- Things to Do
- Eat + Drink
- Places to Stay
- Plan Your Trip
Spend a long weekend in Pure Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region checking items off this bursting bucket list — and have a four-day adventure your family will never forget! Because here, it’ll be a toss up: who had more fun, the parents or kids?
Pick a road trip playlist, pack up the bags, and follow this plan. You'll be on your way to enjoying an unforgettable long weekend away together!
Kick off your long weekend away in Little Bavaria — with two of Michigan's top indoor waterparks and the world's largest Christmas store!
Breakfast: Sit at patio tables inside Parisian-inspired La Crepe du Jour and enjoy French-style crepes together while French music fills the air. Bonjour! Or, begin your day at Honey B's Eatery, with options for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike. Try the Smoked Salmon Benny or Honey's Hash and let the kids enjoy the Lil' French Toast or Pee-Wee Pancake.
Mid-Morning Outings: Experience sights, sounds, the spirit of Christmas, and more than 50,000 trims and gifts inside Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world's largest Christmas store. (Psst! Bronner’s offers hand-painted, personalized ornaments that’ll make special souvenirs from your family trip!)
Stroll Main Street to sample treats from Zak & Mac’s Chocolate Haus, Frankenmuth Taffy Kitchen, Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen, and Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, just to name a few.
If you're staying at either of two Frankenmuth hotels that also have epic waterparks, you'll want to spend the whole morning soaking it in. Try the 50,000-square-foot Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark for two distinct indoor waterparks in one, the four-story Perilous Plunge, and the six-story Family Raft Ride through the Tantrum Twist!
Or, dive into Bavarian Inn Lodge for four indoor pools, two waterslides, an on-site Family Fun Center with indoor mini-golf course, 150-game arcade, and two-story Children's Village play area!
Not whooping it up at the waterpark? Make your way to the working Grandpa Tiny's Heritage Farm, where you can pet, hold, and even help feed all kinds of amazing farm animals!
Lunch Options: Dine on the patio overlooking Main Street at Tiffany's Food & Spirits. Choose from homemade pasta dishes, Sicilian-style pizza, and an impressively robust kids' menu.
Or, follow your nose to food trucks, including the Bavarian Inn Cluck Truck for Frankenmuth chicken and Bavarian pretzels to The Cheese Trap for fried cheese curds and gourmet grilled cheese. Take your food truck fare to Heritage Park, and enjoy lunch alongside the Cass River.
Afternoon Fun: Cruise aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat where kids will enjoy the ride and "big kids" will appreciate the narrated historical tour.
Book a river excursion with Frankenmuth FunShips and a 12-passenger, electric-powered boat will be your chariot. Take the family-friendly Wine & Chocolate River Tour to sample wines and handmade chocolates, parents — with sparkling grape juice available for the kids. Cheers!
Or, take to the trees at Frankenmuth Aerial Park! With thrilling ropes courses and ziplines, the multi-skill leveled challenges will provide excitement for the whole family.
Discover Frankenmuth Jaycee Spray Park, a zero-depth water play area that is completely accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Enjoy 18 fountains, sprayers, and geysers, and have hours of fun together for free!
Dinner Options: Find your way to Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Zehnder's of Frankenmuth for world-famous chicken dinners. Both German-themed restaurants offer all-you-can-eat meals served family-style, and both are an absolute must for the full Frankenmuth experience.
Or, dine in a classic blues atmosphere, complete with live music on weekends, at Slo' Bones BBQ Smokehaus. Dive into delicious smoked wings, mouthwatering ribs, and the Lil’ Slo’s menu for the wee ones!
You could also enjoy dinner at the historic Frankenmuth Brewery, with outdoor seating overlooking the Cass River and made-from-scratch pizza, burgers, brats, and sandwiches. Sample your choice of 15 craft beers available on tap, and order the kiddos a cold mug of Frankie’s Root Bier. The specialty craft soda, brewed in small batches, will have the whole family saying, “That’s one dog-gone good root bier!”
