Check These Items Off Your West Michigan Summer Bucket List

When summer rolls around in West Michigan, it can feel like there’s an overwhelming amount of choices for how to fill your sunny days. Not to worry: we’ve sorted through your options and put together a West Michigan Summer Bucket List for you to work your way through.

Pick your favorite to get started, and let us know if you can think of anything we’ve left off the list!

Due to the ever-changing world we currently live in due to COVID-19, we strongly suggest confirming if a business is currently open to visitors before planning a trip, and complying with any travel restrictions currently in place. Please follow all health and social-distancing guidelines provided by health officials. 


Hit the Beach

Where will West Michigan’s beaches take you this summer? Splash and play in the waves of Lake Michigan, build the best sandcastle, or relax on the sand with a good book. With close to 500 miles of magnificent coastline, your options are endless when you beach it in West Michigan!

Explore all that West Michigan coastal towns have to offer to create the perfect day of fun in the sun.

Cool off with Ice Cream

Ice Cream is the perfect summer treat, and you’ll find delicious versions of this confection throughout West Michigan. Enjoy ice cream right from the source at MOO-ville Creamery in Nashville, Jones Homemade Ice Cream in Baldwin, Country Dairy in New Era, or Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City.

Take a drive back in time to Station 66 in Battle Creek, which is an ice cream parlor, donut shop, and restaurant housed in a 1940s gas station.

Try to Beat an Escape Room

Have you tried your hand at an Escape Room, which requires you and your team to use your collective brainpower to solve clues in order to find your way out of a “locked” space? Clock N Lock Escape Rooms in Kalamazoo features a variety of themed rooms, from supernatural intrigue in The UFO Diner to the historical enigma presented in Amelia’s Attic.

Explore Local History

Take a Copper Mine Tour in the Keweenaw peninsula where you’ll discover how copper was pulled from the earth and used to power the U.S.’ rapid industrialization. The Adventure Mining Company in Greenland offers mine tours with different energy levels, some of which include rappelling down a mine shaft and a pasty lunch.

Find more historic sites throughout West Michigan here.

Escape to Island Time

Reconnect with Northern Michigan’s stunning natural beauty this summer on Mackinac Island. Take a horse-drawn tour of the island with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. Surround yourself with beautiful clear blue waters and crisp fresh air as you explore 70+ miles of hiking and biking trails in search for your favorite Island vista. Spread out among 18 acres of property at Mission Point Resort to find your perfect setting for an afternoon picnic. Or nestle in by gardens of the Gazebo, relax in a classic Adirondack chair on the Great Lawn, and soak up some sun by the lakeshore.

Play in a Splash Pad

You don’t even need a lake to splash and play when you visit one of the many hot spots featuring splash pads! Kids will love the jets of water, fountains, and, of course, splashing at these destinations. Grab your swimsuit and head to one of our area splash pads: in the Downtown Spray Plaza in Hastings, on Eighth Street next to the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in downtown Holland, below the bluff adjacent to the Silver Beach Carousel in St. Joseph, at the corner of Main and Elm Streets in downtown Zeeland, the William G. Milliken Waterscape at Clinch Park in Traverse City, and the new lakefront Splash Pad modeled after the tall ship Friends Good Will in South Haven.

Hit the Trails

You’ll find miles of trails to explore in West Michigan, whether you’re looking to hike, bike, or run. Some of our favorites are the Van Buren Trail and Kal-Haven Trail, which both connect South Haven to neighboring communities, and the beautiful and diverse trails of the Little Traverse Nature Conservancy in the Petoskey Area. If you’re heading to the UP, the Keweenaw Adventure Company is a great resource to help plan your outdoor adventure on the area’s trails!

Click here to read through our directory of West Michigan trails in this year’s Carefree Travel Guide.

Explore Outdoors

Rated as one of the “Top Four Public Gardens and Arboretums in the State of Michigan,” the 85-acre Leila Arboretum & Kaleidoscope Garden in Battle Creek is free to the public. You’ll find a Native Flower Garden, Perennial Gardens, dramatic sculptures, and walking trails, as well as a Peace Labyrinth and Battle Creek Fantasy Forest. An 18-hole disc golf course also meanders through the woods nearby. 

Go Charter Fishing

Local fishing charters along Lake Michigan will supply you with all the gear you need for a day spent fishing on the lake. You do need to have a Michigan fishing license, so make sure to talk to your charter boat captain before climbing aboard. Some of our favorite charter fishing options include Nelson Charters in Grand Haven and Best Chance Charters in Saugatuck, based out of Big Lake Outfitters. The Michigan Charter Boat Association is an excellent reference for finding nearby charters.

Learn about Michigan fish species here.

Visit the Sand Dunes

Climb to new heights within the Silver Lake Sand Dunes, up and over 600 acres of steep dunes. Get behind the wheel of your own vehicle with Parrot’s Landing Jeep Rentals and Tours or Silver Lake Buggy Rentals, or leave the driving to the experts at Mac Wood’s Dune Rides. You can also take dune excursions with Saugatuck Dune Rides further south in West Michigan.

Go to a Drive-In Theatre

Catch a big-screen movie from the comfort of your car! The Capri Drive-In Theatre in Coldwater has been showing outdoor movies since 1964, and you’ll always be treated to a double feature.

