Summer vacation in Michigan: 12 things to do

These days it’s more difficult to afford long-distance vacations and all the high-priced recreation activities you’ve enjoyed so much in the past.

This led me to wonder how can people entertain themselves and their families on a summer vacation in Michigan for less money. Better yet, how to support the local economy in these difficult economic times.

That’s why I’ve created a list of 12 things you can do on your 2021 summer vacation in Michigan without breaking the bank. Keep reading this article to discover how you can have fun close to home this summer!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, The Travel Bunny will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you!


detroit institute of arts michigan
Detroit Institute of Arts, a museum to visit on your summer vacation in Michigan

1. Visit museums

When was the last time you went to a museum? On your summer vacation in Michigan, you can discover beautiful world-class museums, from art to science to history. The best places to visit include:

  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
  • Michigan Science Center.

The latter has lots of family-friendly exhibits and galleries and the amazing sensory experience of the IMAX Dome Theater. They’re all worth a few hours of exploration during your Michigan summer vacation.


summer vacation in michigan lighthouse
One of the lighthouses you could visit during your summer vacation in Michigan

2. Check out the lighthouses

Bordered by the Great Lakes, Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state. The sheer multitude of these historic gems have made them the stat’s icon, and their tall slender columns grace everything from the picturesque shorelines to wall calendars.

Many of Michigan’s lighthouses have been renovated and some have become public museums. They continue to educate and serve as a reminder of the great maritime history of the USA.

Don’t miss the chance to see them during your summer vacation in Michigan! If nothing else, you and your family will get to admire the breathtaking maritime landscape.


beach vacation in michigan
Lake Michigan beach in the summer

3. Go to the beach

Michigan beaches are everywhere and perfect for the humid late summer months. Of course, some beaches are better than others, so it’s important to choose the right one for your summer vacation in Michigan.

Southwest Michigan and Northwest Michigan offer some of the best beach experiences. South Haven, Grand Haven, St. Joseph, and the Traverse City/Leland areas are home to some of the most remarkable beaches in Michigan.

Picture long stretches of soft white sand next to clear blue waters, excellent for swimming and boating. The quaint lively towns are brimming with restaurants, shops, and ice cream parlors that make these a vacation destination you need to check out during your summer vacation in Michigan!

Lake Michigan shoreline attraction:
In South Haven, visit the magnificent century-old lighthouse still standing at the end of the south pier.


summer vacation in michigan smore
Smores are a must at a Mighigander’s picnic party!

4. Take a walk in the park

Discover of the numerous well-maintained, varied Michigan Metroparks. Perfect for walks in nature, they are also ideal for a picnic lunch. Just don’t forget to pack the smores! These gorgeous chocolate, marshmallow, gram cracker treats are a must-have for a Michigander’s picnic party.

Michigan Metroparks also offer a myriad of family-friendly activities, including swimming, paddle boating, and fishing. And most of the trails are paved and wooded, making them suitable for hiking, walking, rollerblading, and bird watching.


5. Attend local festivals

Michigan offers a variety of outdoor summer festivals that draw people from all walks of life and from all corners of the state. On a summer vacation in Michigan, you can attend:

  • Cultural events like the Ann Arbor Arts Fair
  • Heritage festivals such as the Holland Tulip Time
  • National extravaganzas like the Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival

and everything in between. In addition, most Michigan neighborhoods have some kind of festival in the summer months.


michigan farmers market
Pure Michigan: Berries at a farmers’ market in Michigan

6. Shop at the local markets

Abundant crops of blueberries, tart cherries, strawberries, peaches, apples, and grapes are grown each year across the state and, in particular, on the west Michigan and northern Michigan sides. Fruits are then sold at different farmers’ markets and along the roads of Michigan.

There’s nothing like eating fruit or vegetables from a farm. The sweetness and taste are far superior to anything sold in the supermarket aisle. And because it’s locally grown, it’s freshly-picked!

For the sake of novelty, visit a nearby fruit farm and pick your own cherries, blueberries and the like to eat now or preserve for the colder months ahead. Bring the whole family along: kids always get a kick out of picking their own fruit and putting it into baskets! It also gives teaches them to appreciate and respect nature and agriculturers.

