Kids looking out at the water from the sandy beach at Bay City State Park

📍Bay City State Park 📷 @shineonsunfish



When they're splashing at spray parks, ziplining, and zoo-going — even building sky-high castles on soft, sandy beaches — that's when you'll know you've picked the perfect Michigan summer getaway.


So, pack your suitcases — and extra swimsuits! We've got plenty of ways to turn those long, lazy days of summer into lifelong family memories made: on beaches and boat tours... even four stories high in the forest!



Little girl playing on the sandy beach at Bay City State Park

📍Bay City State Park 📷 @shineonsunfish


Beaches in the Great Lakes Bay

Bay City State Park (Bay City) One of "The 20 Best Michigan State Parks", with almost a mile of natural, sandy shoreline along Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay. Enjoy a swimming beach, splash park, and playscape — plus access to the coastal wetland of Tobico Marsh, with two four-story observation towers and almost five miles of trails you'll love exploring together.

William H. Haithco Recreation Area (Saginaw) 40-acre lake and sandy, supervised swimming beach — complete with paddleboats, rowboats, canoes, and kayaks you can rent — plus a playground, picnic areas, and plenty of grills.


Observation deck overlooking the wetlands of Tobico Marsh at Bay City State Park

📍Tobico Marsh at Bay City State Park 📷 @baycitymilove


Spray Parks + Splash Pads in the Great Lakes Bay

Spray by the Bay Spray Park (Bay City) Spray park inside Bay City State Park, with water features tailored to different age groups and a nearby playscape.

Celebration Square Splash Park (Saginaw) Free-admission, filtered-water, zero-depth splash pad (with three bays catered to kids of different ages) that's part of a bigger, four-acre park with a European-style playscape and rock-climbing wall.

Frankenmuth Jaycee Spray Park (Frankenmuth) Free, fully-accessible spray park inside Frankenmuth's Memorial Park, designed to encourage sensory learning, water play, and recreation for people of all abilities.

Gerstacker Spray Park (Midland) Downtown Midland spray park near The Tridge with motion-activated water features — open dawn to dusk, June - October.

Longview Spray Park (Midland) Spray park featuring everything from dumping buckets to water spouts that'll keep the kids cool all summer long, open June - October.


Outdoor Family Adventures in the Great Lakes Bay

Little girl posing with a watering can at Dow Gardens in Midland

📍Dow Gardens 📷 @carpenoctem182


Dow Gardens (Midland) 110 acres of botanical gardens (where exploration's encouraged), including a colorful Children's Garden with plots planted and tended by local families. After you've explored the Gardens, cross over to its magical Whiting Forest within — where the country's longest canopy walk stretches four stories high in the treetops, and there's a 13,600-square-foot playground the kids will never want to leave!


Two young kids exploring the glass-floored Orchard Arm overlook on the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens Canopy Walk

📍Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens 📷 @jenniferrussell1105


Chippewa Nature Center (Midland) Wander 19 miles of trails together and let your little explorers enjoy a giant nature play area, or discover the 1870s-style Homestead Farm on Sunday afternoons, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Frankenmuth Aerial Park (Frankenmuth) Zipline and climb together along six aerial ropes courses tucked into a forest — and enjoy this unforgettable adventure in the trees, for all ages seven on up.

Saginaw Children's Zoo (Saginaw) Follow colorful peacocks roaming free on the paths to find more than 150 animals — from Cotton-top Tamarins to adorable African Penguins. Buy dollar rides on the hand-carved wooden carousel and iconic miniature train, or purchase $5 day-passes for unlimited spins on both!


Girl looking at a goat at Saginaw Children's Zoo

📍Saginaw Children's Zoo 📷 @thekatierex


Wilderness Trails Zoo (Birch Run) 56 acres of amazing wildlife encounters, from a Reptile Sanctuary to a Rainforest Experience. Rent wagons on-site to wheel your little ones through it all!

Great Lakes Loons Baseball (Midland) Cheer along with official mascot Lou E. Loon when you catch a Great Lakes Loons game at Dow Diamond. Share popcorn, soda, and hotdogs, and consider it a classic summer day, fit for the family scrapbook!

Kokomo's Family Fun Center (Saginaw) 18 holes of outdoor mini-golf, plus the added fun of a five-story roller coaster! Try bumper boats, go-karts, batting cages, and a Eurobungy trampoline — then cool off inside at the massive arcade.

More Outdoor Mini-Golf (Bay City, Birch Run) Challenge each other to a round of mini-golf at Alpine Mountain in Birch Run, or Buoy 18 and Dutch Village Adventure Park, both in Bay City.


Family Boat Tours in the Great Lakes Bay

Bavarian Belle Riverboat and Frankenmuth FunShips passing under the Holz-Brucke Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

📍Frankenmuth FunShips and Bavarian Belle Riverboat on the Cass River 📷 @michiganaddicts


Frankenmuth FunShips (Frankenmuth) Rent an AquaCycle paddleboat for 45 minutes of pedal-powered fun that's just $20 for four! Or, hop on their electric boats for a 30-minute or one-hour river cruise that'll have you all unwinding together.

Bavarian Belle Riverboat (Frankenmuth) Relaxing, one-hour, narrated river tours of Frankenmuth, where the kids will "ooh" and "ahh" from the deck of this 150-passenger paddlewheel riverboat!

Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips (Saginaw) Guided boat tours tailored just to your family, where you'll spot rare wildlife — maybe even mature Bald Eagles — while you're whisked through the "Everglades of Michigan"!

BaySail (Bay City) Gather your crew for a Great Lakes 101 or Sunset Sail, where little ones will love exploring the Saginaw Bay aboard a towering tall ship!


View of the Appledore tall ship docked in Bay City on a gorgeous, sunny day

📍BaySail 📷 @lonbon22


Bay City Boat Lines (Bay City) 2.5-hour Saturdays on the Saginaw River Tours, where a live guide highlights sights to see — like the Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse that'll leave your little ones speechless!

Kayak Rentals (Multiple Cities) Rent from Frankenmuth Kayak Adventures, Float Paddle Center in Bay City, Ike's Mobile Kayak Rentals in Midland, or Cattail Kayak Rental in Pinconning for a family paddle along our peaceful waters.