22 of the best wineries in Southwest Michigan

So you love wine.

Red, white, blush. Sweet, dry, sparkling. You enjoy it all. Chances are you’d be a sommelier if you didn’t have to go back to school. You’re also a huge fan of the winery experience. From tastings to tours to simply kicking back with a glass of your favorite vino, wineries are your happy place.

You don’t have to travel to Burgundy, Argentina, or Tuscany to visit world-class wineries. You don’t even need to leave the state of Michigan. Southwest Michigan boasts many award-winning wineries that craft extraordinary wines.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. Here is our exhaustive list of the 22 best wineries in Southwest Michigan.

The top wineries of Southwest Michigan

12 Corners Vineyards

Founded by a small group of friends who grew up in Michigan, 12 Corners offers an impressive array of estate-grown varietals produced from grapes grown on its 30-acre vineyard.

Estate wines such as Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, and Cabernet Franc are bursting with delicious local flavor. On the other side of the wine spectrum, 12 Corners offers a rotating roster of wine slushy flavors, such as Watermelon and Triple Berry! With tasting rooms in Benton Harbor, South Haven, and Grand Haven, 12 Corners has a glass of wine waiting for you not too far away.

Baroda Founders

Baroda Founders hits a home run with its lineup of sweet wines. Treat your taste buds to fan-favorite flavors like Cranberry or Green Apple. Baroda Founders also offers delectable dessert wines such as Smorleaux, which combines milk chocolate, marshmallow, and Merlot into a campfire-worthy concoction.

Looking for something a little more traditional? Try a Cabernet Franc or a Dry Riesling, or experiment with a varietal you may not have tried, like a Seyval Blanc or a sweet and tasty Traminette — a spicy Gewurztraminer hybrid.

Leonard Olson, Baroda Founders’ creator, was the first to plant commercial European vines in Michigan. His passion for both tradition and experiment shines through in every bottle.

Visit Baroda Founders at its Wine Cellar in (you guessed it) Baroda or its Tasting Room in St. Joseph!

Chill Hill

Chill Hill, owned by Ashley and Norma Nitz, a grandmother-granddaughter duo, offers 14 wines and 10 ciders on tap! Located between the beaches of Lake Michigan to the west and farm country to the east, Chill Hill creates wines that appeal to those wearing flip-flops and steel-toed boots alike.

Meritage 2018 — a blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot — is a can’t-miss vintage. White wine lovers will swoon for Chill Hill’s Albariño and Sweet Riesling, as well. Looking for the perfect wine to take to the beach? Grab a bottle of Sparkling Raspberry Blanc, a blend of sparkling wine and raspberry juice, or Dockside Dan, which is finished in oak barrels and tastes like strawberry jelly with a toasted almond finish.

Check out everything Chill Hill has to offer at its tasting room in Baroda!

Contessa Wine Cellars

Third-generation winemaker Tony Peterson worked as an apprentice in his father’s winery for years before opening Contessa and strives to combine old-world charm and traditional techniques with modern amenities.

Renowned for bold, big reds and crisp whites, Contessa crafts two sweet fruit wines, Blueberry and Cherry, as well as Dolce Vita, a sweet red with Concord attributes — a favorite for those who prefer their red wines without the bite of tannins.

Contessa’s tasting room, located in the fertile hills of Coloma, boasts a European-style terrace and sweeping orchard vistas. You’ll want to try everything that this premier Michigan winery has to offer while soaking in unmatched views of Southwest Michigan.

Dablon Vineyards Winery & Tasting Room

You can’t talk about great Michigan wine without bringing up Dablon Vineyards. This award-winning winery grows and harvests 17 varieties, crafting over 30 estate wines from these grapes.

Celebrated for using traditional winemaking methods, such as hand-planting each vine and hand-nurturing grapes, Dablon crafts a plethora of deliciously dry red and white varietals, including a Tempranillo, a Tannat, and an Unoaked Chardonnay.

Prefer your wines on the sweeter side? Dablon has you covered. They also produce a Sweet Riesling, Moscato, and Music Box Matinee Red, replete with notes of strawberry jam, boysenberry, and pink pepper.

Don’t miss Dablon’s 21+ tasting room in the heart of Baroda!

