72 summer ideas for your Southwest Michigan bucket list

Silver Beach

Southwest Michigan is bursting with ideas about what to do this summer. It was tough narrowing this bucket list to 72! Here are some traditional and quirky ways to fill your days and nights. But don’t stop with just these. Spend the next few months at our region’s most popular events, hiking our trails, visiting our art galleries, learning our history, and, for certain, enjoying Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

Set a goal to check off as many ideas on this ultimate Southwest Michigan summer bucket list. Add more ideas of where to visit and what to do, then contact us with your suggestions. We will use them to update the list next year and share them with other travelers.

BRING YOUR PET ALONG!

We love pets all year round in Southwest Michigan. To find pet-friendly destinations, look through our pet-friendly guide and itinerary!

FRESH PRODUCE

1. Farmers Markets

One of the best reasons to visit Southwest Michigan in the summer is what’s ripening in our countryside. This is one of the juiciest, crispiest, and most delicious seasons. Check our farmers market guide to find out where to get locally-grown goods and home-baked treats.

2. Pick-Your-Own Produce

Pick fresh fruits and vegetables from our orchards and fields. Our harvest guide lists local farms and has a handy in-season harvest calendar from May through December.

ATTRACTIONS

a man shopping downtown st joseph

3. Tour the North Pier Lighthouse

Walk out on St. Joseph’s picturesque North Pier to the century-old inner and outer lighthouses. These sentinels still actively guide ships in and out of the harbor. It’s free to tour inside the inner light. Or, for a small fee, climb to the top of the tower for an incredible 360-degree view of Lake Michigan, the harbor, and beyond. Weather permitting, you can also view the outside for free from the pier and surrounding beaches.

4. Arrive by Amtrak

Ride past beautiful beaches and scenic countryside on the Pere Marquette line between Grand Rapids and Chicago with stops in Holland, Bangor and St. Joseph. The St. Joseph depot also houses the popular Silver Beach Pizza. It is within walking distance of downtown St. Joseph, the Silver Beach Center, Whirlpool Compass Fountain and Silver Beach County Park. Or take the Wolverine Line from Ann Arbor or Chicago to Niles or New Buffalo.

5. Take the Free Water Taxi

Hop on and off at four stops along the St. Joseph River in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. Free rides every summer weekend! 

6. Go Shopping at Boutiques

You will find boutiques and shops in towns throughout Southwest Michigan. Find home decor, apparel, locally-made art, and unique items that friends at home won’t have! We also have several adorable pet shops where you can get special treats for your furry friend.

7. Pedal the CycleBoat

Have a blast pedaling this boat around the inner St. Joseph harbor. A certified Master Captain guides up to 16 of your friends, family, strangers, or co-workers. You will stop at two local bars/restaurants for food and libations or bring snacks and drinks to share on board. This river cruise is an unforgettable experience for bachelor/bachelorette parties, special occasions, and good times on the water.

8. Watch a Sunset

Whether you are inland or by the coast, Southwest Michigan’s sunset game is strong. Pick a Lake Michigan beach or park, vineyard vista, or waterfront restaurant, and end your day in a brilliantly colorful way. Here are some of our best sunset spots.

9. Go to The Market

Shop around, grab a bite to eat, take a cooking class, sample fine cheeses, support local artists or farms, and much more at the Market on Main Street in St. Joseph.

10. Picnic at GingerMan Raceway

South Haven’s GingerMan Raceway course layout simulates the full spectrum of driving situations: high-speed straights and short sprints, long sweeping corners and tight apexes, heavy and light braking, and elevation change. Bring a picnic and watch drivers zip around the track!

TRY THESE FUN FOODS

a family enjoying ice cream

11. Grab an Ice Cream

Enjoy an ice cream or frozen yogurt cone on a bench swing along Lake Bluff Park in downtown St. Joseph. Get delicious dips in your favorite flavors at Cabana’s, the South Bend Chocolate Cafe, and Kilwins. The views of Lake Michigan are spectacular, especially at sunset! Or take Southwest Michigan’s coolest tasting tour by checking out these 10 best places and satisfying your sweet tooth at each stop!

12. Silver Beach Pizza

This St. Joseph pizza place offers double the fun for families. It is repeatedly voted the Best Pizza in Southwest Michigan and adults love their cold,thirst-quenching draft beer schooners. You can watch the Amtrak passenger pull into the attached station and freight trains roll by on tracks that are within feet of your table.

13. Hot Dog Kart

Grab a Chicago-style hot dog, drinks, and chips on the corner of State and Broad Streets in St. Joseph. The Kart serves Vienna beef dogs in a steamed poppy seed bun and smothered with your choice of toppings. Eat along Lake Bluff Park or the St. Joseph River.

14. Kilwins

Watch them make slabs of creamy fudge on cool marble tables at Kilwins Ice Cream-Fudge-Chocolate Shoppe in downtown St. Joseph. Just follow your nose to their screened door. You won’t leave empty-handed.

15. RyeBelle’s Rooftop

Request a seat on Ryebelle’s Restaurant & Bar’s rain-or-shine rooftop in downtown St. Joseph. Then order your favorite beverage from the full bar. Then order your favorite beverage from the full bar and enjoy dining with a tree-top view of Lake Michigan.

16. Have a Farm Feast

Enjoy dinner on the farm — you rarely can taste food this fresh and delicious! Granor Farm, a certified organic grower in Three Oaks, prepares and serves meals on Fridays and Saturdays. The vegetables, grains, herbs, and other ingredients come from their fields and local farming neighbors.

17. Feast on Food Truck Eats

Grab a snack or a meal from Southwest Michigan food trucks. They serve tacos, barbecue, cajun, burgers, and treats all summer. Find them at Lookout Park in St. Joseph, Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Watermark Brewing Co. in Stevensville, Arclight Brewing Company in Watervliet, and special events and festivals. Here is a list of trucks to follow.

18. Sherman’s Dairy Bar

Get an ice cream cone, sundae, or shake at Sherman’s Dairy Bar in South Haven. If you think the baby dip cone is BIG, wait until you see the Pig’s Dinner. This place loads every scoop with flavor!

