- Things to Do
- Eat + Drink
- Places to Stay
- Plan Your Trip
Sunscreen, sandals, and ice cream cones — it’s summertime in Pure Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region! And with warm sun shining and cool, blue waters, every day is ripe for adventure!
Pack up the fam and hit the open road to arrive at destination high-fives and smiles — and beaches, boat rides, splash parks, and petting zoos! Here’s where to go and what to do this summer for a getaway your family will never forget:
Take your family on a scavenger hunt to find 24 beautifully crafted bronze sculptures throughout thousands of blooming flowers at Dow Gardens! Telling stories of adventure and imagination, the whole family will enjoy Gary Lee Price's "Celebrate the Children" sculpture exhibit this summer — and the 1,400-foot canopy walk that soars 40 feet in the air and through the trees of Whiting Forest!
Discover family fun, natural wonders, and Homestead Sundays at Chippewa Nature Center. Spend quality time together at themed Homestead events — including “Meet the Farm Animals,” “Bees and Pollination,” and “Fun on the Farm” — and explore CNC’s Visitor Center, Ecosystem Gallery, Wildlife Viewing Area, and Nature Discovery Area.
Fly through the air, swing through trees, and work together as a team at Frankenmuth Aerial Park! Experience challenges and unforgettable thrills zooming through an aerial obstacle course of ziplines, ladders, and rope bridges — sharing high-fives along the way! Look for special Glow Nights where the park is aglow with color arches and lasers and climbers receive glow apparel and visit glow paint stations.
Get up close with more than 150 animals at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo! Visit African penguins and a two-toed sloth, and discover rescued animals in the Forgotten Forest. Be sure to take a spin on the hand-carved carousel — and, of course, ride the Iberschoff Special miniature train! Kids will love the whistle and the ride, and "big kids" will appreciate 10 acres of landscaped paths, beautiful gardens, and animal exhibits. Enjoy a tasty lunch at the Train Whistle Café, or bring a picnic into this gorgeous zoo!
Encounter the Reptile Sanctuary and Rainforest Experience at Birch Run's Wilderness Trails Zoo. Explore this 56-acre park with more than 200 exotic animals of 50 different species, get hands-on in the large petting area, and have a meet-and-greet with a parakeet! Picnics are welcomed, but lunch (and an impressive gift shop) can be found right on-site.
Take a step back in time, and be part of a wholesome tradition that continues today at Grandpa Tiny’s Heritage Farm. Pet the farm animals, including Rosie The Donkey and Mr. Nibbles (the adorable bunny who doesn’t nibble), tour the one-room schoolhouse, and enjoy family-friendly fun while learning about life on the farm!
Experience farm fun and one of the area’s oldest working orchards at Leaman’s Green Applebarn. Take a hayride, try your hand at chores, pet, hug, and feed baby animals, head out for a scavenger hunt, and even ride the Apple Barrel Express! Stop by the Country Store for cider slushies, and grab fresh cider & donuts for a delicious souvenir. Be sure to watch for special summer events like Kids' Goat Yoga and Sunflower Days!
Soak up the sun at the Spray by the Bay Splash Park inside Bay City State Park. Enjoy time with the fam at the public swimming beach with nearly a mile of natural Saginaw Bay shoreline, on-site picnic areas — and Tobico Marsh, a wetland preserve with two observation towers the kids will never stop talking about!
Check out the earthy-themed Splash Pad 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 and swimming beach with on-site concessions, areas for grilling, and a children’s play area. Rent paddleboats, rowboats, canoes, or kayaks, and be ready to ride the universally accessible merry-go-’round!
Beat the heat at the epic Celebration Square Splash Park! Toddlers to teens will enjoy this high-energy, interactive splash park — with sections uniquely designed for different age groups. Let toddlers get their feet wet in (non-threatening) water misters and low-pressure fountains, and whoop it up with bigger kids underneath geysers and water soakers!
Spend time together at Frankenmuth Jaycee Spray Park, and enjoy a place where people of all abilities can have a ball. This handicap-accessible and family-friendly splash pad offers a zero-depth water play area with 18 different fountains, sprays, geysers, and other water features. Pack a picnic and stay for the day — there’s plenty of shade and picnic areas for snacks between soakings!
Splash around at Longview Spray Park, and enjoy a day under the spray — and dumping buckets and waterspouts that are activated by movement! Experience fun for all ages from dawn to dusk and turn a hot summer day into cool memories.
