Welcome to the Grand Rapids Summer Bucket List for 2021
Summer is short and sweet in Michigan and even though summer 2021 is still going to look a little different than normal, we’re going to enjoy every minute of it.
This list of all the things to do in the summer in Grand Rapids and the Lakeshore is your ticket to West Michigan summer fun.
Discover the excitement that awaits you this season. Camps, outdoor adventure, arts and theatre, fairs and festivals, old school fun, concerts, swimming, u-pick fruit farms and so much more.
- Summer Highlights
- Outdoor Activities
- Fairs and Festivals
- Old School Summer
- Indoor Things to Do in the Summer
- Summer Camps & Classes
- Road Trips
- Back to School
We’re marking what’s open and what will have to wait til next year.
Many organizations have weekly or daily activities for local families. If you are hoping to make the most of each day this summer, you’ll want to use our events calendar to find even more Grand Rapids activities.
No matter how you choose to enjoy the summer, you can say there are lots of summer activities near me.
Get ready to tackle your Grand Rapids Summer Bucket list!
Partners regularly step up to help support the mission of Grand Rapids Kids, and it’s no different when we’re talking about things to do in summer.
The good news is that these business partners embody the West Michigan spirit and we’re proud to work with them.
During these tricky days of COVID-19, we ask that you follow safety guidelines set forth by local authorities anytime you venture out and that when you do go out, you’d consider visiting one of these partners on the list below. This support not only keeps them in business, but it also keeps us around, too.
Take a trip to one or more of these special West Michigan attractions and it’ll be a summer highlight for sure.
Play, Imagine, and Learn at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is a place where children rule and all are welcome to play, imagine and learn. This hands-on museum includes two floors of rotating and permanent exhibits, so there’s always something new to explore!
Perennial favorites include:
• Shop, eat and bank in Little Grand Rapids
• Surround yourself in a giant bubble in Bubbles
• Find the queen bee in The Live Hive
• Toddler Time
• Open Paint
• Imagination Laboratory
$9 general admission; $3 admission on Thursday Family Nights from 5:00 – 8:00 PM. Family memberships include one year of free admission, starting at just $75/year.
Amped Virtual Reality is a cutting edge virtual reality entertainment and STEM education center.
EVERYONE enjoys Virtual Reality – there are over 44 experiences, including multi-player options: be in MINECRAFT, swing like Spider-man, play Beat Saber, Superhot, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja or Baby Hands, complete spy missions (like a virtual escape room), be in a DISNEY or Jurassic Park movie. Create 3-D art or virtual travel with Google Earth! Great for BIRTHDAY parties, families, dates, corporate events, and more!
The Grand Rapids Summer Fun Never Ends at Craig’s Cruisers
Summer starts ‘where the fun never ends!’
Craig’s Cruisers is your family’s destination for food and fun.
Even your pickiest eater will enjoy the 3-hour access to our buffet! Choose from our full salad bar, pasta, breadsticks, pizza (gluten and dairy free pizza is available upon request), roasted chicken, mac-n-cheese, cookies, ice cream, Pepsi products and more!
Plan your visit rain or shine with over 120,000 square feet of indoor recreation. Featured Indoor offerings: • Trampoline Park • Go-Karts • Laser Tag • Cruiser Coaster • Virtual Reality • Arcade Outdoor offerings: • Go-Karts • Mini-Golf • Zip Line • Bumper Boats
See the fun in action at craigscruisers.com
Discover the Wonders of Summer at Kent District Library
Kent District Library is pleased to introduce Summer Wonder, a STEAM-powered program that focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and math.
It’s an at-home program of reading, learning and discovery for all ages.
While KDL summer programs are enjoyed by people of all ages, we are placing a significant focus on school age kids, to offset the summer slide that comes from being away from school.
Summer Wonder is a 30-day challenge that runs through August 8. Check it out at kdl.org/summer.
Add Getting Battle Ready at BattleGR To Your List of Things to Do in the Summer
Looking for something fun to do this summer for the family or small group of friends?
