see both nature and urban development in the county, with the trail having both dirt roads and asphalted blocks in its path.

Experience Michigan History at the Pine Grove Historical Museum

Exterior of Pine Grove Historical Museum
Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Formerly the home of former state Governor Moses Wisner, the Pine Grove Historical Museum features the lifestyle of people in Michigan during the 19th century.

A lawyer by profession, Wisner had a passion for farming, so he bought the land to cultivate chickens and cattle and grow vegetables.

Upon his election as governor in 1858, he renovated his home in Pontiac to accommodate his official responsibilities; the city had no official governor's residence.

Pine Grove features his home plus a few outbuildings, including a kitchen, a smokehouse, a root cellar, a one-room schoolhouse, and a former carriage house that hosts the Pioneer Museum and Research Library.

Visitors can take guided tours of the facility or independently visit the house and grounds.

Selected community events also occur at the Pine Grove Historical Museum, including their annual Summer Social.

See Handcrafted Pieces at Epiphany Studios

Local artist and master glassblower April Wagner owns Epiphany Studios, open since 1993.

Located in an idyllic estate set near the Dawsons Millpond, the studio comprises a state-of-the-art hot glass facility spanning 4,000 feet.

It is also home to the largest re-heating chamber in the state, with surrounding nature and water views.

Visitors can see all of the handcrafted glass works made by Wagner and her team, which are also available for purchase.

Workshops are also open for those interested to see and experience the process of glassmaking.

Visitors can get their hands dirty and make their unique glass masterpieces.

Special exhibits are also occasionally displayed at the studio, showcasing the art and talent of local glassmakers in Pontiac.

Rev It Up at the GM Performance and Racing Center

Pontiac is a car enthusiast's city, and the GM Performance and Racing Center is another must-visit destination in Pontiac.

Located on the General Motors compound, the center gives visitors a sneak peek at how racing pros prepare for the road.

The massive 111,420-square-foot facility showcases automobile prep for different races and tracks like road, drag, oval, and Indy car racing.

The center also highlights the marvels of engineering for these automobiles, using their resources and technology to produce powerful and more efficient racing cars to blaze the tracks.

Visitors can see the preparation process from engine assembly, machining, and testing to calibrating.

The GM Performance and Racing Center is a unique experience that one can only see in Pontiac!

Enjoy Live Music at the Crofoot

A drummer performing at The Crofoot
Thatcommonkid, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located in downtown Pontiac is the Crofoot, a premier event destination in the city's heart.

The building itself has a deep-rooted history in Pontiac.

The Crofoot’s original structure dates to 1830, constructed in the burgeoning Pontiac business district.

It is the oldest commercial building still standing in the city.

Today, the Crofoot is a well-loved event venue in Pontiac, hosting hundreds of live events, including concerts, parties, weddings, and festivals.

The Crofoot has a rotating line-up of events, including performances from local and national music acts.

With the gorgeous views of the adjacent Crystal Lake, The Links at Crystal Lake is the perfect place to play golf and relax when in Pontiac.

Golf enthusiasts and beginners can play on the grounds’ 18-hole course.

Tournaments are also occasionally hosted at The Links, where spectators can watch and see the pros at work.

For visitors just in it for the views and landscapes, the club also offers dining options and sleek indoor lounges, perfect for some quiet time or a nice lunch and chat with friends.

See the Legacy of Pontiac at the Pontiac Transportation Museum

The transportation industry has been the city's beating heart for the 19th century.

Pontiac was instrumental in shaping the American transportation and automobile industry since the Industrial Revolution.

Located in the historic district along Pike Street, the Pontiac Transportation Museum celebrates the history of Pontiac in that era, telling its story to both visitors and locals.

The museum features artifacts that showcase the rich history of Pontiac in the automobile industry, including models of old cars made from the 19th to the 20th century.

Car enthusiasts would get a kick out of seeing the vintage models and knowing the stories behind them and the hands that helped build them.

The Pontiac Transportation Museum is a great place to learn more about the story of Pontiac, Michigan!

Have a Relaxing Stay at Murphy House Bed and Breakfast

Murphy House Bed and Breakfast is a haven of hospitality in downtown Pontiac.

The home, originally built in the 1800s by James and Elizabeth Murphy, has become a local community pillar and a sight to behold.

Throughout its journey, The Murphy House has served many purposes.

The historic inn offers guests a chance to experience local culture and tradition.

Today, it provides rooms that have been newly renovated while still retaining their original charm.

Guests can also enjoy access to an on-site restaurant that serves traditional Michigan cuisine made from fresh ingredients sourced locally whenever possible.

Conquer the Quest at Erebus Escape

Erebus Escape is an adventure game that will thrill and challenge players of all levels.

Participants will be locked inside a room to use their wit and skill to solve puzzles within 60 minutes.

The story behind the game is set in a post-apocalyptic world where mankind must fight against Erebus, an evil tyrant who has seized control.

Each puzzle requires solving many steps – creating a thrilling experience for everyone involved.

Several themed rooms are available for those seeking a bit more excitement!

With immersive audio-visual effects and professional actors, it's no surprise that Erebus Escape has quickly become a popular attraction for all ages in the Pontiac area.

Watch an Event at M1 Concourse

A car show at M1 Concourse
Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

M1 Concourse is the ultimate destination for car enthusiasts.

It blends style and speed to provide the ideal automotive events and entertainment venue on its 87-acre site.

