Looking to take a family vacation in Michigan this year, but don’t want to make a long trip?
For those hoping to remain in the state this year, due to COVID-19, gas prices, inflation, or any other reason, Michigan offers plenty of exciting opportunities to get out and have some fun this summer.
Here is our list of top day trips around the Great Lakes State. Some you may recognize, others might be “hidden gems” for you to try:
Kalamazoo’s Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum is a museum immersed with opportunity to gather, imagine, explore and discover, per the museum’s website. The museum features a plethora of interesting aero technology, as well as real-life aircraft.
The Air Zoo features a summer day camp and exhibits such as Apollo 11, Alien Worlds & Androids, and Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight. After enjoying the Air Zoo, families can top off their exciting day with a short drive to Portage to enjoy the Crossroads Mall and grab a bite to eat.
Air Zoo hours: Open 360+ days a year; Monday-Saturday: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Sunday: Noon-5 p.m.
Seeped in history and natural beauty, Belle Isle is considered a Detroit gem and a state park, per Michigan.org. The 987-acre island park features the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Aquarium, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, giant slide, athletic fields, picnic areas, tennis courts, Belle Isle Nature Zoo, the James Scott Memorial Fountain and more attractions popular with all ages and interests. The park includes three lakes, 150 acres of wooded area and spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor skyline.
Rentals Available: Watercraft, bike, snow sports. Recreation Passport required for entry to the park.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
If you’re feeling like December is too far away to start getting into the Christmas spirit, a day trip to Frankenmuth’s famous Christmas wonderland could be for you. The store offers a vast array of personalized ornaments, home and outdoor décor, nativity scenes, Christmas lights and stockings. According to the website, Bronner’s chapel is also open daily – during store hours for visitation and meditation, but is not available for ceremonies.
Store Hours: Open 361 days a year; Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday: Noon to 5:30 p.m.
Eastern Market/Comerica Park
Featuring a Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday market, Eastern Market consistently draws guests from all over the world. Each of the primary markets has a unique set of food, products and experiences to offer.
After you’ve finished shopping at Eastern Market, catching a game at Comerica Park – home of the Detroit Tigers – is a great way to finish off your day. Comerica Park also offers Friday night fireworks throughout the season.
Check out the Comerica Park ticket schedule.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Featuring masterpieces of art and nature, surprising silhouettes and an endless kaleidoscope of colors and textures that inspire, Frederik Meijer offers an array of outdoor and indoor sculpture and nature exhibits, per its website. Tours, programs and interactive activities are available for visitors throughout the year. Discovery carts are made available periodically so visitors can handle sculptors’ tools and materials, learn about plants in new ways and have hands-on experiences.
Printed looking guides lead visitors through changing exhibitions with thought-provoking questions, exhibition overviews and specific things to find. Free public programs for sculpture exhibitions assist visitors in understanding content and ideas through lectures, gallery walks, family activities and demonstrations.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There’s a lot to love about Mackinac Island. The scenic ferry ride across Lake Huron, with the Mackinac Bridge on one side and the glistening white pillars of the Grand Hotel looming ahead, acting like a beacon for excited travelers. The Grand Hotel offers daily tours, but if you want to stay in its hallowed halls, you can pay over $1,000 for a two-bed room. While you’re on the island, stopping by a local fudge shop is a must. Visitors can also enjoy horse rides, golf and bike paths that circle the island.
Michigan’s Adventure, the state’s largest amusement park, opens on May 27 this year. Rides such as Shivering Timbers or Thunderhawk thrill guests with high-speed, airtime adventures. The water park opens June 11. It features wave pools and water rides for all ages. Camp Snoopy features family-friendly rides, including the roller coaster Woodstock Express. The park also offers an array of food vendors and a plethora of long-term and one-day ticket options.
More: Michigan’s Adventure to open May 27: What to know before you go
WildWater Adventure will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekdays and will remain open until 6 p.m. on weekends. Michigan’s Adventure will be open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays and remain open until 8 p.m. on weekends.
MSU Museum/Abrams Planetarium
This Smithsonian-affiliated museum showcases scientific and cultural artifacts, fossils and research, per its website. MSU hosts one of the earliest established museums in the nation and has continued to preserve collections and serve curious learners since in inception in 1857. With both historical and interactive displays, the MSU Museum can be enjoyed by people of all ages. After the museum, head on over to the Abrams Planetarium, which serves as an astronomy and space science education resource center with fabulous programs and exhibits.
Abrams Planetarium is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon and then 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is also open Saturday from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and Sunday from 2:30 to 4:30 pm. MSU Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Celebrated around the world for its beautiful, sweeping shoreline and backdrop of rolling dunes, Oval Beach is nestled in between Saugatuck and Douglas. Though often crowded, Oval Beach offers tons of sandy fun with fresh water and plenty of sun. Both Saugatuck and Douglas are quaint little towns with a vibrant array of interesting stores and shops. Saugatuck also features parks and plenty of delicious food stops. Michigan is almost entirely bordered by shoreline, but Oval Beach might be the best spot in the state.
