By Jeremy Witt, West Michigan Tourist Association
You might have a little extra free time this summer or have the desire to go on a road trip. With so many things to do and places to visit in West Michigan, how will you decide what to do? That’s where the West Michigan Summer Bucket List comes in handy. See how many places you can visit, or discover something completely new to add to your vacation schedule.
Navigate freely through the trees at Grand Rapids Treetop Adventure Park. Their event to kick off the season, Treetops Summer Kick-Off, is May 20th with discounted tickets for shortened climb times, zip rides, giveaways, and special offers.
Visit Grand Haven and the Electric Bike Place’s brand new MACTrack. This multi-terrain test track allows you to test ride some of the most popular electric bikes in the industry. Bring a lunch, enjoy a few hours of riding, and come talk about ebikes with their knowledgeable staff.
Visit the eight unique museums in the Marshall area. These eight museums feature a one-room school house, a house built in the Polynesian style, Civil War museum, governor’s mansion, U.S. postal museum, magic museum, country church, and gasoline museum. May 20th is tourism day in Marshall, and all the museums will be free to the public to celebrate.
Bring out your inner treasure hunter at Antiques on the Bluff in St. Joseph. Held along tree-lined Lake Bluff Park overlooking Lake Michigan, this antique show is a premier event for St. Joseph and antiquers around Southwest Michigan when it pops up on the first Sunday of each month from May through October.
Visit Saugatuck, recently named the #1 Best Small Towns to Visit in Michigan by Crazy
Tourist and Best Small Town Weekend Escape by USA Today, making it a place that needs to be on your bucket list. There’s no better way to see the town than a trip on the Star of Saugatuck. Featuring entertaining narration and a wonderful view of the town, you’ll want to be on the water when the Star of Saugatuck started their season on Saturday, May 6th.
Find exciting treasures at Downtown Market’s two summer pop-up shops. The Vintage Street Market is Grand Rapid’s only monthly vintage market, popping up the second Sunday of each month from May until September. This year’s Vintage Street Market vendors were carefully curated to provide the best variety of vintage goods Grand Rapids has to offer. The Made In Michigan Pop Up Market features over 50 vendors who proudly “make” in Michigan! Vendors bring their wares to the market on Saturdays, May 27th, June 24th, July 22nd, August 26th, and September 23rd.
Visit the Jewel of Barry County at the Historic Charlton Park in Hastings. Situated on 310 acres along beautiful Thornapple Lake, you can easily cool off at the beach, launch your boat, hike the trails, or pack a picnic for a relaxing meal. Join the park for their many special events, including Charlton Park Day, Father’s Day Car Show, 4th of July and Veteran’s BBQ, Gas & Steam Engine Show, and more.
The Muskegon Museum of Art has an internationally recognized exhibit, Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian, from May 11th to September 10th. This exhibit is the most comprehensive ethnographic and photographic historical record of Native Americans ever produced, comprised of 20 volumes of research and 723 photogravures.
Go to one (or 12) of LowellArt’s Showboat Sizzlin’ Summer Concerts. These free outdoor summer concerts run from June 15th to August 24th at the Riverwalk Plaza in downtown
Lowell with food and spirits available for purchase. Enjoy music from all genres, including jazz, country, big band, rock, R&B, and more all summer long.
Shoot sporting clays with your family at Blendon Pines in Zeeland. This activity is both safe and fun, with knowledgeable staff who are ready to help. Walk through the groomed trails to the 12 different shooting stations. Line up your shot and try your best to be the best sharpshooter in your family!
Visit Hastings for their brand new summer concert series, Hastings Live! Wednesday evenings feature the best in local music, while their Friday Night Features include regional artists and rising stars such as Hip Pocket, The Crane Wives, The Accidentals, and more. Listen to new music all summer with this new concert series.
The Lake County Historical Museum in Baldwin is a must-see museum. Located in a restored 1938 CCC-built U.S. Forest Service district ranger residence, the museum is filled with Lake County artifacts of every sort. There’s also the memorial garden, which is beautiful through the summer months and a highlight in downtown Baldwin.
Surround yourself with Civil War re-enactors at the Historic White Pine Village in Ludington. This is the site of a Civil War Muster featuring many re-enactors encamped on the grounds. Visitors will experience cannon firings, small arms interpretation, and morning colors.
Sail Lake Michigan aboard a Pirates of the Caribbean themed cruise with the S.S. Badger in Ludington. Passengers can wear pirate costumes and speak in pirate lingo on this festive Lake Michigan shoreline cruise aboard America’s last coal-fired steamship. Tickets are $39 and include a buffet with desserts and soft drink and live music.
Celebrate the birthplace of cereal at National Cereal Fest in Battle Creek. The festival begins on Friday, June 9th with the Grand Cereal Parade, and continues on Saturday, June 10 with the World’s Longest Breakfast Table. Grab a bite with all-you-can-eat cereal.
The Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay has three sails this summer that deserve a spot on your Bucket List. Their Breakfast on the Schooner Sail is Saturday, July 1st and Friday, August 25th, where you can enjoy a freshly prepared breakfast as you sail around Suttons Bay. On Friday, June 23d and July 21st, their Astronomy Under Sail gives you one of the best views of the night sky along with some informative commentary. Their Meteor Show Sail on Friday, August 11th, lets you see this amazing natural phenomenon aboard the 77’ schooner.
Many people have a visit to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island on their Bucket List. With the hotel’s Family Added Value Days available select nights in July and August, you and your family can have the full Grand Hotel experience while saving along the way. Stay three nights and get the fourth night free, stay two nights and get the third night half off, or stay one night and get the second night 25% off. These stays include what has made the Grand Hotel such a sought-after destination, but with a little savings.
