Best spots for family fun in Michigan
No matter what your family’s interests are, Michigan has an attraction that is sure to please. From amusement parks to natural wonders, there is something for everyone in the Great Lake State.
Thrillseekers will love Michigan's largest amusement park, open yearly from May to September. You'll enjoy two parks for the price of one – Michigan's Adventure amusement park and WildWater Adventure waterpark. Ride seven spine-tingling roller coasters and numerous child-friendly ground rides before cooling off on water rides, slides and pools. Lockers are available so you won't have to lug around your swimsuits and towels all day. Outside food is not allowed in the park.
4750 Whitehall Rd.; Muskegon, MI; Hours: Open May through September, hours vary and are available by calling (231) 766-3377; Admission: $26. Children 2 and under are free; Parking: $8.
Show your children that there was life before video games by bringing them to Crossroads Village, a 51-acre village that boasts 35 historic structures dating back to the 1800's. Climb aboard the Huckleberry Railroad for a scenic 40-minute train ride or tour Mott Lake in the Genessee Belle, a replica paddlewheel riverboat. Take a ride on the 1912 carousel and 1910 Superior Wheel and watch a magic show, which is performed several times daily. As a bonus, your kids may learn just how easy they have it nowadays when they try to draw water using a hand pump and churn butter.
6140 Bray Rd., Flint, MI; Hours: 10am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday and holidays late May through early September; Admission:
Saddle up at the Double JJ Ranch and explore miles of horseback riding trails, no matter what skill level you are. Whether or not you stay at the resort, you can take advantage of all of the amenities (for a fee) including the Gold Rush indoor water park and Thoroughbred golf course. The Western theme continues with a pig roast and rodeo every Saturday night during the summer. Snow tubing and dog sledding are offered in the winter.
Rothbury, MI; Hours: Horseback Riding: by reservation; Waterpark: Varies, 10am-9pm during summer; Admission: Horseback Riding: $35 per person; Waterpark all-day pass: $34.95 – Adult, $29.95 – Child, Free – Child under 3.
Come where the temperature's a balmy 84-87 degrees year-round. Michigan's biggest indoor water park features slides, rides, kiddie pools, climbing walls, a lazy river, and even a surf simulator. Older children can visit the park alone (and parents can watch free of charge from a mezzanine level observation deck), but children under age 11 must be accompanied by an adult. No zippers, metal or plastic hair clips or jewelry is allowed inside.
Boyne Falls, MI; Hours: Vary, 9am-10pm on weekends; Admission: Vary by season, $19-$39.
Commune with nature by taking a canoe, kayak or raft trip down the Sturgeon River. Big Bear Adventures is a family-owned business that specializes in outdoor recreation, located in an area of Michigan abounding with wildlife, forests and pristine rivers. Older kids will love the river adventures, but it would be wise to restrict younger children to the Family Fun Center, home to an 18-hole mini-golf course, general store and deli. Raft trips are available in the winter, too, along with cross country ski and snowshoe rentals and sales.
Indian River, MI; Hours: 9am-7pm; Admission: Based on length of trip; $16-$21 per person – Canoe, $20-$38 – Kayak, $12.50-$25 – Rafts.
Since it was built in 1852, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, located inside the Leelenau State Park, has guided sailors to safety, and now beckons tourists with its beacons of light. You'll tour the restored lighthouse resembling a keeper's home of the 1920's and 30's, where visitors can climb the tower for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. Lighthouse lovers can apply to be a keeper and stay for one to two weeks in the lighthouse. Museum and store are closed during the winter.
Northport, MI; Hours: Open Daily May – 12pm-4 pm, June through Labor Day – 10am-6pm, Labor Day through Oct. 31st – 12pm-4pm, Saturdays & Sundays Only November – 12pm-4pm; Admission: $4 – Adult, $2 – Child (6-18), Free – 5 and under.
Dealing with all things air and space flight related, the Air Zoo near Kalamazoo, Michigan, goes above and beyond anything you've seen before. With amusement park-style rides, full-motion flight simulators, 4-D Missions Theater, Magic Planet, Space Ball and a Zero Gravity Experience, as well as historical exhibits and educational activities, you won't run out of things to do here. General admission is free, but there is a charge for most of the rides.
Portage, MI; Hours: 9am-5pm Monday through Saturday, 12pm-5pm Sunday; Admission: Free general admission, Ride tickets cost $2 or purchase an unlimited ride pass for $12.95.
If there were zoos in prehistoric times, this is what they would look like. When you walk through Dinosaur Gardens, you see life-sized replicas of a variety of dinosaurs as well as cave men and women. Kids will especially enjoy being able to climb inside of some of the dinosaur statues. Stay in a prehistoric mood by playing dinosaur themed putt-putt golf after viewing the dinosaur replicas. The outdoor picnic area and onsite snack bar offer barrier free access. Dinosaur Gardens is not open in the winter.
Ossineke, MI; Hours: Open daily 9am-4pm May 15 through Memorial Day; Open daily 9am-6pm Memorial Day through Labor Day; Open weekends 9am-4pm September; Closed October through April; Admission: Call for details.
One of lower Michigan's most beautiful natural landscapes can be found at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is comprised of 35 miles of coastline, beaches, trails and sand dunes. Work up a sweat climbing the dunes, which rise up to a maximum of 460 feet above the water, and then cool off by swimming in Lake Michigan. There are many camping options available for those planning a longer stay. Pets are welcome but must be kept on a short leash.
Near Traverse City, MI; Hours: Dunes are open all year, 24 hours a day; Admission: $10 per car.
For a truly peaceful adventure, bring the family to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. You'll witness the beauty of nature in indoor and outdoor botanical gardens, and see some of man's great handiwork as well, as more than 170 sculptures are on display. The Children's Garden and Farm Garden are not to be missed if you're bringing young ones. If walking through the gardens sounds too taxing, a tram tour is available hourly. The summer concert series attracts big stars like Melissa Etheridge, Chris Isaak and the Doobie Brothers.
Located at East Beltline Ave. NE and Bradford St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI; Hours: Open 9am-9pm Monday and Tuesday, 9am-5pm Wednesday through Saturday and 12pm-5pm Sunday year-round; Admission: $12 – Adult, $9 – Student and Senior, $6 – Children 5-13, $4 – Children 3-4, Free – Children 2 and under.