Domaine Berrien Cellars

As you might expect, Domaine Berrien is located in Berrien Springs and is best known for an array of dry reds and Rhone varietals, including Syrah, Marsanne, and Viognier. Domaine Berrien is also one of the few wineries in the state to produce a Lemberger, often called the Pinot Noir of Eastern Europe.

Since 2001, Domaine Berrien has focused on boutique, handcrafted wines and takes a minimalist approach to let each grape express itself in a varietally accurate manner.

Visit their tasting room on East Lemon Creek Road, and enjoy an outdoor seating area, as well as locally-made cheeses, chocolates, and artisan sausages!

Filklins Vineyards

One of the newest family-owned vineyards and wineries in Southwest Michigan, Filkins Vineyards in Coloma, continues the story of the beloved Karma Vista Vineyards. Since their first winery visit on their honeymoon in California, Zach and Lindsay Filkins dreamed of owning a winery. They were thrilled when the opportunity came to take the torch from Karma Vista owners Joe and Sue Herman.

Gaze across the vineyards from the hilltop winery and tasting room — the vista is beautiful all four seasons. The red and white wines are exceptional, and the charcuterie is a delectable pairing. Filkins’ warm hospitality makes it a perfect place for couples, family, or friends to come together. They welcome large groups and tour buses. Bring your dog, too.

Free Run Cellars

One of Michigan’s most unique winemakers, Free Run is also located in Berrien Springs and boasts single-vineyard production and small-batch wines created with innovative winemaking techniques.

Free Run’s laid-back, hip tasting room boasts live music on Sundays, a European dinner series, and, of course, the chance to taste memorable wines. Don’t miss Free Run’s 2018 Pinot Noir, one of the smoothest Pinots you’ll find at any price point. Their Cabernet Franc, Rosé, and Sauvignon Blanc are also noteworthy and delicious.

Golden Muse Winery & Gallery

One of the newer wineries to open in Southwest Michigan, Golden Muse is a woman-owned space. Visitors are transported into the Golden Age of Paris the moment they walk through the doors. Enjoy a free-spirited environment celebrating wine, art, and all forms of decadence! This Parisian experience is a lovely surprise in Southwest Michigan. 

Gravity

At every corner, Gravity bucks convention. Located in Baroda with an additional tasting room in South Haven, Gravity defines itself as a “modern, edgy winery,” and strives to demystify wine by providing each guest personal time with a tasting consultant.

These knowledgeable wine professionals will walk you through Gravity’s catalog, including light, accessible reds such as Equation — a Bordeaux-style blend, unique wines such as a bubbly Pinot Noir Rosé, and sweet wines such as their Chocolate Cherry Dessert.

For those who don’t drink wine or are looking for other options, Gravity offers a Green Apple Cider as well as R.A.D. (Really Awesome Drinks). These fruity, fun sparkling-wine-based beverages come in a variety of flavors.

Hickory Creek Winery

Spanning the gap between traditional and approachable, Hickory Creek Winery does everything by hand. “We put our hearts and souls into every bottle,” says owner and winemaker Adam McBride.

Specializing in small batches, Hickory Creek offers a lineup of unique stalwarts such as a Gentil Rosé, a Honeycrisp Apple Wine, and a Blaufränkisch, as well as more traditional varietals, such as an outstanding Dry Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Be sure to check out Hickory Creek’s large seating area, fire pits, and picnic area outdoors, as well as an indoor tasting bar, next time you’re in Buchanan!

Lake Michigan Vintners

Lake Michigan Vintners stand for all things local. They buy from local growers, press fruit in-house, and craft products that exemplify the best that Michigan wine has to offer. They are also home to the Midwest’s first commercial teaching winery, providing students with hands-on experience.

Their tasting room, located on the campus of Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, lets you taste the fruits of their labor, literally. Lake Michigan Vintners’ wines trend towards traditional varietals, such as Pinot Gris, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, but when you visit, don’t miss the chance to try their exquisite Blaufränkish, as well.

Stop by Lake Michigan Vintners and taste the future of Michigan winemaking!

Lazy Ballerina Winery

Lazy Ballerina, a winery owned by women, has been producing high-quality Michigan wines since 2015. They have tasting rooms located in St. Joseph and offer a wide range of reds, whites, and blushes. Recently, they have also started producing Spiced Rum, expanding their product line to include spirits.

