Top 10 Things to do in Michigan with Kids

While many know Michigan as the birthplace of the US auto industry, both locals and visitors appreciate its other claim to fame as a water wonderland. Michigan borders four of the five Great Lakes. It has the longest freshwater coastline in the nation. There are over 11,000 inland lakes which means that anywhere you go in Michigan, you are never more than six miles away from a body of water. Those looking for family fun in Michigan just need to get outside and appreciate the natural beauty of the state. From cozy towns like Marquette (our sponsor) in the Upper Peninsula to the bustling metropolitan area of Detroit, Michigan is packed with adventure for all ages. Come see our top 10 Michigan in the summer for a family vacation in this Michigan travel guide!

Top Family Friendly Hotels in Michigan

Michigan Travel Guide: Trekaroo’s Top 10 Things to Do in Michigan this Summer on a Family Vacation

10. Get a Bright Idea…Visit a Lighthouse for Family Fun in Michigan

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The Great Lakes are full of boating and shipping activity which means that you’ll be able to visit something you might only otherwise see at the ocean coasts: lighthouses! There are 115 lighthouses in Michigan, ranging from simple metal structures on a shore to historical museums with visitor centers, such as the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. This summer on you Michigan family vacation, be sure to climb the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes open to the public, the New Presque Isle Lighthouse!

 Is your family crazy about lighthouses? Check out these lighthouses around the U.S. our Trekaroo families enjoy!

9. Visit a Big City with Heart, Detroit!

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Most Americans associate Detroit with the heart of the auto industry. However, Detroit has a big heart of its own. It stands ready to share its history and fun with your family on a Michigan family vacation! Set on 125 acres with tons of hands-on activities and interactive animal displays, the Detroit Zoo is one of Michigan’s top visitor attractions. To get a glimpse of a different sort of Tiger, take your family to Comerica Park where Sundays are “Kids Days.” Enjoy a this baseball park that also boasts a theme park and baseball museum. Not far away, the Michigan Science Center is a top attraction for hands-on science activities and fun. A visit to Detroit is one of the best things to do in Michigan in the summer on a family vacation. 

Looking for family fun in Michigan? Check out more Detroit attractions.

8. Explore Family-Friendly Towns with Big Personality

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Michigan’s diverse, fun atmosphere is best expressed in its mid-sized towns with BIG personality, such as Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo. Ann Arbor is noted worldwide for its art and “foodie” culture. It hosts a variety of events throughout the year: the Summer Festival, Ann Arbor Art Fair, Film Festival, and more! It also boasts one of the state’s most popular children’s museums. 

Grand Rapids is a great place for a Michigan family vacation with outdoor activities at the Frederik Meijer Gardens, and the John Ball Zoo. Kalamazoo is the proud hometown of the Air Zoo aviation museum and indoor amusement park, voted “best place to take out-of-towners!” Towns like these cultivate family fun in Michigan and host festivals year-round to celebrate seasons, local history, and unique interests.

Looking for a place to stay on your family vacation to Michigan, check out our  favorite hotels: Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo.

7. Learn about the “Motors” of our Country at the Henry Ford Museum

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No visit to the Detroit area is complete without taking in over nine acres of “America’s Greatest History Destination” at The Henry Ford complex. The complex is a full day outing for families consisting of The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge factory tour, and IMAX theater. The impressive museum and historical site highlight the achievements of not only Henry Ford, but also the hard work of ordinary Americans who built this country. The displays at these sites are widely varied and impressive, including Wilbur and Orville Wright’s bicycle shop, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Rosa Parks bus, presidential limousines, and many other interesting historical artifacts America’s industrial age. Looking for one of the best things to do in Michigan this summer on your family vacation? The Henry Ford Museum is a great place to spend a day with the kids in Michigan. 

 Has this piqued your curiosity?  Explore our Top 10 Living History Museums.

