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When planning a family vacation, it’s probably not likely that you think of Michigan as your destination. With places like Orlando or Myrtle Beach, it’s easy to overlook the mitten state. However, Michigan boasts of some of the most idyllic locations, slightly off of the beaten path. This insider’s guide will give you plenty of kid-friendly destinations to plan your next dream vacation. Whether it’s a weekend winter getaway or the beginning of summer rendezvous, there are plenty of places for year round kid-friendly adventures in Michigan.
Year Round Kid-Friendly Adventures in Michigan
Fun Things to do in Michigan in the WINTER
Despite the appeal to hibernate in winter, Michigan is actually one of the most beautiful states to visit during the coldest months of the year. From skiing and snowboarding to scenic winter hikes, Michigan has it all!
The Upper Peninsula
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) averages 200 inches of snowfall a year, which makes for ideal conditions for any skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling activities. Coupled with the picturesque backdrop of the UP in all its natural glory, it is an ideal location for anyone itching to hit the slopes. Marquette County in the UP boasts of 170 skiable acres and offers dozens of activities for those seeking outdoor adventures.
Also known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth offers visitors a taste of Bavarian culture. Must-see attractions during any visit include Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, where you can celebrate Christmas year-round. Or, take a trip to the River Place Shops to experience the charm of Bavarian architecture. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, eat at one of the two restaurants that claim to have the world’s best chicken dinner: Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth.
Ride the Polar Express
Take a step back in time as you board the train in Owosso, Michigan for a four-hour round trip train ride to Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas. Enjoy a two-hour celebration that includes live entertainment, arts and crafts, and a visit from Santa himself! This memorable journey will give you a dose of nostalgia that accompanies the Christmas season.
Great Wolf Lodge
In case you are looking for an indoor escape during winter, Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City is an excellent choice and is a very appealing option for families traveling with children. Great Wolf Lodge’s massive indoor waterpark, complete with waterslides, aquatic play scapes, and multiple swimming pools is the perfect indoor destination for those wanting to get away.
Fun Things to do in Michigan in the SPRING
There is nothing quite like the beauty of Michigan in spring. With the retreat of winter, the options for destination vacations open up in new ways once the warmer weather sets in. There is no shortage of fun, Kid-Friendly Adventures in Michigan that you can find in the spring.
Return to the UP
When spring begins to defrost the northernmost parts of Michigan, it’s the perfect time to visit the over 300 waterfalls in the UP. In the event that you don’t have time to visit all 300, the top choice is to visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is largely undeveloped: no power lines, no roads. The heart of this park is the Tahquamenon River and waterfalls, one of the largest in the US. Venturing here will be worth the trip!
Tulip Time Festival
Holland, Michigan, located thirty minutes outside of Grand Rapids on the west side of the state, hosts a Tulip Time Festival each year. The tulip festival spans 8 days and celebrates the rich Dutch culture the city is famous for. While there, visit Windmill Island Gardens where over 100,000 tulips in bloom during spring.
Celebrate Michigan Wine Month
May is Michigan Wine Month, and what better way to celebrate than touring some of the amazing wineries in the state. A number of outstanding wineries dot the I-94 corridor in the southwest part of the state. Notable wineries include Round Barn, St. Julian and Shandy Creek Winery. Easily accessible from the highway, each of these wineries will definitely offer some major fun.
Located in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, Petoskey is the destination for hunting down the famed Petoskey stone, Michigan’s state stone. A great place to find authentic stones is at Petoskey State Park, where you can also take in the breath-taking views of Lake Michigan.
Fun Things to do in Michigan in the SUMMER
Summer is probably the best season to visit Michigan and take full advantage of all Michigan has to offer. From Lake Michigan on the west side of the state to Lake Huron on the east, you will easily fill your vacation itinerary!
National Cherry Festival and Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
Traverse City is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Michigan, this is especially true in summer. There are two major draws for Traverse City in the summer: National Cherry Festival and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. The Cherry Festival happens every year in July and draws nearly 500,000 each year. The festival includes a midway complete with carnival rides, food vendors serving up enticing cuisine and live entertainment. A trip to Traverse City wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes and capturing Lake Michigan in all its glory at the peak of the dunes. Plan a picnic and spend the day hiking the dunes and enjoying the splendor of Michigan in summer.
A twenty-five-minute drive from Traverse City will put you in the heart of Interlochen, Michigan, home to world-renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts. While visiting, must-see attractions include Interlochen State Park, nestled between the banks of Green Lake and Duck Lake; as well as live entertainment and activities at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Anyone planning to visit Michigan must add a trip to Mackinac Island to their list. Although it is the biggest tourist attraction in the state, it is well worth the hype. Enjoy the beauty of the island on foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage. While visiting, make sure you stop by one of the island’s butterfly houses, take a trip to Fort Mackinac for a self-guided tour, and stop by one of the many fudge shops to take home a delectable souvenir! Once you cross over to the mainland, take some time to visit Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park & Zipline for a fast-paced zipline excursion.
Mackinac Island Boat Race
Every year, Port Huron hosts the Bell Beer Mackinac Boat Race. The Friday leading up to the boat race, you can enjoy Boat Night, where you can view the sailboats preparing to participate in the race, enjoy carnival rides and live music. Stick around for the start of the race on Saturday!
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Minutes away from downtown Grand Rapids, Meijer Gardens is a 158-acre botanical garden, which integrates sculptures throughout the sprawling gardens. The park features an English garden, Japanese garden, Victorian garden, as well as a Children’s garden. This spectacular attraction is sure to wow.
Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park
Much like Six Flags and Cedar Point, Michigan has its own claim to amusement park fame with Michigan’s Adventure. Michigan’s Adventure will debut Camp Snoopy, perfect for younger kids, as well as WildWater Adventure and Funland Farm, Michigan’s Adventure’s petting zoo for animal lovers.
Fun Things to do in Michigan in the FALL
Is there anything really more beautiful than seeing a full display of fall foliage? Though Michigan is a beautiful state year-round, there is a special beauty that‘s on display during the fall months. Plan a long weekend to take in Michigan in all its splendor in fall with these Kid-Friendly Adventures in Michigan.
M-119 Heritage Route
Also known as the Tunnel of Trees, this 27 mile stretch of road from Harbor Springs to Cross Village is home to a breathtaking array of northern hardwoods lining the highway and creating a tunnel effect for those driving the bends and curves of this route. Popular stops along the drive are Angell Farm, Five Mile Creek Schoolhouse, and Devil’s Elbow and Horseshoe Curve, which hosts the most canopied part of the trip.
Spicer Orchards Farm Market & Cider Mill
The Michigan apple has world renown, and Spicer Orchards is the ideal place to experience a favorite fall pastime of Michiganders. During the fall, Spicer’s Orchard offers a range of activities for all to enjoy including, a corn maze, wagon rides, train rides, pork barbecue cookouts, and more. Top off your trip with donuts and cider made at the orchard.
Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum
Home to the University of Michigan Wolverines, Ann Arbor is also a major cultural attraction for visitors each year. The Hands-On Museum is perfect for families with children whose curiosity is piqued by the world around them. Let their imaginations run wild as they explore all the museum has to offer. If you have older children or young sports enthusiasts, watch the Michigan Wolverines in action at the Big House during football season, a true Michigan tradition.
Honestly, this list could go on and on. Michigan has so many hidden gems to explore. When you’re planning your next vacation or weekend escape keep these year round kid-friendly adventures in Michigan in mind!
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