Standout selections include Cran Jeté, an 18% ABV cranberry wine, Barrel Rouge Rye, a Cabernet Franc aged in Journeyman Rye barrels, and Cherry Kissed Red, an enchanting blend of Lazy Ballerina’s Merlot and Cherry wines.

As if these award-winning wines weren’t enough reason to visit, Lazy Ballerina hosts exciting events, like earring workshops, metal stamping workshops, and artisan pop-up markets!

Lehman’s Farmhouse / Lehman’s Orchard

Looking for luscious, sweet fruit wines? Look no further than Lehman’s. This winery/orchard/brewery/distillery, renowned for its sustainable agriculture practices, offers no fewer than twelve fruit wines, including Black Currant, Pure Raspberry, Pure Plum, and Honeycrisp Apple.

Fans of traditional varietals will also enjoy Lehman’s Petite Syrah, Traminette, and Sauvignon Blanc, among others. In addition, Lehman’s produces ciders, meads, beers, whiskey, gin, and more, and its taproom serves a variety of pizzas, sandwiches, and salads.

Lehman’s Farmhouse Store and Taproom are located in downtown Buchanan, and its orchard is located in Niles.

Lemon Creek Winery

Few Michigan wineries produce timeless iterations of classic varietals better than Berrien Springs’ Lemon Creek Winery. From Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer to Shiraz and Petit Verdot, Lemon Creek’s wines are effortlessly exquisite.

In true Michigan winery fashion, Lemon Creek also crafts a few fruit-forward wines, including a Raspberry Spumante, Peach Spumante, and a Cherry Wine.

With locations in Berrien Springs and Grand Haven, Lemon Creek’s vintages are never too far away from any part of Southwest Michigan. The winery often hosts art and music events at its tasting rooms, as well, so check their calendar frequently!

Moonrise

The first winery to open in Bainbridge Township, Moonrise, a family operation owned by Tom and Karen Zabadal, crafts small-batch wines with love, passion, and patience.

Moonrise is unafraid to introduce new varietals to the Michigan wine market, such as its take on a Grüner Veltliner, the leading white wine in its native Austria.

Visit Moonrise’s tasting room in Watervliet, and be sure to try the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet Franc Rosé, and Amore, a semi-dry white. Looking for something sweeter? Enjoy Concord Jack, made from 100% Concord grapes, as well as Moonrise’s easy-drinking sangria.

Red Top Winery

Baroda’s Red Top Winery isn’t afraid to get a little boozy with its Spirit Series — three different varietals aged in liquor barrels. Rum Barrel White, El Vino Tequila Barrel White , and Bourbon Barrel Cab Franc provide an incredibly tasty juxtaposition between spirit and grape.

Headed to the beach? Grab a bottle of Red Top’s Caribbean Twist. Replete with coconut and pineapple, this sparkling wine is perfect for those summer afternoons at Silver Beach. In addition, Red Top also crafts a slew of tasty ciders! Visit their tasting room and prepare to be impressed.

Round Barn Winery

Round Barn does it all. From wine to beer to spirits, this Southwest Michigan mainstay boasts three locations: a brewery & public house and estate in Baroda, and a tasting room in Union Pier.

Must-try Round Barn wines include American Pinot Noir, Edel Doux, and Vineyard Tears, a succulent blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling that will leave your taste buds anything but sad.

Best known for the namesake red barn at its Estate location, Round Barn hosts a plethora of live music and other events. If you haven’t already, put a visit to this award-winning winery on your bucket list.

St. Julian Winery

It’s virtually impossible to live in Southwest Michigan without being aware of St. Julian’s existence. It’s the most-awarded winery in Michigan for a reason: it has been family-owned and operated for over a century, and its commitment to quality is unwavering. St. Julian’s portfolio contains over 100 products. From spirits to ciders to countless varietals, these Michigan wine giants do it all.

Don’t know where to start? Try the fruit-forward Michigan Awesome Red Blend, a versatile medium-bodied red, or the Social Butterfly Sweet Rosé. Feeling adventurous? Pack yourself a bottle of PB&J for lunch, a sweet red that tastes like the iconic sandwich.

