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Educational activities and events to add to your summer vacation

From museums to camps, and historical tours to workshops, there are so many educational options to add to your West Michigan summer vacation!

Have a trip planned already?  Check our calendar to see what events are happening nearby!

All Summer Long

Jump Around Fun Center’s Virtual Reality arcade in Ludington not only has fun & surreal 360 degree, fully immersive games for ages 7+, but also a collection of cool educational VR experiences that allow you to explore things like the solar system, underwater expeditions, and even how cells work within our bodies!

For twenty-five years the Keweenaw Adventure Company in Copper Harbor has been enacting ethical business practices that today are being defined on an international scale as sustainable and/or responsible tourism. Their staff is made up of professionals who impart their knowledge to customers thorough instruction, interpretation & storytelling, and various safety measures. Learn more and book your educational get-away today.

Fill your family’s summer with fun ways to learn about nature and history! Immerse yourself in

nature at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Augusta, where you can see waterfowl, gamebirds, songbirds, and birds of prey as you walk the picturesque trails around Wintergreen Lake. Take a tour, or explore on your own! Visit the W.K. Kellogg Manor House and Estate to tour the cereal king’s grand former summer home and beautiful gardens and grounds. Built in the 1920s, this restored gem is a fantastic door to history. Take a self-guided tour or schedule a guided group tour.

Visit the Hackley & Hume Historic Site of the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon with the family. Bring the young ones, and, while the adults are enjoying a tour throughout the sites or learning more about local history, your kids can enjoy their own history experience with games, tours, and make ‘n take activities.

While visiting Ludington, you will want to check out the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, which helps you discover the town’s rich maritime past. The museum brings history to life with digital storytelling, authentic images and artifacts, and engaging interactive exhibits that entertain and inspire a deeper appreciation of Ludington’s history on the coast of Lake Michigan.

Kids can enter a world of exploration and learning when they discover the many exhibits and activities at Sandcastles Children’s Museum in Downtown Ludington. This summer’s events include Kindermusik, Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles, Robotic Legos and puppet shoes, just to name a few. A variety of fun and engaging activities are available all summer long at the Ludington & Scottville libraries. From preschool story time to Teen Movie Night, Nerf Wars and Summerween, these events are designed to keep all ages entertained this season.

The Pump House Museum and Learning Center in Holland focuses on interpreting the histories of the resort communities which were built beginning in the 1880s around the western end of Lake Macatawa, about five miles west of downtown Holland. Currently at the museum is an interactive display about Holland’s iconic Big Red Lighthouse, which is situated on the south channel at the entrance to Holland Harbor. Access to Big Red itself is limited, however, the Pump House Museum display depicts and explains all aspects of the Holland Harbor Fog Signal Building and lighthouse. Here you’ll learn about the transition of Holland from a busy commercial port to a recreational port and the role played by Big Red. The Pump House Museum will be open every Saturday and Sunday in June from 1:00 pm-5:00 pm. Also featured are activities for youngsters, as well as a display of Big Red stories and illustrations created by area upper elementary school students who participated in a “Big Red” Learning Center project. Other interpreted exhibits include displays of artifacts and souvenirs from the Hotel Ottawa and the history of the big Deming triplex water pump, which is on display in the south gallery. It is a marvel of late 19th century technology.

Spending your vacation in the Mt. Pleasant Area? There are several educational options to fill your day! Art Reach Center in Downtown Mt. Pleasant hosts events focused on the arts for all ages. The Chippewa River District Library (CRDL) hosts a variety of events each month, focusing on the subjects of arts, science, history and more! Past events include Kids & Culture, arts & crafts, LEGO Robotics and more! The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy protects natural habitat and open space in the counties on the Chippewa River. The CWC works to educate others through guided hikes and special events monthly. At the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum, your can become a real life beekeeper as you climb through the giant beehive, go camping and pretend to be an ant as you climb through PleasANT Park. The Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum makes learning fun through its various exhibits.