BattleGR can bring the fun to you. We bring all the equipment and can set up right at your location. Having a birthday party? No problem we can bring the food, cupcakes, and paper products, too.
We have a strict sanitization policy and all equipment is cleaned between uses and between players.
Laser Tag is a great game to play with physical distancing and we will play different games to keep everyone engaged.
No matter the age, fun is in your future!
Saddle Up a Horse at Legacy Stables
Come enjoy the horse-human connection with our well trained horses and ponies. Any level, age or ability is welcome! Open year-round.
Riding Lessons feature a 1 hr holistic lesson in a small group setting. Students learn safety, grooming, tacking, riding! Learn how to ride English, Western & bareback. Riders ages 2-6 can have a 30 minute private lesson in our KinderPony program.
Equestrian vaulting for ages 3+! Vaulting combines elements of gymnastics and dance performed on a moving horse. Teaches balance, rhythm, confidence, teamwork & social skills. Come try it out every Saturday from 12-1 pm or join our team!
Also available: Therapeutic Riding & Adaptive Vaulting, Birthday Parties, One-Time rides, & Own-A-Horse Camp!
Take Summer Activities to New Heights at Allegan Event
Looking for a summer fun destination with a major “wow!” factor? Allegan Event offers endless adventurous activities for guests of all ages to explore, get active, and make lasting memories.
Conquer the heart-pumping Sky Trail® ropes course with Sky Rail® zip rails, Sky Tykes® course for small children, QUICKjump free-fall simulation, Vertical Drop Slide, and Clip ‘n Climb® walls!
Be sure to check out the new arcade with prize redemption, as well as a food and beverage area to relax and refuel.
Visit our website for summer hours and to build your next adventure!
Tee Up At Maple Hill Golf
Maple Hill Golf is a family-owned Golf Facility that has been in business for over 40 years that offers a variety of different programs from Lessons, Leagues, Outings, fittings and Junior Golf Programs.
Maple Hill golf Junior Golf Program is one of the largest in the mid-west. Maple Hill Golf is there for all of your golfing needs.
Challenge Yourself at Grand Rapids Public Library
Join the Summer Reading Challenge and keep your kids reading over the summer. Separate games for Little Readers, Kids and Teens encourage creativity, exploring the community, STEAM skills and more.
New this summer, weekly virtual events will stream on our social media channels. Don’t miss performances from Jim Gill, Kevin Kammeraad, and more!
It is free to sign up and finishers will receive a free book from Books and Mortar.
Summer Activities Launch into Learning at Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Experience
The Air Zoo is a highly charged, multi-sensory atmosphere that goes beyond anything you’ve ever seen!
As we are currently unable to provide our community with the on-site immersive experiences we love, we have developed an interactive and exciting online experience that brings the Air Zoo home to you.
Please visit our new Launchpad to Learning page daily. You will find do-it-at-home educational STEAM projects and experiments, artifact tutorials, games, storytelling from open cockpits and so much more.
New content will be shared through our social media channels and visitors can find educational products in our online store!
Let the Creative Juices Flow at the Mud Room
Have your kids been missing art class? Need some creative staycation plans? Add a visit to this favorite family-friendly studio to your summer bucket list!
Paint pottery, make a wood sign or sign up for a potter’s wheel class. You can even pick up projects to PAINT AT HOME! Online ordering and curbside pickup is safe and easy.
It’s a perfect solution for keeping the kids busy on a rainy day or for hosting a virtual paint-and-sip night with your mom friends.
The Mud Room is conveniently located at Knapp’s Corner and has won multiple Grandtastic Awards. Suitable for all ages, no experience necessary.
There are few things as magical as summertime in West Michigan. We love that the days are long, because we need all that extra light to enjoy being outside and exploring America’s high five.
It’s time to scout out your favorite outdoor adventures on your list of things to do in the summer in the Mitten.
Parks, Playgrounds and Lakes
Beaches beckon, parks provide all sorts of ways to play, and trails are wonderlands of discovery. So grab a water bottle and slather on some sunscreen. Here are some of our favorite things to do in summer in the great outdoors around Grand Rapids.