Into the Eve: Relax after a busy day of fun while on a horse-drawn carriage ride with Fantasy Carriage Company or Frankenmuth Carriage Company. Travel through charming Downtown Frankenmuth to see sights like the Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke (Frankenmuth's iconic, covered wooden bridge), Frankenmuth River Place Shops, and the Glockenspiel Tower.
Before bed, save time for a drive down Bronner's 25 Christmas Lane — a half-mile holiday light display, illuminated every night of the year, that's sure to make their little faces light up!
Splashing at a spray park or building sandcastles on the beach — day two in Bay City packs options for all ages!
Breakfast: Begin with a cup of joe and a Chocolate Frosted Cream Filled Long John at Cops & Doughnuts - Sutherland Precinct, a completely unique and entirely cop-owned bakery. Or, get to Uptown Grill for classic diner dishes served with modern twists. The kids (and "big kids") will have to choose between Banana Bread French Toast or Chocolate Chip Cakes, and the truth is, you can't go wrong with either.
Morning Outings: There’s no time like vacation to rent bikes for the fam! Roll into Ray's Bike Shop to gear up before hitting the Bay City Area Riverwalk/RailTrail, and ride along wildflowers, residential districts, and a waterfront boardwalk.
Experience something out-of-this-world together at Delta College Planetarium! See the solar system through fresh eyes in shows like "Perfect Little Planet" — and grab astronaut food and stellar souvenirs at the gift shop before you go!
Have your camera ready at the Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum. With a NASCAR and Tonka Room, along with 60 motorized fire trucks on display, smiles get really wide here! Or, head into Painterly Pottery, a paint-your-own pottery studio with more than 1,000 unfinished clay items waiting to be made into one-of-a-kind creations.
Want to see your kids as happy as, well, kids in a candy store? Stop into century-old St. Laurent Brothers nut & candy company for homemade treats, ice cream, and nostalgic candies — and be sure to buy some extra for the trip back home!
Lunch: Eat Downtown at Intermission Deli for daily soups with a bread bowl option, salads, and more than 40 overstuffed sandwiches to choose from. Or, book it to Mussel Beach Drive-In (right by your next stop) for a family-friendly restaurant and premium ice cream parlor.
Mid-Day Adventures: Explore the Saginaw Bay shoreline and sandy swimming beach at Bay City State Park — along with Tobico Marsh, a 2,000-acre wetland preserve with walking trails, wildlife viewing, and two four-story observation towers!
Giggle and play at Spray by the Bay Splash Park, with umbrellas and lawn chairs for rests, and enjoy every minute at the all-new playground area!
Dinner Options: Introduce your family to our state’s culinary history in each and every bite at MI Table. With creative dishes, sourced locally, order from a seasonal menu — or go straight for the Chicken Pot Pie with Michigan Biscuits that just might become the kids' new favorite meal!
If a pizza pie sounds more like a crowd-pleaser, Vinny's Pizzeria in Uptown offers house-made specialties baked in a brick oven — and every pizza served here can also be made vegan or gluten-free!
Evening Fun: Have all the fun at Buoy 18 Miniature Golf, Arcade & Ice Cream Shop, overlooking a bustling marina — or putt-putt the night away at Dutch Village Adventure Park before you hit the batting cages.
Experience an evening straight out of “Pirates of the Caribbean” when you hop aboard BaySail's Appledore Tall Ships for a sunset cruise. Feel the wind in your hair and be sure to snap a photo of your family’s unforgettable sail — it’ll be a framer!
Or, take your evening indoors to see which family member can set a new high score at Crazy Quarters Arcade. Play classics from Pac-Man to Galaga and discover more than 60 pinball machines!
Get to Cream & Sugar Ice Cream Company for locally sourced (Michigan-grown sugar and Michigan-produced milk) freshly churned ice cream, served in bubble waffle cones — then bring down the night together underneath the lights of the Third Street Star Bridge!
An illuminating art project in the heart of Downtown, the star bridge is an outdoor visual experience that your family won’t soon forget. (Psst! Hope you're still feeling photogenic after your sail, because pictures under the lights of the Third Street Star Bridge are a must!)
Keep living up your weekend of fun making memories in Midland — while deep in the woods discovering nature or sky-high on a treetop canopy walk!
Breakfast: Start your day with “go-juice” (aka: coffee) at Creation Coffee or Live Oak Coffeehouse. Enjoy Live Oak’s traditional or crustless quiche, order the kids cinnamon rolls, and don’t pass on a family photo in front of the colorful mural that spans the side of the building!
Get to Grove Tea Lounge for Boba tea, vegan and gluten-free options like Chocolate Chai Overnight Oats, scones, muffins, and scratch-made donuts. If the kids are into crepes, Crepes Et Amis serves an irresistible Strawberry Cheesecrepe with strawberries, cheesecake filling, and Nutella®.
Morning Outings: Get some fresh air on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail! Begin at The Tridge to experience a unique three-way bridge, possibly the only one of its kind in the country! Or, venture out to Chippewa Nature Center where admission is free, the Visitor Center houses hands-on exhibits in the Ecosystem Gallery, and the Nature Discovery Area will have your whole family playing while witnessing wildlife up close.
Let loose and get loud at The Playground, an indoor haven for kids to burn off some energy and parents to kick back and take a break. Or, dazzle all of your senses at Midland Center for the Arts, a family-friendly facility where participation in art, music, science, and history is encouraged.
Lunch: Head to Pizza Baker for wood-fired, Neapolitan-style, crowd-pleasing pizza. Or, let the kids “Build Their Own” at Pizza Sam's while the "big kids" enjoy the Michigan Cherry Salad and The Godfather sandwich. Drop into Amazing Deli for sandwiches, salads, soups, and 10 Reuben Dog to Chicago Dog hotdogs to choose from.
Mid-Day Adventures: Get to Dow Gardens for 110 acres of floral beauty (including an award-winning Children's Garden) and marvel at the epic Canopy Walk inside its Whiting Forest, which takes visitors four stories high through the trees! The longest canopy walk in the nation at 1,400 feet long, enjoy exploring three unique walkway arms: the Spruce Arm with tree-supported cargo nets; the Pond Arm with tranquil overlooks; and the Orchard Arm with a glass-floored perch 40 feet above the ground!
Splash around at Gerstacker Spray Park (right near The Tridge and the Pere Marquette Rail Trail), or have belly laughs by the buckets, and water spouts, at Longview Spray Park!
Dinner: Get your fill of St. Louis, sauce-style barbecue at Molasses Smokehouse & Bar. If the name alone isn’t ‘nuff said, the Smokehouse Wings, St. Louis Ribs, Mac & Cheese, Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie, and Apple Cobbler will have everyone saying, “Let’s come back here soon!”
Evening Fun: Be ready for big fun at Valley Lanes Family Entertainment Center! Featuring 20 lanes of bowling, indoor mini-golf, a huge arcade, billiards, laser maze challenge, bumper cars, Hologate virtual reality, and two escape rooms, the whole family will have a blast (and everyone will sleep great after a day of adventures)!
Day four in Saginaw brings new cool, families — from zoos the kids will go wild for to spray parks where you'll all be splashing together!
Breakfast: Start your day with big smiles because of Fuzzy’s Cinnamon French Toast! Made with thick, homemade, iced cinnamon bread, this might be a smile-maker for the "big kids", too (with coffee, of course).
Or, let the scent of fresh-baked artisan breads and pastries welcome your family into The Bread Gal. Order up flaky chocolate croissants or cinnamon rolls for the kids — and a seasonal danish or scone for yourself!
Morning Outings: Step into more than 16,000 square feet of hands-on fun at Mid-Michigan Children's Museum! Every gallery is interactive, but don’t miss “Insides Out” where your family can climb inside a giant mouth complete with teeth and a tongue!
Go wild spotting more than 150 animals (including adorable African penguins) at the nearby Saginaw Children's Zoo, and ride both the hand-carved carousel and iconic miniature train. Toot toot!
With just a quick hop over to Birch Run, you could also take on Wilderness Trails Zoo, a 56-acre park with more than 200 animals and 50 exotic species. Or, make memories together at Alpine Mountain while playing two 18-hole mini-golf courses or racing go-karts and bumper boats.
Lunch Options: Introduce the kids to carhops at Old Town Drive-In, and treat your whole family to homemade draft root beer and delicious Coney dogs. Savor homemade soups at Fralia's, and choose from more than 20 sandwiches. (Psst! Fralia’s is great for families with picky palates; there are so many options!)
For homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and Mexican favorites, too — Valerie's Downtown is the place. And Big O Burgers and Barbecue specializes in Southern-style home cooking and keeping it simple with “meat, wood and fire”.
Afternoon Adventures: Hit the beach at Haithco Recreation Area and make memories a’plenty with a playground, splash pad, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and paddleboat, rowboat, canoe, and kayak rentals!
Sprawl out together at the four-acre Frank N. Andersen Celebration Park. With a European-style playscape, Bocce ball courts, and nature viewing along Lake Linton, it's also home to a skate park — plus Celebration Square Splash Park with three bays catered to kiddos of different ages!
Take a guided tour on a shallow-draft boat with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips, and experience the pristine wildlife gem that is the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Bring cameras, binoculars, beverages, and your picnic basket for this one-of-a-kind outing!
Indoors, challenge your family to Airborne Adventure Park and its wall-to-wall trampolines. Defy gravity, train like a Ninja Warrior, conquer the Warped Wall, and compete in Ultimate Dodgeball!
Dinner: Order some sushi to start, parents, and let the kids take in a tableside Teppanyaki cooking show by trained chefs at Benihana. It’s high-energy, exciting, and unforgettable! Or, eat at G's Pizzeria for gourmet and signature pizzas, alongside sandwiches, burgers, and brews!
Into the Eve: Race go-karts, play mini-golf, chase each other through laser tag, and play arcade games all in one place at Press Play 989. Don't miss this, families!
Step into Stardust Lanes to bowl with the family, and be ready for the Entertainment Center, too, including: a video arcade with more than 60 games, four escape rooms, LED-lit bumper cars, and two-story laser tag for all kinds of family adventures!
Travel to Frankenmuth, Michigan for a weekend with your family and be ready for all kinds of over-the-top fun! This town is known as “Little Bavaria”, but it’s home to two of Michigan’s top indoor waterparks and the world’s largest Christmas store, making it a must-stop for more than 3 million who visit annually.Read More +
Situated along the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, Bay City is bursting with flavors to savor, boats to board, and places to play, carefree! You're on vacation and you've got a weekend to spend making beautiful memories together in Bay City!Read More +
Pack up the car, kiddos included, and get ready to make unforgettable family memories in Midland, Michigan! You’ll find this city affords your crew an artful blend of experiences — from Midtown to Downtown and every spot in-between.Read More +
With hands-on, interactive museums, petting farms where your hearts will melt, and opportunities to bounce sky-high and squeal with excitement aboard a choo-choo train and beyond — Saginaw is a kid-friendly spot that adults will love, too!Read More +
By: Jen W. O'Deay | Updates: Go Great Lakes Bay | Jen is a Saginaw native and owner of Feel These Words, an independent copywriting studio & home to the free "5 Day Website MiniBoost". Jen specializes in writing that connects, delivered through website copy, branded content articles, and WingWoman writing services. You'll find Jen camping with her family, laughing, and at feelthesewords.com