The state-of-the-art motorsport facility offers a one-of-a-kind experience for drivers and spectators alike.

Whether you're looking to showcase your vehicle on the world-renowned 1.5-mile road course or just want an up-close view of some of the most exotic cars in the area, M1 Concourse has something for everyone.

This motorsports complex features a high-performance driving school and track day events, giving drivers access to professional instruction and training.

Pamper Yourself at Bee Waxed Cosmetics

Bee Waxed Cosmetics has made its grand entrance into Pontiac, MI.

Located in the heart of downtown Pontiac, Bee Waxed Cosmetics offers premium quality makeup products that will leave customers looking fabulous.

The store is stocked full of various cosmetics from top brands.

Customers can find everything from foundation to lipstick and eyeshadow at Bee Waxed Cosmetics.

Not only do they have a variety of colors to choose from, but they also specialize in organic makeup products that are free of toxins and harsh chemicals.

To make shopping easier for customers, Bee Waxed Cosmetics provides helpful tips so people can easily find the right product for them.

Re-energize and Dine at Jalapenos

Jalapenos Restaurant in Pontiac is a hidden gem for Mexican food lovers.

The family-owned restaurant has been serving delicious, authentic Mexican cuisine since 1997.

Jalapenos strive to provide genuine traditional family meals created by genuine Mexican traditions.

From their best-selling burrito to the popular street tacos and specialty margaritas, Jalapenos strives to provide a unique experience with each menu item.

The atmosphere of Jalapenos is casual yet inviting, creating a vibrant atmosphere that will make you feel right at home.

The staff is friendly and attentive, always ready to answer any questions about the menu or specials.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Play at Legoland Discovery Center Michigan

Colorful entrance of Legoland Discovery Center Michigan
Ilze_Lucero / Shutterstock.com

Kids and adults would have a great time at Legoland Discover Center in Michigan!

Located in nearby Auburn Hills, the Legoland Discovery Center is the only ultimate indoor Lego playground in the state.

Enjoy over ten different attractions at the site, encouraging kids to play, discover and have a great time!

Visitors can do viewings at the Lego 4D cinema or experience virtual reality through the Great Lego Race VR Experience.

Kids can also play with the Legos and do their kooky creations at the Lego Racers and Lego City Play Zone.

After a day of fun, families can have a few refreshments at the adjacent café and bring home some toys and souvenirs from the Lego store.

Go Camping at Hawk Woods Park

Located in neighboring Auburn Hills, the Hawk Woods Park is a great place to bask in the great outdoors when in Pontiac.

There are various outdoor recreational activities for visitors to enjoy, with the park spanning over 80 acres.

The park has amenities such as the Hawk Lodge and six overnight cabins for those looking to spend the night amid nature.

More adventurous visitors can pitch their tents and camp overnight in the woods.

Active visitors can also hike or jog around the park, offering manicured, picture-perfect trails with flora and fauna growing in its paths.

Hawk Woods Park is a great place to relax and bask in the outdoors when in Oakland County!

Take a Boat Out on Loon Lake

A kayak on Loon Lake
Hgjudd at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located in the nearby Waterford Township, Loon Lake is a great place to spend a day in the water when visiting Pontiac.

The largest lake in Waterford, the area spans over 243 acres, with the deepest point going as deep as 73 feet.

Visitors can take a boat out and try their luck fishing, with different varieties inhabiting the lake, including largemouth bass, northern pike, and yellow perch.

The nearby shore area is a picturesque place to set up a picnic or spend a great day outdoors with family and friends.

Bicycles are also permitted in select parts of the shore park, and portions of the lake are open for swimming.

Enjoy a relaxing day in Loon Lake on your trip to Michigan!

Enjoy a Splash at the Waterford Oaks Waterpark

A visit to Waterford Oaks Waterpark sounds like a great time, especially during the hot summer months!

The Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department maintains this park in the Waterford Township.

It's a great destination for friends and family looking to have some fun in the sun.

The water park features multiple amenities, including a big tropical wave pool.

Bubbler fountains and a children’s water playground are also available for a nice, cool splash as they run and play around the park.

Waterford Oaks Waterpark is also an excellent destination for a summer barbeque, with picnic areas and grills available for public use.

A splash by the pool partnered with a Midwestern barbeque lunch sounds like a great time, so don’t miss out on the Waterford Oaks Waterpark.

Score Unique Finds at the Dixieland Flea Market

Located along the Dixie Highway, the Dixieland Flea Market is an excellent destination for visitors looking for unique and kooky finds!

You'll never know what you’ll find since you can find everything here!

You can spend hours roaming around the different stalls and vendors at the Dixieland Flea Market from collectibles, glassware, vinyl, jewelry, and vintage items.

The flea market facility measures over 90,000 square feet and features over 200 vendors.

You're bound to find what you’re looking for.

Take the time to scour and score the best deals at the different stalls.

If you get hungry, there is also a food court area with various shops selling everything from burgers to ice cream.

You’re bound to find something to satiate your craving.

Running for more than 45 years in Oakland County, the Dixieland Flea Market is a beloved destination by locals and collectors alike.

It definitely cannot be missed on a visit to Pontiac!

Final Thoughts

Pontiac is a great destination for travelers looking for unique and vast experiences.

From automobile history to unique attractions and nature destinations, Pontiac offers all that in its over 20 square mile expanse.

Don’t forget to put Pontiac on your list of travel destinations.

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