Next time you’re visiting Saugatuck/Douglas, use their Saugatuck-Douglas history app on your phone to learn more about the historical sites/attractions in the area. It’s interactive, fun and educational all at the same time!

There’s lots of family fun educational entertainment in Mecosta County! The Big Rapids Community Library has resources for the community including books, computers, various events and programs year round as well as throughout the summer, including the Seed Library in which you can browse the library’s seed collection, borrow to plant and grow your own food before letting your plant “go to seed”, collecting the leftover seeds and returning them to the library. Throughout this program the library will teach you how to tend to your plants as well as give you information on the Community Gardens throughout Big Rapids. For a more collaborative list of all the wonderful places to enjoy fun with your kids, check out the Mecosta County “Family Fun” brochure as well as other brochures such as “The Robert Barnum Art Tour” and the Ferris State University “Bulldawg Tour” all of which can be found here.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is coming to Holland! Beginning June 15th, this free outdoor exhibit will be located just two blocks from Downtown Holland. In Centennial Park, thousands of annual plants will be used to create a 10’ X 12’ “open book” cover of this classic novel.  The iconic yellow brick road will lead you to Herrick District Library where it continues through landscaped areas of colorful annuals and perennials. Six life-sized bronze sculptures from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will be placed along the yellow brick road, allowing visitors to interact with them. Not only will children find this exhibit enchanting, but people of all ages will enjoy seeing these beloved characters in Holland! More than just a place for books, the Herrick District Library is abuzz with activity year-round. Children and adults can enjoy a variety of activities, such as daily storytime, movie nights, and other fun activities for all ages!

The Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland is a non-profit outdoor education organization. Through its programs, demonstration areas and interpretive exhibits, the Center provides students and community members with up- close views of nature and learning opportunities about the West Michigan environment. The ODC Nature Preserve is a 130 acre preserve with almost 5 miles of trails that are open dawn to dusk.

Hemlock Crossing Park near Holland offers exhibits, a wildlife den with critters and educational activities, a wildlife viewing area, and much more!

Learn about farm animals and pet chickens, ducks, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows, and more at the Critter Barn in Zeeland! The Critter barn is open Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 am-6:00 pm.

The best way to get acquainted with Holland is to take a crash course in its fascinating history. At the Holland Museum, you’ll learn about the arrival of the Dutch in 1847, their struggle for access to Lake Michigan, the devastating fire of 1871, and the amazing story of Holland’s rise from the ashes.  Also on display is an extensive collection of Dutch fine and decorative arts, such as Delftware, silver, Dutch costumes and fine furniture. These artifacts tell the story of over 400 years of Dutch History. Open every second Monday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM with free admission and Wednesday – Saturday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Bring the kids to explore and learn at Raven Hill Discovery Center, which is located on 166 acres in Charlevoix County, nestled in a rural setting with pond, swamp, forest & fields. Let them explore the museum and animals as well as experience science and technology, history and the arts and quality hands-on experiences in a fun and educational setting. Rain, snow or shine, it’s a great place to spend a day. The Second Saturday of each month is free admission to Raven Hill Discovery Center in beautiful Charlevoix County from noon to 4 pm for families (no groups please). Raven Hill Free Second Saturdays: Enjoy hands-on science, history and the arts Explore the museum and animals Discover outdoor exhibits Bring all ages, abilities and interests. Strengthen creative and critical process skills. Provide opportunities for problem solving. Build a generation of curious learners. Perfect for quality family time

This summer, the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo is opening an engaging new exhibit, D-Day 75: En Route by Plane & Parachute. The 75th anniversary of D-Day is June 6, so this is a prime time to dive deep into this important day in history. Learn how Allied forces made incredible sacrifices to bring an end to the terror of Nazism in Europe.

