Experience the Wonder of Michigan Together
Kids. We can’t stop them from growing up – and time seems to speed on by – but we can try to make sure to experience the memorable parts of Michigan.
When considering the next family trip, find yourself ‘smitten with the mitten‘. Michigan offers a diverse array of scenery and wildlife as well as cities that expand our horizons by exposing us to new foods and cultures without having to travel outside the state.
Our ten spots are by no means a complete listing. The beauty of Michigan expands far beyond this list.
Read on to discover a sampling of all places unique to Michigan that make for a truly wonderful family adventure.
Ten Places to Visit with Kids Before They Grow Up
Cannons booming, the Mackinac Bridge in the background, and Fort Mackinac standing guard, Mackinac Island is a slice of Victorian history right here in the middle of Michigan.
Horses and bicycles abound since motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the island. The island offers a huge variety of things to do with the family from tasting the world-famous fudge, cycling around the island, riding horses, hiking on nature trails, and visiting the fort.
The journey starts with a 30-minute ferry ride to the island from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. The 500 permanent resident size swells in the summer season.
An abundance of hotels and bed & breakfasts lodging options are available on the island if you choose to stay. It wouldn’t be a visit to Mackinac Island without a stop to the iconic Grand Hotel. Stop at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor for a sweet treat (the parlor is located outside the hotel’s east entrance, and open is to all Mackinac Island visitors with no hotel admission fee).
Fort Mackinac has also been recognized by National Geographic as one of the best state parks in the country.
Michigan’s state rock is the Petoskey stone, a prehistoric fossil only found in the Traverse Bay and Petoskey area. The best time and place for hunting for these fossils is in the spring on a Lake Michigan beach. There are two beaches in particular that are hotspots for the unique stone: Petoskey State Park and Magnus City Park Beach.
Plan a trip to nearby Castle Farms in Charlevoix to view the 100-year old castle and grounds that offers family fun such as a hedge maze, reflection pond where you can feed rainbow trout, museum collections, and the largest working outdoor model railroad in Michigan with over 70 trains!
For literary fans, Ernest Hemingway spent many of his boyhood summers in the Petoskey area, and there’s a self-guided tour to step back in time.
Nearby in Boyne City, visit relaxing Lavender Hill Farm and while you’re there, soak up some music at their summer concert series!
Only a little over an hour away from Kalamazoo is this beautiful city that packs both modern fare and old world. There are plenty of reasons to visit Holland, notably the Tulip Festival every spring where there are over 4.5 million tulips abloom as well as parades, shows, and special activities for children.
Afterwards, head over to Nelis’ Dutch Village and try on a pair of wooden shoes! If you can’t go in the spring, Holland’s Dutch Village is still open and worth the visit. Enjoy the beautiful Dutch architecture, canals, learn the “klompen” dance, watch artisans make cheese and candles and go down the wooden shoe slide. There’s also a petting zoo, and rides for kids.
Stop for a photo op at Windmill Island Gardens, which is the only authentic Dutch windmill in the United States.
Visiting Holland in the summer? Enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches, climb the sand dunes and enjoy dinner al fresco after attending an art fair.
With 129 still standing, Michigan boasts the most lighthouses of any state in this country and may are located in or around state parks, perfect for a family vacation. No two are alike from the color of the light to the shape of the tower.
Some lighthouses have museums where you can learn the lighthouse’s history and/or are open to allow visitors to climb to the top for a stunning view over the lake. Steps to the top are on average between 80-130 and worth the exercise.
Top lighthouses to visit in Michigan are Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Little Sable Point Lighthouse, Mission Point Lighthouse, New Presque Isle Lighthouse Park and Museum, Tawas Point Lighthouse, and Fort Gratiot Light Station, the oldest operating lighthouse in the state.
Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth, is somewhere you can easily spend the day with the family. Enjoy one of their famous all-you-can-eat chicken dinners at one of the many restaurants, eat some fudge or taffy at one of the many unique stores, or head over to the brewery for some German beer.
Don’t forget to visit the shops at River Place Shops where the family can board the paddleboat named the Bavarian Belle.
There are also many indoor water parks in the area for the kids if you need to cool off.
No matter the season, don’t forget to stop at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store for one-of-a-kind decorations and holiday ornaments.
Lake Michigan is home to some of the most impressive sand dunes in the country thanks to glacier melt and leftover quartz being ground into super fine sand. What better way to enjoy it than visiting some of the dunes and racing down them while enjoying the beach?
There are seven sand dune areas on Lake Michigan in our state alone, including the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, voted by the viewers of Good Morning America as the most beautiful place in America. Also popular is Silver Lake Sand Dunes where you can take a guided dune buggy tour or even rent vehicles to explore the dunes.
Fulgurites are often found in these dunes; glass formations caused by lightning hitting the dunes. Nearby is Ludington State Park and Hamlin Lake dune area.
Make it a point to visit these waterfalls that are arguably the most beautiful in all of Michigan, and one of the largest east of the Mississippi. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is almost entirely undeveloped wilderness without roads or power lines.
There are two sets of falls, the Upper and Lower and if you visit, you need to head to the Upper Falls for parking. After you park, there is a short hike to the observation deck to view them. The Upper Falls are over 200 feet across with over 50,000 gallons of water per second cascading down them.
If you choose to hike the trip to the lower falls it’s a four mile hike and there’s an ice cream shop at the Lower Falls as a reward for making the round trip! If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of some of the more elusive wildlife of the Upper Peninsula, such as a moose.
Two hours away is another one of the Upper Peninsula’s major water attractions, Kitch-iti-kipi. Meaning “Big Spring”, the spring is two hundred feet across and forty feet deep and has 10,000 gallons a minute gushing from many fissures in the limestone.
The spring never freezes so it can be enjoyed year round. View it from the shore or from a self-operated glass bottomed observation raft that is pulled across the spring by a cable.
Detroit is known for Motown music and its cars and there’s no better way to see Detroit’s history and dominance in the early automobile scene than the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn.
There is the Henry Ford Museum itself, as well as the opportunity to take the Ford Rouge Factory Tour and see the F150 being made.
Next door is Greenfield Village, created in 1929 as an educational and historical village. Here you can see the original light bulb, an old working farm, and artisans practicing their trades from years past. Make sure to grab lunch at one of the unique restaurants in the village.
An IMAX theater is on site, and it shows a variety of movies, not just about cars.
Hugging Lake Superior’s shore for about 40 miles is the country’s first national lakeshore dedicated in 1966. The sandstone cliffs are a marvel of colors and shapes due to the streaks of mineral stain decorating them.
There is no better way to see them than a two-and-a-half hour boat cruise on the lake from mid-May through October. Feeling adventurous? Kayaking is a popular activity and way to view the cliffs.
The Soo Locks and the different types of boats and freighters passing through mesmerize kids of all ages.
Head to the observation platform to watch the magic for yourself. Or, choose one of the many boat tours, which will give everyone a close up view of the action and learn about the different vessels passing through.
Make a stop to the Visitor Center and theater where the family can learn how the locks were constructed and why this water feature exists as well as learn about the U.S. relationship with Canada.
Pin for reference
What’s your favorite place in Michigan to visit with the kids? Or what do you think is a “must do” before the kids grow up?