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Add these West Michigan Destinations to your Summer Bucket List!

There is no shortage of fun and uniquely-West Michigan places to visit, things to do and sights to see during the long days of summer!  Here’s a few items to add to your Summer Bucket List!

Upper Peninsula 

Take a trip over the might Mackinac Bridge to the naturally scenic Upper Peninsula, and explore all the way from St. Ignace to Marquette, on the shores of Lake Superior.

Located north of downtown Marquette, Sugarloaf Mountain offers grand views from the top. Rated ‘moderate’ in difficulty, this half-mile climb is best viewed when the morning sky is still rosy.

Presque Isle Park in Marquette is considered to be ‘the finest natural city park in the world.’ Enjoy a hike to see many of its natural attractions, or head to the cove where kids of all ages jump from the Black Rocks into the cold waters of Lake Superior on hot summer days. Just be sure to respect the power of Lake Superior and take note that there are no lifeguards on duty.

Have you been meaning to go sea kayaking, mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding, or hiking? The Keweenaw Adventure Company is your headquarters for Upper Peninsula outdoor adventures. They are experts who offer a variety of guided day trips and state-of-the art rentals, as well as multi-day Lake Superior kayak tours on Isle Royale National Park.

If you are like a lot of people, Mackinac Island is on your bucket list. And if it’s not – it should be! You will need to take Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry or Star Line Ferry to get there, and the ferry trip itself is a memorable start and finish to your visit.

The top items on your list are going to include a horse-drawn carriage tour, a visit to Fort Mackinac, and of course – eat lots of fudge from Joann’s or Murdick’s.

Visit the brand new Nature Center that is operated by Mackinac State Historic Parks. You can learn about the environment of the Island and the species that live there, and it’s free to visit.

Painting plein air on picturesque Mackinac Island at the Island House Hotel with the guidance of a renowned local artist is a special experience. You will work outdoors in acrylic, oil or watercolor, capturing Mackinac’s striking light and hues with a nationally renowned ‘Mackinac’ artist, who knows the Island as few others do. All levels of painters are welcome! Dates are available from May through August.

 

North

A trip to Shanty Creek is perfect if you’re looking for the “Up North” experience. Settled amid Michigan’s Chain of Lakes, featuring beautiful Torch Lake and just minutes away from the shores of Lake Michigan, Shanty Creek is the perfect setting for summertime water enthusiasts. Whether you want to splash in the sandbar made famous by Kid Rock, fish for walleye and trout, or paddle your kayak in the mild rapids of the Jordan River, it’s all there.

Try FootGolf, a hybrid of golf and soccer, while you’re visiting Shanty Creek. The idea of blending golf and soccer has been around for decades, and it is now a recognized tournament sport in over 20 countries.

Come to one of the special nightly dinners at Hearth & Vine Café at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay! There is something for all taste buds, from BBQ to Seafood Paella and Family Pasta Nights. Enjoyed outdoors on the patio, kids can also take in the horses and goats playing on the farm.

Located just minutes from 1-75 in Gaylord, Treetops Resort is home to some of the most beautiful and pristine land Northern Michigan has to offer. Golf Digest has just recognized Treetops Resort’s ‘Threetops’ Par 3 Course as one of 20 must do’s on the Common Man’s Bucket List. With elevated tees and tree-hugged holes ‘Threetops’ offers a truly scenic experience and provides a fun challenge even for the most experienced golfers.

Petoskey Stone hunting is family-friendly, inexpensive and fun! Come scour shorelines in the Petoskey Area in search of the fossilized coral that is Michigan’s state stone.

Families who love the water will want to visit Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark: the 88,000 square foot Avalanche Bay at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls offers hours of fun no matter what the weather.

Adventure seekers will want to catch a ride at Wildwood Rush in Boyne City, which has the Midwest’s largest zipline adventure. Great views, high speeds and cool suspension bridges make this a favorite for those looking for an adrenaline rush.

Never been to Bay View? This National Historic Landmark is home to 445 historic homes, two inns and 140-acre nature preserve. History buffs in particular will love the atmosphere and lectures, and those looking for a cultural experience will want to take in a play, concert or discussion.

Be sure to add tall ship Manitou’s Floating Bed & Breakfast” to your bucket list! Fresh air and starry nights abound from the decks of one of the largest traditional sailing vessels on the Great Lakes. Climb on board in Traverse City for a two hour evening cruise with a picnic meal, and then return to the dock where you’ll spend overnight secured at the pier, followed by a hearty homemade breakfast cooked on a wood-burning stove in the morning.  

Also in Traverse City, enjoy a Romantic Overnight Package aboard the sailing yacht Scout, with a sunset sail followed by a romantic night tucked away at the dock in the marina. Walk down the dock to enjoy an evening cocktail, head to town for a little night life, or just immerse yourselves in the tranquility of life aboard your yacht. Awake in the morning to a full breakfast served on board.

With plenty of seating and a huge outdoor patio overlooking the rolling hills of Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula and West Grand Traverse Bay, Bonobo Winery is a must for your summer bucket list. The sunset over the bay and vineyard never, ever gets old. Visit on Fridays in the summer for their Summer Music Series.

