So, you've decided on Michigan for a family vacation. You’ve made the right call! Contained within the state of Michigan is just about every option you could ask for in terms of travel destinations. We've got woods and plains, we've got casinos and high-end eateries, and of course, we've got water. Water for days out here—you don’t have to drive far in any one direction without hitting some. There are plenty of options for the whole family. Sit back and relax, because we're about to show you 14 great things to do with the kids in Michigan.
There are plenty of outdoor water parks in Michigan eager to help you beat Michigan's summer heat, but easily one of the most representative is Turtle Cove Aquatic Center in Belleville. Featuring multiple water slides, a lazy river, a “kid's sprayscape” complete with dumping bucket that holds 300 gallons of water at one time as well as some less extreme options for the smaller set, Turtle Cove boasts attractions enough for just about anyone, and it's a great start to a complete water park tour of Michigan.
If that seems redundant, bear in mind that the indoor water parks aren't so much designed to beat Michigan's heat, but rather beat Michigan's often intense winter cold. You'll have plenty of options here too, but Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City might be the most representative of the breed. Featuring several water slides, kid-friendly options, a lazy river attraction, and a fitness center and spa for both adults and kids—seriously, there's a kid-friendly spa for the princesses out there—as well as dining and hotel options, it's a great family getaway.
For zoos, you'll have plenty of choices, but in particular, consider Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. It's not Michigan's biggest zoo, but it's got plenty of options for families to take in. Measuring 433 acres, Binder Park Zoo offers a host of options including the Wild Africa exhibit, featuring such natives as the Red River Hog and the Reticulated Giraffe. Also, check into the special events the zoo boasts throughout the year like the Halloween-themed Zoo Boo event and the ZooLights Christmas special.
It's a funny point, but did you know that Michigan has the most freshwater shoreline in the United States, and the second longest shoreline period, second only to Alaska? It even has a complete driving tour devoted to it known as the Circle Tour. The Circle Tour segments itself well, allowing drivers to take just as much tour as they'd like, or as the kids can stand. Update your passports for some of it, because those who want to run the whole 6,500-odd miles of it will need to go into Canada for parts of Lake Huron, Erie, Ontario and Superior.
Grand Rapids is home to an unexpected family friendly activity: A massive tire swing known as the Motu Viget. Named for the city's motto—which translates literally as “strength through activity”—Motu Viget wasn't exactly intended to be a rideable tire swing, but it's become one anyway, and one that entire strings of families have enjoyed for decades.
Michigan doesn't go wanting for museums, and for those who worry about the kids enjoying one, sometimes it's a matter of finding the right museum. Muskegon's Lakeshore Museum Center boasts several examples of museum in its purview, opening up options for everything from the Michigan Heritage Park to the Body Works science center, allowing kids access to everything from full-sized schooners to exhibits on how the body works.
The Diane, a Coast Guard-documented ferry in Saugatuck, represents one of the most unique ferries you've likely ever seen, and there's a good reason. It operates only in fair weather—strong winds, heavy current, or electrical storms shut it down—and it's strictly a passenger ferry. The Diane is one of a few examples of a chain ferry operating most anywhere, with a 400-foot length of chain that pulls it across the river where it operates.
Hickory Corners is home to the Midwest Miniatures Museum, a museum that specifically devotes itself to a kind of toy, the miniature. From tiny dolls to miniature houses for same and well beyond, there are themed exhibits, assorted vignettes, and most anything that can be done in miniature. While some might be disappointed at not being able to play with the contents, the end takeaway is that some incredible work in miniature is taking place here, and viewers will doubtless be happy to see it.
Michigan is awash in classic car shows, thanks in large part to its automotive history. It's hard not to find one going on somewhere, especially in summer. For one of the best, though, try the Gilmore Car Museum also in Hickory Corners. The Gilmore Car Museum runs a Cruise-In every Wednesday in summer, allowing visitors to check out classic cars of most every type and description. Even when there's no car show, the museum itself will still have plenty of cars on display to check out at most any given time.
Of course, you could always go to Tiger Stadium, but for those who don't want to shell out big money on a ball game, consider a minor-league game instead. The West Michigan Whitecaps play out of Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, and offer a complete roster of games that are every bit as much baseball as the Tigers themselves. With grill areas, a playground, and the Centennial Securities Dream Deck—which required modification of left field to improve the chance of catching an actual game ball—there's something for every sports fan right here and then some.
Sand can be found all over Michigan. It makes well-drilling out here fairly easy in many places. Full on lakeshore sand is just as easy to find, and for the absolute king of sand piles, check out Sleeping Bear Dunes near Empire. Recently voted the most beautiful place in America by “Good Morning America” viewers, Sleeping Bear Dunes offers a thoroughly massive pile of sand in which to play. Other natural attractions are on hand in the area, and for a summer romp, few places can beat this combination of natural beauty and fun.
No, seriously, a chocolate factory tour. There's likely more than one afoot, but the Sanders Chocolate Factory in Clinton Township offers regular tours of the factory, complete with free samples. This one hour tour includes a video presentation, a trip along the factory's observation walkway, a visit to the Chocolate and Ice Cream Shoppe, and as mentioned previously—you never can say this kind of thing often enough—free samples. There's even a self-guided tour through the candy kitchen. Oompa Loompas are, at last report, not included.
Lansing is Michigan's capital, and as such, is home to the capitol building, which has been in place and operating since 1879. It's one of the first buildings to feature a cast iron dome, and the building itself holds something of an architectural pedigree as it was originally designed by Elijah E. Myers. A regular slate of tours runs through the building, and will show off not only artistic points, but also offer historical perspective on Michigan government.
Yes, Michigan even has amusement parks, and there are few greater family-friendly activities than an amusement park. Operated by Cedar Fair, the same people who run Ohio's Cedar Point, Muskegon's Michigan's Adventure has been a long-standing alternative to making the trek to Ohio for a day of roller coaster fun. Packed with roller coasters, thrill rides, dining options and even its own separate water park—not surprisingly known as Wild Water Adventure—Michigan's Adventure has been offering high-speed fun and thrills for decades.