ARTSY ACTIVITIES

people walking in front of a colorful mural of benton harbors golden age

19. Play the Creative Connections Game

Earn valuable prizes while exploring Southwest Michigan’s vibrant art, history, and culture scene all year round. The more connections you make, the more stamps you can collect and the more prizes you can earn. Get a Creative Connections brochure from any participating venue and start playing.

20. Mural Tour

Hunt for all the incredible murals decorating our Southwest Michigan towns. Learn about our history and culture while taking selfies.

21. Sculpture Tour

In Southwest Michigan, you can see many sculptures by famous artists who have left their mark on the area. Check out these major outdoor installations.

22. Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra

Catch one of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra’s summer concerts! Go to their events page to get dates for pop-up concerts, July fireworks performances, and family musical experiences. SMSO is a professional orchestra with highly-trained musicians who travel from cities as far away as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Louisville, and Nashville.

23. The Ghostlight Theatre

This state-of-the-art venue in the Benton Harbor Arts District is home to a slate of thought-provoking and innovative theatrical and musical productions. The shows feature talented performers from the community and beyond. Make it a dinner theater night with a meal at a nearby restaurant or bring takeout food to the park a few steps away from the theater.

24. Art Hop

Quarterly, local businesses, restaurants, and galleries invite the public to celebrate artists and musicians in this walkable downtown Benton Harbor setting. Art Hops are free, family-friendly, and open to everyone. Many of the participating organizations provide light refreshments. In the summer, you can enjoy artisan booths, music, and food during Arts in the Park events.

25. Benton Harbor Arts District

This is Benton Harbor’s neighborhood gathering space for delicious farm-to-table food, craft beers, art galleries, glass-blowing and bead-making classes, or watching a play or reading in the park! You will love its vibe in the summer!

26. Culinary Cottage

The Culinary Cottage offers hands-on themed cooking classes for adults and kids at The Market on Main Street in St. Joseph. Your teacher has been in the culinary business for years and makes preparing appetizers, pastas, meals, desserts, and more easy and you can pick up one of your Creative Connections stamps by taking a class!

HISTORIC SPOTS

a man driving a train at eden springs park

27. Berrien County Historical Association

Visit Courthouse Square in Berrien Springs to see Michigan’s oldest existing county courthouse, built in 1839. Then, explore Berrien County’s storied past through exhibits and other historic buildings onsite. This summer, look for family-friendly happenings such as their story trails, scavenger hunts, and the annual Pickle Festival.

28. Bear Cave

Explore West Michigan’s only cavern, formed over 10,000 years ago by glacial drift. With its fascinating geological formations and historical lore, Bear Cave in Buchanan offers a rare adventure. It was also one of Southwest Michigan’s stops on the Underground Railroad.

29. Eden Springs Miniature Train Rides

Hop on the miniature coal-fired or gasoline-fueled train for a ride around Eden Springs Park Benton Harbor! This train and other amusement park attractions are living history. Thousands of visitors from all over the country would arrive in droves back in the House of David’s heyday.

30. Sail the Friends Goodwill

The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven is the home port to five on-the-water exhibits made up of antique vessels and historic replicas. You can view the museum fleet from the docks or on the water. Sailing on the 1810 tall ship replica Friends Goodwill is something you will talk about for years.

31. Benton Harbor African American History & Literature Gallery

Learn how our local history is essential to America’s history. This gallery engages our communities in fostering unity in differences and developing an appreciation for the African American experience through the arts, history, and culture.

OUTDOOR RECREATION

a man paddleboarding in front of st joseph lighthouse

32. Kal-Haven Trail Sesquicentennial State Park

Are you looking for a way to fill your day? This 33-mile trail linking the cities of South Haven and Kalamazoo is the perfect opportunity for biking, hiking, running, horseback riding, and more!

33. Stargazing at Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park

Are you looking for an amazing tourism experience? Go stargazing in Vandalia at one of Michigan’s three International Dark Sky Parks and an official Michigan Dark Sky Preserve. Since there is no light pollution, you will see a spellbinding vista of our universe and its stars, planets, moons, and nebulae. Here is this year’s schedule and stargazing tips.

34. Disc Golf

Visit Madeline Bertrand County Park in Niles for an 18-hole disc golf course, designed by the world’s leading course architect. Within Bertrand’s pine and hardwood forests, each hole features a cement tee-off area, a pole target, and a tee sign that indicates hole number, distance from tee to hole, and par. Bring your plastic flying discs and enjoy the fun here or at these nine other disc golf courses!

35. Learn to Surf

Great Lakes surfing is an exciting sport, especially in the summer! Third Coast Surf Shop in St. Joseph has the professional experience to teach beginners how to master our waves. They even have summer surfing camps for your little ones.

36. Paddle the Paw Paw River

Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the Paw Paw River. Third Coast Surf Shop offers rentals in Benton Harbor, but there are several spots to launch and exit from if you own a watercraft. A favorite launch or resting point is North Pier Brewing Company in Benton Harbor, where you can enjoy a beer and burger before continuing.

37. Walk the Towering Canopy at Galien River County Park

Composed of upland and wetland habitats, this nature park near New Buffalo features a 300′-long canopy walkway that leads to a 60′-high marsh overlook tower and a 600′-long marsh boardwalk that leads to a river viewing and fishing platform.

38. Fish Off the Pier

Don’t have a boat? The pier in St. Joseph is very popular among fishermen. The types of fish most frequently caught include perch, trout, salmon, whitefish and catfish. Public use of the North and South Pier is allowed at your own risk. Please use caution and keep off the pier during storms or high water.

39. Fly a Kite

Grab a kite from one of our small town shops, and take it to the nearest beach! Watch your toy soar high in the sky over the waves of Lake Michigan. On a windy day, it will be joined by several kites.

40. Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve

Fernwood is a special place in Niles where people, plants, and nature come together. Beautiful gardens surrounded by forest are tucked into a landscape of 105 acres of cultivated and natural areas along the scenic St. Joseph River valley. Fernwood’s nature preserve, with its tall trees, tranquil ponds, abundant springs, and carpets of wildflowers, is a magical place that draws people back again and again.

41. Mountain Biking at Andrews University

Want a challenge? Head down to Andrews University Trails in Berrien Springs. Thrills await on one of the most technical mountain biking trails in the area. This 10-mile, single-track trail system has big hills, deep ravines, switchbacks and obstacles. With more than 1,000 feet of elevation per lap, it will get your heart pumping.

42. Intermediate Biking

Southwest Michigan is home to intermediate trails, too, including the new Lakeview Trail on Whirlpool Corporation’s Benton Harbor campus and the 10-mile single track at Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park in Vandalia.

43. Beach Volleyball

It wouldn’t be summer without a round of beach volleyball! Bring your friends and family together for a fun game in the sand. The premier place to play is Silver Beach County Park in St. Joseph, but several other beaches have nets already set up — bring your ball.

CRAFT BEVERAGES

A variety of beers at The Livery.

 44. Makers Trail Tour

Each of our Makers Trail wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries welcome you to their vineyards and tasting room. Each has a distinct vibe, so try several. All makers let you sample their craft beverages to see how locally grown grapes, fruits, grains, and hops make some of the most popular craft beverages in the region. Several makers offer a chance to see their behind-the-scenes production and many host some of the best musicians, festivals, and food for miles around.

45. Journeyman’s Welters Folly

This is one of the largest greens in the world! At 30,000 square feet, it is a one-of-a-kind way to enjoy handcrafted spirits, while competing with your family and friends on this course modeled after the famous Himalayan putting green in St. Andrews, Scotland.

46. Bowl at Peat’s Cider

Housed within a 1960s bowling alley, Peat’s Cider Social invites you to please your palate with new hard cider and seltzer waters. Have fun bowling and showing off your arcade game skills, too! Watch their Facebook page for when food trucks are stopping here.

CREATE BUCKETS OF HAPPY MEMORIES WITH YOUR KIDS

little girl playing at the childrens museum with her mother

Most of the 72 ideas on this list can be enjoyed by all ages, but here are some that babies to college-aged travelers would add to their bucket lists, too.

47. Silver Beach Carousel

When your children walk through the Silver Beach Carousel House doors in St. Joseph, their grins will spread from ear to ear. The toughest part is choosing which of the 48 magnificent, hand-carved menagerie figures and two chariots to ride first. Before you leave, ask for a passport and set a goal to ride all 50 over your lifetime.

48. Whirlpool Compass Fountain

Bring a beach ball or Frisbee, a towel, and clothes that can get wet to the Whirlpool Compass Fountain in St. Joseph. Dance, splash, twirl, laugh, and feel the refreshing water cascade over your head and down to your toes. The area’s biggest splash pad is free from early May to late September.

49. Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone

When you need a place to get out of the sun or rain, this is it! Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone below the bluff in St. Joseph will easily fill a couple of hours of your day. Toddlers to pre-teens love the Lake Michigan water table, lighthouse climbing tower, and pin wall, plus dancing and being silly by the interactive Recollections exhibit. At the top of the bluff downtown, the Curious Kids’ Museum stimulates curiosity with more learning fun.

50. Great Lakes Freighter Watching

These massive ships do not come into St. Joseph Harbor every day, but when they do, they are breathtaking. The best places to be awed are the piers by Silver Beach County Park and Tiscornia Park, Margaret B. Upton Arboretum, and the turning basin by the Inn at Harbor Shores. Have your camera ready!

51. Free Movies in the Park

Pack snacks and a blanket or chairs to watch a free outdoor movie with your family and friends at several parks in St. Joseph. The films start at 7:30 p.m. Check the July and August listings for each Saturday’s film title and park location.

52. Toy Shopping

Treat your child to a new toy, game, puzzle, or book from a downtown St. Joseph store. The Toy Company staff does a fantastic job recommending right-age choices. Plus, G&M, Forever Books, Oh My Darlings, and State Street Stuff are stuffed with selections you won’t find in big box stores.

53. Scooter Joe’s Wheel & Water Rentals

Include Scooter Joe’s in St. Joseph on your kid-friendly activities bucket list. Surrey bikes are a must, but you can also rent an individual beach cruiser, fat tire, tandem, and electric bikes. There are also Lily Pads, kayaks, canoes, and pontoon boats for the water. You won’t hear “I’m bored” from your teens.

54. Warren Dunes Dog Beach

Romp at Warren Dunes State Park’s dog beach in Sawyer. Leash up your dog and walk down to the designated pet area at the north end of this renowned park. It’s a great place to splash in the waves, chase balls and sticks, or walk six miles on hiking trails.

POPULAR EVENTS

Live Music at the Makers Trail Festival.

55. Antiques On the Bluff

May to October | St. Joseph | First Sundays of the month

This rain-or-shine event brings around 50 antique and vintage vendors to Lake Bluff Park.

56. Dockside Music

Late May to early September | Plank’s Tavern, Inn at Harbor Shores, St. Joseph | Evenings, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays

Pick an evening to let the live music waft over you like the breezes from the harbor basin.

57. The Acorn Shows

Late May to early September | The Acorn Center for the Performing Arts | Live music, tribute bands, entertainment, competitions and festivals | Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays

This intimate theater is an arts and culture hub and one of our top must-go-at-least-once summer destinations. It is one of the most diverse arts venues in Southwest Michigan. You will love the high-energy vibe, the interaction with the artists, and the ticket prices.

58. Jammin’ in the Vineyard

Weekends, May through October| Round Barn Winery & Estate, Baroda

Sit back and relax in the vineyards, enjoying your kind of music with your favorite craft beers, wines, and spirits.

59. Makers Trail Festival

Second Saturday of June | Weko Beach, Bridgman

Southwest Michigan craft beverage makers will pop corks, tap kegs and pour bottles all afternoon as you seek out your favorite Southwest Michigan craft wines, beers, ciders, and spirits. Dance and chill on the beach to regional bands and savor summer flavors from local food trucks. Year after year, this is one of our best beach parties.

