Michigan is a great state to visit with kids! Our family traveled to Detroit and drove around Lake Michigan (with stops in Wisconsin and Chicago), and quickly discovered there were a number of things to do in Michigan with kids. Our Michigan and Wisconsin road trip in the summer of 2016 was one of our family’s favorites. While I admit, we did not explore enough of Michigan, we visited quite a few places on our road trip. Here are some ideas on places to see and things to do with kids in Michigan.
Things to do in Michigan with Kids
This compilation is just a brief list of some of the many things to do in Michigan with kids. There are so many parts of Michigan that we did not get to explore on our road trip, but we really enjoyed the handful of cities we visited. If you are thinking about visiting Michigan with kids in the near future, then check out these great recommendations from family travel bloggers on things to with kids in Michigan.
Mackinac Island is a quaint little island that is only accessible by boat/ferry or plane. It’s pretty affordable to take the ferry from either St. Ignace or Mackinac City and the ride time is about 20 minutes. Once you are there, you feel as though you are transported in time because no motorized vehicles are allowed! Most people get around in bikes, carriages, or walking. We opted to tour the island by renting bikes. It was an 8-mile loop. We stopped along the way to have snacks, lunch, sightsee, eat fudge, visit the fort, wade in Lake Michigan, and take in some spectacular views. While our family did not stay here, there are plenty of gorgeous hotels that are family-friendly. I highly recommend traveling to Mackinac Island if you are visiting Michigan with kids (or without). If you are planning a longer stay, here is everything you need to know about Mackinac Island.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
Are you looking for kid-friendly activities in West-Central, Michigan? Then look no further than the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum! Grand Rapids is located in West-Central Michigan, approximately three hours east of Chicago and just over two hours west of Detroit. Grand Rapids has several kid-friendly activities, the highlight of which is the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. This museum is JAMMED with things to do, and they have stations/exhibits for all age groups.
For the itty-bitty kids (children under 5) they have an area called Wee Discovery. It’s got great sensory activities, soft blocks, a pint-sized kitchen, and various other baby, toddler, and preschool activities. A few highlights for any age group are the giant bubble tables, the bubble tower (where you can pull a bubble up around your entire body with a pulley), a bee exhibit (with live bees), and the climbing wall.
There are three pretty elaborate exhibits. One is called Diagnosis: Fun!, and it’s all about hospitals and medical equipment. It boasts an MRI machine, hospital doors, an x-ray machine, and a fully equipped exam table. Second, is the Kidstruction Zone, laden with foam ‘gravel,’ hard hats, and diggers galore. The third is ‘Little Grand Rapids.’ This kid-sized city has a bank, pizza shop, Meijer grocery store, library, post office, and a gas station. There are plenty of other, smaller exhibits, for any taste or interest. Next time you are in Michigan with kids check this place out!
Contributed by: Catherine from Traveling with the Littles
Dow Gardens Canopy Walk in Midland
The Dow Gardens Canopy walk is a great option if you’re looking for things to do in Michigan with kids. Located in Midland, the Dow Gardens Canopy Walk is the longest canopy walk in the United States. At 1,400 feet in length and heights up to 40 feet, this ADA accessible trail is a thrilling adventure for the entire family. Adults will marvel at the beautiful views overlooking pine trees, an orchard, and a lovely pond area. Kids will enjoy exploring the large suspended cargo net, netted walkway, and two free-standing pods. The Dow Gardens Canopy Walk opened in October 2018 and is extremely popular. If your family plans to visit on a weekend, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
Don’t miss the other areas of Dow Gardens while you are there! The entire family will enjoy meandering through the birch trees, hiking nature trails, catching glimpses of the beautiful Dow Home and Studio from an overlook, wandering through Boulder Pass, and more. Additionally, children are especially impressed with the amazing nature-themed playground, the Children’s Garden, the Color Garden, and the Secret Garden.
Contributed by: April from Minivan Adventures
The Henry Ford Museum in Detroit
This is hands-down one of my favorite museums ever and one of the best things to do in Michigan with kids! It exceeded my expectations, as I was just expecting a museum with old cars. While it did have an impressive display of classic cars, including the famous Model-T and subsequent versions, it was more a museum about innovation. That includes innovation in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, fight, technology, and so much more. There were many exhibits where kids could go inside the vehicles or have a hands-on approach to explore how the object functioned.