Go Golfing

You can spend a leisurely afternoon, or a challenging weekend golfing in West Michigan. You’ll find a wide range of courses to fit the needs of any level of golfer. Whether you’re golfing in the southern portion of West Michigan at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores, in the central area at PohlCat Golf Course in Mt. Pleasant, or at Antrim Dells in Ellsworth in the north, you’re never far away from your next great course.

Find our full list of West Michigan golf courses here.

Experience Live Theatre

Whether you’re looking to take in a drama, comedy, musical, or a show for the kids, you’ll find great live theatre options throughout West Michigan. Places like Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, the second-oldest operating theatre in the state, host everything from professional live theatre to workshops to theatre specifically for kids.

Browse the full list of theatres in West Michigan here.

Paddle a Kayak or Canoe

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely afternoon paddle, or want to spend the day having an adventure on the water, you’ll find paddle sport opportunities all throughout West Michigan. The Pine River Paddlesport Center in Wellston is ready to get you on the water, offering canoe, kayak, stand-up paddle boards, and raft rentals for both the Pine River and the Big Manistee River. Their staff can suggest trip options, and fit all of the paddlers in your group with size- and skill-appropriate watercraft. You can even stay at their campground to serve as your base-camp for your paddling adventures. Want to kayak on the vast expanse of Lake Superior? Get in touch with the Keweenaw Adventure Company to plan your water excursion in the UP!

Find even more paddle sports options in West Michigan here.

Visit a Lighthouse

West Michigan is home to dozens of these historic beacons, standing probably along the shoreline where they’ve protected ships and sailors for decades. Pick up a free copy of the Lake Michigan Lighthouse Map and Circle Tour to plan your route for exploring these beacons of history. Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers

Is a good place to start with a mini-tour, as they maintain three lighthouses in Ludington and one in White Lake, located just north of Muskegon. In the distance of about 60 miles and the time of about one day you can visit and climb all of these lighthouses. 

Get involved in a Keeper program at Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City (celebrating 150 years this summer!), Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Northport, or Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort, where you’ll stay at the light and help take care of the lighthouse, just as keepers have for years.

Climb High on a Ropes Course

Strap into your safety gear and head for the sky when you visit one of the area’s high ropes courses. 

Wildwood Rush Canopy Tours in Boyne City has over 5,000 feet of zip lines, five sky bridges, and amazing views of Lake Charlevoix from their tree platforms.

You’ll find zip lines, swinging logs, and even large fisherman nets at TreeRunner Adventure Park in Grand Rapids, where their obstacles have increasing height and difficulty, with some as high as 50 feet. Airway Fun Center in Portage has an outdoor ropes course with multiple levels and a dramatic 100 foot zip line that kids 48” and up can climb (42” and up with an adult).

Don’t let weather be a factor in your plans at Allegan Event in Allegan, which is the largest indoor ropes course in Michigan. In addition to their bi-level Sky Trail ropes course, you’ll also find a free-fall simulation, vertical drop slide, outdoor zip line, and more at Allegan Event.

Fit in a full day of fun at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, where you can fly across the zoo on their four story zipline, or explore their Sky Trail Ropes Course, with two climbing levels and over 15 obstacles.

Brand new this summer, take flight from the top of a Lake Michigan sand dune and wind through the White Pine forest on a 1400’ dual zip line at the Muskegon Luge & Sports Complex in Muskegon.

Cheer at a Baseball Game

Cheering on your local team at a ball game is a classic way to spend a summer day! West Michigan is home to two stadiums where you’ll find local teams to root, root, root for. The West Michigan Whitecaps call the Fifth-Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids home, and you’ll find the Traverse City Pit Spitters playing at the Turtle Creek Stadium in Traverse City. Both these teams provide more than just a game of baseball: get ready for interactive entertainment in between innings, and plenty of themed nights throughout the season.

Take a Boat Cruise

With the many lakes and rivers in West Michigan, you’ll find countless different ways to get out and enjoy the area’s water features. One of the most relaxing? Take a boat cruise! You’ll find boats that cruise all the way across Lake Michigan, with the S.S. Badger in Ludington and the Lake Express in Muskegon. 

Other boats are designed for relaxing scenic cruises, like Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises in Munising, Aquastar Cruises in Muskegon, the Holland Princess in Holland, the Michigan Princess Riverboat in Lansing, the Soo Locks Boat Tours in Sault Ste. Marie, and Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises in Saugatuck. 

Yet others provide ferry service, with Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry transporting visitors from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace to Mackinac Island, and Beaver Island Boat Co. taking visitors from Charlevoix to Beaver Island.

Go to the Zoo

Visit with the animals at a local zoo or nature center. You’ll find exotic animals at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto, John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, and Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. Visit with more local animals at places like the Critter Barn in Zeeland, Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry, or Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo in New Era.

Browse the full list of zoos and nature centers in West Michigan here. 

Set Sail on a Tall Ship

You’ll feel like you’re sailing back in time when you climb aboard a tall ship and take to the water on one of these historic wonders. You’ll find tall ships sailing from multiple ports throughout West Michigan. The Friends Good Will sails from the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. The Traverse Tall Ship Co. is based out of Traverse City, and the schooner Inland Seas sails from Suttons Bay and other local ports.

Go Rock Hunting

You might know that the Petoskey Stone is Michigan’s state stone, but have you ever hunted for one on the beach? The best place to start looking is in the Petoskey Area! Hit the beach and challenge your group to a Petoskey Stone hunting contest to find the biggest stone, and the most collected.