6. Traverse City – The Cherry Capital of the World

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The “Cherry Capital of the World,” has been voted a “Top Ten Tourist Town” by Parents Magazine. In the northwest part of the lower peninsula, cozily nestled between the arms of Grand Traverse Bay, it has a unique character all its own. The unique geography of the area leaves the waters protected, offering long stretches of beaches for water play including swimming, fishing, sailing, and paddling.

Every year in early July, Traverse City pulls out all the stops to celebrate all things cherry at the National Cherry Festival in East Bay Park. Head north of Traverse City to view sprawling orchards, visit roadside fruit stands, sample local juices, and find the state’s best wineries. Visit the village of Old Mission, founded in 1839, the eclectic Old Mission General Store, the village schoolhouse, Old Mission Inn, and Old Mission Lighthouse at the very end of Mission Point.

Looking for things to do in Michigan in the summer? Check out the Cherry Republic in downtown Traverse City. Cherried out? Still plenty of food options for the family.

5. Visit Another Country! 

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Michigan has a rich history of immigrant settlements. As a result, it also has quite a few small towns steeped in culture from places such as Holland, Germany, and Finland. The Old Dutch attractions found in Holland, Michigan are always fun and family-friendly. Explore Nelis’ Dutch Village for hands-on learning. Then go to the Windmill Island Gardens to climb to the top of DeZwaan, the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the U.S. The highlight of Holland’s Dutch celebration begins in early May at the Tulip Time Festival, where you’ll find parades, concerts, Dutch food, dancing, and tons of cultural displays through town.

Frankenmuth is Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” and is the most popular place to visit in the state, despite its small size. Celebrate Bavarian culture at one of the several festivals held in the town throughout the year or discover delicious German foods at one of their many restaurants.

 Getting hungry? Here are more restaurants in Frankenmuth.

4. Just Dune It! Best Things to Do in Michigan in the Summer on a Family Vacation

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With all the water in Michigan, you’ll find a beautiful assortment of beaches and dunes. Your family can bury their toes and build sand castles all while you admire a view of the lake. Voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore includes a breathtaking 64-mile curve of beaches, coves, islands, and dunes worthy of exploration.

Visit Michigan’s #1 state park, Grand Haven State Park, to take in the beach that was voted one of the “best secret beaches on earth” by Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2012. While you’re there, be sure to visit the unique Musical Fountain. Near Sawyer, Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park provides another beautiful stretch of sand dunes that rise 260 feet above the lake for hiking or settling in to relax at the water’s edge.

Planning to enjoy a summer of family fun in Michigan? Enjoy the sand dunes with your kids and stay at these family friendly hotels!

3. Go Wild! Michigan Family Fun in the Upper Peninsula!

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Many Americans don’t realize that the state of Michigan is divided into two parts where the Mackinac Bridge connects the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.). Though the U.P. has nearly 1/3 of the land of Michigan, just 3% of the population lives here. What that means for locals and visitors is mile after mile of unspoiled natural beauty! Wilderness, secluded beaches, amazing rock formations, animal encounters, and over 324 waterfalls make the U.P. a natural playground for family fun in Michigan. 

The hub of the U.P. resides in the family-friendly town of Marquette, which is not only a beautiful port town on Lake Superior with numerous summer festivals, parks, restaurants, and the U.P.’s only children’s museum. It is the perfect launching point for exploration of the “wild side” of Michigan!

Looking for more family fun in Michigan? Check out our Michigan travel guide to  family friendly activities in Marquette.

2. Go Back in Time this Summer on a Michigan Family Vacation to Makinac Island

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Mackinac Island is one of those “must see” unique locations that rightfully earns its place on every Michigan travel guide. Take a 30-minute ferry to the island from either Mackinac City on the south side of the Mackinac Bridge or St. Ignace in the U.P. Prepare to travel back in time as you explore the island by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, or on foot, as there are no cars allowed on the island!  Historic Fort Mackinac allows visitors to experience the uniquely austere conditions the fort’s soldiers and families experienced in the 1800’s. Of course, no trip to Mackinac Island is complete without enjoying their iconic, freshly-made fudge! Make it a day trip or, better yet, overnight at one of the island’s historic hotels or B&B’s to fully experience its rich history.