60. Lest We Forget

Fourth Saturday and Sunday of June | St. Joseph River, St. Joseph

This festival is themed around one of the U.S. conflicts from World War II to now. This is your chance to see re-enactments on the St. Joseph River — it’s FREE. For an additional charge, ride in WWII-era aircraft!

61. Juneteenth Parade & Celebration

Third Saturday of June | Downtown Benton Harbor

Attend this culturally rich afternoon to mark the end of slavery in the U.S. and promote African-American history, art, culture, economic development, and community cooperation.

62. Berrien Springs Pickle Festival

July 4 | Courthouse Square, Berrien Springs

Relish a good time with your family friends on this day filled with a pickle fling, big wheel races, old-fashioned pickle games, a pickle decorating contest, a Pickled Piper Tasting Room, and, of course, the Flamm Pickle & Packing Company relish eating contest.

63. Fourth Of July Fireworks

July 3 | Baroda, St. Joseph and South Haven | Dusk

Check the Southwest Michigan events calendar for the dates, locations, and accompanying entertainment for Baroda’s and other Southwest Michigan celebrations.

64. Krasl Art Fair

Second weekend of July | Lake Bluff Park, St. Joseph

This juried event is one of the premier art fairs in Michigan showcasing the talents of over 150 artists from across the United States. Bluff-top views of Lake Michigan and proximity to shops, restaurants, and hotels, bring visitors back year after year.

65. Lake Breeze Music Festival

First Saturday of July | Shadowland Pavilion, Silver Beach, St. Joseph

A diverse selection of music, food, and drink on the beautiful sunset shore of Lake Michigan.

66. Summer Festival & BBQ Competition

Friday & Saturday, Mid-July | Downtown Dowagiac

A BBQ competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society plus music and dance, children’s interactive entertainment, games and rides, food trucks, and summer sales.

67. Mike Yore Memorial Car Show

Friday, Mid-July | Lake Boulevard, St. Joseph

Take a closer look at over 150 eye-catching classic cars, talk with the owners, and enjoy listening to classic music hits.

68. Chalk The Block | First Weekend Of August | Downtown St. Joseph

This annual favorite showcases the imaginations of amateur and professional chalk artists as they fill Broad Street with their creativity.

69. Coloma Glad-Peach Festival

The first weekend of August | Downtown Coloma

Come for the grand parade, baking contest, food vendors, arts and crafts show, gorgeous flowers, and the tastiest, juiciest peaches.

70. National Blueberry Festival

The second weekend of August | South Haven

This lake resort town knows how to celebrate these delicious berries! Come for the parade, pie eating contest, 5K run/walk, craft show, live music, farm day, kids’ activities, and rides.

71. Berrien County Youth Fair

Third week of August | Fairgrounds, Berrien Springs

Midway rides and games, grandstand entertainment, blue ribbon competitions, and fair food favorites make this one of the best weeks of the summer.

72. Tri-State Regatta

Labor Day Weekend | St. Joseph River & Harbor

Watch racing sailboats complete the first leg in St. Joseph on Friday, join the all-day party at the St. Joseph River Yacht Club on Saturday, and see the boats off on Sunday morning.

BOOK YOUR STAY NOW

Summer is a great time to take a day trip to Southwest Michigan, but it’s even more relaxing and fun-filled when you can stay for one or more nights. This time of year, it’s never too early to reserve a room at one of our lodgings. To get your best pick of dates, amenities, and rates, put booking your stay at the top of your bucket list. Then see how many of these 72 ideas you can check before Labor Day!

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.

A-Little-girl-enjoying-ice-cream-kilwins

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.

Kids-enjoying-the-fountain

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!

A-boy-fishing-near-the-lighthouse-at-sunset

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

Here are Southwest Michigan’s best destinations for fall colors, bird watching, paddling and surfing.

Fall in Warren Dunes - Southwest Michigan. Photo Credit : Joshua Nowicki

Lake Michigan’s beaches are beautiful in autumn! 

Discover the best fall beach destinations in Southwest Michigan

Summer isn’t the only time to visit Lake Michigan’s beaches in Southwest Michigan. Fall days and lake temperatures are often warm from September until early October. Then from October through November, pull on a sweater, fleece, or jacket and enjoy the wilder Big Lake waves and less-crowded beaches from golden sunrise to star-studded night. For many, fall is their favorite beach season. Come see why.

Fall in Warren Dunes - Southwest Michigan. Photo Credit : Joshua Nowicki
Fall in Warren Dunes – Southwest Michigan. Photo Credit: Joshua Nowicki

Visit nine Lake Michigan beach towns
If you’re planning an autumn getaway, solo retreat, or fall color tour along the lakeshore, add these Lake Michigan beach towns and their beaches to your itinerary. 

Stevensville

Grand Mere State Park | 7337 Thornton Drive
Grand Mere boasts sweeping dunes, deep blowouts, a mile-long sandy beach, and hikes beneath canopies of colorful leaves. 

Round Barn Winery in Fall | Photo Credit : Joshua Nowicki
Round Barn Winery in Fall | Photo Credit : Joshua Nowicki

St. Joseph

Lions Park Beach | Lions Park Drive
This tranquil beach is a good place to hunt for rocks and beach glass or immerse in the fall beauty on the John and Dede Howard Family Recreational Trail.

Silver Beach County Park | 101 Broad St.

This is one of Southwest Michigan’s most popular year-round beaches with its 2,450 feet of shoreline from the mouth of the St. Joseph River to Park Street. The park gives you access to the South Pier, and you can walk to the beach from downtown St. Joseph. 

Tiscornia Beach Park | 80 Ridgeway St.

Great place to watch freighters, sailboats, and surfers in the fall. Best of all, you can park and walk out onto the North Pier to St. Joseph’s historic lighthouses.  