With tasting rooms and retail stores in Paw Paw, Frankenmuth, Union Pier, and Dundee, in addition to Detroit and Rockford, chances are there’s a St. Julian wine tasting in your near future. You might as well stop by while you’re already in Southwest Michigan!

Tabor Hill Winery

Within Michigan wine circles, the name Tabor Hill is synonymous with upscale luxury. From its array of award-winning vintages to the high-end dining experience its Buchanan restaurant provides, Tabor Hill never ceases to impress and is consistently ranked as one of Southwest Michigan’s top wineries.

The important part, of course, is the wine, and Tabor Hill’s offerings don’t disappoint. From dry whites like Albariño and Pinot Blanc to big, bold reds such as Meritage and Cabernet Sauvignon, Tabor Hill nails the standards. For those with sweeter palates, fruit wines such as Blueberry Franc, Cherryscato, and Cranberry are also available.

Celebrate your special occasion with a bubbly bottle of Grand Mark in one of Tabor Hill’s indoor event spaces or its Estate Tent! You can also swing by their Bridgman tasting room.

Vineyard 2121

Husband-and-wife-owned Vineyard 2121 has provided world-class wines and a relaxing getaway destination since opening its doors in 2015.

Don’t be fooled by this winery’s relative youth. Vineyard 2121 produces some of Michigan’s top wine, like Miss Fortune Red Blend — which effortlessly combines Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc with Merlot and Chambourcin into an approachable, yet assertive, blend that is aged in French oak for two years.

For something completely different, indulge in a bottle of Peach Passion Spumante. Or, try a Wine Slushie in flavors like Cherry or Mango Piña Colada in a frozen to-go pouch, perfect for those toasty Michigan summer days!

Grab a seat on Vineyard 2121’s patio overlooking a 14-acre vineyard, and enjoy the bevy of exquisite wines that this winery has to offer!

White Pine Winery

Last but certainly not least, White Pine Winery crafts impeccable iterations of traditional varietals. Owner David P. Miller, a South Bend native, honed his craft during a lengthy tenure at St. Julian, and White Pine was birthed from his years of experience.

Perhaps best known for its incomparable Ice Wine, a classic dessert wine made from naturally vineyard-frozen grapes, White Pine also produces an award-winning Cabernet Franc and a tasty Traminette, among others.

White Pine’s tasting room is located in the heart of charming downtown St. Joseph. Stop in, order a flight, and catch one of their frequent events!

Start visiting our wineries today

Southwest Michigan’s wineries offer incredible wines as well as unforgettable experiences. Each winemaker combines passion and flavor with tradition and creativity. Don’t take our word for it, though: we invite you to visit every winery and discover the magic of Southwest Michigan wine. If you are here between Labor Day weekend and Memorial, make sure to check in along the Makers Trail while you’re at it!

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

Discover Spring Hiking in Southwest Michigan!

southwest michigan trial challenge

As winter gradually loosens its grip and nature awakens with renewed vigor, Southwest Michigan beckons outdoor enthusiasts to explore its stunning landscapes through invigorating hikes. With the arrival of spring, the region bursts into life. From magnificent Lake Michigan dunes to lush forests, Southwest Michigan promises unforgettable journeys for adventurers of all levels.

Let’s delve into the best hiking locations, sights to see, and essential tips for making the most of your spring hiking experience. Adventure awaits in this charming corner of the Great Lakes State.

FIND ENCHANTING SIGHTS

Spring hiking in Southwest Michigan promises an array of captivating sights. From vibrant wildflowers carpeting the forest floor to migratory birds soaring overhead, every step offers a beautiful encounter with nature. Keep an eye out for trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits, morel mushrooms, dogwood, and redbud blossoms. Listen for the trills and calls of redwing blackbirds, robins, warblers, seagulls, and spring peeper frogs as they herald the arrival of spring. Visit a railroad garden or hunt for sculptures.

