Assemble an ideal itinerary for your family—an afternoon, a day or a full weekend—at three fun-for-all spots around Michigan: the Mackinac Island area, Ford Motor Company attractions in Dearborn and Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon.

By Mary Beaumont
Biking Mackinaw City near the Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac State Historic Parks, Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island

Got a Few Hours?

Step into Colonial Michilimackinac, a mainland 18th-century fort and fur-trading village, to explore buildings, encounter costumed interpreters and watch demonstrations, including a traditional afternoon tea or musket firing. Be sure to check out the active excavation site, where archaeologists unearth fort artifacts.

Then stop at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. Poke around the restored keeper's quarters. Visit the shipwreck exhibit and learn about lighthouse lenses and how sound signals kept ships safe on foggy nights. If you're up for climbing 51 narrow steps and shinnying up an 8-foot ladder through a hatch, you can take in the epic Straits of Mackinac views from the tower.

Got All Day?

Add a trip to Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park. At one of the oldest industrial sites on the upper Great Lakes, inhale the scent of freshly sawn wood as you watch harnessed creek water power an 18th-century sawmill. Three miles of trails weave through the surrounding woods; one loop skirts a beaver pond. The park's Adventure Tour takes daredevils over a forest canopy bridge, down a zipline and up a five-story climbing wall.

Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park. Photo: John Noltner

Got All Weekend?

Spend a day exploring Mackinac Island, including the downtown shops, museums and more. Imagine life on a military base at Fort Mackinac, occupied first by British redcoats and later by American soldiers. Marvel at Arch Rock and other geologic formations at Mackinac Island State Park. Then tour the vehicle-free island in a horse-drawn carriage or on rental bikes. Mackinac Wheels offers tandems, kid tagalongs and child bike trailers, along with free helmets and bike baskets for toting your finds.

Fired up Each morning, one person (13 and up) can pay $50 to help clean, load and fire the cannon at Fort Mackinac. Reserve your spot at least three days in advance.

Overnight Kids under 12 eat free at Mackinac Island's lakefront Mission Point Resort, which also offers bike rentals, golf and croquet.

Grab A Bite Pancakes come stamped with a hand flashing the peace sign at The Chuckwagon of Mackinac Island. Kids love sitting at the diner's counter.

Biking Mackinaw City near the Mackinac Bridge. Photo: Aaron Peterson

Ford Motor Company Attractions, Dearborn

Got a Few Hours?

The Ford Rouge Factory Tour takes visitors through the automaker's history and above the assembly line of the company's most technologically advanced plant, which turns out the popular F-150 pickup truck. Catwalks offers bird's-eye views of the plant's floor; a multisensory film experience (think vibrating seats and gusting wind) gives a peek at engineering innovation.

Learn about the company's sustainable manufacturing efforts by checking out the building's solar-power equipment and its living roof. Planted with drought-resistant sedum, the roof collects and filters stormwater and also insulates the building. It's one of the largest roof projects of its type in the world.

Got All Day?

Your family's minds will be fully blown at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Sit in the actual bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Tour a futuristic aluminum home with a circular footprint-it looks like a spaceship. Wander rooms filled with cars that are sporty (a 1962 Mustang Roadster), elegant (a 1931 Bugatti Royale, one of only six ever made) and historic (the limousine convertible in which JFK was shot). Study a replica of the Wright brothers' original 1903 aircraft. And in an indoor rail yard, explore streetcars and trains, and climb into a massive steam locomotive.

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Dearborn. Photo: Andrew Maguire

Got All Weekend?

America's can-do spirit comes alive at Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford, where you can spend a day touring Thomas Edison's lab, seeing active farms worked with traditional equipment, riding in a Model T and roaming a historic Main Street. The village's calendar overflows with demonstrations and events, including old-time baseball, glassblowing, wool carding, silk spinning and printing with a press. Many events are free with village admission.

Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford, Dearborn. Photo: Andrew Maguire

Get curious Visit hands-on exhibits by tinkerers, inventors and designers at Maker Faire Detroit. The event runs July 27–28, 2019, at The Henry Ford.

Overnight The Henry, a luxe Autograph Collection hotel known for its artwork, sits adjacent to Fairlane Town Center, a shopping mall. Or choose The Dearborn Inn, which features rooms within five replica Colonial homes of famous Americans.

Grab A Bite Schedule a hand wash before digging into towering burgers and overflowing shakes at auto-theme Ford's Garage-the tire-and-gas-pump sinks in the restrooms bring a smile.

Michigan's Adventure, Muskegon

Got a Few Hours?

Lines are often short enough at the state's largest theme park that families can try out several coasters in a brief outing. Corkscrew's tight loops will leave you dizzy. Riders' feet swing free during the five inversions of Thunderhawk. Mad Mouse promises sharp turns and sudden drops. And the park's signature attraction, the wooden Shivering Timbers, reaches speeds of 65 mph during its half-mile-out, half-mile-back route (it's the fourth-longest wooden coaster in the world). If you're in a hurry, an available Fast Lane wristband means even shorter wait times.

Corkscrew. Photo: Courtesy of Michigan's Adventure.

Got All Day?

Add more thrills on RipCord, a soaring body-flight ride, and Adventure Falls, which ends with a splashing plunge. Bash your family (all in good fun) in bumper boats and bumper cars. Or ride Timbertown Railway through the woods at the back of the park. On Be-Bop Boulevard, drive an electric car along a scenic track modeled after the local Red Arrow and Blue Star highways.

Got All Weekend?

Get a day's worth of sunny, splashy fun at adjacent WildWater Adventure, Michigan's largest outdoor water park. The newly revamped Half-Pint Paradise has slides and pools for little ones, plus bubbling geysers and cute sea creatures perfect for play. In the Beach Party area, rollick with taller slides, spray guns, net bridges and a drenching bucket. Big kids can ride the major slides, including a swirling four-person thriller called Funnel of Fear.

Littles can enjoy the park, too. Kiddie rides include flying elephants and vrooming motorcycles. Feed llamas, a miniature donkey and other furry friends at Funland Farm petting area.

Made in the Shade With loungers and table seating for up to eight, rentable cabanas at Michigan Adventure's water park give families a place to rendezvous and relax. Book at least one day in advance.

Grab A Bite Find a made-for-kids menu-including mini burgers and the 89-cent World's Smallest Sundae-at The Station Grill in Muskegon. The retro restaurant resembles its original business, a service station. Adults enjoy sandwiches, wings and Tex-Mex fare.

Overnight Stroll the on-site marina or dip in the indoor and outdoor pools (or the hot tub) at Shoreline Inn on Muskegon Lake. The on-site restaurant overlooks the water.

For more information about travel in Michigan, visit Pure Michigan.

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