Benton Harbor/Coloma

Jean Klock Park | Jean Klock Boulevard, Benton Harbor

This is one of the most beautiful, lesser-used beaches in Southwest Michigan. It is also a  trailhead for a 10-mile natural and urban fitness hiking and biking adventure — the trees are autumn showpieces along the way. 

Rocky Gap Park | 1100 Rocky Gap Road, Benton Harbor

You will love the panoramic views of Lake Michigan, especially at sunset. This is also a popular rockhounding site due to all the rocks that wash ashore.

Hagar Park | 5440 M-63, Coloma

Enjoy a picnic beneath red and yellow leaves, toss a Frisbee, or send a kite soaring on the beach. Dogs are welcome. 

Roadside Park | 6930 Bluestar Highway, Coloma

Small, quiet, dog and kayak-friendly beach in the colorful forested dunes.  

New Buffalo

New Buffalo Public Beach & Lakefront Park | 200 Marquette Drive
800 feet of sandy beach near the public boat launch and downtown.

Sawyer/Bridgman

Warren Dunes State Park | 12032 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer
Three miles of beach frontage, including a separate dog-friendly beach. A top pick for its giant dunes and beautiful fall foliage. 

Weko Beach | 5237 Lake St., Bridgman
Nestled among 42 acres of wooded dunes, it has 960 feet of sandy beach with some of the area’s favorite fall foliage and water vistas. 

Seven favorite fall things to do at our beaches

There are so many ways to fill several fall days in Southwest Michigan. Here are locals’ and visitors’ top picks from high adventures to total relaxation.

Take a fall color tour 

Follow the West Michigan Pike routes in this guide. Along the way, visit our pick-your-own and farm markets to gather just-harvested fruits and vegetables, plus bread, jams, desserts, and more for your fall beach picnic. This is also one of the best times of year to look for colorful rocks, beach glass, and fossils along the water’s edge. 

Explore the colors of Fall in Southwest Michigan. Photo Credit : Joshua Nowicki
Explore the colors of Fall in Southwest Michigan. Photo Credit: Joshua Nowicki

Paddle along the shoreline

Most beaches offer easy access to take your canoe, kayak, or SUP from the parking lot to the shoreline. Several also have launch areas on scenic rivers that empty into the big lake. Shoreline paddles give you gorgeous views of fall foliage along the bluffs and across the dunes.  

Watch for migratory birds on their Lake Michigan flight path 

The migration flight path along Lake Michigan’s shoreline is almost as ancient as the dunes. Fall is a peak time for birdwatching, seeing everything from songbirds and shorebirds to raptors. 

Be captivated by Great Lakes freighters and barges

It’s hard not to be drawn to the St. Joseph River and harbor when the big freighters and barges arrive or depart from St. Joseph. Watching these big ships navigate past the railroad swing bridge is especially enthralling. We hope you will also see the big ships at night easing through the channel by spotlight or their lights reflecting in the still harbor waters — it will take your breath away. Fall is the last season to be awed before the gales of November stop the shipping traffic on Lake Michigan until the next spring. 

Reel in the big ones from our piers, rivers, and the Big Lake

Pier fishing for feisty salmon, trout, and steelhead is a thrill in Southwest Michigan. You can easily access some of our favorite fishing spots from New Buffalo Public Beach, Silver Beach County Park, Tiscornia Beach, and South Haven’s South Beach.

Go surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving

Many people are surprised to learn that you can surf, snorkel and scuba dive off the coast of Lake Michigan. Calmer days on the Big Lake are best for the latter two watersports, but frequent north and south winds make for surfable waves in the fall. You can often spot surfers from the shore at Lions Park, Silver Beach County Park, and Tiscornia Beach — or go out and ride the waves on your board! 

See the best sunsets 

It’s a daily ritual to head to any of our beaches to watch the sun sink below Lake Michigan’s horizon in a swath of peach, yellow, lavender, and scarlet colors brightening the evening sky. Even on overcast evenings, you will still find colors and a peaceful ending to your day on our shore. 

Fall Sunset Southwest Michigan in Dune Grass | St. Joseph MI
Fall Sunset Southwest Michigan in Dune Grass | St. Joseph MI Photo Credit: Joshua Nowicki

Stay over at near-the-beach lodgings

Lodgings in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, and Stevensville are just minutes from our beaches, resort town shopping, dining, fall festivals, and attractions. It’s a great time of year to get the hotel rate and amenities you want, especially on weekdays. 

Book your fall getaway

73 Summer ideas for your Southwest Michigan bucket list!

Rainbow over St. Joseph Bluff

Southwest Michigan is bursting with ideas about what to do this summer. It was tough narrowing this bucket list to 73! Here are some traditional and quirky ways to fill your days and nights. But don’t stop with just these. Spend the next few months at our region’s most popular events, hiking our trails, taking in our galleries, learning our history, and, of course, enjoying the Great Lakes shoreline. Try to check off each one of these items on this ultimate Southwest Michigan summer bucket list. Add more to your list and then contact us with your suggestions of where to go and what to do. We will use them to update the bucket list each summer and share it with other travelers.

BRING YOUR PET ALONG!
We love pets all year round in Southwest Michigan. We’ve labeled the pet-friendly destinations in this list.

 

PRODUCE
1. Farmers markets (Pet Friendly)
One of the best reasons to visit Southwest Michigan in the summer is what’s ripening in our countryside. This is one of the juiciest, crispiest, most-delicious seasons in Southwest Michigan. Check out our farmers market blog to find out where to get locally-grown goods and home-baked treats.

2. Pick produce
Pick fresh fruits and vegetables at our many farms! Check out our harvest guide.

 

ATTRACTIONS

3. Tour the North Pier Lighthouse
Go inside the inner lighthouse in St. Joseph! Where you can look out onto Lake Michigan from its lantern. If you prefer not to tour, you can visit the outside for free, or see them from our beaches.

4. Ride the Amtrak (Pet Friendly)
Take a ride past beautiful beaches and hop off where you’d like! The Pere Marquette line travels between Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph, and Chicago. Board at the depot in St. Joseph outside of Silver Beach Pizza.