Blast from the past! Find the best hotel deals here!

Convinced Mackinac Island is the place for your Michigan family vacation this summer? Read tips on how to have fun in Mackinac Island with kids.

1. Jump in a lake! The Best Things to Do in Michigan in the Summer on a Family Vacation

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There’s a good reason why Michigan is called the “Great Lakes State.” Lakes are unavoidable. Michigan has shoreline on four of the Great Lakes, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior. There are also thousands of smaller inland lakes scattered throughout the state. So, do as the locals and dive right in!

Take a glass-bottom boat tour to discover the shipwrecks in Lake Superior near Munising. While you’re on the shores of Lake Superior, view the breathtaking rock formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. A bit further to the northeast, the Soo Locks are a fascinating mechanical wonder. The locks can be explored from boat or from land in Sault Ste. Marie. How about a submarine? The U.S.S. Silversides, moored near Muskegon, is a place where kids can learn about World War II and submarine life. The Appledore Tall Ships provide public sails and dinner cruises from Bay City, near Saginaw, and the Tall Ship Manitou does the same from Traverse City. As you can see, there is no limit to the adventure and family fun to be had at Michigan’s lakes!

Many thanks to the Marquette County CVB for sponsoring this Top Ten Article!

Top 10 Michigan Marquette County Boat

Marquette is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is the ideal stomping grounds for those looking for adventure as well as those looking for a tamer experience. No matter what your idea of fun is, Marquette is the perfect year-round destination. From kid-friendly winter activities to classic summer fun. Marquette is an ideal first stop and launching-point to the greater U.P!


Need more inspiration? Watch this!

Now, what are you waiting for? Plan your next family-friendly adventure in Marquette!

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What state do you want to visit next?

From coast to coast, we’re determining the Top 10 Things to do with Kids in each state of our great nation.   Head here to see what tops the list in your favorite state.








About the author

Cheryl Eugenio is one of Trekaroo's Travel Experts. When she’s not busy running after her two young boys and girl, blogging at O the Places We Go, and planning their family’s next adventure, she’s enjoying the suburbanite life in her wee ‘lil suburb outside of Chicago.
14 Responses
  1. I’m so glad this inspired you! I live in Chicago and definitely need to make more trips to Michigan especially to check out their beaches. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I LOVE this article! Raised in Michigan, this was a great reminder of the many wonderful attractions waiting for me to revisit. Frankenmuth, Mackinac Island, Greenfield Village are great touristy places. I also love the “regular” locations: small town libraries that smell of old books, parks and picnics, walks along wooded streams. Thanks for the memories, and inspiration to make more!

  3. Thanks Molly Jo! I’m sure there are tons more in Michigan that we failed to mention. I’d love to hear about the libraries and parks and other off the beaten path attractions. In fact, I’m sure other Trekaroo families would as well! Will you share on Trekaroo?

    Thanks Jesse! The Upper Peninsula deserves to be on the list! Tons of fun for the family – especially those looking for adventures!

  4. Great list–many of my favorite places here, and many that I’ve written about myself!
    We’re off in a bit for a visit to Michigan’s eastern U.P., so I’m looking forward to revisiting Munising and checking Les Cheneaux Islands for the first time. Then we’ll slide by Hartwick Pines again on the way back home through the lower Peninsula.

  5. This is a GREAT list! Can you believe I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life and have never visited Michigan?!?! This list makes me want to go….ASAP!!!

  6. Stacey

    I love this state I live in just for some of these reasons. This state has a lot to offer for things to do. Even though we have done many I still never tire of doing them, and spending time with my family and friends. Also with the cost of gas these days I can do a one tank vacation!

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