Southwest Michigan is one of the most family-friendly destinations in Michigan. So turn off the television, put away the electronic devices and join us for hours of unforgettable time together!
Start your day with a ride or two on this magnificent, hand-carved carousel. Choose from 48 colorful figures and two chariots (one is wheelchair accessible). You'll whirl beneath a thousand twinkling lights as the band organ plays some of the happiest music on earth. See the Carousel’s website for current hours, costs and special events. This is the happiest place in Southwest Michigan!
Exploring the Carousel House is fun for all ages. Be sure to point out all of the memorabilia from the Silver Beach Amusement Park — your kids will learn how children were entertained before television and electronic games and devices. It’s also fun to find a fun take-home toy, book or keepsake from the Brass Ring Gift Shop.
333 Broad Street, St. Joseph
In addition to holding the title of Best Pizza in Southwest Michigan, this popular spot is attached to the St. Joseph Amtrak train depot. This family-owned, Italian restaurant’s menu offers a delicious variety of salads, sandwiches, appetizers and a children’s menu. Gluten-free and vegan menu options are also available. Be warned, however, that the food is so good, you may need to order ahead based on wait times. Use the Yelp app to reserve a table while you enjoy all of the nearby family-friendly activities. Take a stroll on the pier, or walk up the steps and enjoy the view from the bluff.
In the summer, you will especially appreciate the option of ordering a pizza at the takeout window, so you can get lunch on the go and not miss a moment of fun. Located steps from the Whirlpool Compass Fountain, the Silver Beach Carousel and Silver Beach County Park, families will find endless entertainment nearby. While eating in, children especially will delight in playing with their individual container of pizza dough and watching the occasional train rumble through the station. When reserving a table, be sure to add babies into your party guest count. Stroller parking is available.
410 Vine Street, St. Joseph
St. Joseph has a very walkable downtown. After lunch, make your first stop the St. Joseph Today Welcome Center, 301 State St. Pick up a list of nearby stores, winery tasting rooms, ice cream and candy shops, restaurants and kid-friendly attractions. You'll find a store that lets kids play with several of the toys, book store, clothing shops and general merchandise stores that offer everything you'll need for the beach or entertaining the kids at the hotel or cottage.
Stop by Kilwins Ice Cream/Fudge/Chocolate Shoppe, 217 State St., and watch how they make fudge on the cool marble slabs and bake waffle cones. It would be silly not to get a snack while you are there!
Your next stop offers two choices: Curious Kids' Museum is a block west of downtown or Discovery Zone is below the bluff, next to the Silver Beach Carousel. You'll get to either in 5 to 10 minutes on foot, although parking is available near both.
Downtown St. Joseph
Curious Kids' Museum is aimed at toddlers to early elementary school age and Discovery Zone will entertain up through junior high. Both places stimulate imaginations and a love of learning. Traveling exhibits add to the fun and enrichment. Both are open year-round; check their website for hours and admission fees.
Your next stop is either across the street from Discovery Zone or just below the bluff from Curious Kids' Museum, less than 5 minutes away. Paid parking is usually available at the Elm Street lot below the bluff or there are usually free spaces available in the lots and street parking along the bluff.
Downtown St. Joseph
Eight water cannons and 28 water jets shoot refreshing H2O across a 150-foot splash pad, weather-permitting May through early-September. Bring a beach ball or Frisbee to toss. Wear clothes that can get wet and keep a towel handy because the youngest to the oldest in your group will want to jump, run and splash for at least an hour.
The next three beaches are within five to ten minutes of Whirlpool Centennial Park.
Broad Street, St. Joseph
Get takeout food from one of the downtown restaurants or buy picnic fare from a nearby grocery deli, then bring it to one of these Lake Michigan beaches. Parents Magazine named Silver Beach County Park one of the best family beaches in the U.S., but Lions Park Beach and Tiscornia Beach Park get high marks from toddlers to grandparents.
Each of these destinations has soft sand for castle building. Silver Beach and Lions Park have playground equipment and sand volleyball courts. Lions Park offers trees to escape the sun. Tiscornia Beach includes the North Pier Lighthouse (tours are available from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend) and a walkway that is a popular spot for fishing. Evening beach time is usually less crowded, yet the water is still warm from the afternoon sun. All three parks either charge admission or a parking fee.
Speaking of the sun, if your children can last until sunset, it's a ritual here to watch our daystar sink below Lake Michigan's horizon. Be sure to have your camera ready; the sky colors can be breathtaking. Then head off to a nearby lodging for a good night's sleep. You will make more family memories tomorrow.
Going to the beach and playing in the sand is not limited to summer weather. In spring and fall, waves toss treasured stones, shells, driftwood, beach glass and crinoids (fossils) on the shore. Spring and fall are usually the best seasons for kite flying on the beach. Winter offers must-see ice formations. And while you may not opt to eat dinner on the beach, a fresh-air walk followed by hot chocolate or pizza indoors is a great cooler-season activity.
Most local hotels offer an indoor pool option. Enjoy yours before checkout.
This is a great place to introduce your children to the diversity of plants, birds and wildlife in the Great Lakes region. Explore a variety of habitats along six miles of trails. Hike in the spring to see a spectacular array of wildflowers. Mountain bikers will enjoy the 4.5-mile beginner-to-intermediate trail through fields and forest. In the winter, the park grooms three miles for fat-tire snow biking. It is also a popular cross-country ski and snowshoe destination. Don't have equipment? You can rent skis, snowshoes and fat-tired bikes for a nominal fee. See the website for entry, trail and rental fee details.
It takes about 25 minutes from Love Creek to reach this next lunch stop.
9292 Huckleberry, Berrien Center
Enjoy one of the area's largest menu selections in a spacious dining room overlooking the St. Joseph River. Their hand-dipped onion rings (you'll get a tower of them) and perch are local favorites. It is open all year-round.
Next, drive a few minutes to enjoy some family fun at Peat’s Cider Social that will bowl you over.
1235 Broad Street, St. Joseph
What a fun combination — bowling lanes, arcade games and a chance for the adults to taste some of Southwest Michigan’s best craft ciders. Whether you are a cider fan or still sipping juice boxes, you’ll make lifelong memories challenging the family to see who can knock down the most pins. Then it’s off to discover that Southwest Michigan’s history is anything but boring!
6201 Red Arrow Highway, Stevensville
Nothing is boring about the stories you and your family will discover in this history-rich region. The Heritage is a great source for learning about Southwest Michigan’s past when you explore its permanent and special exhibits. For example, did you know that before the Wright Brothers flew their airplane, Augustus Moore Herring went airborne in his flying machine over Silver Beach?
The Heritage is fully ADA accessible. It is open Monday-Thursday by appointment and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Free admission.
601 Main Street, St. Joseph
Explore the art galleries, arrange a guided tour, take a class, or, in the summer, meet at the St. Joseph Today Welcome Center for a Sidewalk Art or Sidewalk Heritage Tour (dates and times are posted on the Krasl site each May). If you're in the area the second weekend in July, The Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff is ranked as one of the best in the U.S. Kids enjoy seeing the variety of art as much as adults do.
707 Lake Blvd., St. Joseph
We hope you enjoyed your travels throughout Southwest Michigan. Check out other trips that you can take on our itineraries page. Happy trails!
There are more colorful roads to travel after sunrise tomorrow.