5. Take the Water Taxi
Ride along the St. Joseph River and choose to hop off and one of four stops in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. Did we mention it’s free? Ride any summer weekend!

6. Go shopping at boutiques (Pet Friendly)
Our boutiques sell home decor, apparel, locally made art, and unique items that your friends at home won’t have! We also have several adorable pet shops where you can get special treats for a man’s best friend.

7. Pedal the CycleBoat
This is St. Joseph’s first and only Cycleboat! Tour the St. Joseph inner harbor with up to 16 of your friends, family, strangers or co-workers with a certified Master Captain. There are two stops at local bars/restaurants.

8. Watch a sunset (Pet Friendly)
Whether inland or by the coast, Southwest Michigan’s sunset game is strong. Pick a beach, vista, park, or waterfront restaurant and end the day in a colorful way.

9. Go to the Market
Shop around, grab a bite to eat, take a cooking class, sample fine cheeses, support local artists or farms, and much more! This collection of shops has so much to offer to keep you busy for hours.

10. Have a picnic watching the races at GingerMan Raceway Pet Friendly
Located in South Haven, the GingerMan Raceway course layout simulates the full spectrum of driving situations: high-speed straights and short sprints, long sweeping corners and tight apexes, heavy and light braking, and elevation change. Bring a picnic and watch drivers zip around the track!

TRY THESE FUN FOODS

11. Grab an ice cream!
Enjoy an ice cream or frozen yogurt cone on a bench swing along Lake Bluff Park in downtown St. Joseph. Get delicious dips in your favorite flavors at Cabana’s, Chocolate Cafe, Kilwins or State Street Treats. The lake bluff views of Lake Michigan are spectacular, especially at sunset! Pet Friendly

12. Silver Beach Pizza
Watch the Amtrak passenger train and freight trains roll by while eating at Silver Beach Pizza in St. Joseph. It’s home to some of the area’s best pizzas — draft beer schooners.

13. Hot Dog Kart
Grab a Chicago-style hot dog from the Hot Dog Kart on the corner of State and Broad in St. Joseph. They serve Vienna beef dogs in a steamed poppy seed bun and smother it with your choice of toppings.

14. Kilwins
Watch them make slabs of creamy fudge on cool marble tables at Kilwins Ice Cream-Fudge-Chocolate Shoppe in downtown St. Joseph. Just follow your nose to their screened door. You won’t leave empty-handed.

15. Fire & Ice Pizzeria (Pet Friendly)
Wow! Watch Fire & Ice Pizzeria & Creamery in St. Joseph makes the coldest, creamiest ice cream in seconds with a blast of liquid nitrogen. It’s almost as much fun to see them make your favorite ice cream flavor as it is to eat it!

16. RyeBelle’s rooftop
Request a seat on Ryebelle’s Restaurant & Bar’s rain-or-shine rooftop in downtown St. Joseph. Then order your favorite beverage from the full bar. The Lake Michigan views are mesmerizing.

17. Have a farm feast
Enjoy dinner on the farm — you will rarely taste food this fresh and delicious! Granor Farm, a certified organic grower in Three Oaks, prepares and serves meals on Fridays and Saturdays. The vegetables, grains, herbs, and other ingredients come from their farm and local farming neighbors.

18. Feast on food truck goods (Pet Friendly)
Grab a snack or a meal from Southwest Michigan food trucks. They serve tacos, barbecue, cajun, burgers, and treats all summer. Find them at Lookout Park in St. Joseph, Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Watermark Brewing Co. in Stevensville, Arclight Brewing Company in Watervliet, and at special events and festivals.

19. Sherman’s Dairy Bar (Pet Friendly)
Get an ice cream cone or sundae at Sherman’s Dairy Bar in South Haven. If you think the baby dip cone is BIG, wait until you see the Pig’s Dinner. This place loads every scoop with flavor!

ARTSY ACTIVITIES

20. Play the Creative Connections Game
Earn prizes while exploring the vibrant and rich art, history, and culture of Southwest Michigan! This game is played year-round and gives you plenty of good reasons to come back.

21. Mural tour (Pet Friendly)
Take a colorful tour through our towns by seeing all the murals we have to offer. Several of these works of art actually pay homage to the history of the buildings they are on or the towns they are in!

22. Sculpture tour (Pet Friendly)
Southwest Michigan is home to many sculptures by famous artists who have left their mark on the area. Follow along this blog for some starting points.

23. SMSO (Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra)
Catch one of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra’s shows! SMSO is a professional orchestra with highly-trained musicians who travel from cities as far away as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Louisville, and Nashville to perform.

24. The GhostLight Theatre
This state-of-the-art venue is home to a slate of thought-provoking and innovative theatrical productions, featuring talented performers from the community and beyond.

25. Art hop
Quarterly, local businesses, restaurants, and galleries invite the public to celebrate art and local artists in this walkable downtown setting. Art Hops are free, family-friendly, and open to everyone. Many of the participating organizations provide light refreshments for guests. Additionally, throughout the summer, visitors can enjoy Arts in the Park events which feature local artist’s booths, music, and food.

26. Benton Harbor Arts District
Whether you want to shop around a record store, learn glass-blowing techniques, visit galleries, see a play, enjoy farm-to-table food, drink craft beer, or simply read in the park, this is the place to be!

27. Culinary Cottage
The Culinary Cottage offers hands-on themed cooking classes. You’ll learn from someone who has been in the business for years and makes prepping a full meal seem easy and fun!

HISTORIC SPOTS

28. Berrien County Historical Association
Visit Courthouse Square to see Michigan’s oldest existing county courthouse, built in 1839. Then, explore Berrien County’s storied past through exhibits and other historic buildings on site. Look for family-friendly events happening here, too, like Croonin’ at the Courthouse concerts.

29. Echoes Baseball Game (Pet Friendly)
Back in the day, visitors were enthralled by the House of David’s semi-pro home baseball team with its long-bearded players. Today, you can watch a game on the grounds and see volunteers dawn uniforms similar to the ones that players wore decades ago!

