Be a Tourist in Michigan
Spring and summer is a wondeful time for field trips and family excursions to learn more about Michigan: our food, our culture, and our history.
The Great Lakes State offers a bounty of tour opportunities – with everything from formally registered tours to drop-in style tours. You’ll get to see firsthand the inner workings of a variety of operations or explore the wonders of nature. We’ve highlighted tour options in Southwest Michigan and other options that require a bit of a drive.
With the family in tow, add these kid-friendly tours to your itinerary this year.
It’s always a good idea to call ahead to confirm tour availability and pricing.
Family-Friendly Tours to Try
Learn about our Farmers
Take a self-guided tour of MOO-ville, located in Nashville, about 40 miles northeast of Kalamazoo. It’s simple – pay at the front desk and then make your way up the hill to see the milking operation and pet their dairy cows. Taste freshly made ice cream and let the kids play on the playground and feed the animals at the petting zoo.
Head to the W.K. Kellogg Farm during one of their Open House days to take advantage of wagon rides, check out tractors, enjoy kid-friendly activities, and taste their delicious ice cream and cheese.
Enjoy a free one-hour self-guided walking tour to learn about farming while protecting our state’s natural resources, available from May through November at the Kellogg Biological Station – Long Term Ecological Research. Pick up a trail guide at the trailhead that will lead you through 16 stations.
Make Yourself at Home
Let yourself drift back in history on a self-guided tour of three historic museums in Marshall. Available from May thru October, families can gaze at the unique architecture all while learning about these 19th and early 20th century buildings, one being the last example of Gothic Revival architecture in a school.
Explore the W.K. Kellogg Manor for free and wander through their lush gardens on a self-guided tour. Visitors are visitors welcome year-round, Monday through Friday. During the week, you can even order lunch in the McCrary Dining Hall.
Explore 25 historic residences, businesses, and community buildings from throughout Barry County in Historic Charlton Park. Self-guided tour brochures can be picked up at the Upjohn House Visitor’s Center.
The Dr. Nathan Thomas House is a gem of local history. Dr. Thomas was one of Michigan’s most active Underground Railroad participants, a founding member of the state’s Republican Party and Kalamazoo County’s first physician. Tours can be arranged in writing to the Schoolcraft Historical Society.
Wednesday through Sunday, walk through the Vicksburg Historic Village. Period buildings, historic artifacts, and hands-on experiences tell the story of life in a small rural village in the turn of the 19th century.
Marvel at a Museum
Say hello to one of the docents after flying through everyone’s favorite cloud tunnel at the Air Zoo. The volunteers (many are veterans) are happy to take you on a free tour of the historic aircraft, spacecraft and restoration projects housed inside.
Print out a campus map of the Gilmore Car Museum, and vroom down the lanes with your family on a self-guided tour of one of the top car museums in the country. Browse historic automobile collections, visit the vintage Franklin and Model A dealerships and the 1930s Shell gas station, and enjoy lunch at the Blue Moon Diner in the summer.
Get Back to Nature
The Wolf Lake Hatchery in Mattawan offers 30-minute tours showing how the DNR raises millions of fish for Michigan lakes, rivers, and streams. Or grab a backpack from their Visitor’s Center filled with tools to do a self-guided scavenger hunt on their trails. This is a great place to see wildlife, and there is a board that lists what animals have been spotted that day.
Bird lovers can visit the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary and take a self-guided tour, where you will see birds of prey and many different types of waterfowl. Their main path is stroller-friendly, and you can pick up bird seed to feed the birds. Print out a map at home, or stop in their Visitor Center to grab a copy.
Future zoologists (ages 12 and up) in the family? If so, register for Binder Park Zoo’s Zookeeper For a Day program. Kids will have a chance to work alongside a zookeeper for five hours and get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work at the zoo.
Located in Zealand, families can visit Critter Barn and take a tour with a Critter Crew youth volunteer during their public visiting hours. Kids will love to pet, feed, and interact with favorite barnyard animals. Stay and enjoy a picnic under the canopy.
Reptile-lovers will delight in a visit to see over 150 American alligators, and other reptiles at the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary, located in Athens. Daily guided tours and animal interactions are available. Visitors can walk through the sanctuary and feed their favorite gators or simply watch them bask in the sun.
Kids will love singing along to some of their favorite tot tunes as they take a tram tour of the Meijer Gardens sculptures. The Kids’ Tram is offered seasonally.
The Kalamazoo Nature Center is packed full of tours for the entire family to get up close and learn about the natural world. Enjoy their stroller friendly hikes, owl prowls, maple sugar tours, and other tours throughout the seasons. Check their calendar for what’s happening this month.
Tours Worth the Drive
Explore USS Silversides, a real World War II submarine, through a self-guided or directed tour. Looking for a truly unique family experience? Become a ‘crew member‘ for an overnight encampment – walk the decks, explore the sub and the cutter, then sleep in the berth.
Visit Lansing and take a self-guided tour of the Michigan State Capitol Building. Marvel in the art, architecture, and history.
While at the Henry Ford Museum, take the Ford Rouge Factory and experience the making of America’s most iconic truck, the Ford F-150.
Located north of Muskegon you’ll find the Country Dairy Farm Store. Your tour will begin at the Visitor Center, the “Moo School” where you’ll learn about the dairy industry. Families will enjoy a guided tour of a working dairy farm and milk processing facility. Learn how milk is bottled and finish your tour with a sample of chocolate milk and try something they call “Moochies” (cheddar cheese curds).
Take a free tour in Chelsea of the Jiffy Mix Plant, and see how they make and package their mix in those adorable little boxes. Kids get a goodie bag and you have the opportunity to grab mixes while you’re there.
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