Boy crossing the cargo net bridge to a wooden pod play structure along the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens Canopy Walk

📍Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens 📷 @sallyannrudy

 


 

Leaves piled high like mountains (begging little feet to jump right in), patches full of oversized pumpkins, and orchard trees dotted with tart, juicy apples: autumn turns the Great Lakes Bay into a cool & colorful playground.

 

But, here, a perfect fall day with the kids doesn't end with orchards & farms. It takes you all four stories high in the forest, travels 10,000 acres deep into the awesome wilderness, and stretches as far as their tiny eyes can see — covering absolutely everything in color!

 


 

Woman throwing fall leaves into the air at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland

📍Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens 📷 @_dineshdon

 


 

Start planning your fall family trip to Michigan with our favorite things to do with kids in the Great Lakes Bay this autumn:

 


 

Wooden pod and cargo net bridge tucked in the trees along the Canopy Walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland

📍Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens 📷 @blackmarkmedia

 

Find Adventure in Gardens & Forest

Take the whole family through a tunnel of trees — and travel the country's longest canopy walk — with a visit to Dow Gardens and its dreamy Whiting Forest. Here, the kids can explore colorful gardens, run wild on a whimsical playground, roll around in cargo net hammocks stretched between the treetops, and connect with nature at every twist and turn. Stand on the glass-floored overlook together — perched four stories high above ground — and pose for a family photo so you'll always remember your epic day in the trees!

 

View from the ground looking up through a grove of spruces, where three kids are laying in a giant cargo net hammock suspended high in the forest along the Canopy Walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland

📍Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens 📷 @_tomhughes._

 

Play in the Awesome Wilderness

For (safe) up-close wildlife encounters — like Bald Eagles nesting and deer drinking from streams — a color tour through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is just the thing! Join Johnny Panther Quests on a boat tour custom-built for your crew, or wind along the 6.5-mile Wildlife Drive from the comfort of the family car. And, at Midland's Chippewa Nature Center, there's still more natural wonder to explore — on 19 miles of tree-lined trails, topped off by a visit to the log cabin Homestead Farm.

 

Leaves changing at Chippewa Nature Center old schoolhouse

📍Chippewa Nature Center 📷 @megsymarie13

 

Find Fresh Fun at Apple Orchards

Sticky, cinnamon-sugared hands from donuts fresh out of the fryer; just-pressed cider; and gigantic, gooey caramel apples: could there be a sweeter ending to a perfect fall day spent with family? Head to one of our apple orchards (the smells alone will pull you in) and find out for yourself!

Try two local favorites — Leaman's Green Applebarn and Bayne's Apple Valley Farm — for treats like caramel apples, cider donuts, cider slushies, cider sundaes, and (of course) plain, fresh cider. The best part? They're just four miles apart, so you can squeeze even more goodness into one trip!

 

Child picking out pumpkins and gourds at Leaman's Green Applebarn

📍Leaman's Green Applebarn 📷 @shineonsunfish

 

Pick at Pumpkin Patches

Spend an afternoon picking from huge pumpkins and funky gourds at Johnson's Giant Pumpkins in Saginaw or Grandma's Pumpkin Patch in Midland. Both have corn mazes — and adorable farm animals — and both will set you up with cool souvenirs to carve with the kids at home! Or, head to Tomac Pumpkins in Chesaning, where the kids can choose from 200+ varieties grown on a fourth-generation, family-owned farm.

 

Little boy sitting on an antique tractor at Johnson's Giant Pumpkins in the fall

📍Johnson's Giant Pumpkins 📷 @lovethewolfgrams

 

Go for Fun on the Farm

See a real-life, working Centennial Farm — with the chance to pet, feed, and even snuggle some animals — when you bring the kids to the big blue barns on Grandpa Tiny's Farm in Frankenmuth! After, let the kids pick their own pumpkins, sunflowers, and lavender (and enjoy the smells the whole way home).

 

Little boy on a miniature red tractor at Grandpa Tiny's Farm in Frankenmuth, with a big, blue barn in the background

📍Grandpa Tiny's Farm 📷 @k_bier_h

 

Conquer the Corn Mazes

Wind through a sea of golden stalks (maybe at the golden hour!) with your little ones in tow. Each offering something extra-special, try any of these mazes for a fun family challenge: Johnson's Giant Pumpkins in Saginaw, Leaman's Green Applebarn in Freeland, Frankenmuth Corn Maze and Grandpa Tiny's Farm in Frankenmuth, or Grandma's Pumpkin Patch in Midland.

Swing Through the Forest

Take climbing trees to a whole new level — and even higher heights — when you bring the kids to brave six unique courses at Frankenmuth Aerial Park! Ages seven & up can zipline and climb here — and anyone sitting it out can cheer from comfortable benches on the grounds.

 

Woman ziplining through the trees at Frankenmuth Aerial Park

📍Frankenmuth Aerial Park 📷 @ashsmithphoto

 

Go Sailing with Donuts & Cider

Sailing not your first idea of a fall family outing? Prepare to be surprised, because BaySail's Autumn Color Tour River Cruises are exactly that: fun for parents and kids! And if the big, billowing sails of the towering tall ships aren't enough to convince the kids how cool this outing is? The yummy donuts and warm apple cider served on-board surely will!

Share Campfire Stories

Sleeping bags spread out under starry skies and s'mores by the crackling fire: there's no better way to reconnect than on a family camping trip! And from one of "The 20 Best State Parks in Michigan" to spots that'll put you right by incredible fishing, we've staked out the best family campgrounds around.

 

Fall-colored trees over a boardwalk trail at Bay City State Park in Bay City

📍Bay City State Park 📷 @dee_dorsey

 

Find Inexpensive Fun for Four

For a fun fall outing on (not in) the water, rent an AquaCycle from Frankenmuth FunShips. Just $20 for a family of four, these paddleboats will take you through Frankenmuth's fall color — and right by sights like the Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke wooden bridge and River Place waterfalls.

 

Shadows of the fall trees casting over the cobblestone in front of the Holz-Brucke Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

📍Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Holz Brucke 📷 @jimmytaylorphoto

 

Explore Two Incredible Zoos

Get up close to more than 150 animals at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo (like adorable African penguins and a too-cute, two-toed sloth!), or see a Reptile Sanctuary and Rainforest Experience at Wilderness Trails Zoo in Birch Run. Actually, try each for two totally different, wild experiences!

 

Girl looking at a goat at Saginaw Children's Zoo

📍Saginaw Children's Zoo 📷 @thekatierex

 

Rent Tandem Rides

Whether you'll paddle in tandem crafts from a local kayak rental or pedal on tandem rides from bike shops like Ray's or Jack's — our peaceful waterways and winding trails are perfect for some family time. Or, rent from PedAle Trolley in Frankenmuth for a Circle Cruiser where up to six can pedal one circular bike together!