In addition, the museum had quite a few historical artifacts such as the Rosa Parks bus, the chair Abraham Lincoln sat on when he was assassinated, and the limo President Kennedy rode when he was shot. The museum is huge! We could have easily spent more time by adding the Greenfield Village, where they had a replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, but since we were only in Detroit for a day, we wanted to explore more of the city. I highly recommend stopping in at The Henry Ford in Detroit. It truly was one of our favorite things to do in Michigan with kids.
Thomas the Train at Greenfield Village
Every year, Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, hosts A Day Out with Thomas the Train. Greenfield Village, part of The Henry Ford Museum complex, is a delightful recreation of an old-time village. It isn’t just replicas of old buildings, either. Henry Ford moved many historical buildings into the park, too. These buildings include the Wright brothers’ home and bicycle shop, the workshop of Thomas Edison, and of course, the childhood home of Henry Ford.
Train tracks circle the 80 acre village and a steam engine takes passengers to three different stops throughout the park. However, during A Day Out with Thomas, that steam engine is Thomas the Train! As you are purchasing your tickets to enter Greenfield Village, you choose the time you ride Thomas. Thomas doesn’t make any stops, instead of completing the loop around the village. As passengers are riding through the foliage, Thomas blows steam! As he pulls into the train depot, he even talks to the waiting riders.
In addition to living history, Greenfield Village has rides in horse drawn carriages and Model T Fords. There is a wonderful playground for kids, should you need some downtime during your trip. There is so much to do at Greenfield Village and it definitely deserves its own day or two for exploration. Kids, parents, and grandparents alike will find something fun at Greenfield Village. A Day Out with Thomas is an added bonus for young train lovers.
Contributed by: Natalie from Blissmersion
G.T. Butterfly House and Bug Zoo
Located in Williamsburg, Michigan, the G.T. Butterfly House and Bug Zoo is a worthwhile stop and perfect for families with young kids. The butterfly house features hundreds of stunning butterflies from all over the world. You can watch butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and learn how to identify which belongs to a butterfly or a moth. If you time your visit right, some guests are able to help release newly hatched butterflies into the butterfly garden.
While butterflies are always fun, the bug zoo is the real highlight of this attraction. Opt to take the guided tour, because the staff is incredibly knowledgeable about each and every bug in the zoo. You’ll likely see some bugs you’ve never seen before – like the blue feigning death beetle and rhinoceros beetle – but you’ll also learn some new facts about local bugs too. If you’re daring enough, you might even get to hold one of the bugs in your hands. Spiders are located in only one section of the bug zoo. The Tarantula Tree is easily avoidable for visitors who have a strong fear of spiders.
Plan to spend about 90 minutes here to be able to enjoy both the butterfly house and take the full guided tour of the bug zoo. As a seasonal attraction, the G.T. Butterfly House and Bug Zoo is open daily from May to early October, which makes it a perfect stop when visiting Michigan with kids.
Contributed by: Kim from Wear Love Wanders
Holland Tulip Festival
Holland Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan is a special time for all ages. It is also one of the unique things to do in Michigan with kids. Each year, the city of Holland’s Dutch Heritage comes into full display with the bloom of nearly 5 million tulips! Holland’s Tulip Time takes place in the first full week of May. You will see tulips throughout the city of Holland, but the best places to see them in large quantities are Windmill Island Gardens and Window on the Waterfront. Windmill Island Gardens is home to over 100,000 tulips and “DeZwaan,” a centuries-old windmill. If children tire of looking at tulips, there is a playground and a historic Merry-Go-Round.
Window on the Waterfront is a local park full of tulips. This is a great place for children to explore and run off energy! Large wooden shoes are displayed near the tulips. Our children enjoyed looking at the different designs on the shoes. While in Holland, eat at the kid-friendly DeBoer Bakery. Their fresh selections are a delight for breakfast or lunch. If the weather cooperates, drive to Holland State Park and enjoy the Lake Michigan beach and playground. This area also affords a view of the famous Big Red lighthouse.
Contributed by: Leah from Yoder Toter Blog
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
One of the highlights of our road trip around Lake Michigan was visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Our family opted to do a scenic cruise on Lake Superior, and while it was great for the adults, the kids did get bored after an hour. Nevertheless, I would still recommend visiting this place if you’re traveling to Michigan with kids because there are other things to do besides the cruise. You can kayak, hike, camp, or explore by boat. We saw many people kayaking, and in hindsight, this is what we should have done instead of the cruise. We also saw quite a few waterfalls and hiking trails that led right to them.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and run by the National Park Service. They have junior ranger programs available for kids to complete and earn their junior ranger badges. Kids and parents will enjoy learning about the geology and history of the area when completing this program.