1) March through the covered bridge at Fallasburg Park.
2) Leap down the dune climb at Tunnel Park in Holland.
3) Climb the silo at Roselle Park.
4) Paddle around in a tandem kayak at Millennium Park.
5) Whisk down a two-story slide and play in the splash pad at Rosewood Park.
8) Bring a volleyball to play on the sand court at Manhattan Park.
9) Use the nooks and crannies of the Age of Imagination playground at Hagar Park to play some rounds of Capture the Flag or Hot/Cold.
11) Stroll the boardwalk at Pickerel Lake.
12) Glide along the shores of Hamlin Lake when you follow their canoe path.
13) You don’t have to drive far to hit the beach at Versluis Park.
14) Swing by the shores of the big lake at North Park Beach.
15) Float down the Muskegon River on a tube or other nearby waterways.
16) Picnic while you watch airplanes land and take off at the airport observation park.
Outdoor Amusement Centers & Attractions
It’s hard to beat the excitement of a day out at a local amusement or adventure park. West Michigan is home to a variety of outdoor family fun centers for you to explore. Here are a few ideas:
17) Get up close and even feed exotic animals at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park.
18) Ride the funicular and enjoy spectacular views of the Grand Rapids skyline when you explore John Ball Zoo.
19) Sail the great lakes with a visit to the popular outdoor Great Lakes waterscape or splash fountain in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
20) Take a wild ride on Shivering Timbers at Michigan’s Adventure.
21) Conquer one of the seven courses offered at TreeRunner Adventure Park, an aerial park full of climbing and zipline thrills.
21) Check out a backpack for a themed hiking experience at Blandford Nature Center.
23) Dance to the music of an Amsterdam Street Organ at Windmill Island Gardens.
24) Search for all the “animals” at the Michigan Farm Garden and then take a tram ride at Frederik Meijer Gardens.
25) Observe the quiet beauty along the Rabbit River Preserve at the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland.
26) Grab a bag and mosey through a Farmer’s Market to find the freshest ingredients for dinner.
27) Unplug from screens and reconnect with family on a camping trip.
28) Fill a basket with a favorite berry from a U-Pick Farm.
29) Take an urban hike along the waterfront of the Grand River in the heart of city. Start at Ah-Nab-Awen park and head south; cross the Blue Bridge and follow the path north along the waterfront; you can make it short hike by crossing the Gillett Bridge and heading south again, or you can venture farther north and follow the trail all the way to Fish Ladder Park.
30) Take a walking tour of the city using your smartphone and the GR Tag Tour QR codes posted around the downtown area.
31) Hum along with the Musical Fountain in Grand Haven, one of the largest of its kind in the world.
32) Park your car under the stars and catch a flick at a drive-in theater.
33) Cruise down the Grand River on the Grand Lady River Boat on a themed river cruise.
34) Root, root, root for the home team at a West Michigan Whitecaps game. (Ticket packages available for 2021 and a very limited amount of single game tickets)
On Hold til 2021
35) Spread a blanket and catch a family-friendly flick under the stars at Allendale Township Park during Movies in the Park.
Fairs and Festivals
Fairs and Festivals are a big part of West Michigan’s things to do in the summer. We love celebrations. Walking around in the warm sunshine, the sounds of kids laughing and playing nearby, elephant ears, shopping from local artisans.
All while capturing iconic views of endless tulip fields, incredible ships on the shore, or that colorful Ferris wheel reaching to the clouds.
Fairs and Festivals are Different This Year
Some remain canceled for 2021. Others are adding virtual components – or going entirely virtual. And others are still waiting to make decisions. Find the full list of area fairs and festivals this season here.
Please check with all venues before heading out for your summer activities.
36) Read and get rewarded with free rides at the Kent County Youth Fair in Lowell (August 9-14, 2021).
37) See all the animals and eat all of the elephant ears at the Hudsonville Community Fair (August 23-28, 2021).