The rhythmic lapping of waves against sandy beaches along the lakeshore provides a soothing soundtrack to accompany your hike. Challenge yourself and your hiking partners to a rigorous climb up giant dunes where you can see the incredible beauty of Lake Michigan for miles. Comb the shore for rocks, fossils, driftwood, and beach glass. Always make time to stay and watch a breathtaking sunset paint the sky in hues of gold and pink, casting a spell of enchantment over the landscape. It’s magical.

young family walking in the dunes male female child

EXPLORE 10 SCENIC TRAILS

WARREN DUNES STATE PARK | SAWYER

Located along Lake Michigan’s southeastern shore, Warren Dunes State Park boasts some of the region’s highest dunes, dense woodlands, and panoramic Lake Michigan views. Trails wind through diverse ecosystems, offering insights into the ecological processes shaping the dunes. This state park is also one of Southwest Michigan’s favorite places to bring your leashed dog on marked trails and a designated beach.

WARREN WOODS STATE PARK | THREE OAKS

Warren Woods State Park transforms into a wonderland each spring. It offers the unique opportunity to hike through Michigan’s last virgin beech-maple forest. April and May are the best months to see trilliums blanket the forest floor and to watch for migratory birds nesting in the tall trees. This wooded state park is an ideal spot for wildlife photography.

GRAND MERE STATE PARK | STEVENSVILLE

With its dunes, beaches, and quiet woodlands, Grand Mere State Park is a spring haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Lupines, violets, and wild geraniums cover the landscape. The park is also on an ancient migratory bird route so expect to see raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds as they wing their way north.

HARBOR SHORES TRAILS | BENTON HARBOR

Harbor Shores Nature & Fitness Trail System offers 12 miles of urban hiking fun. The paved trails take you through the Harbor Shores Golf Course, along the Paw Paw River, Ox Creek, and the St. Joseph River, across wetlands, and up the dunes for a mesmerizing view of Lake Michigan and the historic North Pier Lighthouse.

The trail system’s six loops offer food and beverage destinations along the way and easy access to the Benton Harbor Arts District. If you hope to spot wildlife along the trails, the best times are in the early morning and evening.

SARETT NATURE CENTER | BENTON HARBOR

This wonderful nature center has eight miles of trails meandering through its 1000 acres. Hike along the Paw Paw River bluffs for great views of the river valley below. Follow the boardwalks to observation platforms in the floodplain to see spring awakening in the wetlands. Watch for wildlife emerging from their habitats in the wet forests, cattail marshes, shrub carrs, and even a unique alkaline wetland called a fen. Sign up for guided birdwatching hikes to spot some of the over 300 bird species that call this preserve home. See it all without getting your feet wet!

LOVE CREEK COUNTY PARK | BERRIEN CENTER

Love Creek County Park features six miles of hiking trails that take you through a variety of habitats, including a mature beech-maple forest with spectacular spring wildflowers. Watch for white-tailed deer and their fawns, and bring binoculars and a bird guidebook or phone app to identify the numerous birds that flock to this 200-acre natural area.

MADELINE BERTRAND COUNTY PARK | NILES

This picturesque park is on the east bank of the St. Joseph River. Its mile-long loop trail goes through pine and oak forests to a river bluff observation tower. You can also walk playing the 18-hole disc golf course.

GALIEN RIVER COUNTY PARK | NEW BUFFALO

The Galien River County Park gets high ratings from foot and wheelchair hikers. First, choose between hiking on two wheelchair-accessible boardwalks or a non-ADA-approved dirt and gravel trail.

The 300-ft. canopy walkway is a thrill for all ages. The ADA-accessible boardwalk takes you above the treetops to a 60-ft.-high marsh overlook. Or hike a 600-ft.-long boardwalk to a fishing platform where you can catch steelhead, rock bass, largemouth bass, and freshwater drum.

From either boardwalk, you can spot turtles, waterfowl, deer, and other marshland animals. Your best time to see wildlife is early morning and early evening.

The third trail is a 1.4-mile loop through the woods, edged by steep ravines, to the wetlands and river. It is not ADA-accessible.

FERNWOOD BOTANICAL GARDEN AND NATURE PRESERVE | NILES

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve is one of Southwest Michigan’s most treasured river hikes. It boasts meticulously curated gardens, wildflower-strewn woodlands, a pond, a water mill, a railroad garden, and St. Joseph River views. Spring blooms include daffodils, tulips, fragrant herbs, and wild cherry blossoms. Buzzing bees and flitting butterflies contribute to the ever-changing spring views.