While it is a bit of a drive to do the entire loop, the scenery getting to the UP was beautiful! If I had it to do it again, I would advise more time. We only spent 2 days exploring the area. I highly recommend visiting Pictured Rocks when looking for things to do in Michigan with kids.
Detroit Tigers Game
Summer is baseball season, and taking the family to a Tigers game is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. In addition to the baseball itself, there is a multitude of activities of families. Comerica Park has a carousel and Ferris wheel! If you happen to be attending a Sunday game, kids ride free; otherwise, it is $2 per person. There is also a batting cage and speed pitch machine for a small fee as well. Also on Sundays, kids can run the bases after a game.
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
In the heart of downtown Kalamazoo, a wonderful, and free, children’s museum lets your kids learn about science and engineering through hands-on fun. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum includes three floors of interactive exhibits exploring alternative energy, the science of music and sound, Egyptian mummies and much, much more.
My kids and I visited the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and I had to practically drag them out at closing time. They didn’t want to leave! They were having too much fun playing (and, as it turns out, learning STEM concepts at the same time). This kid-friendly museum has activities that appeal to a whole range of ages. If your kids are toddlers, an entire room dedicated to them—think a puppet show set up, a pretend rocket ship and a model school bus—will make them feel at home. Preschoolers and school-aged kids will bop from exhibit to exhibit, wanting to try everything out for themselves, and middle school-aged kids will go more in-depth, exploring the world’s climate and engineering earthquake-proof structures they can test with simulated temblors.
This Michigan museum is always free and opens every day except for a few holidays. You can pay an additional fee to watch a planetarium show or other themed video. If your kiddos have sensory issues, ask at the front desk for fidget bands, noise-canceling earmuffs, and other items to make your visit a good one.
Contributed by: Catherine from To & Fro Fam
During the fall, one of the best things to do in Michigan with kids is to go apple picking! The Schwallier’s farm in Sparta, is a great place to apple pick. Located only approximately 30 minutes away from Grand Rapids, Michigan, it is the perfect fall weekend activity for children.
Apple picking season can differ depending upon weather, but typically beginning in mid-September until end mid-October, you’ll have the largest varieties of apples to pick. At Schwallier’s Country Basket, they offer 15 different types of apples, ranging from the popular Red Delicious and Fuji to the lesser-known Zestar and Jonagold apples. You can stop by the store and sample apple cider, cider donuts, and also purchase already picked apples. The Country Basket store also offers various fall and autumn decorations for sale so you can make your home festive for your children!
Aside from U-pick, Schwallier’s farm also has a few different types of animals roaming the grounds. They have kittens and puppies but also rabbits, goats, and chickens. Their petting zoo is a great way to introduce your kids to farm animals and it’s the perfect place where your kids can meet their kids (baby goats).
Contributed by: Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Empire, Michigan is a small classic American town with a population of just 350. So while you might think this middle of nowhere municipality wouldn’t have anything of note, in fact, it’s just the opposite. Empire is home to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a national park that gets a little over 1.1 million visitors each year, making it about a fifth as popular as the Grand Canyon. And with its stunning shoreside sand dunes, formed from glacial deposits that were left in the area about 12,000 years ago, it’s geography makes for rich outdoor family adventures.
When you visit Sleeping Bear Dunes, one of the main outdoor family adventures is dune climbing. Along the sand trails, you’ll get fantastic views of Glen Lake. However, make sure you wear the proper footwear and keep in mind this can be a bit too strenuous for very young children. Another must-have experience here is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It will allow you to rest after your dune climb, and it’ll give you easier access to scenic spots in the park. Bring a picnic to enjoy at the few picnic sites along the 7.4 mile loop.
And while you’re in the area, make sure to also check out the historic town of Glen Haven, the Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, the Manitou Islands (which are accessible by ferry and are an adventure in and of themselves) as well as the many campgrounds in and around the park.
