The gateway to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the town of Empire is the perfect place for outdoor lovers. Once a thriving lumber town, Empire offers some of the most awesome natural beauty in Leelanau.
Empire is home of one of most popular beaches on the Leelanau Peninsula. The wide, expansive beach area has Lake Michigan to the west and South Bar Lake to the east. It’s easy to spend the whole day here with a children’s play structure, basketball courts and beach volleyball courts. End your day sitting by a bonfire while watching a spectacular sunset. The Empire Bluff Hiking Trail gives hikers beautiful views of the dunes, Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands.
Downtown, you’ll find a mix of little shops and restaurants along with the headquarters of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where visitors can learn about the history and geology of the park and enjoy wildlife displays and historical exhibits. Pick up your trail maps and don’t forget to check the schedule of programs and walks led by Park Rangers. A trip through Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a must with a walk up to the Dunes Overlook situated 450 feet above Lake Michigan.
If you’re interested in the history of the area, the Empire Area Museum features a turn-of-the-century saloon, one room schoolhouse, 1911 firehouse, 1924 vintage gas station, blacksmith shop and woodworking shop.
The Empire Eagles is an active civic organization that hosts the annual Halloween Haunted Forest just east of town. Great fun for the whole family.
The biggest celebrations in Empire are the Asparagus Festival in May and Anchor Days in July. Both events feature parades through downtown.