After the harvest, you should cook or bake together something delicious. Cobblers, crisps, and shortcakes are a treat on hot summer months. You can also teach the kids to can or package and freeze the fruit for months to come, as bubbling, tart cherry pies always hit the spot in winter! This way, your summer vacation in Michigan can continue with fun activities even after you go back home.

Save the fruit pits! You can grow your very own tree if you wrap the pits in some moist paper towels until they start to spawn seedlings. After that, just transfer them to your own yard!


summer vacation in michigan gardening
Turn your summer vacation in Michigan into a staycation with gardening

7. Try your hand at gardening

You summer vacation in Michigan doesn’t even have to be away from home. Gardening is a great outdoor activity that can involve the entire family. The wonderful summer weather in Michigan provides perfect planting conditions.

No matter how big a garden you want to grow – a big vegetable garden or a small container garden – it can be very enjoyable for everyone to participate in the planting and harvesting.

To get started, go to the local library and get some good books on the subject. Then, prepare your garden – exactly what kind of plants should you grow, and where? After that, hit the nursery to buy your plants.

Get the whole family involved in choosing the right plants. Make sure everyone has a role in planting and taking care of the new garden. You’ll be surprised how rewarding gardening can be for the whole family.


summer vacation in michigan barbecue
Why not have a family barbecue during your summer vacation in Michigan?

8. Organize a family cookout

Get family and friends together for a potluck or a backyard barbecue during the summer vacation in Michigan. Plan some fun games for kids and adults alike in this amazing family vacation spot. And ask all guests to bring a dish and/or something to drink. You’re going to end up with a true feast!

If you’re cooking for yourself and your immediate family, find a new and challenging recipe. Use fresh herbs from the garden to add an earthy, strong flavor to your cooking. Or get some exotic fruits and vegetables the next time you shop for groceries. For example, you could buy some mangos: they pair beautifully with Mexican-inspired fish tacos!

Cooking something new can turn out to be not only a fun activity but also a delicious reward for everyone who helped prepare the meal.


9. Go on a scavenger hunt

What’s wrong with the old-fashioned scavenger hunts? Plan a weekend scavenger hunt with your friends and place your clues for others to find!

You can also find mobile apps with local scavenger hunts. That way, for a few bucks, you get a fun activity planned by others and you can simply enjoy the experience on your own or with family/friends.

However, in my opinion, the best scavenger hunt ever is geocaching. Just head to geocaching.com to join the world’s largest treasure hunt, for free. It’s a great way to keep you occupied during the summer vacation in Michigan.


summer vacation in michigan work out

10. Work out

Looking for a sign to work out? Get out and start that outdoor exercise program that you’ve been saying you’ll try since New Year’s Eve. Walk, jog, bike, whatever! Just get out of here and do it. Head into fall leaner, healthier, and with more energy!


summer vacation in michigan knitting

11. Get crafty

Crafting will bring hours of pleasure to both children and adults. Visit a nearby craft shop and you’re certain to find lots of fun art projects to enjoy alone or with the family. Or, even better, maybe you’ve got some stuff around the house that can spark your creativity, something you can upcycle.

For example, you could dust off your seashell collection, then glue them onto flowerpots, doors, unpainted furniture, or wooden boxes to make beautiful nautical treasures. Embellish with sea-glass and milk-green paint coats. Sky’s the limit!

Knitting is another great craft and it’s easy to learn. Nowadays, there are so many textures and colors of yarn, and so many unique patterns that knitting is pretty cool now! Spend a few afternoons of your summer vacation in Michigan making a knitted sweater or accessory that you’ll love wearing this autumn.


summer vacation in michigan outdoors
Try reading outside during your summer vacation in Michigan

12. Enjoy reading outside on a summer day

Reading can be a luxury to some. People who lead hectic, stressful lifestyles can also relax while catching up with some reading during their summer vacation in Michigan.

Take that special book out and go read outside: in your yard, at the beach, or the big shaded park. You’ll be surprised how an outdoor setting can make this activity even more relaxing.


I’ve listed above a few fun things to enjoy during your perfect summer vacation in Michigan at home or close to it that won’t cost a lot. These activities will not only offer some nice experiences for you and your loved ones, but they will also help support the local economy a bit.

With a bit of creativity, I’m sure you will come up with many other things to do this summer vacation in Michigan.


About the author

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe, creator of unique free travel guides, local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

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