In this summer paradise, you can easily pack the next few weeks with the best-summer-ever memories. Take our annual challenge and see how many of these fun things you can check off before Labor Day.
Best things to do this summer in Southwest Michigan
Go to a Southwest Michigan beach.
Here, every day in the summer is a beach day. Choose from 14 public beaches. Jump in Lake Michigan, play beach volleyball, build a sandcastle masterpiece, run down giant dunes, picnic, read a book — the list of simple joys is endless. When you're at Weko Beach in Bridgman, stay to hear a trumpeter play taps at sundown from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s a heart-stirring end to your day.
Try all the fun below the bluff in St. Joseph.
Along Broad Street, just steps from Silver Beach County Park, are three of the family-friendliest destinations in Southwest Michigan. In addition you will find the most famous pizza in the area. Plan to visit all four spots!
With its joyful music and magnificent 48 hand-carved figures and 2 chariots, the Silver Beach Carousel is the happiest place for all ages. Enjoy a taste of summer by picking up a bag of warm popcorn, cotton candy and thirst-quenching drinks from the refreshment stand before you leave!
The Whirlpool Compass Fountain is a free, splash pad. It is HUGE! Watch our events page for special reasons to stop by the park, including free summer movies after sunset on Saturdays.
The Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone entertains kindergarteners to fifth graders with its interactive climbing, water, tactile and traveling exhibits. Visit their site for ticket information.
Hungry? Silver Beach Pizza is just one of many family-friendly restaurants in and around St. Joseph — many with outdoor seating. Silver Beach Pizza is right next to the train tracks. Your kids will be wide-eyed when the freight and Amtrak trains roll by!
Explore all Southwest Michigan offers
Ride a historic train and cheer for a vintage baseball team.
Hop aboard a restored miniature train before the whistle blows! Eden Springs Park, formerly known as the House of David, offers $3 train rides through this former amusement park that is gradually being restored. Train rides happen every weekend, Memorial Day to Labor Day, from noon to 5 p.m. Hopefully, when you visit, you can watch an 1800s-style baseball game on the diamond a few steps from the train station. Go Echoes!
Load up on sugar in Southwest Michigan!
It’s summer and there is no better place than Southwest Michigan to treat yourself to a little extra sweetness. As you walk through the resort towns along our Lake Michigan coast, you can’t avoid those yummy aromas wafting from our bakeries, ice cream, fudge and candy shops. That’s clear by the line that extends outside Kilwins in St. Joseph most evenings! Our advice? Indulge every chance you get. Also, when the Berrien County Youth Fair happens the second week of August, come for the family-friendly midway, exhibits, grandstand shows and the mmmm-good, fair food!
Get your game on throughout Southwest Michigan.
Start at Hidden Pointe Fun Park. Challenge each other to a round of miniature golf on a fun-for-all-ages 18-hole course. Then it’s off to the batting cages, arcade games, the new 1,000-foot banked go-kart track and Eddie Cole Jumpshot basketball trampoline. There are plenty of snacks and ice cream to boost your energy.
Rain or shine, check out the hours at the new Slackers Family Fun Center with Laser Tag in St. Joseph. Play arcade games, laser tag, jump in the bounce houses and more. Need a summer birthday party or family reunion destination? This is it!
Want to experience a wee bit of Scotland? Another place to prove your putting skills is at Welter’s Folly at Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks. Inspired by the Himalayan putting green in St. Andrews, Scotland, this family-friendly, 18-hole course putting green is believed to be one of the 10 largest putting greens in the world and the largest not affiliated with a golf course. Kids can play, but only the adults can enjoy a Journeyman craft beverage during their game.
Golf on the links of champions.
Whether you are just learning the game or are a scratch golfer, make a tee time on one of the championship-level courses in Southwest Michigan. Here’s your chance to say you played the same courses as Paul Broadhurst, Steve Alker, Kenny Perry and Lou Holtz have over the years.
Stroll through a summer garden.
Tucked away on 105 acres on the St. Joseph River in the Niles and Buchanan area, Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve is an enchanting mix of curated gardens and a nature preserve. The Railway Garden, Children's Garden, sculptures and Sims Education Center are among the must-see highlights.
Experience the life of an early 19th-century sailor.
The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven is the home port to five on-the-water exhibits made up of both a replica and historic vessels. You can view the museum fleet from the docks or going on the water. Sailing on the 1810 tall ship replica Friends Good Will is something you will talk about for years. The museum also offers a Harborwalk along the Black River, other marine history experiences and a nearby splash pad.
Eat Southwest Michigan sweet corn, peaches, blueberries and apples.
Stop by one of the many farm stands, farm markets and pick-your-own farms in Southwest Michigan. It’s where you’ll find the freshest, tastiest fruits and vegetables you will ever bite into.
Paddle Southwest Michigan’s scenic waterways.
Kayak and canoe rentals are the perfect way to explore not only the coast of Lake Michigan but some of the interior waterways, too. Of course, you can also put your watercraft in on these water trails.
- Doe-Wah-Jack's Canoe Rental in Dowagiac lets you explore the beautiful and historic Dowagiac River.
- Scooter Joe’s Wheel and Water Rentals in St. Joseph is your downtown source for kayaks and canoes, pontoon and jet ski rentals to get you on the water. Paddlers can launch from the Inn at Harbor Shores location on the inner harbor or have your group take the free shuttle to a launch site up the Paw Paw River.
- Third Coast Paddling offers single and two-person kayaks and stand-up paddleboard rentals so you can explore Lake Michigan and the Paw Paw River in Benton Harbor/St. Joseph and the Galien River in New Buffalo. If you want to take surfing or sandboarding lessons, check out their class schedule and rentals at Third Coast Surf Shop.
Make plans now for your summer bucket-list stay in Southwest Michigan.
To get the lodgings with the amenities and dates you want, make your reservations now. And don’t let the current economy spoil your chances of taking a summer vacation. Enjoy some of these Free Things to Do in Southwest Michigan to help lower the cost of your summer getaway. There are lots of ways to keep life simple so you can spend more fun times with family and friends this year!