38) Take in the monster truck show and off-road demo derby at the Allegan County Fair (September 10-18, 2021).
Old School Summer
Summer is a short one in West Michigan, but we certainly know how to pack it full of ice cream, adventure, and even a little downtime.
Here’s a big bucket list of old school summer fun ideas for families – to keep you going all summer long.
39) Make (and eat) homemade popsicles.
40) Fly a kite.
41) Play with bubbles in the backyard.
42) Ride bikes around Reed’s Lake and end up at Jersey Junction for ice cream.
43) Make your own pinwheels.
44) Have a nighttime photo shoot with sparklers.
45) Cut watermelons in half and let the kids go at them with spoons–yum!
46) Make S’mores.
47) Have a sleepover at Grandma’s.
48) Catch fireflies in a jar.
49) Paint the house/driveway with water.
50) Wash the family vehicles and don’t worry if everyone ends up soaked (adults included).
51) Camp out in the backyard (or in your living room).
52) Walk out on the pier at Grand Haven and wave at the boats going by.
53) Climb the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
54) Put up a lemonade stand.
Indoor Things to Do in the Summer
One of my kids’ favorite things on our yearly summer bucket list are finding places to “beat the heat.” Playing outside is 100% amazing, but sometimes walking into the cool bowling alley, or exploring an air-conditioned museum is the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon.
Top on our family’s list of things to do in the summer is visiting GRPL’s main library downtown and hitting up Schuler’s Books for cold drinks while we shop for more favorite reads.
Museums and Libraries
55) Kids (and kids at heart) love to play and learn at the Grand Rapids Children Museum. (Re-opening soon)
56) Get lost in a good book when you visit a storytime.
57) Log some books and earn loot with a summer reading program.
58) Go for a scenic carousel ride at Grand Rapids Public Museum.
59) Feed your imagination as you explore the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
60) Call the shots and take the seat of the President in a replica Cabinet Room at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Creativity & Movement
61) Get creative at The Mud Room, by painting pottery pieces, wooden signs, fusing glass and more.
62) Relax with some coloring during open studio times at Carolyn Stich Studio.
63) Brush up some fun by painting pottery at Accidental Art in Rockford.
64) Zipline into the deep end or tackle the obstacle course at Holland Aquatic Center during select open swim times.
65) Find the hidden word on the bouldering wall at the Salvation Army Kroc Center.
66) Take a dip in a tropical setting during Family Swim at Goldfish Swim School
67) Kids won’t tire of all the fun to be had at the two-story-tall Holland Playland indoor playground. (currently closed)
68) Swinging from a chandelier is often frowned upon, but swinging from a trapeze at Altitude is sure to delight your daredevil.
69) Explore alternate realities at Amped Virtual Reality.
70) Ride the indoor roller coaster or play on the bumper cars at Craig’s Cruisers.
71) Bounce off the walls at Sky Zone and jump into fun at this large trampoline park.
72) Play life-sized Foosball in a specially designed arena at Rebounderz.
74) Your mission (if you choose to accept it) is to have a blast playing tactical laser-tag at BattleGR.
78) Hit the dance floor in a cloud of bubbles when the hourly dance party drops at Catch Air.
79) Grab lunch and check out a Kid’s Wednesday at the Downtown Market.
81) On Wednesdays, stroll through the Grand Haven Farmers Market and get a yummy treat.
82) Shop the historic Fulton Street Farmer’s Market.
83) Is it even summer until you get a scoop of Superman ice cream? Check out some of the top-voted places to indulge your sweet tooth.
84) Find a food truck and order something you’ve never tasted before.
Summer Camps & Classes
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean learning has to stop. Your kids can expand their knowledge and skills all summer long, even on break from school.
It’s all about finding the right rhythm and balance for your tribe. Whether you’re a list-making taskmaster or a carpe diem drifter, we’ve brainstormed some of our favorite ways to learn from the classroom of life.
85) Combine gymnastics and swimming into a fabulous day camp experience at Grand Rapids Gymnastics.
