- Things to Do
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Slip into sandals and grab your shades because summer is almost here! Better yet, bury your toes in the sand, step aboard a sailboat at sunset, and float a ferry boat right into the night! Soar through the treetops, explore exotic zoos, rent paddleboards for the afternoon, or kayak your way to summer memories (and ice cream cones)!
Follow the sunshine, fresh air, and this list of top outdoor attractions to make the most of your summer adventures in Pure Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region!
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.
Climb aboard to ride an icon, the 150-passenger Bavarian Belle Riverboat, 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 enclosed lower salon) as you learn interesting facts about "Little Bavaria."
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.
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.
Let yourself float freely on the Princess Wenonah and Islander excursion boats of Bay City Boat Lines 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!
Feel the laid-back island vibes right here in Michigan! Board a tiki-themed pontoon with Bay City Tiki Boat Tours and enjoy your favorite snacks, drinks, and tunes as you cruise out to Saginaw Bay to catch the sunset!
Swim & splash (or just relax) along almost a mile of natural, sandy Saginaw Bay shoreline at Bay City State Park! Break from swimming at basketball and volleyball courts, and picnic in the shade at on-site pavilions. Inside the 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!
Hit the beach and stay all day at Haithco Recreation Area! This 74-acre park offers a 40-acre lake and 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!
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!
Soar to new heights, test your limits, and feel like you're flying through the trees at Frankenmuth Aerial Park! 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.
Venture out for fresh air, sun, and scenery at Chippewa Nature Center 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 19 miles of trails for hiking — some for biking, too — join a Full Moon Stroll, Wildflower Walk, or a summer workshop!
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!
Go exploring to see where four rivers converge at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge! 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.
Enjoy street fare and refreshing brews at Drift Shoreside Beer Garden this summer! Split buckets of cold beer, sip 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!
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.
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.
Toss back pints at Midland Brewing Company, 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.
Sway to live music on summer nights at Schnitzelbank Bier Garten in front of Frankenmuth's Bavarian Inn Lodge. Enjoy your favorite beverage and “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!” or “A drink to good friends and good times!”
Pedal below the Third 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!
Coast through Frankenmuth on a City River Tour with PedAle Trolley! Power 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!
Clip-clop through streets of “Little Bavaria” on a horse-drawn carriage ride 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.
Grab your lucky baseball and softball mitts, and head out to a Great Lakes 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!
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.
Paddle along the gentle Cass River on a self-guided kayak tour with Frankenmuth Kayak Adventures, and experience the tranquility of the water as it winds its way through picturesque “Little Bavaria.”
With 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!
Book a two- to four-hour scenic paddle on the Chippewa River with Nor’East Outdoors – Midland. Brief paddling lessons and shuttle service come with each of Nor’East’s pre-set trips!
Gain easy access to Saginaw Bay this summer with Nor’East Outdoors – Bay City, conveniently located inside Bay City State Park. Borrow your choice of kayaks or boards and enjoy the views from offshore!
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.
June, July, and August are primetime for Saginaw Bay walleye fishing, because a world-class walleye bite is happening 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).
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!
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.
Bring your binoculars to the Saginaw Bay Birding Trail, a 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.
Take on eight miles of mountain biking trails that twist and turn over flat land and steep hills at Midland City Forest! 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.
Take an awe-inspiring route through dozens of outdoor art displays with the Great Lakes Bay Region Public Art Passport at your fingertips! 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!
Immerse yourself in an array of streetside beauty at Old Town Saginaw Street Art Park, including mini-murals dotted with bright flowers, a larger-than-life orange butterfly, and the colorful Court Street Bridge Mural.
Stroll through a garden alive with artistry at the Sculpture Garden just outside of Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum. Enjoy beautiful bronze sculptures, botanical beds, and tranquil water sounds from the Day and Night Fountain.
Bringing the kids along on your summer vacation? These outdoor attractions are favorites for families! Learn More
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!
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!
Pet Rosie the Donkey and meet Mr. Nibbles (the very soft bunny who doesn’t nibble) at Grandpa Tiny’s Heritage Farm in Frankenmuth. Enjoy hayrides, hands-on learning experiences, and chances to pet, feed, and hold some of the animals!
Have a ball playing miniature golf at Dutch Village Adventure Park! Swing hard in the batting cages, and treat yourselves to a cool-down of hand-dipped Hudsonville ice cream.
Create forever memories at Buoy 18 Miniature Golf, Arcade & Ice Cream Shop, right by a bustling marina! Play games in the arcade, and have fun choosing your ice cream: regular, sugar-free, vegan, or gluten-free!
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 Press Play 989!
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!
Giggle and play, whoop it up with water, and rest on provided lawn chairs at Spray by the Bay Splash Park inside Bay City State Park. You’re right next to a playground area, volleyball and basketball courts, pavilions for picnics, a sandy beach, and Tobico Marsh nature trails!
Check out the 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!
Count to 18 together, because Frankenmuth Jaycee Spray Park's zero-depth water play area has 18 different fountains, sprays, and geysers — accessible for all ages and abilities!
Play for “ages” in filtered-water, zero-depth sections at Celebration Square Splash Park! 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!
Get wild, wet, and feel wonderful! Be ready for belly laughs by the buckets, and waterspouts, at Longview Spray Park!
Splash and play by the iconic Tridge, and right next to the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, at Gerstacker Spray Park. Watch the kids in the waterspouts? No way! This place is for the young and young-at-heart!
Want to see excited eyes and ear-to-ear smiles on your little ones' faces? Here’s the surefire way: head to Pure Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region with this list in your luggage!Read More +
Dip your toes, drop a line, and dive right in as you discover these must-try attractions, hotels, and restaurants on the water in Pure Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region!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