As soon as the big box stores start advertising back-to-school sales, you know it’s time to take the kids on one more long weekend or week vacation. No place in Michigan creates more happy summer memories for pre-schoolers to teens — and their parents and grandparents — than the Upper Peninsula. Here are a few last-minute summer vacation tips.
Visit any of these top attractions in the Upper Peninsula
Last-minute planning is easy if you base your trip around any of these top family attractions in the U.P.
Mystery Spot | St. Ignace
Voted Michigan's No.1 unusual attraction by readers of Michigan Living Magazine (AAA), these four attractions will boggle your mind with their optical contradictions and hard-to-believe physical sensations. So, how does the water flow up hill? A maze, zip lines and mini-golf add to this site’s end-of-summer family fun.
Soo Locks | Sault Ste. Marie
This is the ultimate freighter-watching experience for all ages. See ships from around the world ease through the locks. For the best experience for your six to 19 year olds, take one of the boat tours.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum | Whitefish Point
Bring maritime history to life as you explore the emotionally charged exhibits and surrounding historic buildings. Your kids will have fun skipping and collecting colorful rocks and spying shorebirds and raptors along the shore. Late July and August are good months to see owls.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park | Between Newberry and Paradise
Take the kids to both the Upper and Lower Falls. The Upper Falls is the largest waterfall in Michigan. But your kids will especially enjoy playing in the churning water of the Lower Falls, crossing the footbridge or, best yet, taking a rowboat to the island the five small waterfalls cascade around.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | Munising
Show your kids some of the most spectacular scenery, pristine beaches, beautiful waterfalls and wilderness in America. Two summer highlights to add to your itinerary are the boat tour along this mineral-stained geological masterpiece or the glass-bottom shipwreck boat tour.
Marquette | U.P.’s largest city
Easily fill several days in Marquette, an outdoor recreation playground and cultural center. Kids of all ages will happily explore the interactive exhibits at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. And what’s summer vacation without ice cream? Be sure to drive out to Jilbert Dairy (look for the big red barn).
Fayette Historic State Park and Townsite | Garden Peninsula
Explore this preserved site of a once-booming, iron-smelting town gone bust. Kids will especially like the schoolhouse, walking the trails overlooking the gorgeous harbor, having a picnic on the green or playing on the beach.
U.P. State Fair | Escanaba
This annual mid-August, week-long event celebrates the U.P. with grandstand live entertainment, midway rides and games, delicious fair food, prize-winning animals and fun family activities in the DNR Pocket Park and Steam and Gas Village.
Kitch-iti-kipi | Palms Book State Park, Manistique
The Ojibwe called Michigan’s largest, natural freshwater spring the “Mirror of Heaven.” Your kids will rank turning the big wheel that propels the raft across the spring among their favorite memories. It’s a free ride that gives you an amazing view of the bubbling spring, trout, ancient tree trunks and more as you peer down through the raft’s glass observation opening.
Keweenaw National Historical Park | Keweenaw Peninsula
Visiting Keweenaw National Historical Park promises a different experience from seeing other national park sites. You can explore 20-plus Keweenaw Heritage Sites between Ontonagon and Copper Harbor — choosing from historic mine tours, museums, breathtaking mountains and lakeshore vistas. One family favorite is at the tip of the Keweenaw: Fort Wilkins Historic State Park with its living history interpreters who share the rigors of 19th-century life on the northern frontier.
As you make your plans, add some of these free vacation ideas, too.
Spend time on a beautiful island
Every kid should have an island adventure, and the U.P. offers three must visits. Each one will get votes for a repeat vacation next summer!
Mackinac Island | Straits of Mackinac, Lake Huron
This Victorian-era gem rightfully tops most family U.P. vacation lists. Park your car on the mainland, and take a ferry across the water, seeing the magnificent Mackinac Bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac. Then explore the island on foot, bike, horseback or carriage. Taste what all the fudge talk is about. Include Fort Mackinac on your list of things to do — there are plenty of kids’ activities and a chance to watch a cannon firing.
Drummond Island | Lake Huron
This adventure-packed, recreational paradise is on the far eastern end of the U.P. It is the eighth-largest lake island in the world! ORVing is big here. So is kayaking. One of the many highlights is paddling over the schooner barge Troy, visible in 5 to 10 feet of water along Scammon Cove.
Grand Island | Munising, Lake Superior
This incredibly scenic isle is home to pristine beaches, towering sandstone cliffs, inland lakes, and old-growth hardwood forests. Great for hiking, biking and kayaking. Fun island outings include the Grand Island Cruises and the Riptide Rides.
Make the best memories playing on our beaches
One of the U.P.’s bragging rights is that its land mass is touched by three of the greatest freshwater seas in the world: Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. We proudly claim 1,700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline plus 4,300 inland lakes for waterplay and fishing. You could spend a lifetime visiting all of our beaches, but three family favorites are Blackrocks Cliffs at Presque Isle Park, McCarty’s Cove in Marquette and Van Riper State Park in Champion.
Bring your kids’ favorite stories to life
Stories from enthralling children’s books pop off the pages in the Upper Peninsula from little cabins in the big woods to a legendary lumberjack or paddling adventures on wilderness rivers. Bring favorite animal characters to life at Deer Ranch is St. Ignace, DeYoung Family Zoo in Wallace or Garlyn Zoological Park in Naubinway.
Enjoy Instagram and tall-tale moments posing in front of the giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues at the entrance of Castle Rock in St. Ignace. Or stop in the small town of Christmas to share favorite holiday stories and songs while taking photos by the larger-than-life Santa and other holiday cutouts. You can then surprise family and friends with super-early Christmas greetings!
Chronicles of Narnia fans may not know this about the U.P., but there is a Narnia Trail east of Cedarville. You will reach your fantasy destination when you see the lamppost sitting in the middle of the woods!
Book your stay with the amenities your kids love
Even though summer is flying by, there are plenty of lodging choices with the amenities and rates you and your kids will enjoy. But book your stay now for the best options. We can’t wait to make the best summer vacation memories with you soon!