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Educational Ideas for Your Summer Vacation

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 

Marshall

Celebrate magicians and their magic at the American Museum of Magic in Marshall. The museum has a new exhibit this summer about “the man who brought magic to Michigan,” Harry Blackstone. In the 1930s and 40s, Blackstone was one of America’s biggest and most famous touring magic shows, but when not on tour, the show called the tiny village of Colon, Michigan home. Learn more about Harry Blackstone and more

St. Joseph

Explore nature and the arts at Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph. Multiple studios are ready to welcome students back in-person to art camps and classes. Become part of southwest Michigan’s artmaking community with an introductory outdoor class, or learn new skills during indoor studio classes.

South Haven

Learn about Great Lakes history at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. Explore their many permanent and changing exhibits on Michigan maritime history, a boat-building workshop and related maritime skills, and a fleet of period and replica vessels available to visitors for on-water experiences.

Battle Creek

It’s a fun and educational experience watching the animals at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. Each exhibit is set up not only for watching animals, but to teach people about the animals and where they come from. New additions this year include a North American section, with black bears, bald eagles, and wolves, as well as a paved walkway to Wild Africa, and Freddie, the baby colobus monkey. Keep an eye out for dinosaurs, coming later this summer! Find hours, admission, and exhibit information on the Binder Park Zoo site

Portage

The Air Zoo is a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum with over 100 rare and unique aircraft and spacecraft, inspiring interactive exhibits, full-motion flight simulators, indoor amusement park rides and hands-on, science-based camps and classes, including the world’s only remaining SR-71B Blackbird and XP-55 Ascender. The Air Zoo also offers educational programs, camps, and activities.

Hickory Corners

Make sure to bring the whole family and explore the history of America through automobiles at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners!

Saugatuck

Surrounded by the lush lakeshore environment, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts offers a variety of educational experiences for all ages! Classes include experiment-based art projects, multidisciplinary learning, outdoor kinesthetic activities, and healthy snacks to keep both mind and body active and creative. Register for classes like The Art of Eating: Pizza Thyme and more at their website. 

Art on the Meadow Workshops at Ox-Bow School of Art & Artists’ Residency in Saugatuck offer short-term, affordable art education opportunities. These intimate workshops are imaginatively challenging and allows you to engage with the natural environment or equip you to bring art home and into your everyday life. Unleash your creative side and sign up for a workshop today!

School is back in session this summer at Guardian Brewing Company Beer School in Saugatuck. Learn about different brew styles, histories, methods, and just a little bit of everything about beers from all over the world, all while enjoying a drink or two!

Hastings

In celebration of National Itch Day on June 3rd, join the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings to learn how to identify and avoid poison ivy and the other plants that can make us itch at their free virtual Poison Ivy “Scavenger” Hunt! Also, explore, play, and build with their virtual Family Engineering Night. Build a KiwiCo Cannonball launcher by picking up a free kit and joining them on Zoom to build your launcher. Head to their website for pick-up locations and more!

Lansing

For a multigenerational vacation, look no further than Greater Lansing. Make memories together as a family at a Lansing Lugnuts baseball game, tour the campus of Michigan State University to inspire future Spartans, and explore the Impression 5 Science Center and the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

Central West Michigan 

Grand Rapids

Explore the essence of summer in the Blandford Nature Center woods and meadows in Grand Rapids at their Summer Adventure Series. Take a hike to get up close with a variety of plants and animals that inhabit Blandford in the summertime. Register today for this great adventure!

Celebrate some of the greatest works of popular culture inspired technology innovation and imagination at the Grand Rapids Public Museum newest exhibit, POPnology! This exciting exhibit combines pop culture and technology, showcasing how science fiction has become science fact. POPnology will dazzle learners with interactive stations showcasing emerging technologies and innovations. A visit to this exhibit may even spark ideas and dreams for future designers!

The Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives promotes, preserves, and honors the lives, culture, history, and accomplishments of African, African American, and connected peoples in the Greater Grand Rapids community. This summer, in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, GRAAMA is hosting, “Voices of the Civil Rights Movement,” an interactive kiosk featuring stories and interviews with leaders of the struggle for equal rights. The videos in the kiosk are part of a collection of historical narratives and firsthand accounts of activists, participants, community leaders, elected officials and others.

Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo is accredited by the Assoc. of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and home to over 1,400 animals including lions, tigers, grizzly bear, chimpanzees, penguins, and many more. Visit their website for more information about zoo exhibits, programs, hours, and admission.

Muskegon

Experience the Lakeshore Museum Center Hackley and Hume Historic Site AFTER DARK! See all five floors of the houses in Muskegon on this classic tour on June 11th. Space is limited, so be sure to order your tickets quickly! 