ROSS COASTAL PLAIN MARSH PRESERVE | COVERT

A local favorite, Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve has three of the highest quality coastal plain marshes in Michigan, a rare find in the Great Lakes region. As you explore more than five miles of trails, you are likely to encounter reptiles and amphibians around the coastal plain marshes and small ponds. Watch for elusive mammals such as red fox, coyote, and many of the 100 bird species known to nest in the preserve’s shrubs and trees.

trails challenge model photoshoot sarett

DO THE TRAILS CHALLENGE. WIN REWARDS.

Southwest Michigan has launched a new challenge to get you to lace up your boots and hit our gorgeous trails this spring. Download the Visit Southwest Michigan app to get started and play. Then visit five different trails in Southwest Michigan. Take a selfie by the trailhead and upload it to the app. The first 100 people to complete the challenge will earn prizes. Get all the Trails Challenge details here – then have fun!

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR A MEMORABLE HIKING EXPERIENCE

WHAT TO WEAR AND BRING

Check the weather forecast and dress in layers. Pack essentials such as water, snacks, sunscreen, a cell phone, a basic first aid kit, a compass or GPS device, and a map from the trailhead or a copy of the Southwest Michigan Trail Guide.

BE AWARE OF TRAIL CONDITIONS

Spring weather can bring unpredictable conditions such as mud, snowmelt, and swollen streams. Check trail conditions beforehand and be prepared for any obstacles you may encounter along the way.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM TICKS

Springtime is prime tick season, so take precautions to protect yourself from tick bites. They like shady, moist areas. Wear long sleeves and pants and use insect repellent containing DEET.

Stay on paved or well-groomed trails. Avoid contact with high grass, brush, and any ground that is covered with fallen leaves. Perform regular tick checks during and after your hike and remove them promptly if you find any on you, your children, or pets. For more advice, download this helpful guide.

RESPECT NATURE

Stick to designated trails to protect fragile ecosystems. Refrain from disturbing wildlife, especially spring babies. Leave no trace behind and dispose of trash and pet waste responsibly.

man walking through apple blossoms in springtime

RELAX AFTER A DAY OF HIKING

After exploring one or more scenic trails, extend your stay. Discover the region’s arts and craft-beverage scene. Indulge in the culinary delights of local restaurants, savoring farm-to-table cuisine made with local, seasonal produce, delicious fish and meats, and mouthwatering artisanal desserts. Find the latest spring fashions and home decor in quaint downtowns and boutique shops. Take a sweetly scented blossomtime tour through our orchards and vineyards.

Stay over at one of our amenity-filled hotels with affordable spring rates. You will awaken relaxed and rejuvenated for more outdoor adventures tomorrow.

Book Your Stay

A Travel Team Guide to Fun Activities in Southwest Michigan

Family on the dunes in grand mere state park

Are you getting ready to participate in an exciting sport or robotics tournament in Southwest Michigan? Welcome!

Here’s a guide to what our competition-loving region has to offer.

HOW TO ENTERTAIN RESTLESS CHILDREN BETWEEN GAMES

Watching tournament action all weekend can be boring for children who come along for the trip. Here are some places you can give them a break.

Lincoln Township Park Splash Pad

SILVER BEACH CAROUSEL | ST. JOSEPH

Choose your favorite hand-carved animal figure or chariot on the Silver Beach Carousel and go for a spin around the Carousel House. There is an assortment of family-friendly activities, including interactive exhibits, a well-stocked refreshment stand and gift shop, and free games that will delight toddlers to grandparents. It rightfully boasts of being the happiest place in Southwest Michigan!

CURIOUS KIDS’ MUSEUM & DISCOVERY ZONE | ST. JOSEPH

You can fill an hour or more at these hands-on learning centers geared toward toddlers to pre-teens. The children’s museum is on the bluff in downtown St. Joseph, and the Discovery Zone is below the bluff in the Silver Beach Center. The biggest challenge will be pulling your kids away from all the interactive fun.

WHIRLPOOL COMPASS FOUNTAIN & NEARBY BEACHES | ST. JOSEPH

Directly across the road from the Silver Beach Center is the FREE Whirlpool Compass Fountain, open from May to early September. The 200 ft. diameter fountain sprays water 30+ ft. in the air and has water cannons that run every 15 minutes. More water fun is available at three St. Joseph beaches — Silver BeachLions Park Beach and Tiscornia Park Beach. There are also a variety of other family-friendly parks in the area, even one with a skate park.