Nestled among the freshwater beaches and hardwood forests of Traverse City, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa has something for everyone: Spa Grand Traverse, a private Beach Club on Grand Traverse Bay, three championship golf courses, and indoor/outdoor pools including an Indoor Water Playground. The 17-story Tower provides the most stunning views you’ll find in all of Northern Michigan—be sure to stop for a cocktail or dinner at Aerie (a two-time Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner) to catch the sunset!

Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA), based in Suttons Bay, is for those people who like to take educational vacations! ISEA has a variety of science sails throughout the summer, including the Great Lakes Discovery, Fishes of Lake Michigan, Great Lakes Under the Microscope, and more. On each sail, participants learn about the health of the Great Lakes through hands-on activities where you’ll take lake samples and analyze them, as well as get to assist in sailing the 77′ schooner by raising the sails and steering the ship.

Enjoy a day at the Sleeping Bear National Dunes & Lakeshore in Empire, including dune  climbing, Empire Beach, picnic lunch, and a drive up Stocking Drive to “The Most Beautiful Place in America” to catch a sunset.

Get dinner and show at the Young American’s Dinner Theater at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs. The Young Americans ensemble is made up of young, up-and-coming performers, handpicked from across the nation for much-anticipated performances at Boyne Highlands each June, July and August. To enhance the experience, the Broadway-style performances are paired with sophisticated cuisine, resulting in an unforgettable evening of delicious fun.

Celebrate Gaylord’s Wings over Northern Michigan Air Show 10 Year Anniversary June 16 and 17 at an airshow like you’ve never experienced before! You’ll see everything from historical WWII aircraft and vehicles to state-of-the-art modern military assets, pyrotechnics and more. You’re so close, you feel like you’re part of the show! Feel the ground shake, your heart pound, the jets rumble, and the explosions rattle.

Since the great state of Michigan is over 40% covered with water, a paddling trip on one of Michigan’s waterways should be on everyone’s summer bucket list! The Pine River Paddlesports Center in Wellston makes a river trip an absolute breeze, with canoe, kayak, stand-up paddle boards, and raft rentals on two of Michigan’s premiere paddling rivers – the Pine River and the Big Manistee River. From easy, meandering, quiet water to fun, splashy, safe Class I whitewater, there is something for all ages and all skill levels. They also operate a clean, quiet campground that is a perfect location to serve as your base-camp for exploring Michigan’s pristine rivers.

 

Central

Plan a visit to Holland and climb 237 steps up Mt Pisgah, a towering sand dune overlooking Lake Michigan, Lake Macatawa, and the famous “Big Red” lighthouse.  Enjoy the entertainment of the Downtown Holland Street Performers Series Thursday evenings (June 13-August 29). The Holland Farmer’s Market, (Wednesdays and Saturdays 8am – 2pm, Mondays 5pm-8pm) features locally-sourced produce, flowers, meats, cheeses, and breads.

Downtown Grand Rapids has summer dinner, drink, and relaxation specials waiting for you! Book some time at Amway Grand Plaza Spa with spa specials to get those summer nails ready and to keep your skin fresh and healthy after strong sun contact. Enjoy an evening at JW Marriott jdek overlooking the Grand River with delightful food and drinks. The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck patio is a great spot to overlook the Grand River, soak in some warmth and eat delightful food. The GP Sports patio is a hidden gem that gives fresh air with great food and drinks.

Shop the Grand Rapids Downtown Market “Made In Michigan Pop Up Marketplace” May 25, June 22, July 27, August 24 for artisan gifts, local treats, and Michigan-made (and grown!) goodies. Shop the Pop-up Marketplace from 9am-4pm, then head inside and enjoy food, fun, and entertainment at one of the Downtown Market’s 20+ indoor food vendors.

With 10 amazing courses and 10 relaxing retreats to choose from, Michigan’s Central Swing in Mt. Pleasant is the destination every golfer is looking for when planning a getaway. The best part? Michigan’s Central Swing does all the reservation making for you!

This summer, Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant will host performances by Criss Angel, Collective Soul, and Gin Blossoms inside the Entertainment Hall, and will kick off its outdoor summer concert series with Sugarland and special guest Eli Young Band June 28. They also offer Max & Emily’s Summer Concert Series, which is unique and free!

Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market returns June 6th through October 31st. For more than 40 years, the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market has not only offered the freshest in-season fruits and vegetables, but an opportunity to gather as a community and support area farmers and healthy living. The farmers’ market runs every Thursday from 7:30am to 2pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 2pm.

If you’re looking for fun activities to do throughout the summer, Mecosta County, does not disappoint. For those who would like to experience lovely afternoons in the sun, Big Rapids Downtown Business Association is hosting their annual Pocket Park Concert Series every Friday at noon from May 31st through August 30th. They also host the Summer Concert Series at the Big Rapids Middle School Bandshell every Wednesday night beginning June 20th and running until August 15th.

Plan a trip to the mighty yet majestic Muskegon River, the 2nd longest river in Michigan. Here there are many fishing points as well as tubing, canoeing, and kayaking.  