30. Eden Springs Train
While you’re there, hop over to the miniature train for a ride around Eden Springs! This train and other amusement park attractions brought visitors here from all over the country back in the House of David heyday.

31. Sail on the Friends Good Will
The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven is the home port to five on-the-water exhibits made up of both replicas and historic vessels. You can view the museum fleet from the docks or on the water. Sailing on the 1810 tall ship replica Friends Good Will is something you will talk about for years.

32. Benton Harbor African American History & Literature Gallery
Learn how our local history is essential to America’s history. This gallery engages our communities in fostering unity in differences and developing an appreciation for the African American experience through the arts, history, and culture.

OUTDOOR RECREATION

33. Kal-Haven Trail Sesquicentennial State Park Pet Friendly
Looking for a day of activity? This 33-mile trail linking the cities of South Haven and Kalamazoo is the perfect opportunity for biking, hiking, running, horseback riding, and more!

34. Stargazing at TK Lawless (Pet Friendly)
Are you looking for an amazing tourism experience? Go stargazing at one of Michigan’s three International Dark Sky Parks and an official Michigan Dark Sky Preserve. With no light pollution, you will see a spellbinding vista of our universe and its stars, planets, moons, and nebulae.

35. Disc Golf
Visit Madeline Bertrand County Park for an 18-hole disc golf course, designed by the world’s leading course architect, is contained within Bertrand’s pine and hardwood forests. Each hole features a cement tee-off area, a pole target, and a tee sign that indicates hole number, distance from tee to hole, and par. Bring your plastic flying discs and enjoy the fun!

36. Learn to surf
Great Lakes surfing is an exciting hobby, especially in the summer! Third Coast Surf Shop has the professional experience to teach beginners how to master our waves. They even have summer surfing camps for your little ones.

37. Paddle the Paw Paw River (Pet Friendly)
Rent a kayak or paddle board and paddle down the Paw Paw River. Third Coast Surf Shop offers rentals in Benton Harbor, but there are several spots to launch and exit from, including near North Pier Brewing Company in Benton Harbor, where you can enjoy a beer and burger before continuing on.

38. Walk the towering canopy at Galien River County Park (Pet Friendly)
Composed of upland & wetland habitats, this nature park features a 300′ Canopy Walkway that leads to a 60′-high Marsh Overlook Tower and a 600′-long Marsh Boardwalk that leads to a river viewing and fishing Platform.

39. Fish off the pier
Don’t have a boat? The pier in St. Joseph is very popular among fishermen. The types of fish most frequently caught include perch, trout, salmon, whitefish and catfish. Public use of the North and South Pier is allowed at your own risk. Please use caution and keep off the pier during storms or high waters.

40. Fly a kite
Grab a kite from one of our small town shops, and take it to the nearest beach! Watch your toy soar high in the sky over the waves of Lake Michigan. On a windy day, it will be joined by several kites.

41. Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve
Fernwood is a special place where people, plants, and nature come together. Beautiful gardens surrounded by forest are tucked into a landscape of 105 acres of cultivated and natural areas along the scenic St. Joseph River valley. Fernwood’s nature preserve, with its tall trees, tranquil ponds, abundant springs, and carpets of wildflowers, is a magical place that draws people back again and again.

42. Mountain Biking at Andrews University
Want a challenge? Head down to Andrews University Trails in Berrien Springs. The thrill awaits on one of the most technical mountain biking trails in the area. This ten-mile, single-track trail system has a variety of features and with more than 1,000 feet of elevation per lap, it will get your heart pumping.

43. Intermediate biking
Southwest Michigan is home to intermediate trails, too, including the new Lakeview Trail on Whirlpool Corporation’s Benton Harbor campus and the 10-mile single track at Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park in Vandalia.

44. Beach volleyball
It wouldn’t be summer without a round of beach volleyball! Bring your friends and family together for a fun game in the sand. Several beaches have nets already set up, you just need to bring a ball.

45. Ironman Steelhead Triathlon
For extreme athletes, taking part in the Ironman Steelhead Triathlon is a great way to challenge yourself and see a lot of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area. Athletes start their day on a scenic journey through Southwest Michigan, traversing through the wine country and beaches to the finish line.

CRAFT BEVERAGES

46. Makers Trail tour
Several of Southwest Michigan’s makers offer a chance to see their behind-the-scenes production. Sample their craft beverages and see how local grapes and grain make some of the most popular drinks in our region.

47. Journeyman’s Welters Folly
This is one of the largest putting greens in the world! At 30,000 square feet, this is a one-of-a-kind way to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail.

48. Bowl at Peat’s Cider
Housed within a 1960s bowling alley, Peat’s Cider Social is a place to open your palate to new hard cider and seltzer waters. And you can still bowl, too! There are also old arcade games to play, and food trucks out back occasionally.

CREATE BUCKETS OF HAPPY MEMORIES WITH YOUR KIDS

Most of the 73 ideas on this list can be enjoyed by all ages, but here are some that babies to college-aged travelers would add to their bucket lists, too.

49. Silver Beach Carousel
Your children’s grins will spread from ear to ear the moment they walk through the Silver Beach Carousel House doors in St. Joseph. The toughest part is choosing which of the 48 magnificent, hand-carved menagerie figures and two chariots to ride first. Before you leave, ask for a passport and set a goal to ride all 50 over time.

50. Whirlpool Compass Fountain
Bring a beach ball or Frisbee, a towel, and clothes that can get wet to the Whirlpool Compass Fountain in St. Joseph. Then dance, splash, twirl, laugh and feel the refreshing water cascade over your head and down to your toes. The area’s biggest splash pad is free from late May to early September.

51. Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone
When you need a place to get out of the sun or rain, this is it! Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone will easily fill a couple of hours of your day. Toddlers to pre-teens love the Lake Michigan water table, lighthouse climbing tower, and pin wall, plus dancing and being silly by the interactive Recollections exhibit.