Visit Muskegon and explore the past and look to stars! Learn about antique tractors, trucks, equipment, and more with the Antique Farm Power Club at the Muskegon County Fairgrounds June 10th-12th. View the night sky and immerse yourself in space at the Muskegon Astronomical Society Star Party. View stars and more with their provided telescopes. 

The USS LST 393 Veterans Museum in Muskegon and Rolling Thunder present “D-Day Plus” on June 5th. Have fun and learn with ship tours, Swing Dance on the Deck, a pancake breakfast, vintage fashion show, battle wall escort, and more. Head to their Facebook page to learn more.

Start off summer right with a day of celebration, music, fun, and a learning opportunity for wine novices and pros alike at Muskegon Summer Wine Up Festival on June 12th, sponsored by Cumulus Radio. Try and taste the different varieties of wines created in Michigan and the United States!

Climb aboard and dive into science at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum! Learn more about the USS Silversides exhibits, programs, and special events on their website.

Ludington

The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum brings maritime 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.

On June 24th, meet a blacksmith as he fires up his forge, view cooking in the farmhouse kitchen, climb aboard an authentic turn-of-the-century steam locomotive, and more at Historic White Pine Village’s annual Living History Day in Ludington. 

New Era

Learn more about bees, kangaroos, sloths, and a slew of other animals by spending the day getting up close and personal with new friends on the farm at New Era’s Lewis Farms Baby Animal Days! Check out baby chicks, ducklings, fluffy bunnies, and goats! Baby Animal Days are June 12th-13th and 19th-20th.

 

Northern West Michgan

Williamsburg

The Music House Museum presents an extensive collection of some of the world’s most fascinating & beautiful automated musical instruments. The museum is located in the beautiful rolling, orchard-covered hills of Grand Traverse County, just north of Traverse City. Their collection spans from the late 18th century to 1950, going from simple music boxes to early recorded sound and radio.

Suttons Bay

Learn about the Great Lakes on a 77′ tall ship with the Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay! On the schooner Inland Seas you will learn about and experience the Great Lakes by collecting and analyzing lake samples. You’ll also have the opportunity to raise the sails, steer the ship, or just relax and take in the beauty of northern Michigan. Learn more and book an educational adventure today!

Bellaire

Go for a relaxing stroll on the Grass River Natural Area in Bellaire trails each Tuesday this summer at “Blooms and Birds: Wildflower Walk”. Find and identify the beautiful and unique wildflowers of Grass River. For times, dates, and more head to their website.

Walloon Lake

Follow in Hemingway’s Literary Footsteps with a visit to historic Walloon Lake, nestled between Boyne City and Petoskey. Northern Michigan is home to some two dozen sites where the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author was known to spend time during the first 22 summers of his life. Immerse yourself in the area’s rivers and streams where Hemingway once fished with the fly fishing package at the Hotel Walloon, and celebrate Hemingway with themed tours and at “Hemingway Homecoming,” with a variety of events happening year-round. Visit their website to learn more.

Harbor Springs

Explore local history at the Harbor Springs History Museum, beginning with the Odawa Indians and concluding with a look at the post-World War II community and the emergence of the ski industry. Visit the kid-friendly “Discovery Gallery” organized around the history of four area residents, trains, a fishing shanty, a play grocery store, and more that will engage and instruct children of all ages. 

Charlevoix

The Charlevoix Area features countless family-friendly locations offering a slew of different activities, hands-on opportunities, classes, and more! Check out their website for a complete list.

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.

 

Upper Peninsula 

Keweenaw Peninsula

For over twenty-five years the Keweenaw Adventure Company has been supporting their pristine natural areas, their culturally rich heritage, their local community and economy. Their experiences  “connect people with awe and respect to the Keweenaw Peninsula”, as the staff is made up of professionals, who impart their knowledge to customers through instruction, interpretation & storytelling, and various safety measures. Learn more and book your educational get-away today: www.keweenawadventure.com

Mackinac Island

Experience history as it comes to life at Mackinac State Historic Parks. Immerse yourself in three centuries of history at their sites in Mackinaw City and on Mackinac Island featuring seven historic attractions, two beautiful state parks, and countless unforgettable experiences galore.

Marquette

Travel Marquette offers countless opportunities to learn and grow for all ages. Get crafty at HOTplate, Marquette’s very own DIY art studio. Immerse your family in the Upper Peninsula’s Children’s Museum interactive displays and programs within the subjects of art, health, science, communication, global issues, and the environment. Travel back in time at Marquette Regional History Center or tour the city’s oldest significant building and museum; the 1866 Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. Marquette truly offers something for everyone!

More museums, historical spots, zoos & nature centers, and art destinations to add to your summer vacation