15 Amazing Family Things to Do in Plainwell, Otsego, Allegan and Fennville

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What’s in between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids?

Head north on 131 and you’ll find multiple welcoming communities including Allegan, Fennville, Otsego and Plainwell.

While they began with paper mills and sawmills, these areas have transformed into unique cities with historical significance and recreational activities, enticing many families from both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo to relocate here.

What to do in Plainwell, Otsego, Allegan and Fennville with Kids

The communities north of Kalamazoo have many fun, family experiences to offer:

HISTORY: Allegan is well known for its historical business district. The “Old Iron Bridge” was built in 1886 and still stands today, thanks to continual preservation efforts.

FUN: Head to Riverfront Plaza and zoom across the river with a 600-foot zip line from Allegan Event.

FOOD: Plainwell offers two delicious ice cream options: Plainwell Ice Cream Co. and Dean’s Ice Cream. We recommend both.

OUTDOORS: Allegan Game State Area offers 50,000 acres to explore, including two campgrounds and over 20 miles of hiking trails.

Allegan, Michigan

Photo: City of Allegan

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DEMOGRAPHICS

What it’s like to live here

Head north of Kalamazoo and you will find an abundance of outdoor activities: splash pads, kayaking, skiing and zip-lining are just a few options in these communities.

Life in Plainwell

Why people love to live here:

Family favorite Sherwood Park is nestled between two ice cream shops within walking distance: Plainwell Ice Cream Co and Dean’s Ice Cream.

Thurl Cook Park is the ultimate sledding spot for winter, featuring a 100-foot lighted hill.

You should know:

Plainwell is known as the “Island City” due to a power canal diverting a portion of the Kalamazoo River around downtown Plainwell.

Food giant Tyson Foods has a meat processing plant in Plainwell.

Plainwell

Population: 3,842

Schools:
Plainwell Community Schools

Known For:
» Plainwell Ice Cream
» Dean’s Ice Cream
» Tyson Foods

Life in Otsego

Why people love to live here:

Bittersweet Ski Resort and its 350 foot vertical draws skiers and snowboarders from all over the Kalamazoo area annually.

You should know:

Founded in 1831, Otsego was originally named Pine Creek. Its current name was assigned four years later.

The Otsego volunteer fire department started in 1866 and is still in operation today.

Otsego

Population: 4,066

Schools:
Otsego Public Schools

Known For:
» Bittersweet Ski Resort

Life in Allegan

Why people love to live here:

The Allegan County Fair is the largest in Michigan, hosting a massive agricultural and entertainment event since 1852.

You should know:

Pharmaceutical company Perrigo is headquartered in Allegan since its inception in 1887.

The Allegan Community Players is the oldest theatre company in Michigan.

Allegan

Population: 5,068

Schools:
Allegan Public Schools

Known For:
» Perrigo
» Second Street Bridge
» Allegan County Fair

Life in Fennville

Why people love to live here:

The Forever Curious Museum supports imaginative play with a vet clinic, fire truck exhibit and STEAM challenges.

You should know:

Fennville’s name is attributed to early settler Elam Atwater Fenn, who built a sawmill in the area.

Fennville is part of the American Viticultural Area or AVA, a designated wine-grape growing region.

Fennville

Population: 1,446

Schools:
Fennville Public Schools

Known For:
» Goose Festival
» Forever Curious Museum
» Crane Orchards

Important Message: Area businesses are working to implement procedures based on the new safety guidelines. For each of the attractions and events we mention, we include a link to the business website. Please use this link to confirm the details, hours of operation and any requirements guests must follow before visiting. Thank You!

THINGS TO DO

01 – Climb the Walls at Allegan Event

Allegan Event
439 River St, Allegan MI 49010

Allegan Event is packed with indoor adventures: ropes courses, vertical slides, free fall jumps and rock walls are just some of their attractions to try. After your adrenaline rush, take a break with their new arcade area, featuring virtual reality gaming.

Looking for more adventure? A five-minute drive takes you to their outdoor, 600-foot zip line that allows you to zoom across the river.

02 – Pick the Perfect Pumpkin at Crane Orchards

Crane Orchards
6054 124th Ave, Fennville, MI 49408

Crane Orchards has a little bit of everything: u-pick fruit (peaches and cherries in the summer; apples and pumpkins in the fall), fall activities (hayrides, corn maze) plus a pie pantry and restaurant.

You can also rent their spacious lakefront luxury home on the shoreline of Hutchins Lake.

Apple Orchard

03 – Get Ready to Deck the Halls at Leber Christmas Tree Farm

Leber Christmas Tree Farm
2439 36th St, Allegan, MI 49010

A family tradition for over 100 years, the Leber Christmas Tree Farm is passionate about its firs and spruce trees. All trees remain planted and growing until purchased to take home and decorate. Take a wagon ride to select your perfect tree and stop in the heated gift shop for coffee or hot cocoa before you head home.