Contributed by: Seth from @ForSomethingMore
SEA LIFE Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center
If you’re looking for some fun things to do in Michigan with kids, look no further than the Great Lakes Crossing Mall in Auburn Hills. At SEA LIFE, you can see stingrays, sea turtles, jellyfish, seahorses, and sharks. With over 5,000 sea creatures, spanning 250 different species, 20 exhibits, and an interactive touch pool, this aquarium was the perfect stop on our family’s vacation. We met some of the marine life that lives in the freshwaters of Michigan, tropical coral reefs and even the mangroves along the ocean’s shores. We also did the behind-the-scenes tour (highly recommend) and learned about how the aquarium cares for all of its “fin”tastic creatures. Check out more details by reading our review on SEA LIFE Aquarium.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center is the perfect place to visit if you have a Lego lover in your family. After our visit I can now say, I know what it’s like inside the mind of a child who LOVES LEGOs. Their whole world is made with LEGO bricks and the mini-figures are as tall as they are! Your imagination will run wild as you immerse yourself in a world completely made of LEGO bricks. Take a stroll through a mini Detroit, Heartlake city, or an underwater realm. Even the bathrooms are designed around LEGOs! LEGOLAND is the perfect family adventure as there are two rides, plenty of spots to build your own LEGO creation, a 4D movie, and tons more! It was designed for children ages 3-10, so everything is just the right size. There is so much to do and see at LEGOLAND Discover Center and yes… Everything is awesome!
Contributed by: Trisha from Perhaps This Is
Why is the Detriot Hives a perfect adventure for anyone looking for things to do with kids in Michigan? Because your kids are going to love it and you would too! A trip to the Detriot Hives is a fun and exciting trip to a bee farm. You will experience firsthand the key roles honeybees play in role in our ecosystem and the opportunity to see the inner workings of a honeybee hive. The best part of your trip will be sampling raw honey from the hive; you would not miss the store-bought honey one bit.
Out of the numerous things you can do in Michigan with kids, why did I choose the Detriot Hives, you may wonder? It is because growing up as a kid, I always looked for ways to combine my love for science and the environment. The Detriot Hives is a perfect place activity to do as a family because it will satisfy the curiously of the kids and expand the knowledge of the parents. It is the ideal activity where both parents and kids get the chance to learn something new. When next you’re in the area, be sure to stop by the Detriot Hives. You will be very impressed by your overall experience and will be part of the movement to bring to bee awareness to the community.
Contributed by: Lydia from Africa Wanderlust
Glamping has become a trend in the last few years, especially for families who do not want to miss out on outdoor fun for the kids but would like “luxury” amenities. Check out some glamping locations in Michigan:
Visit State Parks
Michigan has among some of the best state parks in the country. Here is a short list of some of my favorites when you’re visiting Michigan with kids:
Our family has stayed at several Great Wolf Lodge resorts all over the country, but our first was in Traverse City. We were told that it is the smallest of all of their resorts, but we didn’t mind. Our kids had seen the commercials and had been begging us to visit one; however, we were unsure. Our minds were changed just after our one night stay.
One of the best Great Wolf Lodge tips you can get is to arrive early so that you can take full advantage of the water park. There are a number of water slides for older kids and even some areas for toddlers. It really is made for the entire family. Even the rooms are family-friendly. We booked a Wolf Den suite which had a separate “room” for the kids with bunk beds and a TV. Since that trip, we have visited three other Great Wolf Lodge resorts. It is a brand I highly recommend. They are always running some type of promotion, so check out their rates here.
During a recent staycation in West Michigan, we were looking for a hotel that was close to everything and family-friendly. We found exactly what we were looking for at the Quality Inn & Suites Hotel in Muskegon. This newly renovated hotel has the most amazing pool, hot tub and game area! Our rooms were spacious and clean and even had a microwave and mini-fridge. The hotel is conveniently located right off US-31 and is minutes away from all Muskegon has to offer. Excellent lodging option that is close to many area attractions and beautiful Michigan beaches. Check out the review of the Quality Inn in Muskegon, Michigan.
Contributed by: Trisha from Perhaps This Is
If your family is visiting the UP, or Upper Peninsula, a stay at this AmericInn in Munising is worth a try. Being from the East Coast, I had never heard of this brand of hotels. When I checked the reviews, I found it to be a great budget option with free breakfast, a pool, and a waterslide.
The location couldn’t be beaten either! It was about 5 minutes from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and a few waterfall hikes. The rooms were clean, spacious, and all we needed. Check out their rates here.
Why You Should Visit Michigan with Kids
Michigan is a great state to visit most of the year. I would say that Summer and Fall are probably the most optimal seasons that allow for more outdoor opportunities. We try to take a big summer road trip every year to check off all 50 states for our family bucket list, and while this trip only checked off Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin – it was fantastic!
While this list surely does not include all of the things to do in Michigan with kids, it certainly has a nice sampling of activities for the family. If you’re planning a future trip to Michigan, I hope you will consider these suggestions for even more things to do in Michigan with kids.
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