The Best Things to Do in Michigan With Kids
We are very fortunate to be Michiganders.
We are surrounded by the Great Lakes. We have four distinct and beautiful seasons, Superman ice cream, Faygo pop, and two Big Ten teams to cheer.
We also have a state so enriched with diverse wildlife, history and culture that we don’t need to leave its borders for an amazing vacation. Whether headed to Lake Michigan, Mackinac, Detroit or anywhere in between, there’s an abundance of places to visit in Michigan for every family.
Our suggested twenty things to do in Michigan with kids are by no means a complete listing; the beauty of places to visit in Michigan expands far beyond this list.
Read on to discover a sampling of things to do in Michigan with kids and plan your next in-state adventure.
20 Places for Kids to Visit in Michigan 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.
Here are the favorite places to visit and best things to do in Michigan with kids:
With 129 still standing, Michigan boasts the most lighthouses of any state in this country.
You could spend days chasing down lighthouses in our state.
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 lighthouse picks include 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.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN + UPPER PENINSULA
|Palms Book State Park|
Manistique, MI 49854
Kitch-iti-kipi is a must-see while you’re in the U.P.
When you visit, you’ll pull yourself across Michigan’s largest spring on a glass-bottom raft.
The crystal clear water of this 40-feet deep spring makes it easy to see the giant trout and other fish swimming below, and if you look carefully, you can see the springs bubbling up through the soil on the bottom.
Bonus: No charge for this experience!
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 at the iconic Grand Hotel (grab some ice cream at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor while you’re there!).
Michigan Legacy Art Park
|Michigan Legacy Art Park|
12500 Crystal Mountain Dr, Thompsonville, MI 49683
Experience art outdoors with Michigan Legacy Art Park in Thompsonville.
This 30-acre wooded preserve combines art and hiking in a truly unique experience. For those familiar with Art Prize in Grand Rapids, picture those art pieces dropped in the middle of northern Michigan woods.
Hikers can opt for multiple trails of varying lengths; the total distance is less than two miles. Each piece has a sign providing information on the artwork and its creator.
Placement of the art installations is very intentional here: this massive barn chair invites visitors to take in the sights of the Betsie River Valley.
Petoskey, Castle Farms, and Lavender Hill Farm
Searching for Petoskey Stones is a rite of passage for many Michiganders and one the most popular summer things to do in Michigan with kids.
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.
5052 M-66, Charlevoix, MI 49720
Head to Castle Farms in Charlevoix to view the 100-year-old castle and grounds that offer family fun.
Try the hedge maze, a reflection pond where you can feed rainbow trout, museum collections, and the largest working outdoor model railroad in Michigan with over 70 trains.
|Lavender Hill Farm|
7354 Horton Bay Rd N, Boyne City, MI 49712
Nearby in Boyne City, visit relaxing Lavender Hill Farm, a spectacular working farm where you are surrounded by the scents and acres of lavender.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Is visiting a national park on your list of things to do in Michigan with kids?
Hugging Lake Superior’s shore for about 40 miles is the country’s first national lakeshore: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
The sandstone cliffs are a marvel of colors and shapes due to the streaks of mineral stains 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.
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
Come experience the mighty Soo Locks and become awestruck by the 1,000-foot freighters that pass through it. Approximately 500,000 people visit these iconic locks that connect Lakes Superior and Huron each year.
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.
|Tahquamenon Falls |
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.
Traverse City remains one of the most popular vacation places to visit in Michigan with kids.
Plenty of concerts and festivals provide 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.
Only a little over an hour away from Kalamazoo, Holland is a beautiful city that packs both modern fare and old world.
The Tulip Time Festival every spring offers over 4.5 million tulips abloom as well as parades, shows, and special activities for children.
This annual event is among many families’ favorite things to do in Michigan with kids.
Afterward, head over to Nelis’ Dutch Village and try on a pair of wooden shoes.
Enjoy the beautiful Dutch architecture and 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.
Lake Michigan Dunes
Lake Michigan is home to some of the most impressive sand dunes in the country, stretching along the west coast of the lower peninsula.
There are seven sand dune areas on Lake Michigan, including the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Northern Michigan.
Also popular is 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 option 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 roller coaster that lives up to its name).
Michigan’s Adventure is always rated as one of the top things to do in Michigan with kids.
SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN + THUMB
Belle Isle and Downtown Detroit
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.
It’s definitely one of the more popular places to visit in Michigan with kids.
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.
Big Ten Football Game- University of Michigan
1201 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
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.
Alternating stadiums each year, UofM and MSU battle it out for the Paul Bunyan trophy, which is an especially fun game to watch.
|Detroit Zoo |
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.
Definitely put the Detroit Zoo on your list of things to do in Michigan with kids.
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.
Frankenmuth and 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) – visiting water parks tops the list of things to do in Michigan with kids for many families.
|Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland|
25 Christmas Ln, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
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.
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village
|Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village |
20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124
Detroit is known for Motown music and its cars.
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.
Port Austin, MI 48467
While Lake Michigan is known for its sand dunes, don’t discount Lake Huron as another beautiful Great Lake worth a visit.
We recommend a stop at Turnip Rock, a somewhat hidden gem on the lake, and one only accessible by water. Avid kayakers will enjoy the challenge of paddling out to this picturesque spot.
If traveling with little ones (or less confident in your boating skills), there are paid boat tours available to see this beauty.
Big Ten Football Game – Michigan State University
325 W Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824
If you’re a Sparty fan, catch a Big Ten game in East Lansing on Michigan State’s campus. 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.
|Michigan State Capitol |
100 N Capitol Ave, Lansing, MI 48933
The Michigan State Capitol is one of those wonderful places mutually enjoyed by all ages. Kids are welcome in our Capitol building and they love to see all of the beauty, history, art, and information just like we do.
13 monuments grace the grounds before you even walk into the building, including “The Hiker” monument – sculpted by the first famous American woman sculptor.
Sauntering the halls and seeing the wall-to-ceiling hand-painted detail and the architecture is breathtaking! Each balcony has a unique view, and you’ll find extensive amounts of art throughout.
The Ledges at Fitzgerald Park
133 Fitzgerald Park Dr, Grand Ledge, MI 48837
The Ledges are 300 million-year-old ancient rock formations, spanning close to 5 miles along the Grand River through two Eaton County park trails and one Grand Ledge city park.
Visit the Ledges and you’ll be standing next to the largest outcropping of rocks in Central Michigan. In some places, the rocks tower 60 feet over the shores of the Grand River.
As you walk toward the river at Fitzgerald Park, you’ll find a big long staircase leading down to The Ledges trail along the river. If you head to the left, you’ll find smaller Ledges, but glorious views of the river and wildlife.
If you head to the right, you’ll walk over a bridge onto large ledges with multiple off-shoot trails along the way.
One of the most popular spots along the right side of the staircase is the huge overhead train track bridge. This track is active and you could possibly catch a train going by on your hike.
In addition to hiking trails, there’s also a playground, train trestle, fish ladder, 18-hole disc golf course, nature center and so much more fun.
We think the mitten state is pretty special. Did we miss one of your favorite in-state destinations? Let us know in the comments!
Map: Places to Visit in Michigan with Kids
Places to Visit in Michigan Near Me
PIN for reference