52. Great Lakes freighter watching (Pet Friendly)
These massive ships do not come into St. Joseph Harbor every day, but when they do, they are breathtaking. The best places to be awed are the piers by Silver Beach County Park and Tiscornia Park, Margaret B. Upton Arboretum, and the turning basin by the Inn at Harbor Shores. Have your camera ready!

53. Movies in the Park
Pack snacks and a blanket or chairs to watch a free outdoor movie with your family and friends at several parks in St. Joseph. The films start at 7:30 p.m. Check the July and August calendars for each Saturday’s film title and park location.

54. Toy shopping
Treat your child to a new toy, game, puzzle, or book from a downtown St. Joseph store. The Toy Company staff does a fantastic job recommending right-age choices. Plus, G&M, Forever Books, Oh My Darlings, and State Street Stuff are stuffed with selections you won’t find in big box stores.

55. Scooter Joe’s Wheel & Water Rentals (Pet Friendly)
Include Scooter Joe’s in St. Joseph on your kid-friendly activities bucket list. The Surrey bikes are a must, but you can also rent an individual beach cruiser, fat tire, tandem, and electric bikes. There are also Lily Pads, kayaks, canoes, and pontoon boats for the water. You won’t hear “I’m bored” from your teens.

56. Warren Dunes dog beach (Pet Friendly)
Romp at the Warren Dunes State Park dog beach in Sawyer. Leash up your dog and walk down to the designated pet area at the north end of this renowned park. It’s a great place to splash in the waves, chase balls and sticks, or walk six miles on hiking trails.

POPULAR EVENTS

57. Antiques on the Bluff
May to October | St. Joseph | First Sundays of the month

This rain-or-shine event brings around 50 antique and vintage vendors to Lake Bluff Park.

58. Dockside Music
Late May to early September | Plank’s Tavern, Inn at Harbor Shores, St. Joseph | Evenings, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays

Pick an evening to let the live music waft over you like the breezes from the harbor basin.

59. The Acorn shows
Late May to early September | Live music, tribute bands, entertainment, competitions, and festivals | Three Oaks | Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays
This intimate theater is an arts and culture hub and one of our top must-go-at-least-once summer destinations. Attending just once will make you want to fit more shows on your calendar.

60. Makers Trail Festival
Second Saturday of June | Weko Beach, Bridgman

Southwest Michigan craft beverage makers will pop corks, tap kegs and pour bottles all afternoon as you seek out your favorite Southwest Michigan craft wines, beers, ciders, and spirits. There’s also dancing and chilling to regional bands and savoring summer flavors from local food trucks. Year after year, this is one of our best beach parties.

61. Lest We Forget
Third Saturday of June | St. Joseph River, St. Joseph

This festival is themed around one of the U.S. conflicts from World War I to now. This is your chance to ride an amphibious landing craft on the St. Joseph River — it’s FREE.

62. Juneteenth Parade & Celebration
Third Saturday of June | Downtown Benton Harbor

Attend this culturally rich afternoon to mark the end of slavery in the U.S. and promote African-American history, art, culture, economic development, and community cooperation.

63. Lumberjack Weekend at the Square
Fourth Weekend of June | Courthouse Square, Berrien Springs

See lumberjack demonstrations, participate in hands-on opportunities, and listen to experts share their love of Michigan’s logging history. It’s a tree-mendous time for the whole family!

64. Baroda Fourth of July Fireworks
Early July | Baroda, St. Joseph, and South Haven | Dusk

Check the Southwest Michigan events calendar for the dates, locations, and accompanying entertainment.

64. Krasl Art Show
The second weekend of July | Lake Bluff Park, St. Joseph

This juried event is one of the premier art shows in Michigan showcasing the talents of over 172 artists from across the United States. Bluff-top views of Lake Michigan and proximity to shops, restaurants, and hotels, bring visitors back year after year.

65. Lake Breeze Music Festival
Second Saturday of July | Shadowland Pavillion, Silver Beach, St. Joseph

A diverse selection of music, food, and drink on the beautiful sunset shore of Lake Michigan.

66. Summer Festival & BBQ Competition
Friday & Saturday, Mid-July | Downtown Dowagiac

A BBQ competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society plus music and dance, children’s interactive entertainment, games and rides, food trucks, and summer sales.

67. Mike Yore Memorial Car Show
Friday, mid-July | Lake Boulevard, St. Joseph

Get a close look at over 150 eye-catching classic cars, talk with the owners, and enjoy listening to classic music hits.

68. Blues & Brews Festival
Saturday, mid-July | Round Barn Winery & Estate, Baroda

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the smooth rhythms of live classic jazz and craft beers, wines, and spirits in the vineyards.

69. Chalk the Block

First weekend of August | Downtown St. Joseph
This annual favorite showcases the imaginations of amateur and professional chalk artists as they fill Broad Street with their creativity.

70. Coloma Glad-Peach Festival
First weekend of August | Downtown Coloma

Come for the grand parade, baking contest, food vendors, arts and crafts show, gorgeous flowers, and the tastiest, juiciest peaches.

71. National Blueberry Festival
Second weekend of August | South Haven

This lake resort town knows how to celebrate these delicious berries! Come for the parade, pie eating contest, 5K run/walk, craft show, live music, farm day, kids’ activities, and rides.

72. Berrien County Youth Fair
Third week of August | Fairgrounds, Berrien Springs

Midway rides and games, grandstand entertainment, blue ribbon competitions, and lots of fair food favorites make this one of the best weeks of the summer.

73. Tri-State Regatta
Labor Day Weekend | St. Joseph River & Harbor

Watch racing sailboats complete the first leg in St. Joseph on Friday, join the all-day party at the St. Joseph River Yacht Club on Saturday, and see the boats off on Sunday morning.

BOOK YOUR STAY NOW
Summer is a great time to take a day trip to Southwest Michigan, but it’s even more relaxing and fun-filled when you can stay for one or more nights.

This time of year, it’s never too early to reserve a room at one of our lodgings. To get your best pick of dates, amenities, and rates, you should put booking your stay at the top of your bucket list. Then see how many of these 73 ideas you can check off before Labor Day!