Daily direct UK flights to Michigan take just a little over eight hours. Although that’s only one reason it’s the perfect state for holidays with energetic kids. Time to discover what great fun the great outdoors really can be? Let the adventure begin.
Michigan offers families almost any type of holiday you can imagine. This is the Great Lakes State and its name actually derives from the Algonquin word meaning, ‘large water’, so no surprise to discover that shorelines are where much of the fun is to be had. In fact, Michigan has more freshwater shoreline than any other state in America, so you can look forward to your pick of beaches, many of them complete with welcoming beach towns and great places to stay.
Wide-open spaces are another natural Michigan feature, put to good use for countless outdoor activities designed to help kids build skills, develop confidence and have the time of their lives.
However, simply exploring here is great fun too. There are mighty cliffs to discover and sand dunes to admire. You have to check out at least one or two of Michigan’s 129 historic lighthouses! And of course, you want to leave time for some quiet moments, because lazing on the beach, building sandcastles or watching the sun set is how some of the best family holiday memories are made.
So where to begin with so much choice? We started by speaking to the experts at Pure Michigan, because no one knows this fascinating state better. Take a look at their round-up of the best of the best experiences for family holidays.
If you want an outdoor adventure holiday you’re in the right state
Michigan is surrounded by four out of five of The Great Lakes. Only Lake Ontario doesn’t have a shoreline on the state, but that gives you Lake Superior, Huron, Erie and Michigan to play with, which is more than enough to fill a lifetime of family holidays.
When you feel like a walk or even a hike, take your pick from more than 4,000 miles of trails networked across the state. Pure Michigan trail towns mean you can put walking at the heart of your holiday or simply add a few day-hikes into the adventure. Plus, you’ll find trails for all ages and abilities. Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling features family trails through old-growth forest. If you want some history with your hike, head to Fayette Historic State Park. Or try the Iron Belle Trail which covers thousands of miles from the Upper Peninsula to Detroit, but offers plenty of easy, family walks along the way.
More ways for families to explore outdoors on holiday
- Road trips are another classic US experience that Michigan has made its own. If the idea of themed drives appeals, choose from magnificent lakeside routes to tours of historic towns and cities. Just remember, every road trip here comes with sensational views and reasons to stop, so always factor that into your travel plans.
- Safe family cycling routes cover 1000s of miles, making this one of the most bike-friendly states in the country. Exploring on two wheels is a good way to get to know some of Michigan’s 101 State Parks. Or, if your kids are older, the Upper Peninsula is year-round mountain biking heaven, you can even go fat-tire biking in winter.
- Naturally, getting out on the water is simple. Locals love to canoe or kayak and since you’re seldom more than a few miles from a lake, you should definitely think about joining them. Roaring down the state’s wild rapids might be an adventure too far, but the magical experience of paddling along Michigan water trails could be the highlight of your holiday.
- Head to the Upper Peninsula and you can marvel at more than 300 waterfalls, including the dramatic Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.
- Passionate stargazers love Michigan too. Not only are six of its state parks Dark Sky Preserves, it also has three designated International Dark Sky Preserves: Headlands, Dr T K Lawless and Keweenaw.
Don’t think of Michigan as a beach holiday? Think again!
Michigan’s shoreline stretches for an astonishing 3,200 miles and locals are fond of saying, you’re never more than a short drive from the beach. They’re not wrong.
Head north and kids can comb the beautiful beaches of Petoskey for unique Petoskey stones formed from ancient, fossilised coral. Or if you’re on a roll for rare rocks, the agate strewn beaches at Keweenaw Peninsula on Lake Superior should also be on your to-do list. The sandy Escanaba shoreline is heaven for active older kids, smaller beach babies and parents looking for easy days on the water with everything from shops to restaurants a short walk from the beach. Although if you want to record every second of your stay, at the 40 mile long Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior you can explore the rock formations on boat cruises and find the most Instagram ready beaches.
A few of the greatest beaches for family holiday fun
- Grand Haven State Park is home to some of the loveliest beaches in western Michigan. Here you’ll find a perfect mix of big sands and beach town bustle. Spend the day playing on the water. Browse the shops and have dinner at laid back local restaurants. Then, after dark, catch the light show at Grand Haven’s Musical Fountain on the waterfront.
- Even the great city of Detroit comes good on beaches thanks to Belle Isle State Park. This aptly named 987-acre park is well known for its family-friendly shores as well as three lakes, expansive woodland and wonderful cycling trails.
