30 Items for Your West Michigan Summer Bucket List!

From the southernmost shores of Lake Michigan to the tip of the Upper Peninsula, West Michigan has everything you’re looking to add to your summer. Enjoy a relaxing beach sunset or an exciting zip-line adventure, a day on the water or a ride on the trails, and everything in between when you add these to your summer bucket list!

1. Tour Lake Superior Shores

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is full of breathtaking scenery, pristine wilderness, and fascinating historic remains of the copper boom that took place here. This narrow peninsula juts into the fresh waters of Lake Superior and visitors are never more than a 20-minute drive from the shoreline. 

The Keweenaw is recognized as one of the top outdoor adventure destinations and invites you to hike, pedal, paddle, and ride countless miles of world-class outdoor recreation trails.

The Keweenaw Adventure Company offers great outdoor adventures for you to explore the area! Try the Agate Harbor Paddle, a 5 hour guided tour great for the adventurous novice or more experienced paddler, and investigate an area of the Keweenaw less traveled, including a chain of barrier islands, the “arch rock”, finger bays, and view the spiny ridgelines that parallel the peninsula. Choose between a 2.5 or 5 hour guided tour on a Singletrack Adventure Bike Tour, a perfect introduction to the trails! Ride through enchanted forests with elevation changes, bridges & boardwalks, rocky, rugged terrain and sweet, flowy-singletrack within an incredibly scenic location will make mountain bike fanatics drool. 

2. Explore Public Art in St. Joseph & Benton Harbor

Krasl Art Center’s ‘New Biennial: 2022 Invitational’ is a community-wide showcase of art outdoors. Partnering with the cities of Benton Harbor & St. Joseph, Berrien County, and arts and culture leaders, the exhibition fosters exploration and discovery, and celebrates originality and diversity in our creative community. Click here for a full list of new outdoor art experiences and where to find them.

3. Explore Coldwater for a Day of Summer Fun

Michigan is known for the Great Lakes, but did you know that the Coldwater Country area in West Michigan is home to two chains of lakes and more than 100 freshwater lakes? Rent a pontoon and make it a day of relaxation on the water.

Another way to play in the water and enjoy fun in the sun is at Coldwater Country’s Aqua Pit. Home to The Hydro Zone, a jungle gym on the water, The Aqua Pit is a destination for the entire family. Enjoy paddling a kayak or paddleboard, relax, hang out or go for a swim. Play volleyball, horseshoes, or cornhole. It’s a day of fun!

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 two screens.

4. View Waterfalls in Marquette

Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to 77 natural waterfalls, more falls than any other county in the state of Michigan. Be sure to check out Yellow Dog Falls, a beautiful, hidden gem where visitors pass through several small falls and rapids on the trek to the main rushing waterfall. Other highlights include Morgan Falls, Canyon Falls, and Dead River Falls.  

5. Enjoy The Beach (& The Badger) in Ludington

On the fourth Thursday of June, July and August, you are invited to bring your beach chairs and blankets to Ludington’s Stearns Park Beach to enjoy a true Up North evening that includes a bonfire, live music and a beautiful sunset. You might even get a glimpse of the SS Badger returning to port! The free, community events are set for 8-10 p.m. June 23, July 28 and August 25.

Speaking of the Badger, the ferry offers a great way to see the Lake Michigan shoreline from a different perspective. The SS Badger is a passenger carferry based in Ludington that makes a daily (and sometimes twice daily) crossing to Manitowoc, WI. Relax on the deck, take in Lake Michigan views and enjoy on-board food, drinks and activities. Also, check out their evening shoreline cruises!  

While in Wisconsin, explore the OTHER side of Lake Michigan in Kenosha! Ride an authentic electric streetcar along the lakefront, explore museums and historic sites, climb a lighthouse, stroll along a sculpture walk, savor the flavors at unique restaurants and farmers markets, and watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan for a change. Kenosha offers adventure beyond the expected!

6. Find Fun in the Lansing Area

Looking for an easy staycation in West MichiganGreater Lansing’s central location in the state makes it a popular drive-to destination. With wide open spaces and plenty of chill places, Mid-Michigan is the ideal safe and affordable retreat. We recommend checking out High Caliber Karting & Entertainment for lots of thrill-seeking fun!

7. Take a Visit to Mackinac Island

Summers in Northern Michigan are not complete without a trip to Mackinac Island! No cars, no chain hotels, just world-famous Mackinac Island Fudge, historic Fort Mackinac, unique shopping and dining, and memories to last a lifetime. 

Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry offers fast, friendly service to take you back in time to a one-of-a-kind bucket list item. Sit back and relax on a narrated carriage tour or rent a bike and take the scenic route around the island! 