Explore a tropical garden filled with hundreds of exotic butterflies at the Grand Traverse Butterfly House and Bug Zoo in Williamsburg. Watch honeybees making honey, find your favorite tarantula inside the Tarantula Tree display, and discover beetles and friends in the Beetle Boulder.
Hop aboard a Tommy’s Rentals Sunset Cruise at Hotel Walloon on Walloon Lake. Offered every Friday night in the summer, these cruises include a captain, appetizer, wine, and beer. Also offered throughout the summer are the outdoor movies in the Village Green Park on Thursday nights. Grab a blanket or park your boat at the dock to catch an outdoor movie starting June 29th.
See some of the area’s best animals compete at the Berrien County Youth Fair on August 14th to 19th. There’s also concerts, carnival rides, food, and more to fill your week at the fair.
Visit Mecosta County and the second longest river in Michigan, the Muskegon River. On the
river, you can go tubing, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, and more. There’s 14 places to purchase a fishing license in the area, making it easier than ever to hit the waters in search for the big catch of the day.
Visitors to Sault Ste. Marie have two attractions worthy of your bucket list: and the Soo Locks. Tahquamenon Falls is a 50-foot waterfall, with a park that is open year-round. The Soo Locks is widely considered a man-made wonder, used to help ships traverse the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron every day and night. There’s much more fun to be had in Sault Ste. Marie, but these should be at the top of your list of things to see and do.
Celebrate Mackinac Island’s oldest hotel with a visit to the Island House Hotel. This historic landmark was originally commissioned by Charles O’Malley to be his summer beach house, and 165 years later, you can stay there when they celebrate their anniversary on July 7th.
Ride antique bikes in vintage or traditional British cycling attire and stay at Mission Point Resort during the Lakeside Ride with a Bit of Style on May 12th. The two-mile ride takes you through downtown historic Mackinac Island and past the Arch Rock in the state park. The event is free and open to all, but the best way to experience the event is with the Tweed Ride Experience Package from Mission Point Resort.
Find Michigan’s State Stone, the Petoskey Stone, or visit Avalanche Bay at Boyne Mountain Resort, Michigan’s largest indoor water park when you visit the Petoskey area.
If ziplining is one of those things you can’t wait to try, check out Wildwood Rush in Boyne City with its 1,200 foot triple racing line.
Rent a pontoon and make it a day of relaxation on the many lakes of Coldwater, or go to one of the remaining drive-in movie theaters in the state at the Capri Drive-In. Recently upgraded to digital, the Capri Drive-In shows first-run double features on each of the two screens.
Get the “up north” experience and try a new sport at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire. Guests will find the beauty of the woods and water of northern Michigan at a slower pace far from the crowds and traffic. You can even try a unique sport called FootGolf, a hybrid of golf and soccer, that’s sweeping the world of golf in recent years. It is now a recognized tournament sport in over 20 countries, and the American FootGolf League recognizes 85 participating U.S. courses in 29 states.
For many, a trip over the Mackinac Bridge is a bucket list worthy goal, but once you arrive on the other side and head north, you’re treated to Marquette County. Here, you can visit Sugarloaf Mountain or go for a scenic hike at Presque Isle Park, often considered the finest natural city park in the world.
Experience lazy-eights, steep and shallow 360 degree turns, and maybe even a few “whoopty-dos” at Waldo Wright’s Flying Service in Portage. Carrying up to 4 passengers in a large front-open cockpit, guests experience the sensations of flight in the open cockpit. See, smell, feel, and hear the experience for yourself on one of these rides.
For 42 years, the St. Ignace Car Show has been a Michigan summer staple for people who love automobiles. This year, Car Show weekend is June 22nd to 24th, when hundreds of custom, antique, and celebrity automobiles will be on display in the streets of this quaint Upper Peninsula community. This event is great for families and conveniently located near beaches, parks, hiking trails, and Mackinac Island ferries.
Enjoy West Michigan’s finest display of fireworks on July 3rd from the deck of the Michigan Maritime Museum’s tall ship, Friends Good Will. Sail out of South Haven onto Lake Michigan as you watch the fireworks light up the lake and sky on this memorable cruise.
Take the ferry out of Charlevoix to one of Lake Michigan’s most hidden gems: Beaver Island — America’s Emerald Isle. Enjoy a relaxing boat ride as you dock in Paradise Bay, surrounded by turquoise water and welcoming lighthouses. Tours are offered Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The Leila Arboretum & Kaleidoscope Garden in Battle Creek is a must-visit for families. Their Fantasy Forest is an amazing display of artistic talent and creativity. In 2015 and 2016, artists gathered from around the country to transform a grove of 100-year-old Ash trees into stunning works of art. They also have their Kaleidoscope Garden. Like the popular children’s toy, the Kaleidoscope Garden is always changing, highlighting different colors, shapes, and experiences as the seasons progress. Throughout the one-acre garden, visitors will take a closer look at how plants affect their everyday lives while getting a glimpse into some of Battle Creek’s interesting history.
The Grand Haven area’s Musical Fountain is truly one of a kind. The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is a synchronized water and light show accompanied by music of all varieties. Each 25-minute show features a variety of well-known music. The 2017 season opened on May 5th and runs through September.
See historical re-enactments at the 17th Annual Feast of the Strawberry Moon in Grand Haven on June 10th. This event brings in approximately 250 re-enactors, entertainers, demonstrators, and period vendors to provide the experience of the 18th century.
See how many rides you can squeeze into a day at Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon. They have everything from high-thrill roller coasters and water rides to the relaxing Lazy River. At Michigan’s Adventure, you get two parks for the price of one.