Frolic at Gerstacker Spray Park and cool off where families have been beating the summer heat for 20 years! Right near the Tridge and the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, spray, sprinkle, and splash your way through waterspouts and dumping buckets at this Downtown Midland spray park.
Prepare for a magical experience aboard BaySail's Appledore schooners in Bay City — two tall ships with beautiful, billowing white sails! Set sail by day on Great Lakes 101 trips to learn about the Saginaw River together, or board into the eve for Sunset Sails (wee ones are welcome), and snap a keepsake family photo with radiant hues over Saginaw Bay.
Nothing says summer like riding aboard the Princess Wenonah and Islander with Bay City Boat Lines! Float a Saginaw River Guided Tour (most Fridays and Saturdays) to experience an excursion boat ride, natural beauty, fun facts about Bay City, and tasty concessions available on board.
Book a personally guided boat tour with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips. Discover one of the richest wildlife habitats in the state, the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, and see why it’s referred to as the “Everglades of Michigan.” Available by reservation only, Johnny Panther specializes in one-of-a-kind and completely custom outings!
Sit back and relax aboard a family-friendly tour boat with Frankenmuth FunShips. Book a 30- or 60-minute River Tour, and you and the kids will be guided along the scenic Cass River by the boat’s captain, learning fascinating tidbits about Frankenmuth as you go.
All aboard the 150-passenger Bavarian Belle Riverboat! Take a tour of Frankenmuth from the water, and see iconic sights of "Little Bavaria" from the canopied upper deck. Enjoy learning all about Frankenmuth on this one-hour narrated history tour while riding beneath the Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke (wooden bridge)!
Rent a mini-cabin or a pop-up camper for an unforgettable experience at the modern, all-season campground of Bay City State Park. Enjoy easy access to Tobico Marsh (a walkable wetland with scenic views), public swimming beach along a mile of natural Saginaw Bay shoreline, boat launch, picnic areas, volleyball and basketball courts, and a Splash Park and playground area! Or, camp out with Yogi Bear at Frankenmuth Jellystone Park Camp-Resort! This mecca of summertime fun offers a playground, indoor & outdoor pool, game room, exciting themed weekends, and outdoor mini-golf.Read More +
Putt-putt your way up and around a rushing waterfall during 18 holes at Dutch Village Adventure Park. Swing at a bucket of balls in the batting cages and choose between 32 flavors of Hudsonville ice cream.
Get a hole-in-one, race go-karts, play arcade games, run through laser tag — it’s all about fun at Press Play 989! Hit the batting cages, rock out the bumper boats, enjoy an 18-hole miniature golf course, and have a blast at this place created for families.
Choose your adventure at Alpine Mountain! Decide between two 18-hole mini-golf courses, or play a round on each. Jump into single or double bumper boats and go-karts, test your skills at bank-shot basketball, and enjoy arcade games before filling up on delicious ice cream!
Enjoy a fun-filled day at Buoy 18 Miniature Golf, Arcade & Ice Cream Shop, and experience an 18-hole miniature golf course that overlooks the Liberty Harbor Marina. Step inside the game room, free with your golf purchase, and spring for double scoops of Ashby’s Sterling ice cream!
Spend a family day at the ballpark, and get your photo taken with mascots “Lou E. Loon” and “Rall E. Camel” at a Great Lakes Loons game! Cheer over fastballs and line drives from one of 5,200 stadium seats — or bring a blanket to root from the lawn. Share $2 hot dogs at Feast Fridays, keep in mind “Kids Eat Free & Run the Bases” Sundays, and watch for Fireworks Loontaculars with dazzling post-game shows!
Experience a dream come true when you take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of “Little Bavaria” with Fantasy Carriage Company or Frankenmuth Carriage Company. With beautifully carved carriages and friendly horses, your ride through Downtown Frankenmuth may include the Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke (wooden bridge), Frankenmuth River Place Shops and Main Street, along with interesting gems you may not know!
Experience two waterparks in one — each with a retractable roof — inside Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark! With a Family Raft Ride, four-story tube slides, and even an outdoor pool, Splash Village offers half- or full-day waterpark passes and family packages, too!Read More +
Enjoy four indoor pools, two waterslides, indoor mini-golf, a Children’s Village play area, and more than 150 arcade games when you make forever family memories at Bavarian Inn Lodge!Read More +
Head to Valley Lanes Family Entertainment Center for 20 bowling lanes, indoor miniature golf, an arcade, billiards, a laser maze challenge, bumper cars, Hologate virtual reality, and two escape rooms!