THE LITTLE THINGS PLAY CAFE | ST. JOSEPH

If you’re looking for a place where your restless toddler can play while you stay caffeinated — leave the game and go to The Little Things Play Cafe. This safe indoor play space includes wooden climbing structures and centers that nurture imagination. If other parents of young children are on your team, invite them to come with you to sip locally sourced-coffee and chat while your kids play close by.

LINCOLN TOWNSHIP COMMUNITY CENTER PARK SPLASH PAD | STEVENSVILLE

This is Southwest Michigan’s newest splash pad. It is 1,854 sq. ft. and includes zones for toddlers, families, and older kids. Water blasters, a frog sprinkler, and two interactive spraying flowers keep children squealing with unabashed delight. Check out these other Southwest Michigan splash pads near your tournament.

HIDDEN POINTE | BENTON HARBOR

Each of your children will find a fun activity they will love to do at Hidden Pointe. There is an exciting 18-hole miniature golf course, Eddie Cole’s Jumpshot Basketball, batting cages, arcades, and go-karts on a unique 100-foot banked track. They also have a large event venue that is ideal for team parties.

SPRAGUE’S FAMILY FUN FARM | DOWAGIAC

If your tournament is near Dowagiac, Sprague’s Family Fun Farm is the place to bring your restless fans from July to October. Show your kids where their fruits and vegetables come from and let them taste the just-picked flavor difference. In the fall there are hayrides, one of the area’s most amazing corn mazes, a big pumpkin patch, and lots of on-the-farm fun.

girls team huddle sports softball baseball youth sports

WHERE TO FEED YOUR TEAM AND FAMILIES

Even the smallest team players can have voracious appetites after a day of tournament action. Many Southwest Michigan restaurants and caterers can feed your group with ease. Several other popular family restaurants around St. Joseph can host your group with advance notice. They include Silver Beach Pizza,  Clementine’s TooThe BuckAzul TequilaMark III Grille & Bar, and Round Barn Brewery & Public House.

Your team and families will especially have fun at these three places that combine good times with delicious food.

  • Nardo’s Pizza in downtown St. Joseph has spacious seating within eyesight of an arcade room. Their five-star-rated pizzas are the only way to entice your pinball wizards to stop playing.
  • Peat’s Cider Social in Stevensville has bowling lanes, an arcade room, popular local food trucks Friday through Sunday, plus beverages for the kids and hard ciders and meads for the adults.
  • Staymaker at Journeyman Distillery gets high marks for serving healthy options for a range of dietary needs and following earth-friendly food practices. Another stand-out reason to come is Welter’s Folly, an 18-hole putting green considered one of the 10 largest in the world. It’s fun for the whole team, but coaches and team parents especially enjoy playing while sipping Journeyman’s renowned distilled spirits.

TOP REASONS TO EXTEND YOUR STAY IN SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

There are so many fun things to see and do in Southwest Michigan as a team or as a family. Plan to come a day or two early or extend your stay after the tournament ends. Besides going to the suggestions above, these activities bring you closer together as a team and family.

Two people exploring Bear Cave.

FUN PLACES TO EXPLORE

North Pier Lighthouses & South Pier | St. Joseph

Southwest Michigan’s two most iconic lighthouses are on the North Pier, accessible from Tiscornia Park. There is the black and white outer lighthouse and the red and white inner lighthouse. Both are over 100 years old and are no longer in active service.

When Lake Michigan is calm you can walk out the pier to see both lights up close. Self-guided and guided tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend.

You can reach the South Pier from Silver Beach County Park. Both piers are popular places to fish, watch Great Lake freighters and private boats, and see spectacular sunsets. In the winter, when conditions are just right, the piers, lighthouses, and catwalks become majestic, jaw-dropping beautiful ice formations. It’s unforgettable.

Bear Cave | Buchanan

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 offers a rare adventure.

Eden Springs Park | Benton Harbor

Experience the charm of yesteryear with miniature train rides at Eden Springs Park! Restored by dedicated volunteers, these original House of David steam and gasoline engines pull passenger cars through the park’s historic landscape. Eden Springs is open on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer and for special event rides on weekends leading up to Halloween and Christmas.

