From exploring maritime history to space adventures, and art classes to animal encounters, 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!
South West Michigan
Kalamazoo is full of opportunities for learning and it can be fun! The Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum, Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Gilmore Car Museum, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, WK Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, Black Arts and Cultural Center and Kalamazoo Nature Center all have plenty of fun programming and hands-on activities for kids of all ages. Check out summer programs here.
Join the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo for their third annual Summer STEAM Days! This inclusive and inspiring community and family-focused STEAM event series, offers guests hours of hands-on learning, science stations, engineering tables, art activities and more. Activities will be hosted by the Air Zoo’s education team and several of their local partners. Summer STEAM Day visitors will have a blast trying out some of our newest STEAM activities, building take-home crafts, creating art on our sidewalks and discovering an array of learning toys and activities, as well as snacks and refreshments, available for purchase in the Fly Buy Gift Shop.
Set on 850 acres in rural Barry County, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, has a mix between an environmental education center, nature center and biological field station. Visitors have opportunities for education, recreation, research and exposure to a blend of diverse habitats including wetlands, forests, marshes, streams, lakes, and prairies. The Institute offers Fun Fridays for nature play in the Play Space this summer. Explore the outdoors with hands-on activities, games, and snacks. These are come-and-go events; each Friday participants will investigate a specific outdoor theme. Caregivers must remain with their children during these family-friendly events and are encouraged to actively play and explore alongside the children.
Built in 1882, Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater is one of the oldest theaters in Michigan and it has been entertaining audiences with professional summer theatre for 60 years. Learn about the theatre’s history from the museum-quality displays or take in the art gallery before a show or during intermission. Call ahead to schedule a guided group tour. Learn more about Tibbits Summer Theatre’s 2023 season, including “Nunsense II,” Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Grease,” Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor,” and their popular Tibbits Popcorn Theatre shows for kids, through their website.
Ox-Bow School of Art located in Saugatuck is offering creative workshops that are affordable, multi-level, and intergenerational through their Art on the Meadow workshops. Their Summer 2023 workshops will encourage you to revel in Ox-Bow’s stunning natural setting, and apply the inspiration you find to your own creative practice.
Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph has renovated its studio classrooms and is expanding summer classes to include programs such as Digital Illustration and Sculptural Felting. Whether you’re young or old, you can become part of southwest Michigan’s artmaking community this summer with programs such as: Three-hour Monday – Friday camps for children, eight-week-long youth and teen/adult classes, along with multiple artist workshops. Experienced ceramic artists are also invited to apply for KAC’s Clay Artist Guild, and teen artists can join KAC’s Teen Arts Council for even more art experiences. Visit their website for detailed course information, scholarship details, and to register before June 12. Students are encouraged to express themselves creatively and push their boundaries.
You’re invited to experience Historical Marshall by participating in Museum Tours, Walking Tours, and Trolley Tours. The American Museum of Magic celebrates magicians and their magic. This is your chance to learn about: Houdini, Thurston and Blackstone’s. Immerse yourself in stories and the treasures of performers that entertained residents in the grandest theaters at the American Museum of Magic. For more information visit their website.
Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council: Lest We Forget has chosen The Cold War as the theme for 2023. On June 17th – 18th activities will return to the St. Joseph River site. In anticipation of the June weekend, the public is invited to attend five sessions on Cold War topics at Lake Michigan College, Benton Harbor campus. On Saturday and Sunday, June 17th – 18th walk through displays of military vehicles, weapons and battles by the 2nd Marine Reenactors from Chicago. Also returning this year are three World War II landing craft that have been restored and are available for the public to ride. If you are seeking an adventure, enjoy a 32’ Climbing Wall and a Zipline that will be on site giving attendees the opportunity to climb the Berlin Wall and Zip from East Berlin to freedom in West Berlin. Stick around on Saturday evening for the The Spaniels Forever, an R&B and doo-wop group The concert will include a lineup of classic ‘50s and ‘60s covers. For a full schedule of events click here.
The Michigan Maritime Museum is a South Haven bucket list item that’s sure to engage and enchant young and old! Take a tour of current installations, enjoy balcony views of the harbor, and take a ride on the iconic Friends Good Will tall ship!
When you visit Michigan’s State Capitol Building for a free tour, explore the four floors at the Michigan History Museum or play, challenge, and discover science at Impression 5 Science Center, a getaway to Greater Lansing seamlessly combines affordable family fun with great learning opportunities. Learn more here.
Central West Michigan
John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids has some exciting and educational events happening throughout the summer! So let the festivities begin! They will be opening their state-of-the-art Pygmy Hippo exhibit on June 2nd. Enjoy live music, keeper chats, other animal activities, and specialty food for that festival feel. Other events that the kiddos will love include World Turtle Day, Breakfast with the Animals, Beat the Heat, and World Chimp Day. Check out their website for dates and details.
Experience early 20th-century America through the eyes of the country’s most iconic artists at the Muskegon Museum of Art through August 27. American Realism: Visions of America is an exhibition that highlights the art and artists who defined American Art as we know it today by capturing the everyday moments of life in America from 1900 – 1950. The early 20th century was a transformative time for art in America as industry, immigration, and politics changed the way of life for many Americans. Artists of the time were heavily influenced by Western European art, however, artists in America sought to define an art movement that reflected the changing times by capturing the American experience. American Realism: Visions of America displays an impressive exhibition that will travel to Flint and Kalamazoo over the course of the next year.