Beginning June 9, 2019, Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks will offer free one-hour, Sunday morning chipping and putting lessons for children ages 7–15 on their 18 hole, Welter’s Folly course. PGA Professional Mike Laughner, will lead the classes for pint-sized putters. Pre-registration is required and class size is limited. No purchase necessary. Welter’s Folly is open to the public daily.

Step back in time with the Mackinac State Historic Parks at Fort Michilimacinac in Mackinaw City and Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island.

This summer, learn how to kneeboard, water ski, and wakeboard at Action Wake Park in Hudsonville.

One-Time/Special Events

The Art Of: Collecting @ 78 RPM with Alex Tank special event will be held at Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, Thursday, June 13th, 6:00 pm. What are the origins of the 3-minute pop song? It’s all about space – the available space on one side of a record! Vinyl is definitely making a comeback, but 78 RPM records are where the craze started. Join local collector Alex Tank and Dennos staff for a look at 78 RPM records, including the time period, the music, and the sleeve art. Make a few pit stops in the gallery to look at artworks that have a connection to early 20th century music and culture. Refreshments served. Limited to 30 people. Reserve your spot by calling 231.995.1055.

Hickory Creek Winery in Buchanan kicks off its 2019 wine education season with a Level 1 WSET class taught by Napa Valley Wine Academy instructor, Liz Pirnat. This foundational class, on May 18th 10am to 4:30pm, will feature WSET curriculum to include food and wine pairing, wine tasting etiquette, regional and varietal basics, Le Nez du Vin wine aromatics training, and a gourmet lunch.

The perfect itinerary of family-friendly activities awaits you during Engineer’s Weekend in Sault Ste. Marie. The last weekend in June has something for everyone: spectacular vistas, unbridled power, and so much more. Best of all, it’s your once-per-year chance to sneak a peek behind the scenes at the Soo Locks. Walk across the mighty Soo Locks walls and explore the buildings and special exhibits open only the last Friday of June. Engineer’s Day festivities are held from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm. The gates are open to allow visitors to explore on their own self-guided tours across the Locks and into historically important structures (Davis Building and the Administration Building) used solely for the work of one of the world’s busiest lock systems.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum will be showing a special double feature of The Queen Light Show and Dark Side: The Light Show in the Chaffee Planetarium. Music enthusiasts will rock out to the music of Queen and Pink Floyd paired with stunning visuals on the planetarium dome. The Museum’s doors open at 6:30 pm with the first show starting at 7:00 pm. Visitors will be able to make a stop by the cash bar before heading into the planetarium with their beverages to enjoy the first show and during a short intermission. June 6 and August 1, 2019 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $8 for non-members, $4 for members and include both shows.

The USS LST 393 Veterans Museum and Rolling Thunder present “D-Day Plus 75!” on June 1st in Muskegon. This World War II landing ship tank will feature special displays and exhibits to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. The celebration will feature an honor ride, World War II reenactors, unique World War II vehicles, the amazing “Air Raid Muskegon” featuring historic aircraft “battling” reenactors on the ship, and special activities for kids.

Get up-close with the Great Lakes in a hands-on experience for the entire family June 1st on the Inland Seas Education Association Great Lakes Discovery Sail in Traverse City. The adventure takes place aboard our 77′ schooner Inland Seas and begins as soon as we leave the dock. You will help us trawl for fish, collect plankton, and sample the lake bottom so we can take a look at all parts of the lake. The discovery begins when you hold fish in your hand, gasp at the miniature world contained in a drop of water, uncover animals in bottom samples, and conduct chemical tests on the water.