87) Tee up and hit the links as your aspiring golf-pro learns from the best at Maple Hill.
92) Learn all about the responsibilities and joys of caring for horses at ‘Own-A-Horse Camp’ at Legacy Stables.
93) Improve your volleyball, basketball, soccer and more at a sports camp at Michigan Sports Academies (MSA).
95) Explore the science of Harry Potter or Star Wars, learn to code or play the ukulele, or even develop your Magna art skills at one of the many camp options at Hope College.
97) Release your inner artist at Grand Rapids Art Museum Virtual Summer Art Camp.
98) Find a nearby VBS program with our West Michigan VBS Round-Up. (most canceled for 2020)
99) Check out some of the many themed full or half-day programs offered through Camp Kroc.
101) Prevent a summer slide at Lake Michigan Academy with a hands-on activities for kids with learning disabilities.
102) Get a feel for what it’s like to be a doctor to animals during Vet Camp at the Humane Society of West Michigan.
If travel plans are on your summer bucket list, then you are in the right spot. There are so many fun road trip ideas from Grand Rapids to beautiful places around pure Michigan, the surrounding Midwest region, and even Canada. There’s no better time to pack the car and hit the road than during the summer season.
Heading up north to find more things to do in the summer is ritual for many !
103) It’s almost as Up North as you can get when you travel to Marquette – and make sure to stop by Kitch-Iti-Kipi as well.
104) Celebrate all things cherry in Traverse City, home of the National Cherry Festival every July.
105) Venture over the bridge to the land of the Yooper when you go to Sault Ste Marie and beyond.
106) You can walk across the Mini-Mackinac Bridge any time of the year when you visit the Michigan Science Museum in Detroit.
107) Get the inside tips from other Michigan families about where they go to unplug and go camping.
108) Splish-splash and with just a quick dash, you could be frolicking at a nearby water park destination.
109) There’s plenty of Capital fun in Michigan’s capital city, Lansing.
110) Immerse yourself in rustic German culture as you stay at “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth.
111) No matter your level of camping experience, Silver Lake Resort and Campgrounds has you covered, from helping to pitch a tent or renting a cabin and loads of options in between.
112) Put your pedal to the metal as you bike your way around Mackinac Island.
Midwest & Canadian Destinations
113) Marvel at the majesty of Niagara Falls. Make sure to also take time to check out the surrounding regions, filled with family-friendly activities.
114) Get a taste of European flair without the long distance when you drive to Toronto.
115) Fedoras are optional as you take on the role of an archaeologist at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum – an absolute must when you visit Indianapolis.
116) Indulge with a Yummi Bunni in Fort Wayne.
117) Voyage across Lake Michigan on the Lake Express High-Speed Ferry to Milwaukee and “sneak” into dinner at The Safehouse.
118) Walk, crawl, slide, and jump as you wander through City Museum (which some describe as a playground on steroids) when you visit the gateway to the west: St. Louis.
Back to School
As they say, all good things must come to an end. Summer will come to a close and back to school season will be upon us. Let us help you make planning for the upcoming school year easier, so you can enjoy the last few weeks of summer activities without worry.
Your Back to School List
120) Take time to get new backpacks and that back-to-school haircut.
122) If your child has mastered preschool, but maybe isn’t ready to dive into full-time, five-days-a-week Kindergarten, check out some Young 5 Kindergarten options.
123) Curious about all the hubbub over school of choice? Learn how to navigate it here in West Michigan.
124) Looking for more specialized education for your student? With options ranging from religious institutions, museum schools, language immersion and even aviation school, there are a whole of host of possibilities to consider.
125) If you are a home-based education family, you can find some helpful resources here to enrich your curriculum.
126) Need to plan some ideas for field trips? Then this is the guide for you!
127) Visit the Summer Highlight Sponsors and thank them for making this list – and GRKIDS.com – possible.
What summer activities will your family be doing this year?
Did we miss your favorite thing to do in the summer? We always love to hear from you, so please leave us a comment below!