Southwest Michigan Summer Vacation: Top Things to Do with Kids

Lions Park

A Fun-Filled Family Summer Getaway to Southwest Michigan

Looking for the perfect summer vacation destination for quality family time and making amazing memories? Set your sights on the beautiful beachfront communities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph in Southwest Michigan! These scenic towns hugging the shores of Lake Michigan offer an incredible array of attractions and activities to delight kids and parents alike. From sandy beach adventures and outdoor explorations to educational museums and classic downtown charm, you’ll find everything you need for a fun warm-weather family escape. Get ready to load up the car and head to this Midwest summer haven!

Sandy Beach Adventures

Silver Beach County Park, St, Joseph

A family trip in Southwest Michigan isn’t complete without ample beach time. This area has some of the most pristine sandy stretches and blue waters around! The crown jewel is Silver Beach County Park, conveniently located near The Silver Beach Carousel and Silver Beach Pizza. The beach is perfect for sandcastle building, swimming, beach volleyball, kite flying, and classic waterfront fun. Its sandy shore provides plenty of space to spread out and make yourselves at home for the day without feeling too crowded. They also have convenient changing rooms, bathrooms, and a sheltered picnic area. This accessible beach has a free beach wheelchair you can borrow, too.

Jean Klock Park, Benton Harbor

Want to relax in a peaceful oasis? Jean Klock Park is an uncrowded gem for playing along a large, soft sand beach and hiking or biking on paved trails through the dunes and lush natural surroundings. Other beach day amenities include a playground, picnic shelter, charcoal grills, boardwalk, observation trail, tower, bathhouse, concessions, and paved parking.

You can also find your place in the sun and sand at these nearby beaches. Many of them, like Jean Klock, are wheelchair-accessible. All are great places to treat your family to our spectacular summer sunsets.

Whirlpool Compass Fountain, St. Joseph

Pour on the water fun when you bring your family to the epic Whirlpool Compass Fountain splash pad between Silver Beach County Park and Silver Beach Pizza. It is the largest interactive splash pad in Southwest Michigan and one of the biggest in Michigan. Prepare to get wet!

Your kids will squeal with delight running under the shooting jets of water, splashing in the puddles, tossing a ball, rolling down the grassy berms, or resting up for the next dash under the spray. The cannons shoot water 35 feet into the air every 15 minutes! Parents can join in the refreshing fun or relax on the benches surrounding the pad. Check out this other guide for creating a splash pad tour throughout Southwest Michigan.

Engaging Indoor Attractions for Kids

Silver Beach Center, St. Joseph

Head to the Silver Beach Center for hours of air-conditioned, indoor entertainment. Take a spin on the majestic Silver Beach Carousel. There are 48 beautifully carved figures and two chariots, each with its own story, to pick from. At this carousel, find accessibility accommodations for all kinds of riders. It is a happy place for everyone!  Besides the ride, an hour or more of fun, interactive activities await. This includes an elaborate model train display, a Silver Beach Amusement Park dorama, interactive exhibits, and indoor/outdoor games to play with each other.

Down the boardwalk from the Carousel is the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone, which easily fills two hours with learning fun. A wonderland for ages 1 to 10 years, its interactive exhibits focus on science, engineering, and the arts. From a pint-sized construction zone to a giant Lake Michigan water table, lighthouse climbing tower, mesmerizing dance movement exhibit, and an all-hands-on traveling exhibit — your biggest challenge will be convincing your children to leave and go to your next destination.

Curious Kids’ Museum, St. Joseph

Along the top of the bluff is another fun-packed place for hands-on learning, the Curious Kids’ Museum. Use all five senses, plus your imagination, exploring two floors of interactive science, technology, engineering, art, and math exhibits that are more play and less work. Designed for ages 1 to 81 there is something to engage every age in discoveries and making friends. Before you come, check their upcoming summer workshops and events to see if they align with your time in St. Joseph.

Downtown St. Joseph

There is much for your family to discover in this walkable downtown. The brick streets offer block after block of shops and art galleries with toys, novelties, souvenirs, clothing, books, and sweets to tempt you through their doors. Catch your breath at one of the restaurants or get takeout for a leisurely picnic along the bluff or the St. Joseph River.


When you are here, check the events calendar, as downtown St. Joseph often hosts lively summer festivals, art fairs, and live music performances, adding to the already enchanting ambiance.