Step into stylish bowling shoes and try for strikes at Stardust! Roll a few frames on 25 public lanes, and head into the entertainment center to enjoy more than 60 arcade games, four escape room adventures, a two-story laser tag experience, and indoor bumper cars!
Drop into retro gaming fun at Crazy Quarters Arcade! With dozens of pinball and arcade games, play classics including Skee-Ball, Pac-Man, Galaga, Asteroids Deluxe, Space Invaders Deluxe, and Dance Dance Revolution. Or, bring the kids to Brinstar for a mix of 16 video arcade and pinball games, plus creative burgers and fresh, hand-cut fries.
Let the kiddos burn off energy while parents take a break at The Playground! Adults are invited to kick back with a latte while kids slide, climb, roll, swing, and have a ball at this indoor play palace!
Defy gravity on more than a dozen attractions at Airborne Adventure Park. Flip, fly, and soar to new heights on wall-to-wall trampolines or get creative and practice tricks on Freestyle Jump. Look for special jump times for smaller kids, and enjoy your family “hang-time” in the air!
Watch your family (literally) find your way through 2,000 feet of life-sized mirrors and glass at Ultimate Mirror Maze, and check out The Vault Laser Beam Challenge to test your skills over, under, and around light beams! Try River Place Game Room, with more than 40 arcade games, and earn prizes in the redemption center that make perfect souvenirs!
It’s all high-fives and hands-on inside Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum! Designed for children (but "big kids" have bonus fun), discover this 16,000-square-foot playhouse of interactive galleries, from “Insides Out” to “Water, Water Everywhere.” Watch learning become fun right in front of your eyes, and create forever family memories while you’re here!
Transport your family into the cosmos at Delta College Planetarium. Experience a three-dimensional, star-filled dome while exploring astronomy, history, culture, music, and more — from theater seats with surround sound! Don’t leave without visiting the gift shop for out-of-this-world souvenirs!
Uncover what it means to be an inventor at Spark!Lab® Smithsonian at Midland Center for the Arts. Work as a team to problem-solve together in this one-of-a-kind, hands-on learning lab, and “spark” something new in your family this summer!
Visit the largest collection of motorized fire trucks in the world at the Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum! Home to horse-drawn ladder carts, hand and steam pumpers from the 1800s, and 60 motorized fire trucks, your family can’t miss the mighty FDNY Super Pumper! The largest land-based fire truck ever built, explore the Super Pumper that once delivered 8,800 gallons of water per minute at distances greater than a quarter-mile, and get a family photo in front of the legend!
From Midland Center for the Arts to The Dow Event Center, Temple Theatre to the State Theatre of Bay City — treat the family to live entertainment all summer and be ready to laugh and sing along!
Craft a family keepsake together (or let everyone paint their own) at Painterly Pottery, an inviting space with thousands of unfinished clay items ready to be created.
Get creative at the Glaze Bar within Space Studios, offering a wide selection of handcrafted pottery ready for your family to personalize!
Enjoy a self-service art experience — instructions and supplies provided — at the Craft Bar inside Studio 23/The Arts Center!
Explore seven gift shops stocked with unique toys, candy, and souvenirs at Bavarian Inn Castle Shops — and let the kids pick something fresh from the bakery!
Challenge each other in the arcade, shop for souvenirs together, and sample fudge to gourmet cupcakes at Frankenmuth River Place Shops.
With Gap Kids to Go! Games & Toys, discover more than 100 stores and incredible discounts at Birch Run Premium Outlets.
Shop gifts, goodies, and nostalgic candies at Happy Go Lucky, find kites to wooden toys at Toyberg, or wander into Joyful Tantrum to experience “a toy store, unplugged”!
Looking for summertime oohs and aahs? Light up the night at the three-day Bay City Fireworks Festival, one of the largest fireworks shows in the Midwest. Enjoy elephant ears and midway rides — or tractor pulls and demolition derbies — at the Bay, Midland, or Saginaw County Fair this summer!Read More +
Join right in at the Chalk Walk Art Festival, where families are welcomed to create chalk art while enjoying live music and kids’ activities, or find your way to Funtown Chowdown Food Truck Festival for amazing street fare, inflatables for the kids, and heaps of family fun!Read More +
Treat the family to live entertainment for free at the Young People’s Summer Series! A mix of family-friendly performances, see Richard Paul the Ventriloquist to Juggling with Rufus the Dufus, with shows like Magic with the Amazing Clark and Rick and Dayna’s Playground, too. Bring lawn chairs to Bay City’s Wenonah Park on Wednesdays, and be ready for sunny family fun!Read More +
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?Read More +
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 +
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