12 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.
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 Fort Mackinac.
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).
Michigan’s state rock is the Petoskey stone. There are two beaches in particular that are hotspots for the unique stone: Petoskey State Park and Magnus City Park Beach. Stroll downtown Petoskey for a fun vibe with niche shopping. Within walking distance of downtown is Bayfront Park. Kids will enjoy playing at the waterside playground.
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!
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.
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.
Afterward, 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, 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 the Holland area in the summer? Enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches, visit the Outdoor Discovery Center or cool off at the Zeeland splash pad park.
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. 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 an ideal getaway any time of the year. A perfect blend of indoor and outdoor fun awaits.
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. Don’t miss the lower level of the Bavarian Restaurant Inn for unique shopping or to purchase a bag of taffy.
Visit the outdoor River Place Shops, a unique german-themed shopping mall. Hop aboard the Bavarian Belle paddleboat for a one-hour tour.
Kids will love the indoor water parks at Zehnder’s Splash Village or the Bavarian Inn Lodge (make sure to try the indoor putt-putt at the Bavarian Inn Lodge).
A stay at Frankenmuth isn’t complete without a visit to 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. 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.
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. Make sure to watch both a sunrise and sunset from downtown beaches.
Make it a point to visit these waterfalls (aptly nicknamed the Root Beer Falls by locals) that are arguably the most beautiful in all of Michigan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 10 football game in person at the University of Michigan’s Big House or Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium.
Every year the two teams battle it out for the Paul Bunyan trophy which is an especially fun game to watch. Experiencing the pre-game festivities and tailgating to make sure a memorable family trip.
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