8. Explore Downtown Marshall’s Events

Marshall events are back in full swing, with a full slate of offerings, including the 30th Annual Garden Tour, Marshall Bluegrass Festival, 174th Calhoun County Fair, and the Marshall Historical Society‘s 57th Annual Historic Home Tour. 

9. Sail a Tall Ship

Help sail a 77′ tall ship schooner and learn about the health of the Great Lakes. On Inland Seas’ sail programs in Suttons Bay, you can collect and analyze lake samples, raise the sails and steer the ship, or relax in the beauty of northern Michigan. Two and three hour trips run June through October.  

10. Climb Mt. Pisgah

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. Be sure to also explore the beauty of Holland during your visit, with great events and activities taking place all summer long.

11. Meet Michigan’s Laziest River in Mt. Pleasant

Master miles and miles of winding waters via tube, kayak, canoe, or paddle board in Isabella County. Known as Michigan’s laziest river, the Chippewa River is perfect for a leisurely trip downstream with friends and family. Float, paddle, or walk; whichever you prefer, it’s up to you! Not only will you experience the tranquility of nature, but you may even spot a bald eagle and other wildlife around the bend.

Central Michigan also has great local treats, concerts, and more – be sure to check out all of their summertime recommendations here.

12. Canoe, Kayak, & Raft the Mighty Pine River

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 is here to make checking that item off of your list an absolute breeze. They offer 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. Bringing over 50 years of expertise to the table, the friendly staff at the Paddlesports Center will suggest appropriate trip options and fit all of the paddlers in your group to size and skill appropriate watercraft. In addition to being a paddling destination, the Paddlesports Center also operates a clean, quiet campground that is a perfect location to serve as your base-camp for exploring Michigan’s pristine rivers this summer.

13. Enjoy Championship Golf Courses at Shanty Creek 

A trip to Shanty Creek Resort is perfect for travelers looking for the Up North experience. With golfing, dining and spa treatments, biking, hiking, and more, Shanty Creek offers countless ways to relax, play, and kick back on a summer getaway. Located 31 miles from Traverse City, in a community that’s name means ‘Fresh Air,’ it’s easy to find the beauty of the woods and water at a slower pace away from the crowds of people. 

Of course, a visit to Shanty Creek Resort isn’t complete without a round of golf. Pack the clubs and plan to hit the links on one of the resort’s five championship golf courses.

14. Skydiving, Mushroom Houses, and More in Charlevoix

Planning a trip to the Charlevoix area in the near future? Whether you are visiting for the first time, or are a seasoned Charlevoix guest, make sure to check out this list of things the Visit Charlevoix team highly recommends visitors see, do, and explore, including skydiving, touring a mushroom house, shopping the boutique downtown stores, and enjoying a sunset on the beach. 

15. Have An Adventurous Stay at Drummond Island Resort

Head to Drummond Island Resort for lots of season-bridging activities like paintball, kayaking, off-roading, clays and skeet, and more. Be sure to also check out their 18-hole championship golf course, The Rock, carved out of 400 acres of hardwood, cedar, and limestone for a golfer’s paradise. Grab the family or your crew and get a jump on making un-boring summer memories.

16. Go Fowling!

The Fowling Warehouse™ Grand Rapids is the only place in West Michigan to play the original football bowling pin game called Fowling™! A destination for individuals, couples, small groups or large events, The Fowling Warehouse™ is a great time out for anyone.

17. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

Check off one of the most amazing experiences from your bucket list! Schedule a hot air balloon ride with Altitude Endeavors and enjoy the oldest and safest form of flight since 1783. Altitude Endeavors provides scenic balloon rides in Southwest Michigan and Northern Lower Michigan.  Get one or more friends together to share the experience and schedule your private flight today!

18. Shop Your Local Farmer’s Market

If you haven’t tasted fresh, locally grown produce yet, add a Michigan farmers market to your summer bucket list. Cross multiple items off your list with flavors, experiences, and events that are local to your market. Find your market here.  

19. Visit Fennville’s Virtue Cider

Virtue Cider is at home on a 48-acre farm. Drink cider in a hammock, try their famous charcuterie with a frozé, or see their 500 pound pigs this summer under the sunshine. Reservations can be made here.

20. Explore Saugatuck’s Sandy Beaches

From outdoor concerts and art fairs to lively festivals and parades, there’s never a dull moment during summers in Saugatuck/Douglas. Ease into miles of award-winning sugar sand beaches. Glide leisurely along our waterways. Splash in the waves and soak in the sun. And if boat rides, beach walks, and sunsets aren’t all you want to experience during your summer escape, we’ve got galleries to stroll through, a thriving craft beverage scene to savor, and a host of other adventures waiting for you. Come and discover why Midwest Living voted them as the Best Beach Town in 2021. 

