Day Trips in Michigan and Family Vacation Ideas
Michigan summer is on its way! It’s time to enjoy the Mitten State with all its lakes, beaches, and beauty.
Whether you’re looking for free things to do in Michigan or have room to splurge, we have everything you need to decide on your next Michigan summer vacation destination.
Our team traveled the state and found 19 iconic vacation spots for families to try this summer.
Let’s imagine, explore, and discover – together! Whether you’re looking for a weekend trip or a longer vacation, these best vacation spots in Michigan are sure to spark your adventurous spirit.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Lake Michigan Beach Towns & Lake Destinations
Michigan summer vacations on the lakeshore hold a special place in the hearts of many mitten dwellers.
It’s easy to understand why – the beauty of waves lapping on the shore mixed with the fun of lake recreation – it’s a wonderful vacation combination.
Your biggest trouble might just be which lake destination to choose for your next vacation.
Big Red Lighthouse in Holland, Michigan
Petoskey is a true northern Michigan town with all of the outdoor adventures, lakes, and beaches to prove it.
Bike for miles on the beautiful pathways, explore farms and vineyards, tour the town’s Victorian architecture, and take in the cute and historic downtown on your visit.
Finish your day with a gorgeous sunset on the beach, and don’t forget to search the beach for Michigan’s state stone – the Petoskey Stone.
Gaslight Shopping District in downtown Petoskey
Beach at Petoskey State Park
Charlevoix is a hit with both kids and adults.
This small resort town turns into a summer fun hub during July and August when boating and beach visits ramp up. And over the years it’s quickly become a favorite “secret” Michigan summer vacation.
If you’re looking for small-town charm with a side of interesting architecture (Charlevoix is home to the famous mushroom houses) put this town on your list.
Their fantastic library features an outdoor hands-on music garden, and the marina is made complete with a splash pad.
Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse and beachfront
Torch Lake looks like it was plucked straight out of the Caribbean and dropped in Michigan!
With its deep aqua and turquoise colors, it’s one of the best summer vacation spots in Michigan, and it’s truly amazing to behold.
There are sandbars throughout the lake, one of which is two miles long, that give you and the kids every opportunity to let the beauty of the lake completely surround you.
Dock at Torch Lake
Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City delivers when it comes to beaches, fruit, festivals, and more. It’s one of our most iconic Michigan summer vacation spot, popular with travelers from around the world.
Clinch Park Beach is a favorite for many visitors as it offers a splash pad, beachfront, and lots of treats, not to mention the restaurants and downtown shopping just across the street.
With plenty of hotel and camping options, plus a variety of outdoor activities, Traverse City is a favorite Michigan day trip or summer vacation destination.
Rove Estate in Traverse City
Empire Bluff in Traverse City
Leelanau Peninsula is known for its stunning coastline, local vineyards, and charming small towns.
Check two boxes off your Michigan Day Trips list by driving Michigan’s iconic M22 highway right into the Leelanau Peninsula.
While there, explore Historic Fishtown, visit the lighthouses, or sample local wines at one of their thirteen local wineries. Round out your day with breathtaking views across the waters of Lake Michigan.
Empire Bluff Trail at Leelanau Peninsula
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path hidden gem, head to Manistee.
Rich with lumber baron turn-of-the-century architecture, this little town is a fantastic mix of old and new.
Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, beach and boating opportunities abound, as do the outdoor activities.
Drive through the tunnel of trees, hike the Arcadia Marsh boardwalk, stay in the historic Portage Point Inn, hug a giant sequoia tree – it doesn’t get much better than this!
View of Manistee from airplane tour
Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve boardwalk
Grand Haven, Michigan
Journey to Grand Haven for an idyllic Michigan lakefront vacation.
Fall in love with the Lake Michigan beaches, the historic lighthouse and pier, and the sparkling water.