Camps

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning! Marquettes Northern Michigan University offers the perfect mix of education and exploration during its Environmental Science Camp. Participants will experience first-hand how scientists incorporate technology and field experiences in studying the changing environment. Paddle the AuTrain River to Lake Superior to monitor water quality issues. Learn about local minerals, techniques used to extract them, and how mining affects the environment and society. Understand the role of the Great Lakes in shipping resources such as iron ore. Explore pristine lakes and ancient mountains. Learn how people have interacted for thousands of years with the landscapes of the Upper Peninsula, and experience modern-day Marquette while learning about urban planning and historical aspects of the city’s growth

Looking for something fun and educational this summer for your child? Sign them up for the Michigan Maritime Museum Kids STEM Summer Camp, July 22nd-26th, in South Haven. The STEM curriculum focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM Camp is open to 3rd-5th graders. The half-day camp, held on the Michigan Maritime Museum campus in South Haven, will feature a maritime themed program through engaging STEM activities and lessons.  The camp includes activities aboard our tall ship Friends Good Will, campus tours, and a cruise on the late 19th century replica river launch Lindy Lou. There are only 12 spots available. Registration is now open.

Summer fun happens at the Grand Rapids Public Museum! Students pre-K through 9th grade will explore the wonders of science, history, culture, art and fun for 9 weeks. The Museum will become learning lab as students experiment and grow, all while having a great time in one of the area’s most history-rich and “cool” environments, June 17 – August 2019. Prices vary by camp; register at grpm.org/campcurious.

Pack your bags and get ready to explore activities, cuisine, and culture from countries around the world. In the three-day Simmer Camps at the Downtown Market Grand Rapids, junior chefs will get hands-on while learning kitchen basics like knife skills, fundamental kitchen techniques, recipe following, and more. Campers will make multi-course meals and enjoy their culinary creations with their fellow tastebud travelers. Two sessions available, June 18th-20th, 9:00am-11:30am and 1:00pm-3:30pm and Class is limited to 18 participants. Ages 7-11.

Students are encouraged to attend a week-long theatre workshop led by professional actors at Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater from July 8 through July 13 with a special showcase on July 14 to show off their new skills! Workshop-goers will also attend two professional Tibbits Summer Theatre and Popcorn Theatre productions.

Looking for a more artistic approach to your education? Stop in to Artworks in Mecosta County throughout the summer to discover one of their various classes that they host, including four different summer camps occurring from June to August that can help your child release their inner Picasso. Each of these summer art camps will host children from ages 6-14 and cost $100 to enroll in; this year’s camp themes are Collaborative Art, Critters, Globe Trekkers and Hand Built Pottery. Not interested in camp for you kiddo? Don’t worry, each Thursday Artworks will be hosting Creative Story Time where they will read a book together, discuss the different techniques and styles used by the illustrator, and then end the session with an art project that matches the story’s theme. Artworks also offers a variety of pottery classes for those with varying skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced.

Campers from preschool to 12th grade gain immersive experiences in science, technology, engineering, art, and math at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, one of the nation’s top aerospace and science centers. Visit airzoo.org/camps to learn more!

Fine arts camps are available for children in kindergarten through 7th grade, at the Holland Area Arts Council. The Amazing Coral Reef (Grades k-2) June 11-13 and Quilting Camp- Amish Life (Grades 3-7) June 25-28.  

The Grand Rapids Ballet School is offering an excellent physical activity for children in West Michigan during school summer vacation. These one-week-long Summer Ballet Camps for children ages 3-6 are held Monday, June 24 through Friday, July 26 at he Meijer-Royce Center for Dance. Children are welcome and encouraged to attend multiple weeks. The ballet camp includes dance class along with story, snack, and craft times. The camp will teach children the fundamentals of etiquette, social interaction, coordination, and musicality in an interactive environment where they will learn the beginning elements of ballet technique. It also provides an outlet to set a goal and the discipline to achieve it. Each ballet camp is themed around either Alice in Wonderland or Beauty & The Beast. Also available from Monday, July 29 through Friday, August 2 are Elementary Ballet and Ballet 1 summer workshops for young dancers ages 6-9.

Find more camp options in our Summer Camps List

Other museums, nature centers, and historical spots to add to your summer vacation: