Outdoors + Nature

Dow Gardens: Find yourself surrounded by vibrant blooms this summer as you stroll Dow Gardens' 110 acres, including Color and Rose Gardens, a peaceful Stream Walk, and Boulder Pass waterfall. Explore its Whiting Forest, too, with a one-of-a-kind canopy walk through the treetops — including a glass-floor viewing platform four stories high!

Frankenmuth Aerial Park: Soar to new heights, test your limits, and feel like you're flying through the trees! A sky-high obstacle course with options for all skill levels, this wooded park is packed with ladders, rope bridges, and ziplines for the ultimate adventure.

Chippewa Nature Center: Venture out for fresh air, sun, and scenery at CNC this summer! Hike along (or paddle) the Chippewa River, overlook three marshes from the Observation Tower, and time-travel back to the 1870s Homestead Farm. With more than 19 miles of trails for hiking — some for biking, too — join a Full Moon Stroll, Wildflower Walk, or a summer workshop!

Tobico Marsh: With easy access through Bay City State Park, Tobico Marsh is a scenic, 2,000-acre wetland that’s home to migratory birds, wildlife, plants, walking trails, a beautiful boardwalk, and two 32-foot observation towers. Walk or jog the Lagoon Trail loop through the marsh where the chickadees sing!

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge: Go exploring to see where four rivers converge! Located in the Saginaw Bay watershed, discover one of the largest wetland ecosystems in Michigan and experience a wondrous display of egrets, geese, warblers, and more — especially along the 6.5-mile auto tour, Wildlife Drive.

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Fresh Open-Air Adventures
Boat Tours in Frankenmuth | @michiganaddicts

Guided Boat Tours

Frankenmuth FunShips: Could there be a better summer pairing than a relaxing boat ride where wine samples and handcrafted chocolates are served? Float away on a Wine & Chocolate River Tour with Frankenmuth FunShips, and keep your stemless tasting glass as a souvenir! Or, book a 30-minute or one-hour guided River Tour to cruise along the scenic Cass River and take in the beautiful, authentic Bavarian architecture.

Bavarian Belle Riverboat
: Climb aboard to ride an icon, the 150-passenger Bavarian Belle, and float beneath the Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke (German for “wooden bridge”). Departing from the waterfalls of Frankenmuth River Place Shops, enjoy a one-hour narrated history tour from the canopied upper deck (or fully enclosed lower salon) as you learn interesting facts about "Little Bavaria".

Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips
: Experience the “Everglades of Michigan” — or the waterways of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge — on an expertly guided boat tour with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips. Discover one of the richest wildlife habitats in Michigan and a completely unique boating adventure where guests can pack picnics, coolers, beverages of choice — and bring their pets! These custom trips are by reservation only, so book early.

Bay City Boat Lines

Bay City Boat Lines: Let yourself float freely on the Princess Wenonah and Islander excursion boats this summer! Take a Free Weekday Morning History Tour for natural beauty and interesting bits of Bay City history, dine on deck before you boogie down aboard “Carefree Cruisin’” or “Rock the Boat” themed trips with live bands, or relax on a Saginaw River Guided Tour for spectacular water views and the chance to see a lighthouse!

BaySail: Drift off into the sunset aboard the Appledore Tall Ships on a Sunset Sail with BaySail! Experience vibrant hues and billowing white sails while enjoying snacks and beverages you brought on board. Or, book a daytime Great Lakes 101 Sail to explore the rich history of the Saginaw River, with gorgeous scenery and abundant wildlife sightings.

Bavarian Belle Riverboat
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Unforgettable Guided Boat Tours
Bay City State Park | @finnandkelly

Beaches

Bay City State Park: Swim & splash (or just relax) along almost a mile of natural, sandy Saginaw Bay shoreline! Break from swimming at basketball and volleyball courts, and picnic in the shade at on-site pavilions. Inside Bay City State Park, you’ll also find a Splash Park for the kids, Saginaw Bay Visitors Center for nature exploration, and access to Tobico Marsh — a wetland preserve with scenic Lagoon Trails and two 32-foot observation towers for aerial views!

Haithco Recreation Area
: Hit the beach and stay all day! This 74-acre park offers a 40-acre lake and sandy swimming beach, earthy-themed Splash Park, volleyball courts, and even horseshoe pits. Cook up a picnic on grills located conveniently throughout the park, rent paddleboats, rowboats, canoes, or kayaks, and see what you can catch from the fishing pier!

Bay City State Park | @mi_playground
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Places to Sink Your Toes in the Sand
Drift Shoreside Beer Garden | @_ekmphotography

Outdoor Beer Gardens

Drift Shoreside Beer Garden: Enjoy street fare and custom-made beers at Drift Shoreside Beer Garden this summer! Sip handcrafted pints from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and North Peak Brewing Company along with a variety of other select brews, wine, and craft cocktails — and don't leave without sampling from a lineup of food trucks regularly parked on-site. Boaters can dock and order right from the water!

Drydock Beer Garden
: Imbibe on your favorite brew in the heart of Downtown Bay City's dining district at Drydock Beer Garden. It’s an outdoor beer garden under the string lights in cozy quarters at Unity Park — with low-key vibes and a prime location.

Larkin Beer Garden: Quench your thirst under the stars at Larkin Beer Garden. An upcycled shipping container turned outdoor beer garden, enjoy plentiful brews, local food trucks, live music, and life-sized board games every Thursday and Friday night throughout the summer.

Midland Brewing Company: Toss back pints at this microbrewery with its open-air Red Keg Beer Garden that backs up to the Pere Marquette Rail Trail! Boasting fireside seating and lawns that host summer cornhole leagues, try flagship brews like Copper Harbor Ale alongside seasonal suds like Jenny’s Raspberry Sour Shandy.

Schnitzelbank Bier Garten
: Sway to live music on summer nights at Schnitzelbank Bier Garten in front of Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth. Enjoy your favorite beverage and “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!” or “A drink to good friends and good times!”

Feet on the Street in Bay City | @miles2gobeforeisleep

Pedal Trolleys + Carriage Tours

Sunrise Pedal Trolley: Pedal below the 3rd Street Star Bridge with Sunrise Pedal Trolley and partake in a mobile party on a 16-person trolley bike! Guests choose their own drinks and music, and each two-hour Bay City tour can include architecture, shops, and local pubs, if you like!

PedAle Trolley: Coast through Frankenmuth on a City River Tour! Pedal a 16-person trolley on a two-hour sightseeing tour, and visit 3 - 5 shops, pubs, and attractions. PedAle Trolley sells single seats for its Thursday- and Saturday-night pub crawl tours, and welcomes guests to create custom “Foodie Tour” or “Photography Tour” routes!

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides: Clip-clop through streets of “Little Bavaria” with Fantasy Carriage Company or Frankenmuth Carriage Company. With beautifully carved carriages and extraordinary horses, your tour with either will include intriguing scenery and insider Frankenmuth gems.

Sports

Great Lakes Loons Baseball: Grab your lucky baseball and softball mitts, and head out to a Loons game to catch a fly ball! Watch riveting Minor League Baseball with 5,200 stadium seats to pick from and 12 suites available for private viewing, or bring a blanket to cheer from the lawn!

Great Lakes Bay Golf Courses: Get a hole-in-one this summer, or at least have a good time trying! Set your tee time at Apple Mountain to golf an 18-hole championship course with four sets of tee boxes, generous fairways, and true greens — or play The Fortress in Frankenmuth, an 18-hole, par 72 course that’s been recognized as one of Michigan's top courses.

The Fortress | @thefortressgolf
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Public Golf Courses
Saginaw River in Bay City | @mi_playground

Kayaking + Paddleboarding

Float Paddle Center: Catch a whole new view of Bay City — right on the water with rentals from Float Paddle Center! Situated near the Ted Putz Nature Area, find yourself instantly immersed in nature and enjoy your peaceful float on single kayaks, tandem kayaks, or even SUPs.

Cattail Kayak Rental
: Make your way North for new adventures on Saginaw Bay with Cattail Kayak Rental. Starting at Bay County Pinconning Park, take a single or double kayak for a spin and paddle through calm, blue hues.

Nor’East Outdoors – Bay City
: Gain easy access to Saginaw Bay this summer with Nor’East Outdoors' newest rental shop, conveniently located inside Bay City State Park. Borrow your choice of kayaks or boards and enjoy the views from offshore!

Nor’East Outdoors – Midland
: Book a two- to four-hour scenic paddle on the Chippewa River with Nor’East Outdoors in Midland. Brief paddling lessons and shuttle service come with each of Nor’East’s pre-set trips!

Ike’s Mobile Kayak Rentals
: Go on a guided tour or self-led adventure in a 12-foot sit-on or sit-in kayak, or try out a double kayak for fun! Got a group, want a longer reservation, or need unique accommodations? Ike's specializes in custom outings!

Frankenmuth Kayak Adventures
: Paddle along the gentle Cass River on a self-guided kayak tour, and experience the tranquility of the water as it winds its way through picturesque “Little Bavaria”.

Saginaw River in Bay City | @mi_playground
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Top Places to Dip Your Paddles

Saginaw Bay Walleye Fishing: June, July, and August are primetime for anglers hoping to visit the Great Lakes Bay Region, because a world-class walleye bite is happening on Saginaw Bay all throughout the summer! Whether you’re fishing from your own boat, a chartered vessel, the Saginaw River banks, or the shores of Saginaw Bay, get in on the summer walleye action (and find which trolling tactics local anglers favor).

Saginaw Bay Walleye Fishing Charters
: With an international reputation for serious walleye fishing, Saginaw Bay boasts an impressive fleet of charter fishing options — with expert captains who know where to find the best catch. Hook your fill this summer from waters teeming with walleye and plentiful with pros!

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Summer Walleye Fishing Tips + Tactics
Bay City State Park | @mi_playground

Hiking + Biking Trails

Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail: Ride through fields of wildflowers — or along the riverfront — on the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail! Comprised of the 21-mile Bay City Area Riverwalk/Railtrail, 30-mile Pere Marquette Rail Trail, 11-mile Saginaw Valley Rail Trail and beyond, this trail system offers gorgeous scenery and spectacular waterfront views. Look to Ray’s Bike Shop in Midland or Bay City to rent a comfort or mountain bike!

Saginaw Bay Birding Trail: Bring your binoculars to a birder’s paradise and natural habitat for more than 200 species of birds! Covering 142 shoreline miles, this trail is home to everything from tundra swans to American white pelicans — and the best time for viewing is often early morning.

Midland City Forest: Take on eight miles of mountain biking trails that twist and turn over flat land and steep hills! A 520-acre oasis for outdoor enthusiasts, City Forest is also home to Ray’s Bike Shop where riders can test Specialized, Surly, Trek, and other bikes on the trails.

Saginaw Valley Rail Trail | @djaycapeside
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Top Trails for Hiking + Biking
Art Seen Festival Mural | @megsymarie13

Public Art

Great Lakes Bay Region Public Art Passport: Take an awe-inspiring route through dozens of outdoor art displays! Find information and stories about public art across the region — from the Madonna Mural in Downtown Bay City to the enormous Matisse Mural in Old Town Saginaw — with photos, Google map locations, and opportunities to see an aerial preview!

Art Around the City: Track down 50 pieces of public art with Art Around the City, an outdoor exhibition displayed throughout Downtown Bay City, Uptown Bay City, Veterans Park, and Bigelow Park around the Bay City Area Riverwalk/Railtrail. Look for each piece of locally produced artwork, recreated on a metal plate with information about the artist.

Old Town Saginaw Street Art Park: Immerse yourself in an array of street art including mini-murals dotted with bright flowers, a larger-than-life orange butterfly, and the colorful Court Street Bridge Mural.

Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum: Stroll through a garden of sculptures at the outdoor Jo Anne & Donald Petersen Sculpture Garden. Enjoy beautiful bronze sculptures, botanical beds, and tranquil water sounds from the Day and Night Fountain.

Riverfront Saginaw | @with_hayes
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Places to See Public Art
Bringing the kids along on your summer vacation? These outdoor attractions are favorites for families! Learn More
Saginaw Children's Zoo | @thekatierex

Zoos + Farms

Saginaw Children’s Zoo: Ride the iconic miniature train at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo. Choo-choo! Swing like a capuchin in “Monkey Jungle”, climb “Kilimanjaro Mountain”, dive into an “Underwater Viewing Cave”, and take a few spins on the hand-carved carousel. Picnic on-site with a bite to eat from the Train Whistle Café, and be sure to snap pictures of the colorful peacocks if you see them on the paths!

Wilderness Trails Zoo: Meet more than 200 exotic animals at Wilderness Trails Zoo in Birch Run! With a “Petting Area”, “Picnic Area”, “Parakeet Encounter” and “Rainforest Experience”, this 56-acre zoo is home to lions, bears, bobcats, zebras, and so much more!

Grandpa Tiny’s Farm: Pet Rosie the Donkey and meet Mr. Nibbles (the very soft bunny who doesn’t nibble) at Grandpa Tiny’s Farm in Frankenmuth. Enjoy hayrides, hands-on learning experiences, and chances to pet, feed, and hold some of the animals!

Dutch Village Adventure Park | @dutchvillageadventurepark

Outdoor Mini Golf

Kokomo’s Family Fun Center: Putt-putt your way to a hole-in-one, race go-karts, run through Laser Tag, ride bumper boats, and play arcade games — all in one family-friendly place at Kokomo's!

Alpine Mountain: Choose between two 18-hole mini golf courses at Alpine Mountain, or play both! Challenge the fam to bank-shot basketball, race go-karts and bumper boats, and indulge in ice cream!

Dutch Village Adventure Park: Have a ball playing miniature golf and riding bumper boats at Dutch Village Adventure Park! Swing hard in the batting cages, and heads up: this place has a slick track for super-fast go-kart fun!

Buoy 18 Miniature Golf, Arcade & Ice Cream Shop: Create forever memories on the miniature golf green at Buoy 18, right by a bustling marina! Play games together in the arcade, and have fun choosing your ice cream: regular, sugar-free, vegan, or gluten-free!

Bay City State Park | @shineonsunfish

Spray Parks + Splash Pads

Spray by the Bay Splash Park: Giggle and play, whoop it up with water, and rest on provided lawn chairs at this splash zone inside Bay City State Park. You’re right next to a wooden playscape, volleyball and basketball courts, pavilions for picnics, a sandy beach, and Tobico Marsh nature trails!

Haithco Recreation Area Splash Park
: Check out the new earthy-themed Splash Park at Haithco Recreation Area for sun-soaked fun amidst Michigan-native animals and trees spouting water! Enjoy this 76-acre park and 40-acre lake with swimming beach, and be ready to ride the universally accessible merry-go-’round!

Frankenmuth Jaycee Spray Park
: Count to 18 together, because this zero-depth water play area has 18 different fountains, sprays, and geysers — accessible for all ages and abilities!

Celebration Square Splash Park
: Play for “ages” in filtered-water, zero-depth sections! Enjoy Discovery Bay with misters for toddlers, Adventure Bay with showers and dumping buckets for children, and Action Bay with adjustable Spray Cannon water soakers and large Ground Geysers fun!

Longview Spray Park
: Get wild, wet, and feel wonderful! Be ready for belly laughs by the buckets, and water spouts, at Longview Spray Park!

Gerstacker Spray Park
: Splash and play by the iconic Tridge, and right next to the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. Watch the kids in the waterspouts? No way! This place is for the young and young-at-heart!

Dow Gardens | @sallyannrudy
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Summer Fun for Families
Author
Jen W. O'Deay

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

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