Venture away from the great lake to discover top-tier shopping and dining, explore bayous and forests, bike along paved trail systems, kayak and fish the rivers and inland lakes, even hop on a trolley for a tour of the town.
One thing’s for sure – there’s no shortage of adventures to be had in Grand Haven!
Grand Haven pier
Holland is a sight to behold in the summertime. This unique Michigan summer vacation is home to epic beaches and cheery Dutch influence.
Take in one of Lake Michigan’s finest beaches at Holland State Park, see “Big Red Lighthouse” – the state’s most photographed lighthouse, tour the Holland Museum, or stop downtown to enjoy a craft beer at an award-winning brewery.
Get in old-world Dutch kicks at Windmill Island Gardens or Nelis’ Dutch Village mini amusement park.
Arguably the busiest and best season to visit Holland is during Tulip Time, which runs for about a week every May.
The town is flooded with over six million tulips, bringing in a wave of visitors with them. It is a truly magical experience.
Tulip Time on Windmill Island in Holland, Michigan
Sunset over Lake Michigan in Holland
Saugatuck offers a unique blend of art and history.
Known for its art galleries and studios, art is at the forefront of this quaint Michigan lake town. History buffs will love the Peterson Mill and the Saugatuck Chain Ferry – the last of its kind in the U.S.
This is a popular Michigan summer vacation spot for our Chicago friends, as it’s just a few hours’ drive, yet feels like a world away.
Adventure over 1,000 acres of the Saugatuck Dunes State Park, cruise the Kalamazoo River on a paddlewheel boat, or relax at a local winery, but don’t forget to enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan at the tucked away Oval Beach.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park
South Haven, Michigan
In addition to stunning Lake Michigan views, South Haven boasts quality hiking, a charming downtown area, and a peaceful river.
Head to the Michigan Flywheelers Museum for a truly unique museum experience. Here you’ll explore 1920s Olde Town with its antique sawmills, shingle mills, and farm machinery.
Bring the family to Bumbleberry Acres for the petting zoo and Upick veggies, fruits, and flowers. Plan your trip to GingerMan Raceway to let your inner racecar driver run loose!
Sunset over Lake Michigan in South Haven, Michigan
St. Joseph, Michigan
St. Joseph is everything you wish for in a quaint Lake Michigan town.
Photo-worthy lighthouses, idyllic sunsets, restaurants serving up hometown cooking, and, of course, perfect sandy beaches.
Silver Beach is the place to go for Lake Michigan fun. Rent a kayak or paddleboard, walk the pier, or build a sandcastle on your Michigan summer vacation here.
A favorite attraction here is the charming Silver Beach Carousel. At the end of the day take a walk along the bluff overlooking the water to see the sunset light up the sky.
Silver Beach Compass Fountain in St. Joseph
Port Austin, Michigan
Tucked away at the tip of Michigan’s “thumb” sits Port Austin, Lake Huron’s best kept secret.
Between the ghost town of Grindstone City and the quilt-adorned barns, this town is full of adventure and charm.
Whether you’re sunbathing on the soft-sand beaches, exploring one of Michigan’s largest Farmer’s Markets, or kayaking to Turnip Rock you can bet this little town offers one of best Michigan vacations.
Kayakers heading to Turnip Rock
Urban Michigan Summer Vacations
Michigan’s cities all offer a unique vibe.
Explore Detroit for its incredible culture and history, Grand Rapids for its family-friendly activities or Ann Arbor for its artsy college town atmosphere.
Frankenmuth has a classic tourist town vibe and amazing waterpark, and Lansing packs the powerhouse punch of being our state capitol and having a great college town next door.
The question is not whether to vacation in one of these cities, but which one to choose!
Downtown Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is a city that has undergone a revitalization in recent years and is home to world-class museums, a thriving arts scene, and a rich history.
Indeed, it’s a massive city loaded with attractions – but they’re not all urban!
In this tree-filled city you can rent a bike and ride on the Dequindre Cut rails-to-trails project, kayak in the Detroit canals, or stroll along the riverwalk.
