15 Places to Visit with Kids Before They Grow Up
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.
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.
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 Fort Mackinac.
The journey starts with a 30-minute ferry ride to the island from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.
An abundance of hotels and bed & breakfast 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 (grab some ice cream at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor while you’re there!).
5052 M-66, Charlevoix, MI 49720 (Castle Farms)
7354 Horton Bay Rd N, Boyne City, MI 49712 (Lavender Hill Farm)
Petoskey is home to Michigan’s state rock (the Petoskey stone). If you want to snag one as a souvenir, your best bets are Petoskey State Park or Magnus City Park Beach. Make sure to stroll downtown Petoskey for a fun vibe with niche shopping.
Head to nearby Castle Farms in Charlevoix to view the 100-year old castle and grounds that offer family fun: try the 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.
Nearby in Boyne City, visit relaxing Lavender Hill Farm, a spectacular working farm where you are surrounded by the scents and acres of lavender. Make sure to see the labyrinth where you can hand-cut your own bouquets.
42 W 8th St, Holland, MI 49423
Only a little over an hour away from Kalamazoo, Holland is a beautiful city that packs both modern fare and old world. The Tulip Festival every spring offers over 4.5 million tulips abloom as well as parades, shows, and special activities for children.
Afterward, head over to Nelis’ Dutch Village and try on a pair of wooden shoes. Enjoy the beautiful Dutch architecture, canals, 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.
If Holland is on your summer schedule, visit the Outdoor Discovery Center or cool off at the Zeeland Splash Pad Park.
8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067
There’s going to the zoo, and then there’s going to the Detroit Zoo.
The penguin exhibit is phenomenal with surrounding tanks and multimedia included. This 33,000 square foot exhibit is the largest penguin habitat in the world, featuring 75 penguins among its four species. Other fan favorites include the polar bears, grizzly bears, and gorillas.
At 125 acres, the Detroit Zoo gives its animals plenty of space to move and interact. Visitors will also have numerous photo opportunities as their vast grounds are beautifully landscaped.
With 129 still standing, Michigan boasts the most lighthouses of any state in this country.
Many 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.
Top lighthouses picks: 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.
25 Christmas Ln, Frankenmuth, MI 48734 (Bronner’s)
Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth, is an ideal getaway any time of the year.
Enjoy the famous all-you-can-eat chicken dinners at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. Make sure to watch the historic Glockenspiel tell the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. We recommend buying the taffy downstairs.
Kids will love the indoor water parks at Zehnder’s Splash Village or the Bavarian Inn Lodge (try their indoor mini golf).
No matter when you visit, it’s always Christmas inside Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. This store features over 50,000 Christmas items and is the size of one and a half football fields, making it the largest Christmas store in the world.
Lake Michigan is home to some of the most impressive sand dunes in the country. What better way to enjoy it than visiting breathtaking views of dunes and racing down them while enjoying the beach?
There are seven sand dune areas on Lake Michigan, including the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Also popular, Silver Lake Sand Dunes, where the family can enjoy a thrilling guided dune buggy tour.
4750 Whitehall Rd, Muskegon, MI 49445
Amusement park and waterpark in one, Michigan’s Adventure is a fantastic, driveable option for families looking to get away for the day. Your ticket covers admission to both the rides and Wildwater Adventure, making this park a very affordable one for families.
Whether your family includes thrill-seekers who love roller coasters or little ones who simply want to splash and play and ride the carousel, this park covers all of the bases. Some favorites to try: Camp Snoopy, wave pools at WildWater Adventure, and Shivering Timbers (a rollercoaster that lives up to its name).
Use our tips to maximize your family’s visit.
303 E State St, Traverse City, MI 49684
Traverse City remains one of the most popular vacation destinations in the state. Plenty of concerts and festivals provides non-stop action. Visit during the annual Cherry Festival in mid-summer and make sure to watch both a sunrise and sunset from downtown beaches.
Kids will also love the indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge and ice cream at Moomers.
41382 W M 123, Paradise, MI, 49768
Located in the Upper Peninsula, these “Root Beer Falls” are arguably the most beautiful in the state.
There are two sets of falls: Upper and Lower. If you’re up for a hike, park at the Upper Falls and you’ll find your way to the Lower Falls four miles later.
Parking is also available at the Lower Falls and both locations have gift shops to commemorate your visit.
20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124
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. The Henry Ford Museum also features a large civil rights exhibit which includes the Rosa Parks bus.
Make sure to take the Ford Rouge Factory Tour and see the F150 being made.
Adjacent to the museum 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. Some historical pieces have moved here from overseas; Cotswold Cottage relocated to Greenfield Village from the Cotswold Hills in southwest England.
Hugging Lake Superior’s shore for about 40 miles is the country’s first national lakeshore. 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.
Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
Come experience the mighty Soo Locks and become awestruck by the 1,000-foot freighters that pass through it. The sights and sounds are enough to mesmerize visitors of all ages. With a two-story observation platform, you can see the impressive engineering feat up close and personal.
Boat tours are also available if you want to get even closer to the action.
325 W Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824 (Spartan Stadium)
1201 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Michigan Stadium)
What better way to get pumped up than by cheering on your favorite football team? Plan a trip with the kids to see a Big Ten football game in person at the University of Michigan’s Big House or Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium.
Every year, the two in-state rivals battle it out for the Paul Bunyan trophy, which is an especially fun game to watch. Experience the pre-game festivities and tailgate to ensure a memorable, family trip. For older kids, consider a night game under the lights for added excitement.
99 Pleasure Dr, Detroit, MI 48207
Trips to Belle Isle and Downtown Detroit are something families can enjoy year-round; we highly recommend visiting both locations on your next trip to the east side of the state.
Belle Isle is a beautiful, 982-acre state park, featuring a conservatory, aquarium, nature center, and beach. This tiny island is coined the “Jewel of Detroit” and was designed as an urban oasis from the city.
If you’re new to Downtown Detroit and don’t know where to start, try our guide. Favorite spots include the riverfront splash pads, Eastern Market, and the beach at Campus Martius in the summer and the Winter Wonderland in the same location in the winter.