Ludington MI Trip Planner: Family-Friendly Things to Do

Ludington for Families

Make Ludington MI your Next Getaway

Looking for an up north beach town that doesn’t take all day in the car to reach?  Ludington is the ticket.

A trek to upper Michigan is something our family tries to plan every year. With work schedules and kids’ activities, that isn’t always in the cards and we found only a few weekends available to travel.

A few years ago, our family had a pit stop stay in Ludington MI and I remember thinking at the time – we need to return for a true visit and exploration of this charming town.

We barely had time to scratch the surface of what this town had to offer. And, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit we never even made it to the #1 one spot locals recommend for a tasty treat..more on that.

Where is Ludington, Michigan?

Ludington is easy to get to. Located on the western side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Ludington is south of Manistee but north of Muskegon.

A smidge over two hours from Kalamazoo (or Lansing) and less if traveling from Grand Rapids we (and by we, I mean me) had the car loaded by mid-morning and were soaking our toes in the sandy beach by lunchtime.

Fast forward a few years and our family taking in the beauty of this picturesque town. A self-described planner, I mapped out our weekend itinerary with help from the Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. A handy resource loaded with events, festivals, and a breakdown of things to do in Ludington by season.

Discover all the ways to pack in family fun with a visit to Ludington.

Things to Do in Ludington MI – Downtown Area

downtown things to do ludington mi
Downtown Things to Do in Ludington, MI

Enjoy Stearns Park – a Lake Michigan Beach!

420 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431

Lake Michigan Stearns Park Beach is a must-visit gem with FREE admission and parking.

After a day spent at this beach, we can see why it’s so popular.

Families love the amenities – skate park, mini-golf, concessions, and ample free parking.

Photo Op:  Capture the kids with the Ludington North Breakwater Light in the background.


Climb to the Top of the Lighthouse

Stearns Park Beach, Stearns Park Outer Drive, Ludington, MI 49431

Near Stearns Beach is the Ludington North Breakwater Light.

For a nominal donation, climb the 53 lighthouse steps to the top and treat yourself to a view of the Ludington harbor.

Lighthouse tour hours are available May 28-September 6, 2021, Tuesday-Sunday. ($8 adults, $5 children.)

Call (231) 845-7417 to check operational status before heading out – tours are held when weather cooperates and staff is in place.

Ludington MI Breakwater

Waterfront Sculpture Park: Take Sculpture Selfies, Watch the SS Badger & Conquer the Playground

Waterfront Sculpture Park
391 S William St, Ludington, MI 49431

While downtown, don’t miss Waterfront Sculpture Park near the Badger docks.

Home to nine bronze historical sculptures, a walking loop, green space, and an extensive playground, this place is a natural draw for families.

Photo Op: You’ll have lots of chances to grab a great photo on this awesome playground, or with the nine sculptures depicting the history of Ludington.

Watching the Badger

Ludington is a Lake Michigan port for a 1950s-era steamship the S.S. Badger. The Badger is the last coal-fired car ferry steamship in the United States.

From Waterfront Sculpture Park, you can watch the ship make its way from Ludington to Manitowoc, WI twice daily.

Photo Op: Catch a pic of the kids waving as the steamship makes its way in or out of port.

S.S. Badger
701 Maritime Dr, Ludington, MI 49431

Playground at Waterfront Sculpture Park
Watching the S.S. Badger from Waterfront Sculpture Park in Ludington, MI

Shop the Cute Downtown

Downtown Ludington

Within walking distance of Stearns Park Beach is the shopping district offering a medley of quaint shops.


Stop into Sandcastle’s Children’s Museum

129 E Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431

The kids can pack a ton of fun into an afternoon at Sandcastles Children’s Museum with three full floors of interactive play.

My kids are older and I still had to drag them out of the museum for lunch. Kids can climb through the S.S. Badger playship or give the climbing wall a try. Don’t miss the third floor with the cool Sound Stage.

Open 7 days a week.
Daily admission: $8
children under 1: free

Playing at the Sandcastles Children's Museum in Downtown Ludington
Playing at the Sandcastles Children’s Museum in Downtown Ludington

Get Sea Legs at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum

217 South Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, MI 49431

Learn about Ludington with a stop at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum.

Home to a former coastguard station, this museum is rich with history and interactive exhibits.

Make sure to climb up a replica of the North Breakwater Lighthouse. Our entire family took the wheel to experience what it was like to pilot the carferry Pere Marquette 22.


Cool off at the Ludington Splash Pad at Peter Copeyon Park

900-998 S Washington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431

Things to Do in Ludington MI – Beyond Downtown


Tour Historic White Pine Village

1687 S Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431

Tour Historic White Pine Village where you’ll find a  cluster of replica historic buildings that show what life was like in the 1900s. They offer a living-history, family-friendly, fun-filled tour of a late 19th – early 20th-century pioneer village.

Think Greenfield Village on a small-scale. The kids will love exploring the historic buildings on the grounds and interacting with pioneer characters.

Historic White Pine Village is open early May through October and takes around 2 hours to visit.


Jump Around Fun Center

1830 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431

Jump Around Fun Center & VR


Ludington State Park & Big Sable Point Lighthouse

8800 M-116, Ludington, MI 49431

Head just outside of town to Ludington State Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at hiking the dunes, or plenty of other water sport activities – including big wave fun on Lake Michigan.