And for urban fun: Enjoy a show, catch a ball game, visit the Detroit Zoo, eat incredible food, discover amazing murals, or get cultural at the DIA.
Detroit truly has it all and we love that it can be a great Michigan vacation any time of year.
Carousel at the Detroit Zoo
Detroit Institute of Arts
Belle Isle, Michigan
While Belle Isle can be considered part of a Detroit vacation, this historic Michigan state park is a destination in itself.
The park has an aquarium, a conservatory, and a nature center.
Belle Isle even has the only marble lighthouse in America. With its seven miles of shoreline, three lakes, and a lagoon, Belle Isle is a mesmerizing botanical wonderland.
It’s one of the prettiest day trips in Michigan.
Palm Room at Belle Isle Conservatory
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second largest city and is just an hour away from the majestic shores of Lake Michigan.
It’s home to a growing culinary scene with breweries and distilleries on almost every corner.
When you’re in Grand Rapids, visit the world-renowned Frederik Meijer Gardens, get hands-on at the John Ball Zoo, or explore any of the city’s outdoor attractions like the sprawling Millennium Park.
We may be biased, but with all of Grand Rapids’ beauty and fun, it’s a must-see for your Michigan Vacation bucket list.
The Blue Bridge downtown Grand Rapids
Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Michigan’s state capitol offers a little something for everyone. And being centrally located, it’s one of the easiest day trips in Michigan to hit.
Expand your mind by taking a tour of the Capitol building, walking Michigan State University’s campus, or visiting one of the many museums.
Go adventuring at Fitzgerald Park, Potter Park Zoo, Hawk Island Park, or biking the River Trail. Young visitors love the Children’s Garden at MSU, just don’t forget to bring carrots to feed the horses!
And before you leave, be sure to experience the original Horrocks Market.
The Ledges at Fitzgerald Park
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor isn’t just a college town famous for tailgating – it’s Michigan’s funky arts and culture hotspot.
Known for its massive art fair each summer, it’s a great Michigan summer vacation idea.
There are plenty of interesting shopping options, outdoor recreation opportunities, and the University of Michigan campus.
Visitors will enjoy the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum and the U of M Museum of Natural History.
Other must-visit places include The Petting Farm and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum.
Ann Arbor’s U of M Museum of Natural History
Frankenmuth is a fantastic family fun destination with great food, interesting history, and unique places to stay.
Home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Zehnder’s Chicken and the Bavarian Inn Lodge, there is so much to discover. There are even two indoor waterparks in town!
Whether you pick this for one of your day trips in Michigan, or stay for the weekend, you’ll see for yourself it’s more than just the town with the world’s largest Christmas store, famous chicken dinners, and old world German charm.
The Bavarian Inn
Adventurous Day Trips in Michigan
With its towering cliffs, sloping dunes, lush forests, and even ghost towns, adventure is always around the corner anywhere you go in Michigan.
Will you discover a shipwreck, or maybe hike to the top of a waterfall? Venture out your door to find out!
Mac Woods Dune Rides at Silver Lake Sand Dunes
Silver Lake Sand Dunes
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes were made for zooming! Take a dune buggy tour, drive along on the off-road vehicle path, or venture on foot through the dunes.
Even the most energetic kids will be wowed with over 2,000 acres of sand dunes, located just a mile from Lake Michigan.
Besides riding the dunes, visitors love to swim in Lake Michigan, take in a summer festival, and walk the charming downtown district.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes
This one’s got “adventure” right in the title, so you know exactly what you’re in for here!
What’s summer without the excitement of rollercoasters and the thrill of flying down them?
Joyful screams, sunscreen, and lots of smiles are the ingredients for a blissful Michigan summer vacation, and you can find it all at an amusement park.
Michigan’s Adventure has something for everyone, from babies to grandmas and from wimps to daredevils. It offers both a roller coaster park and a water park, making it two parks in one!