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. Their summer’s events include Messy Mondays, Toddler Tuesdays, Puppet Show Wednesdays, 3-D Thursdays, and first-Saturday Spanish storytelling and activity.
See the characters of yesteryear come to life at Historic White Pine Village. Visitors may meet a blacksmith as he fires up his forge, view cooking in the farmhouse kitchen, glimpse historic goods being sold in the old General Store, watch candles being made, learn about earlier medical remedies in the doctor’s office, climb aboard an authentic turn-of-the-century steam locomotive and more!
Enrich your mind while vacationing in Grand Haven’s beautiful beach town. The Tri-Cities Historical Museum is the perfect place to travel back in time to learn about the beginning of the Grand Haven area. Explore exhibits that showcase the history of fur traders, pioneers, Victorians, and various industries such as lumber, and agriculture. They also are showcasing more recent histories of the Tri-Cities :with the exhibits of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bastian and Blessing Soda Fountain.Learn about more museums in the area here.
History is alive and well in Holland. Go to the Holland Museum this summer to see a distinctive collection of art and artifacts telling the story of Holland’s rich history. Just a few blocks away, step back in time at the Cappon and Settlers Houses, homes of Holland’s first mayor and the earliest working-class settlers. On the way to the beach, stop at the Pump House Museum and learn all about the people and places in the historic Ottawa Beach area. There’s also tours by foot, by trolley, and by antique cars available.
Take a one-of-a-kind immersive cannabis facility tour at IndiGrow to take a peek into the small-batch commercial growing scene. Their tours, for people 21+, include information on the history of their 1908 building, an overview of the cannabis plant, full PPE from head to toe, a full walk-through of all the plant rooms following the plant’s life cycle, hands-on plant examination, tour of their state-of-the—art processing lab. If looking to consume while in Muskegon or after the tour, check out The Bowl, located next to IndiGrow.
The 7th annual Silver Lake Sand Dunes Jeep Invasion is taking place June 1st- 4th. Bring the whole family for a fun filled weekend. There will be over a thousand Jeeps “Invading” the sand dunes and taking part in a Vendor Midway, raffles, food, music, Parade to the Dunes and much more.
Take a tour aboard the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper, featuring art deco interiors, a soda fountain, ballroom, and movie theater. Built in 1904, eight years before the Titanic, the Clipper traversed Lake Michigan from 1941 until 1970 carrying untold thousands of passengers and automobiles between Muskegon and Milwaukee. Book your family a tour now!
North West Michigan & Upper Peninsula
Come to Harbor Springs for the Annual Night of the Arts on June 25th from 5:30-8:30 p.m. A celebration of fine arts, adornment, antiques along with music, local florists, even literary fun and food! Experience a special evening dedicated to the many different types of artists in the area!
Are you planning on traveling with your children? Charlevoix is sharing some of their favorite family-friendly locations to visit this summer with your family. Check out their list of must see and do spots here.
Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City is a unique historic location and visitors can see what life was like for the keepers at the turn of the century. Surrounding the lighthouse on three sides are thickly wooded trails perfect for hiking. The fourth side looks out over the waters of the north end of West Grand Traverse Bay.The lighthouse is now open through the end of October. Find more information and hours here.
In the Petoskey area be sure to check out the area museums and galleries. On top of this check out Crooked Tree Art Center in Petoskey and Three Pines Studio in Cross Village for educational art classes!
The Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center located in Cadillac is offering a wide range of programs for all ages. The center includes both archery and pellet gun ranges and offers scheduled shooting programs throughout the summer. The center offers group tours and guided hikes which will explore the Heritage Nature Trail leading you through the woodland and Heritage Marsh.
The Keweenaw Peninsula takes great pride in its rich history. Towns and villages throughout the region work hard to maintain the historic character of the area through preservation efforts. Adventure North to the Keweenaw and learn about the impact copper mining had on the region by exploring the Keweenaw National Historical Park. This unique National Park offers over 20 heritage sites, including museums, copper mines, historic mansions, and more.
Geology, ecology, botany…find it all with a trip on the Pine River with Pine River Paddlesports Center in Wellston! From finding Michigan’s state stone, the Petoskey stone in the Pine’s gravel beds, to seeing the bank swallow holes in the sand banks, to paddling underneath the beautiful mix of deciduous and coniferous trees that make a natural canopy on the river to the plethora of wildlife along the Pine. Whether you want an educational trip for kids, or you love observing nature yourself, a trip down the Pine River through the Manistee National Forest surely won’t disappoint!
Michigan Legacy Art Park, a partner with Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville offers a guided hike where nature meets history and culture. Plus an extra bonus it’s also fresh air and exercise which is naturally good for the brain!
Immerse in the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. This creative space offers interactive displays and children’s programs within the subjects of art, health, science, communication, global issues and the environment. Through engaging exhibits and fun activities, young visitors will understand more about the world around them. Last summer, Travel Marquette announced the launch of the Respect Marquette County Coalition in partnership with Leave No Trace. This partnership is the first of its kind in Michigan and works to inspire locals and visitors alike to responsibly enjoy the local culture and natural resources of Marquette County. Leave No Trace is an organization dedicated to providing innovative education, skills and strategies to help people care for and protect the outdoors.