Outdoor Nature Adventures

Sarett Nature Center, Benton Harbor

Beyond its beaches, Southwest Michigan has no shortage of outdoor adventures for kids to explore. Hiking is a popular family activity, and Sarett Nature Center offers eight miles of trails meandering through its 1,000 acres. Watch for deer, sandhill cranes, turtles, and fascinating birds. Two highlights for families in the summer are the Butterfly House and a tree-top walkway. Check their weekend events for guided walks, or use this Southwest Michigan trail guide to find more family adventures while you are here together.

Lighthouses, St. Joseph

The St. Joseph lighthouses are among Southwest Michigan’s top attractions. On the North Pier, these century-old sentinels are accessible from Tiscornia Park. 

The inner lighthouse is open for tours in the summer, Friday through Sunday. All ages can enjoy a free, self-guided tour on the first floor. Older kids and adults will find the guided tours exhilarating, especially the climb to the top of the tower. To see these incredible panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the harbor, you need to buy a ticket and book a lighthouse tour. It’s worth climbing every step!


Warren Dunes State Park

If you’re looking to spend a full day outdoors, plan a trip to Warren Dunes State Park. It boasts towering dunes, three miles of sandy shoreline, and nearly endless hiking and outdoor exploring opportunities. More adventurous families can go sandboarding down the dunes for a huge adrenaline rush! Or stake out a spot on the beach and enjoy the stunning lake views or sunsets while the kids build sandcastles or fly kites. The park offers two, free-to-use beach wheelchairs during the summer. Just ask for one when you arrive.

As you build your day, be sure to arrive early, as this popular spot can fill up quickly on summer days.

One standout reason to explore this iconic park is north of the swimming area, where leashed dogs are welcome on a designated section of the beach. Another is the rare but exciting experience when the atmospheric conditions are just right, you can see the Chicago skyline 60 miles across Lake Michigan!

Family-Friendly Dining Delights

Silver Beach Pizza, St. Joseph

With all that running, playing, and exploring, you’ll want to refuel at some of the most family-friendly dining spots. Silver Beach Pizza is below the bluff with gorgeous views of Lake Michigan. It is repeatedly voted the Best Pizza in Southwest Michigan. There are so many options, including mega-meat, vegetables-only, no-cheese and gluten-free pizzas. You will hem-and-haw over their delicious appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and a kid’s menu with lots of favorites.

Besides the hot-from-the-oven choices, three family pleasers are the wait staff bringing cups of raw pizza dough for the kids to play with until their meal arrives. Adults love their chilled schooners of beer. And the thrill of watching passenger and freight trains stop or rumble by within feet of the windows will hold everyone’s gaze mid-bite.

Clementine’s Too

Another welcoming stop is Clementine’s Too on the St. Joseph River. This casual American restaurant is known for comfort classics for your kids like chicken fingers, mini-corn dog baskets, and oodles of noodles. Adults fill up on some of the best-ever house-made onion rings, French onion soup, juicy burgers, and a long list of salads and sandwiches. A perk of eating here is their waterfront outdoor patio.

Mason Jar Cafe

For breakfast or brunch, treat the family to the Mason Jar Café. This delightful spot focuses on farm-fresh ingredients, with a menu of sweet and savory delights. Kids will go crazy for the banana oat pancakes or stuffed French toast, while adults will appreciate options like avocado toast, veggie scrambles, and flavorful quiches. Everything is made from scratch and absolutely delectable.

Fun Evening Activities

Hidden Pointe Fun Park

While also open during the day, Hidden Pointe Fun Park is a popular evening activity. Kids can show off their putting skills on the themed mini-golf course, show their driving prowess on the go-kart tracks, or challenge each other to bat cage competitions. They also have classic carnival games, an arcade room, and a restaurant on-site.

Captain Mike’s Family Fun Park

Another family-thrill spot is Captain Mike’s Family Fun Park, jam-packed with big-kid and junior go-karts, bumper cars, boats, water cannons, Jumpshot basketball, batting cages, a game room, and “The Captain’s Galley” snack bar! Choose from their unlimited attraction packages and pay-as-you-go options. Whichever you choose, your kids will be ready to sleep when you call it a night.

Two people playing arcade games at Slackers.

Plan Your Summer in Southwest Michigan

Start planning your time in this Midwest paradise today! Choose to stay over so you have time for more fun tomorrow. Your kids will be grinning from ear-to-ear making fantastic memories with the people they love most. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen!

 Plan Your Stay