Roller Coaster at Michigan’s Adventure
Ocqueoc Falls is the largest waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. Enjoy the six miles of hiking and biking trails around the falls, and end with a refreshing swim.
After all that exercise you’ll be relieved to discover there is a state campground located right at the falls. Pitch your tent for the night and let the sound of the waterfall lull you to sleep.
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary
Nothing says “adventure” quite like Alligators! Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary is dedicated to giving lifelong care to rescue reptiles that need it, and to educating the public about all types of reptiles.
Turtles, snakes, lizards, and, of course, alligators (and more) are all waiting to greet you on your visit. This place is an animal lover’s dream!
Their “Animal Encounter” package offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to hold and have your picture taken with one of their animals.
Alligator at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary
Midland Dow Gardens
Midland Dow Gardens and Whiting Forest is the perfect Michigan day trip destination.
Here you’ll explore over 100 acres of gorgeous plantlife, along with peaceful water features, an historic estate, and an epic playground for the kids.
Wander the forest trails or take to the canopy walk up in the trees for a new perspective. But of course, the gardens themselves are the main attraction offering peacefulness, reflection, and a refreshed mind.
Pod in Whiting Forest at Dow Gardens
Resorts with the Best Michigan Summer Vacations
A vacation where you don’t have to make many decisions is priceless. Resorts offer everything you need in one place with a wide variety of activities to try.
Crystal Mountain Resort
Crystal Mountain Resort
Crystal Mountain Resort trades in skis for pool life every summer and knows how to cater to families and couples.
Watch a sunset from the top of the mountain, play golf, go mountain biking, fly downhill on a sled track, or relax by the pool.
For those who still crave adventure on their Michigan summer vacation, Crystal Mountain has a climbing wall, zip-line, technical bike tracks, and even laser tag, paintball, and archery.
Alpine Slide at Crystal Mountain
Boyne Mountain Resort
Nestled in the northwest part of the Mitten, Boyne Mountain Resort beckons families to come and play even when the snow is long gone.
Harness your adventurous spirit with an exhilarating zipline tour, relax and play at the Michigan’s largest waterpark, or enjoy a game of disc golf. Boyne Mountain also offers horseback riding, fishing, and paintball.
Arguably the biggest attraction here is the SkyBridge. It’s the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge and the views just can’t be beat at this Michigan vacation spot.
The SkyBridge at Boyne Mountain Resort
Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan
To stay at The Grand Hotel is to travel back to a simpler time.
The charm of this beautiful resort cannot be denied with its Queen Anne style architecture, lavish landscaping, and horse-drawn carriages.
You’ll be living the high life as you golf the Jewel, visit the stables, indulge in Afternoon Tea, or get pampered at the salon and spa.
Trust us, The Grand Hotel is an iconic Michigan summer vacation that you won’t want to miss.
Horse-drawn carriage in front of The Grand Hotel
Portage Point Resort, Onekama, Michigan
Portage Point Resort stands out from the rest for a number of reasons, but one of its biggest draws are the adorable cottages and condos for lodging.
Unlike other resorts that offer hotel-style lodging, PPR offers all guests a condo to themselves, most even with their own kitchen!
While there, enjoy laid-back recreation like shuffleboard, sunbathing, and the ever-popular beachside bonfires. This resort is the perfect Michigan vacation for those looking to get quality R&R.
Deck and grounds at Portage Point Resort
Upper Peninsula Michigan Summer Vacation Destinations
The great wilderness across the Mackinac Bridge offers many opportunities for exploration, including incredible waterfalls and the breathtaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
The U.P. also has mountains to the west and shoreline on three of the Great Lakes, making it a prime Michigan vacation destination for outdoor adventurers.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Make this a day trip in Michigan or a Michigan summer vacation – no matter how you spin it, a trip to Mackinac Island is like no other. In the motor city state, vacationing on an island without cars is pretty unique!
