A Trip Around the Upper Peninsula – with Kids
Say Ya To Da U.P., Eh!
My husband and I really want our kids to have an appreciation for the beautiful state we call home.
Although we were not exactly singing Michigan’s praises during the polar vortex that nearly consumed us this past winter, we have both lived in Michigan our entire lives and we love it here.
We wanted to plan a vacation that would allow us to see new things, spend lots of time outside, let the kids learn a little bit about our great state and, above all else, have lots of fun family time together.
Our Upper Peninsula vacation achieved all of those goals for us.
So here is a little glimpse into last year’s Randall Family Up North Adventure
Stop in St. Ignace
We spent two nights in St. Ignace (which is just across the Mackinac Bridge) before heading further north.
We stayed at The Best Western Harbour Pointe which we loved. It’s right on the water, has an indoor and outdoor pool, a playground, plenty of space for the kids to run around, and a bonfire with s’mores at night.
Here we visited Castle Rock, which offers an amazing view of the lake, Mackinac Island and St. Ignace. It is probably more than 200 stairs to the top (so be prepared to carry your smaller kids), but the view is worth it.
Plus, your kids will dig having their picture taken with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
We also had fun exploring the little shops and restaurants in downtown St. Ignace including The Indian Village, which has a combination of cool hand crafted items and cheap plastic trinkets. Another favorite was Bridge View Park where we enjoyed a picnic lunch looking out at the bridge.
Rent a Rowboat at Tahquamenon Falls
From St. Ignace we headed to Tahquamanon Falls. Located in Paradise (how appropriate!), we spent a few hours taking in the beautiful scenery. We visited both the upper and lower falls within Tahquamanon Falls State Park. There were nice paved paths, good signage, and clean bathrooms. (Translation: a very doable trip for little ones!)
The upper falls are quite magnificent. (200 feet across, a 50 foot drop, and 50,000 gallons of water per second!) The lower falls are much more calm, but also very beautiful. We were feeling brave and rented a rowboat.
The rowboat actually ended up being quite fun and allowed us to see more of the park and falls. Within the park, there was plenty of space available for a picnic lunch, food available for purchase, and a nice gift shop.
If you choose to stay within the park, there are four different campgrounds ranging from rustic to modern. There are also a couple of cabins available to rent. More details about the park can be found here.
Eat Lunch in Grand Marais
Our next stop was Grand Marais, a quaint little town on the shores of Lake Superior. We had a great lunch at Lake Superior Brewing Company and made a quick stop at the Log Slide Overlook which gives you an amazing view of the water and dunes.
Explore the Pictured Rocks
Along the way to Munising we stopped at Sable Falls and Twelve mile Beach, both beautiful places to take in some impressive scenery, walk off a little energy, and check out more of Lake Superior and its gorgeous beaches.
We spent two nights in Munising which allowed us plenty of time to take in the sights of Pictured Rocks and Lake Superior.
We stayed at Beach Inn Motel which I would highly recommend. Although the rooms were fairly standard, there are lots of nice extras (all rooms are waterfront, fire pit, grills, lots of nice Adirondack chairs for outdoor relaxation, free breakfast).
Munising itself is a very small town (population 2,329!), but has a couple great little restaurants (we enjoyed Sydney’s and The Dogpatch). There are several cute little gift shops and ice cream places. Munising also boasts 17 waterfalls. The natural beauty of this little town is truly amazing.
Pictured Rocks, the main attraction in Munising, is absolutely breathtaking.
You can easily spend an entire day hiking around. I don’t think you can truly appreciate the beauty of the rocks any way other than from the water.
Through Pictured Rock Cruises, we enjoyed a 2 and a half hour cruise (which was a little long for my youngest) that allowed us to see the whole expanse.
Our tour guide was a young man with a great sense of humor, so it was informative but also light and fun. Get more info here. You can sit inside or outside (you get the best views from the top deck). Tickets are $36 for adults and $10 for kids (6 and under is free). Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore spans 40 miles of Lake Superior. There are over 100 miles of trails within the park.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Hiawatha National Forest Interagency Visitor Center is a good first stop. This will help you get a better picture of the area and help you plan out your day. We loved visiting Miners Beach where my husband and I enjoyed walking the beach and looking for interesting rocks. Our kids preferred to go up and down the sand dunes countless times!
Visit the Soo Locks
On the way home, we stopped in Sault Ste. Marie, the oldest city in Michigan and the third oldest city in the United States. (Did you know that Sault Ste Marie was Michigan’s first capital?)
We of course checked out the Soo Locks. I was a little unsure about how interested my kids would be in this, but they were both pretty fascinated.
We spent a long time in the museum (free) and the observation deck (also free). We opted to not take the boat tour where you actually get to experience the locks, but that would also be a fun family activity.
Our entire family loved our dinner at Antlers Restaurant (if you are freaked out by taxidermy, you may want to consider a different option!) and also just walking around the downtown area.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn which made everyone happy because there was a pool, hot tub, laundry, and free breakfast. On our way out of town, we enjoyed lunch at West Pier Drive-In, a tiny burger joint that makes unbelievably humongous delicious burgers. My son was literally crying when he got his burger because he couldn’t figure out how to fit it in his mouth. Once he figured it out, he was crying tears of joy.
Yes, it’s that good. There are only a handful of seats inside the restaurant; most people eat in their cars or outside as you can often see large boats heading in and out of the locks while you enjoy your grub.
When We Return
We saw such a small portion of the U.P. but had a memorable time. Our kids have talked about our trip all year and can’t wait to go back again. Some day we would still like to make it to the Porcupine Mountains, Copper Harbor, Houghton, and Isle Royale. If you are considering an up north adventure, this website may be helpful.