5 Ideas for Michigan Family Vacations

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Five Michigan Vacations for When You Have Kids in Tow

If you’ve been tempted by that Pure Michigan slogan, you’ll be happy to know there are numerous destinations in the state worthy of your vacation time. Whether it’s Up North outdoors fun or big-city exploring that you crave, the Mitten State has an option for every type of family vacation. Here are five to consider.

Get Hands-On in Ann Arbor

Summer is prime time to visit Ann Arbor. Located just 42 miles west of Detroit, it’s well-known as the home of the University of Michigan, which usually keeps the town busy. But things slow down during summer when many of the students are away, so it’s the perfect time for a family visit. The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (220 E. Ann St., Ann Arbor, MI) is located in an old fire station and, as the name suggests, lets kids get hands-on with plenty of activities. They can hear their hearts beat, get encased in a giant bubble and make their own tornado. The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Bldg., 1109 Geddes Ave., Ann Arbor, MI) also has hands-on opportunities on the weekends, with a revolving theme, like Life: How Do We Find It? If you have a little fan of the prehistoric era, dinosaur tours are also offered on the weekends.

See the Outdoors in Grand Rapids

It might not be the kind of picnic-perfect park you’re used to, but Fish Ladder Park (560 Front Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI) is fascinating all the same—and free to visit. In late spring and early summer, fish travel on this large, artist-designed ladder to circumvent the rapids during migration. For more nature activities, check out Blandford Nature Center (1715 Hillburn Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI), which features a working farm, short family-friendly hikes on easy-to-navigate surfaces, and festivals throughout the year, like the Harvest Festival in October. If you have a babysitter for a few hours, don’t miss out on some of the city’s many breweries. Harmony Brewing (1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI), with its long tap list, is a TripAdvisor favorite.

Be a Beach Bum in St. Joseph

If you like the relaxation that comes with beach vacations, consider the shores of Lake Michigan. Silver Beach County Park (101 Broad St., St. Joseph, MI) offers plenty of sand for sandcastles and playing volleyball, as well as three playgrounds that are directly on the beach. After you’ve had your fill of the sun, head to the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone (415 Lake Blvd., St. Joseph, MI), which was created especially for kids ages 1 to 10 where they’ll find a 25-foot-high tower to safely climb, a water play area and a climbing wall.

Enjoy Old-Fashioned Fun on Mackinac Island

As if taking the ferry to this car-free island isn’t enough fun, animal-loving kids will love that horses are the main form of transportation here. Taking a tour with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours (7396 Market St., Mackinac Island, MI) soon after you arrive helps you get oriented and learn where all the popular sights are. Fort Mackinac offers kids interactive games and cannon demonstrations. Note that they have longer hours in summer. If all that exploring works up your appetite, stop by one of the island’s many fudge stores, like Ryba’s Fudge Shop (7245 Main St., Mackinac Island, MI), which offers flavors like sea salt caramel, peanut butter and many more.

Hike the Dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Visiting the state's numerous dunes is a summertime tradition for Michiganders. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (9922 Front St., Highway M-72, Empire, MI) is an especially family-friendly option. If you’re seeking a workout, the Dune Climb (6748 S. Dune Hwy., Glen Arbor, MI) is popular with all ages, though it can be strenuous and hot in the summer. Drink plenty of water and know that you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view if you make it to the top—450 feet above Lake Michigan. If your kids are captivated with the dunes and the lake, consider camping in the park. D.H. Day Campground (8010 W. Harbor Highway, Glen Arbor, MI) is a somewhat rustic experience, but offers easy access to the lake and ranger programs at night. The campground is open from the first Friday in April through the last Sunday in November.