- If the spirit of adventure runs strong in your kids, they’ll love Presque Isle Park. This is the place to leap into Lake Superior at Black Rocks Beach, or watch as others take the plunge. It’s also where you’ll see Marquette Harbour Lighthouse. And if you head to famous McCarty’s Cove, you can swim, canoe or kayak all day long, then stargaze in the evening.
- In south west Michigan, Tiscornia Beach Park is ideal for younger kids who’re happy to splash around in warm, shallow waters and get creative in the sand. It’s a good area for picnic spots and the St. Joseph Lighthouse is another one to tick off your list. Plus, nearby Silver Beach has a lovely carousel and its neighbouring museum gives you an interesting insight into local history.
Michigan museums even turn learning into an adventure for kids
For such an outdoorsy state, Michigan is also home to an incredible number of outstanding family museums. In fact, just about anything your kids are interested in, from ice cream to aviation, is covered somewhere. Interactive and immersive experiences make science as exciting as it should be for young visitors. Stunning art galleries encourage children to engage with collections and create their own masterpieces. There are even museums where kids can pilot a plane or use a giant model intestine as a slide – sounds gory but it’s actually amazing!
Museums you don’t want to miss on your family holiday
- The University of Michigan Natural History Museum in Ann Arbor takes interaction to a whole new level. Virtual Research Stations and 3D immersion, let kids explore everything from the evolution of whales to the internal workings of their body. They can even walk around inside a giant human cell.
- Learning about art by creating art is a big theme at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Here kids can interpret exhibits through their own drawing or go on self-guided scavenger hunts. There are drop-in workshops for families year-round, and the museum even shows kid-friendly movies. In extra good news, most family events are included in the entrance fee.
- Impression 5 in Lansing is the dedicated family science museum. Its mission is to teach through play, so even bubble-making becomes a learning experience. They start the fun early here, so it’s a must-visit if you’re on holiday with toddlers or pre-schoolers.
- Air Zoo in Portage mixes up science with theme-park style thrills. Indoor rides like the Ferris Wheel and Balloon Race teach kids about the history of aviation. They can try full-body flight simulators, sit in the cockpits of famous planes or even scientifically explore desserts by taking the Ice Cream Challenge.
- Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum in Marquette is the one where kids can slide down a giant intestine. But it’s also where budding young filmmakers can join Wow Animation Workshops and anyone can get hands-on with the live residents of Creature Kingdom.
- Don’t miss the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn. It’s one of the state’s most exciting museums and covers everything from the history of aviation to the Civil Rights Movement – kids can even step inside the 1955 bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.
- Although not strictly a museum, enormous Detroit Zoo is a must-do with kids. Battle Creek’s Binder Park Zoo is where you can hand-feed giraffes. And if you want to glimpse endangered species, Park Zoo in Lansing is the one for Amur tigers, snow leopards and black rhino.
The farm-to-fork state feeds your body, mind and soul
All this adventure is hungry work which gives you the best excuse to discover Michigan’s farm-to-fork culture. You’ll find seasonal, local produce on just about every restaurant menu right across the state. However, if eating isn’t enough, families can also get involved in anything from berry-picking to animal feeding at dozens of welcoming farms. Autumn is the season for thrilling Corn Mazes, haybale mazes or soybean mazes. Come for Halloween and teens can even test their nerve on spooky Haunted Mazes down on some farms.
Keen on craft beers? Then it won’t surprise you to learn that being surrounded by the pure, clear waters of The Great Lakes makes Michigan one of the top five US states for microbreweries, breweries and brewpubs. However, you might not know it’s also home to more than 140 wineries, produces award-winning wines and offers some wonderful, family-friendly wine trails.
Although it’s probably safe to say that the best way to get to grips with farm-to-fork is by simply pulling up a chair and tucking in at local restaurants. You’ll find everything from fine dining to real roadhouse BBQ here. Naturally, fresh fish is a big player, but the state is nothing if not varied. So whether you’ve a taste for authentic Korean food, perfect pizza or possibly the best burger you’ve ever tried, Michigan can do and does, all over the place.
Planning your family holiday in Michigan
The state of Michigan is part of the Great Lakes region in the Upper Midwest United States. Lansing is the state capital and Detroit the largest city.
How to get here
Delta Virgin Atlantic offers direct, daily flights from London Heathrow to Detroit, year round.
Flights take from 8 hours, 25 minutes.
When to go
For outdoor activities, May to October weather is mostly warm and sunny, with temperatures between 24 and 29°C.
November to March is good for city or town adventures and winter sports, Michigan has over 40 ski resorts.
For everything else you need to know (and we mean everything) visit Pure Michigan
Ready to plan your family adventure? Visit America As You Like It for everything you need to book a family holiday in Michigan this year or next.