21. Discover Walloon Lake

Pay a visit to Walloon Lake for great summer events, including The Big Show Over the Little Village and the Walloon Woodies & Classic Car Show. All summer long, you can also enjoy an evening at Barrel Back Restaurants Dock Bar, or Walloon Wine Time, everyday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Walloon Lake Inn.

22. Zip Over the Kalamazoo River

Zip through the sky above the Kalamazoo River on Allegan Event’s 600-foot long riverfront zip line! A lot of people have zip lining on their bucket list, and Allegan Event has even seen people celebrating their 90th birthday by ziplining! It’s a great activity to do with family, friends, or even co-workers and teammates. The outdoor zipline is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Be sure to take advantage of Allegan Event’s Summer Fun Pack that bundles the outdoor riverfront zip line plus Allegan Event’s Premier Combo, allowing you to experience their most popular indoor and outdoor attractions for one unbeatable ticket price!

23. Enjoy Tastes of Michigan on a Scenic Hike

Adventure on, winos and wanderers. Get ready to hike, sip and wander the Mt Tabor Trails, sponsored by Honor Credit Union. With a little over 3.5 miles of beautiful trails meandering through the woods and vineyards, Mt Tabor Trails connects guests from Round Barn Estate and Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant. The best part of these trails – taking your favorite beverage to-go is encouraged.

24. Explore History at the Air Zoo

If you love history, engines, props, pilots – or just plane fun – swing out to the Air Zoo in Portage this summer for some exciting visits from some of their favorite flying friends! Flying in this year is the C-47 “Hairless Joe”, B-17 “Yankee Lady” and B-25 “Rosie’s Reply”. These historic aircraft will be on display at the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center (FDC) and flights are available for purchase

25. Book a Northern Michigan Getaway

Located on picturesque Portage Lake, 45 miles southwest of Traverse City in Onekama, The Canfield House is the Inn with two lakes. Guests can enjoy 200 feet of private beach on Portage Lake or the miles of Lake Michigan beaches just a short distance from the Inn. Portage Lake channels into Lake Michigan so that boaters can experience the pristine protected waters of Portage Lake or the endless ports of call offered by Lake Michigan. Just minutes away, guests will also find championship golf courses, wooded trails, and bountiful sand dunes.

26. Set Up Your Tent

Pickerel Lakeside Campground and Cottages is close to home in Bitely, but offers a simpler lifestyle. Here you can fish, boat, swim, ski, paddle, sit in the sun, explore nature, watch wildlife, unplug and unwind. Their four lakefront cottages are “just like home”, clean and comfortable, and their campground is semi-rustic with electric, centralized water, a disposal station and very well maintained outhouses. 

Find more campgrounds throughout West Michigan here.

27. Grab a Brew in Traverse City

The Grand Traverse twin bay region of Northern Michigan is amazingly beautiful and visiting Michigan’s first earth friendly production brewery and taproom helps keep it that way. Swing by Brewery Terra Firma in Traverse City to enjoy wonderful beer this summer. 

The Michigan Brewers Guild is also offering a great way to try delicious brews in Traverse City with their Spring Beer Festival on Saturday, May 7th at Turtle Creek Stadium. Sample hundreds of local beers from many of Michigan’s finest breweries.  

28. Mountain Bike at The Highlands

Explore the 22 miles of natural terrain at the Bike Park at The Highlands at Harbor Springs, for great mountain biking adventures this summer. The park was built to complement the natural terrain of the mountain and create an exhilarating experience for advanced riders, as well as easier terrain for beginners and those looking to improve their skills. The opportunities for exploration are nearly endless for riders of all ages, and abilities. 

29. Cast Your Line

Summer is one of the most enjoyable times to fish on the historic Pere Marquette River near Baldwin, Mich. Join the Pere Marquette River Lodge, an Orvis endorsed fly fishing outfitter, for their Gray Drake School from May 20-22, where they’ll teach anglers how to fish the famed gray drake hatch. The school includes two nights lodging, lunches and a half day guide trip.

30. Visit Muskegon

With 26 miles of Lake Michigan beach, 3 light houses and towers, almost 70 miles of trails, more than a dozen museums and historical attractions, three state parks, the Lakeshore Art Festival, a zipline to fly over a forest, and Michigan’s Adventure – Muskegon County should be a destination on your summer bucket list!

Add these Events & Festivals to your Summer Calendar!