You can explore the island by bike (either bring your own or rent one once you arrive) and visit attractions like Fort Mackinac, the butterfly conservatory, and Arch Rock. Don’t forget to buy some fudge!
Tip: most Mackinac Island visitors do not realize that over 80% of Mackinac Island is a Michigan State Park. If you venture further than main street, you are apt to find yourself in a state park ripe for exploring.
Arch Rock overlook on Mackinac Island
Waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan
The U.P. hosts all but one of Michigan’s more than 300 waterfalls, which makes hiking to one an obvious stop on your U.P. itinerary.
Tahquamenon Falls is Michigan’s most iconic waterfall, and deserves the title as the Upper Falls measure more than 200 feet across!
Just as impressive are the Bond Falls and Spray Falls, but with so many waterfalls to explore, and some of them hidden gems waiting for you to find, why not make this your summer of Michigan waterfalls?
It would be an unforgettable Michigan summer vacation that will have everyone crushing over your pics.
Marquette, the Upper Peninsula’s largest city, is a nature-lover’s paradise. Situated on the Lake Superior shoreline there is no shortage of breathtaking views across the water.
Immerse yourself in the great outdoors by hiking or biking along the forest trails, going on a waterfall hunt, or gazing in wonder at the towering granite cliffs.
Head downtown for delicious food, craft brews, and one-of-a-kind boutique shopping. With all its offerings, Marquette makes for a quintessential Michigan summer vacation destination.
Black Rocks in Marquette, Michigan
Michigan Vacations at National Parks
For all of Michigan’s natural beauty, it’s no wonder our state holds some of the most beautiful and unique national parks.
Featuring lakes, dunes, forests, there’s a lot to love about a Michigan National Park vacation!
Empire Bluff Hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
This national park is a Michigan treasure. Awarded as America’s first National Lakeshore, the natural beauty here speaks for itself.
Travel to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for the sandstone cliffs, miles of hiking trails, picturesque lighthouses, beautiful beaches, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and, of course, the Pictured Rocks.
If this is your day trip destination, pack a picnic lunch and share a meal in a perfect setting. Staying the night? Pitch your tent on a remote or drive-in campsite.
Boat tour on Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes for a renewed appreciation of nature. It’s the one Michigan summer vacation that everyone should take at least once.
Look out over Sleeping Bear Dunes by day, or visit when the night stars shine so brightly it’s hard to believe they’re real.
Climb the dunes to the lookout point with your family and be rewarded with views of Lake Michigan and Glen Lake.
Challenge yourself on the dune climb, too! There’s opportunities for biking, tubing, kayaking, and much more here, too.
View of Lake Michigan on Sleeping Bear Dunes
State Parks to Take Your Michigan Summer Vacation
If your idea of the perfect Michigan summer vacation involves camping, hiking, beaches, lakes, and immersing yourself in the great outdoors, then a state park is your place to be.
Here are our top picks for Michigan State Park vacations.
Campground at Ludington State Park
Rockport State Park Recreation Area
Head to Alpena, the tip of Michigan’s “pointer finger”, to experience Rockport State Park Recreation Area.
Explore Rockport’s more than 4,200 acres by hiking, biking, or equestrian trail. Kayak or paddleboard Lake Huron, hunt for fossils, walk through the Historic Ghost Village, even discover a real shipwreck.
As an official Dark Sky Preserve, a glittering night sky is almost guaranteed for a perfect ending to your day of adventure.
Rockport State Park’s rock climb
Ludington State Park
Ludington State Park is an ideal spot for a family Michigan vacation.
Choose from multiple campgrounds, play at the beaches along two different lakes, hike the extensive trail system, and explore various marshlands, wetlands, forests, and even sand dunes.
Be sure to venture out to see Big Sable Point Lighthouse, and don’t forget to bring the fishing gear to finally catch that big fish off the pier.
Hamlin Lake at Ludington State Park
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