04 – Ride the Ferris Wheel at the Annual Goose Festival

Goose Festival
Fennville, MI 49408

This annual in Fennville promotes area game and wildlife, as thousands of Canadian geese pass through the Allegan State Game Area during migration. For over thirty years, the weekend-long event includes a carnival, car show, parade, fun run, cornhole tournament and live music.

05 – Go Kayaking

Plainwell Kayak Company
211 N Main St, Plainwell, MI 49080

Plainwell Kayak Company features 1,2, and 3 hour Kalamazoo River trips or they can transport you to a local lake. Families can opt for either single or tandem kayaks. 

Furry family members are welcome here too: dogs can join you during kayak trips as long as you provide a canine life jacket.

Photo: Plainwell Kayak Company

06 – Explore your Artistic Side at Express Yourself Art Barn

Express Yourself Art Barn
6459 130th Ave, Fennville, MI 49408

This drop-in art barn welcomes all talents and ages to create projects in a variety of media: painting, beads, mosaics and glass fusing are all options here. Pay a flat fee for the studio and a small fee for your project and get started! They have staff on-site to help you create your masterpiece.

Art Barn

07 – Go Sledding at Thurl Cook Park

Thurl Cook Park
Oak Street & Glenview Circle, Plainwell, MI 49080

This 5-acre park features a 100 ft lighted sledding hill, a dog park, tennis, pickleball and basketball courts, and covered picnic tables.

08 – Eat Macarons at Island City Coffee House

Island City Coffee House
118 E Bridge St, Plainwell, MI 49080

Opened in 2019, Island City Coffee House makes its own macarons on-site in a vast variety of flavors. These melt in your mouth treats also adorn their delicious cakes.

Beyond macarons, this shop offers specialty coffees and tea, boba tea, smoothies and a variety of baked goods including scones and muffins.

bakery macarons

Photo: Island City Coffee House

09 – Listen to Live Music at the Allegan County Fair

Allegan County Fair
150 Allegan Co Fair Dr, Allegan, MI 49010

With 115 acres of land and over 38,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space, the Allegan County Fair is no small feat. This massive event is held annually since 1852 and hosts a full week’s worth of events.

Visitors can watch a parade, rodeo, tractor pulls, live music, monster trucks, and an extensive set of agricultural and livestock events.

10 – Hit the Slopes at Bittersweet Ski Resort

Bittersweet Ski Resort
600 River Rd, Otsego, MI 49078

Bittersweet Ski Resort offers 20 runs of skiing fun and a 350 foot vertical. Beginners can ride the “Wondercarpet” (think moving sidewalk) to the tops of the hill, rather than a chairlift. They also teach ski school, race camps, private and group lessons.

Don’t have your own equipment? Don’t worry- they offer rentals on skis, snowboards and helmets.

Otsego skiing

Photo: Bittersweet Ski Resort

11 – Pretend Play at Forever Curious Children’s Museum

Forever Curious Children’s Museum
202 E Main St, Fennville, MI 49408 

There is no shortage of pretend play at the Forever Curious Children’s Museum in Fennville. Your child can be a fireman, vet, artist and architect all within on the same day! Be sure to also explore the rock wall, inner tube bouncer and bubble table.

Children's Museum- girl with vet station

12 – Cool off in the Perrigo Splash Pad

Perrigo Splash Pad
189 Riverfront Plz, Allegan, MI 49010

Take a seat in the rainbow-colored chairs as the kids run and play through the long pad full of fountains and squirting water. This splash pad opened in 2019 as an addition to the Allegan Riverfront Boardwalk.

Perrigo-Plaza-Splash-Pad-Park-4

13 – Go for a Swim at Allegan Aquatic Center

Allegan Aquatic Center
1560 M-40, Allegan, MI 49010

Allegan Aquatic Center offers aquatic fun for all ages. The smaller, warmer pool includes a small slide, lazy river and basketball hoop, perfectly sized for younger swimmers. The larger, second pool features diving boards and an inflatable obstacle course for the big kids.

This facility also teaches swimming classes and is available for hosting birthday parties or other events.

Boys at Indoor Pool

14 – Grab a Scoop of Plainwell Ice Cream

Plainwell Ice Cream Co
621 E Bridge St, Plainwell, MI 49080

Open since 1978 by Art and Judy Gaylord, this now third-generation family-owned shop makes their own ice cream in house and offers over 60 varieties of dairy deliciousness.

15 – Have a Picnic at Dumont Lake Park

Dumont Lake Park
2417  31st St, Allegan, MI 49010

Dumont Lake Park is home to 550 feet of beach with a playground, restrooms, boat launch, and many picnic tables. This 18.6-acre park is also a favorite spot for fishing and features a watercraft/boat launch facility.

Lake Playground

Cover photo image credit: Positively Allegan

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