Or, if calmer waters are more your style, take a dip at nearby Hamlin Lake. We spent all afternoon at this beach location – with shallow water and minimal waves – it’s perfect for smaller children.

Photo Ops:
(1) Walk the Skyline Trail for sweepinbg dune and lake views.
(2) Don’t miss the distinctive black and white tower of this historic beacon as a backdrop (it’s worth the 2-mile walk, if little feet can handle it)


Amber Elk Ranch

2688 W Conrad Rd, Ludington, MI 49431

Things to Do in Ludington MI Area – Oceana County


Country Dairy

3724 S 80th Ave, New Era, MI 49446

Save time as you’re heading home for a stop at Country Dairy, located in New Era (30 minutes south of Ludington). Take a guided tour of the working farm. Grab lunch at the deli and enjoy bottomless glasses of chocolate milk


Stony Lake Stables

4345 S 44th Ave, New Era, MI 49446


Fox Barn Market & Winery

500 18th Ave, Shelby, MI 49455


Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo

4180 M-20, New Era, MI 49446

Also in New Era, you’ll find Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo offering acres of activities for the kids. All ages will catch air on the giant jumping pillow or take a ride in the BumpAlong Barrel Train. Purchase a cup of food and the animals will come flocking to you.

Where to Eat in Ludington

Jamesport Brewing Company

410 S James St, Ludington, MI 49431

Our entire family loved Jamesport Brewing Company.

Offering a well-rounded menu, try the Bavarian Pretzels – served with house-made beer cheese dipping sauce – for a savory treat. The burgers and fries are also top-notch. 

Ask to sit outside on the deck for great views.

Fish Keeper’s Shack

Ludington Bay Brewing Company

515 S James St, Ludington, MI 49431

Cafe 106

106 N Rath Ave, Ludington, MI 49431

Old Hamlin Restaurant

122 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431

 Q Smokehouse

225 S James St, Ludington, MI 49431

Take a nibble at the Q Smokehouse offering slow-smoked barbecue plates with homestyle sides.

We ordered the BBQ Pork sandwiches (with the Q’s special pork rub) and the Shells & Cheese side. With easy online ordering, you can enjoy the feast at the beach.

 House of Flavors

402 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431

Save room for dessert at the iconic House of Flavors, with its catchy 50s diner décor.  As I said, we missed this stop on our first stay in Ludington and boy do I regret it!

This time, our family went all-in with the Little Piggy dessert – served in a mini trough. Delicious.

While you wait in line for ice cream (yes, plan on a wait during peak times), check out the paper straw casings stuck in the ceiling and ask a server the reason.

House of Flavors Restaurant in Ludington, MI

Where to Stay in Ludington

Finding a place to stay isn’t hard and Ludington offers a variety of accommodations from boutique cottages to spacious resorts. You’ll want to book early though.

Find Ludington-area accommodation options that best fit your family’s needs and budget.

Ludington Beach House

120 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431

About Ludington Beach House: A local developer purchased the former Lakeside Inn of Ludington and remodeled the entire hotel with all-new rooms and queen beds and unique, cottage-chic decor (no two rooms are alike). 

As one the closest lodging to Stearns Park Beach and Ludington North Breakwater Light, the rooms feature refrigerators, flat screen televisions and microwaves.  Outdoor heated pool and free high-speed Wi-Fi.  Studio,1- and 3-bedroom units. 

The Ludington Beach House has a walkable downtown Ludington location. Remote keyless access and individual entry (motel-style) allows for minimal contact. 

Nader’s Motel & Suites

612 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431

The family-owned Nader’s Motel & Suites, located on Route 116, is another popular option – offering spacious rooms and an outdoor heated pool.

In-town resort atmosphere in-town with the perfect location across from Lake Michigan.

Updated motel with lots of amenities. Walk to downtown, restaurants, marinas, shopping, parks and the car ferry. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers in every room. Full kitchen suites available.

Outdoor heated salt-water pool, picnic area, free bike rental, shuffleboard, etc.

Ludington Pier House Motel 

805 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431

The Ludington Pier House Motel has one of the best locations in town – a short walk to Stearns Park Beach. We stayed here during our first visit. It’s also within walking distance to downtown.

You need only walk a bit to capture a Lake Michigan sunset.

Clean, family-friendly motel, with an indoor heated pool. Walking distance to the beach, parks, lighthouse, marina, downtown restaurants and shopping. Family-size rooms. Free wireless internet/ Cable TV Online Specials. 

Ludington Comfort Inn

5323 US-10, Ludington, MI 49431

For those of you who prefer hotel life, the Comfort Inn gets a big thumbs-up from families (it’s about a 5-minute drive to downtown).

The hotel has a large indoor heated pool, free breakfast, a playground, and picnic area. Consider booking a family suite, offering extra space. 

Kids will dig their colorful bunk-beds. Oh, and it’s pet-friendly.

Ludington Visit with Families
Bunk Beds at Ludington Comfort Inn

It’s hard to know where to point the camera because Ludington is bursting with beautiful backgrounds.

In the end, Ludington is fantastic and deserves a visit.

Do you have any places that you keep going back to? What about some activities that are a must for your family while on a beach vacation in Michigan?

Kids in Ludington

Thanks to Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for hosting our visit.
All opinions are my own.