Take a kayak or a paddle board from Lincoln Memorial Park in Harbor Beach and you’re just a short paddle away from the remains of three schooner shipwrecks. The ships sit just below the surface of the water, making them easily viewable even if waves make things tricky. According to harborbeachkayak.com, no one died from any of the shipwrecks, as they were all in shallow water when they went under. Michigan’s thumb area also offers plenty of action-packed hiking possibilities, which are all within close driving distance of the shipwrecks.
Silver Lake State Park
Silver Lake State Park, located in Oceana County, encompasses 3,000 acres along more than four miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline, according to Michigan.org. It is home to a 200-site campground with electrical service and modern restrooms, a large sandy swimming beach, and an off-road vehicle scramble area. The park features a beach, playground, boat launch, fishing pier, hiking trails and picnic shelter. Visitors can also check out Mac Woods’ Dune Rides, which are open various times throughout the day, depending on time of year.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes is all about pure natural beauty. Miles of sandy beach, bluffs that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, lush forests, clear inland lakes, unique flora and fauna make up the natural world of Sleeping Bear Dune, according to the National Park Service. High dunes afford spectacular views across the lake. An island lighthouse, US Life-Saving Service stations, coastal villages, and picturesque farmsteads reflect the park’s rich maritime, agricultural, and recreational history. After exploring the Dunes, visitors should make the short drive over to Glen Arbor to check out Cherry Republic.
Sault Ste. Marie
Affectionately called the “Linchpin of the Great Lakes” by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Soo Locks are an engineering marvel with roots dating back to the mid-1800s, according to the city’s website. Each year, it’s estimated that 500,000 people visit these iconic locks that connect Lakes Superior and Huron. Thanks to the Soo Locks, freighters over 1,000 feet in length can traverse freely along the St. Marys River all the way from Duluth, Minnesota outward into the Atlantic Ocean and beyond. Roughly 7,000 vessels pass through the Locks yearly, hauling nearly 86 million tons of cargo. Depending on where you live, this could turn into more than just a day trip, but for those near or in the U.P., it’s a great way to spend a day.
State Capitol/Impression 5
This day trip can allow families to split up based on preference. Those interested in politics and history can schedule a tour of our state’s capitol and even sit in on governmental proceedings.
Meanwhile, kids and adults still young at heart can head over to Impression 5, which is a dynamic, interactive space for families to play, create, and challenge their understanding of science. Their mission is to facilitate learners in scientific exploration through hands-on exhibits and participatory educational programming.
Impression 5 is open Thursday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Tall Ship Manitou
Tall Ship Manitou is a replica of an 1800’s “coasting” cargo schooner, similar to those that sailed the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, according to the website. Specifically designed for passenger service, her hull was constructed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1983 and finished by Vermont carpenters on Lake Champlain. With a 58 passenger capacity, there is plenty of space for sitting and moving around the decks while under sail. You can schedule a brunch cruise, enjoying a savory, home-cooked meal on the open water, or a Moomers Ice Cream sail. Moomers was voted the No. 1 scoop of ice cream in America on “Good Morning America!”
Van Buren State Park
Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, Van Buren State Park has one mile of sandy beach and high dune formations. It’s the perfect place to lounge on the beach, walk through woodland trails and enjoy a picnic lunch, according to Michigan.org. Like Oval Beach, Van Buren State Park offers guests a scenic spot to relax and enjoy the sun, sand and fresh Lake Michigan water. After a day in the sun, make sure to stop by Clementine’s in downtown South Haven and enjoy a Dinghy Basket with curly fries.
Adventures in Holland
If you are interested in windmills, tulips and all things Dutch, head on over to Holland for some adventures. Windmill Island Gardens offers splendid views of seas of tulips, with prominent windmills providing the right touch of Dutch heritage.
Nelis’ Dutch Village offers visitors a sneak peak at what life in a Dutch village might look and feel like, while Sundae Sundae Golf Golf is a scenic miniature golf course with, you guessed it, a windmill welcoming guests on the edge of the course.
The Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail includes 24 award-winning wineries, according to the website. From the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes to the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay, visitors will experience the amazing beauty that the Leelanau Peninsula has to offer. You will find quaint towns, crystal clear lakes and streams, abundant wildlife and rolling terrain that includes vineyards, farms and forests. The tours feature a Sleeping Bear Loop, Grand Traverse Loop and a Northern Loop.
Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Detroit & Lansing
Michigan is rich with quality zoos. Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek features an African safari portion, that allows people to feed giraffes and see African animals up close.
The John Ball Zoo, located in Grand Rapids, has a vast array of animals, including koala bears. John Ball is located close to downtown, so visitors can tour the city after they’ve enjoyed the zoo.
The Detroit Zoo is open year round. It features a playful red panda exhibit, tigers, an Arctic exhibit with polar bears and a walking path right through the kangaroo exhibit.
Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo is a little smaller, but still entices guests with an intriguing mixture of species.
Bonus longer trip:
Because of its location, way on the western portion of the U.P., the Porcupine Mountains are a little more than just a day trip. However, this may be one of the most breathtaking and scenic trips in Michigan. With gushing waterfalls cascading down picturesque rock formations, and stunning views of lakes and trees, this destination is one every Michigander should enjoy at some point. The Porcupine Mountains have plenty of lodging opportunities and have a plethora of trails to pick from. If you need a summer getaway but don’t want to stray too far, the Porcupine Mountains might be just the place.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan things to do: 20 day trip ideas for the family
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