Experience nature and science in the strangest of places! Muskegon’s Wastewater Management System is a one-of-a-kind 11,000 acre marvel so massive it has been viewed by orbiting NASA astronauts. Opportunities for recreation abound here:Birders come from all over the United States to observe over 256 species of birds (two-thirds of all species ever recorded in Michigan). Possibly the rarest bird ever documented in the state, the White Wagtail, has been spotted here. Other opportunities at the site include nature trails, hunting, and trapping.

Muskegon County loves pets! With one of Michigan’s best dog beaches, Norman F. Kruse Park (just south of Pere Marquette Park), and a new downtown Muskegon Dog Park, your pet is welcome to Visit Muskegon too! You’ll also find an assortment of pet-friendly accommodations.

Explore a lighthouse this summer with the Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association. The White River Light Station in Whitehall, the Little Sable Point Lighthouse in Silver Lake, the Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse in Ludington, and the Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park are unique and bucket list icons to see, visit, climb, or even stay at!

Jump Around Fun Center in Ludington offers a 11,000 square foot outdoor inflatable park that has a variety of inflatables for all ages, a picnic area, and can accommodate large groups of up to 100 bouncers at time. Brand new this year is their Mobile Virtual Reality Experience. Theur park is completely outdoors, so it is unlike most other inflatable parks you will find.

If Boating is on your summer Bucket list, you need to check out the Freedom Boat Club in Spring Lake. They know that your family time is limited and how precious time spent together on the water can be. In order to do that, you need to consider exploring Michigan’s greatest resource, our lakes. The problem is boat ownership can be very expensive and time consuming which makes you feel apprehensive. Freedom Boat Club believes in making boating affordable and hassle free.

Hudsonvilles Concert on the Green Series happens every Thursday night in June in the Veteran’s Park, with a different theme each week. Stop by for some great music, food trucks, and giveaways! Terra Square Farmers Market, also in Hudsonville, happens every Wednesday from 8am-1pm starting June and ending in September. There will also be Saturday markets on June 29, July 27, August 31, September 28.

 

South

Hastings is becoming a destination for music in West Michigan. The Wednesday evening Community Concert Series and Friday Night Features include some of the best local and regional artists, and rising stars like The Accidentals, Luke Winslow-King and more! Both Wednesday and Friday concerts begin at 7:30pm at the Thornapple Plaza, located on the banks of the Thornapple River. Come early and enjoy a stroll along the Riverwalk Trail or some of the unique shopping and dining opportunities in downtown Hastings.

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings is set on 742 acres with 9 miles of hiking trails open dawn to dusk. The Institute is a mix between a nature center and biological field station, with a wide variety of seasonal programs, hiking, and wildlife observation. Whether you come to take a class, explore the trails, attend an event, or participate in research, your experience at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute will be a rewarding one.

Pack your bags and head to Lansing – the heart of Michigan – for your next weekend getaway. With over 60 festivals and events throughout the year, it’s no wonder that Lansing is known as Michigan’s festival capital. While visiting downtown Lansing, experience five fabulous attractions within a five block radius. You’ll have a hard time choosing between a vibrant festival, delightful patio dining, a little boutique shopping in Old Town, or the terrific golf options.

Michigan is known for the Great Lakes along with plenty of inland lakes, but did you know that Coldwater Country is home to two chains of lakes and more than one hundred freshwater lakes? Rent a pontoon and make it a day of relaxation on the water.  As the sun sets, make your way to the Capri Drive-In, one of the remaining drive-in movie theaters in Michigan. The Capri Drive-In shows first run double features on both screens.

Located on the tranquil St. Joseph River, En Gedi Campground and Canoe Livery is just a half hour from Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Coldwater, Sturgis, and Three Rivers. Enjoy the great outdoors in this no alcohol, no marijuana summer oasis for your family. Camping and canoe livery season opens Memorial Day weekend. Camp, relax, play, enjoy, En Gedi!

View Lake Michigan and the coastline from 53′ in the air! The rich maritime history of the area is shared by volunteers who guide you through the light. Enjoy the first floor free of charge or climb to the tower for $5. The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center will be offering St. Joseph Lighthouse Tours beginning May 24, Memorial Day, through September 8 for public tours. Celebrate Summer Solstice (June 21) with a special lighthouse tour from 7 to sunset. Check for special music and story nights at the lighthouse Facebook: StJoeLightHouseTours.  

Follow the Makers Trail through Berrien County and pop wine corks, tap beer kegs and whiskey barrels, and pour flights for you and your friends. Drink in these makers’ art and bring home your favorites. Along the trail, enjoy your choices with pairings of savory cheeses, smoky grilled meats, crisp vegetables and hand-dipped, creamy chocolates. Pause for a moment in the whirl of life. These are the makers of happiness.

Sail on Southwest Michigan’s only historic replica tallship Friends Good Will! Whether it’s chasing pirates, helping to set sail, or enjoying a stunning South Haven sunset on Lake Michigan, this is an experience you won’t want to miss. Don’t just read about history, experience it for yourself with the Michigan Maritime Museum.