Lake Arvesta Farms | South Haven

Embark on an outdoor adventure at Lake Arvesta Farms! Swim, challenge each other on the floating obstacle course, and fly down the water slides, kayak, and paddle board. Throughout the year, play outdoor or indoor pickleball on an 18-hole disc golf course. This is an especially fun place to bring school-aged kids and teens.

Michigan Flywheelers Museum | South Haven

One of the easiest places to go back in time is the Michigan Flywheelers Museum. This is a great place to introduce your kids to the history of rural America. See vintage farm equipment and take a self-guided tour through Olde Town.

group kayaking down river during summer family kayak

FUN THINGS TO DO

Beach Day at Warren Dunes State Park

Soak up the sun in Sawyer at one of Michigan’s most popular beaches. Race down giant dunes, swim, build sandcastles, hike, or play beach volleyball. The dunes are a great workout if you sandboard in the warm months and snowboard in winter. If you bring your team’s four-legged mascot, there’s a dog beach for romping on the sand and in the water.

Kayak or paddle board scenic rivers and Lake Michigan

One of the most memorable and fun outings is group paddles on Southwest Michigan rivers, inland lakes, and Lake Michigan. Hook up with one of the rental services in St. Joseph, New Buffalo, Dowagiac, and South Haven. Bring your kayaks or SUPs and expand your water trail options.

Hike dozens of trails 

It’s easy to find a hiking trail near your lodgings. Hike through woods, orchards, and vineyards, over bogs and wetlands, through prairies, across beaches, tree-top high boardwalks, and along scenic lakeshores and rivers.

Challenge each other at fun centers

Besides Hidden Pointe listed above, the St. Joseph area is home to two other popular family fun centers. Bring the team or your family to:

  • Slackers Family Fun Center in Stevensville is open seven days a week and will keep your kids hopping between laser tag, laser maze, bounce houses, arcade video games, pool tables, mining and so much more.
  • Captain Mike’s Fun Park in Bridgman is your summer destination for go-karts, junior go-karts, 18-hole miniature golf, bumper cars, bumper boats, water cannons, jump shot basketball, water wars, batting cages, an arcade room, and “The Captain’s Galley” Snack Bar!

Visit a farm or market

Southwest Michigan is renowned for its century-old family farms and markets where you can handpick in-season strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples, pumpkins, and much more. Or bring home ready-picked favorites, plus jams, pies, salsas, and more from their markets. Several offer weekend harvest events in the fall with hayrides, games, and corn mazes.

A fun side trip is to tour Shuler Dairy Farm in Baroda on Tuesday through Sunday afternoons. Watch them robotically milk the cows, see calves and a bull, learn more about innovative farming technology, and, perhaps best of all, eat fresh ice cream.

Go shopping in downtown St. Joseph

This pedestrian-friendly, lake resort downtown has free nearby parking and sidewalks. This makes it easy to explore their blocks of toy and book stores, ice cream and candy shops, boutiques, trendy clothing stores, home decor shops, restaurants, craft wine and beer tasting rooms and so much more.

Sail a tall ship on Lake Michigan 

In so many ways, this is the ultimate adventure. Hop aboard the replica tall ship Friends Good Will in South Haven. Choose for day sails, adventure sails, and sunset sails. Or see the Big Lake from St. Joseph’s Tall Ship MJ. This vintage wooden schooner is available for daily sailing excursions, private events, and special group programs.

Play outside in winter

If you are in Southwest Michigan for a winter sporting tournament, there’s plenty of fun to enjoy during your extended stay. Several of our parks offer snowshoeing, fat tire biking, and cross-country skiing. Go ice skating or play ice bumper cars indoors at The Garden Ice Arena (open year-round) or skate outdoors at these area rinks. Skate rentals and concessions are available at both.

Downhill skiers and snowboarders can get thrills at Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area in Jones. While it has challenging slopes for intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders, it is best known for its beginner lessons and experiences.

Before you finalize your plans, check out these other winter bucket list ideas.

Let us help you plan your stay

We’d like to help make some of your travel team’s best memories in Southwest Michigan. Please give us the details of your upcoming event for your group of 10 or more. We will reach out to area hotels, restaurants, entertainment sites, and services, then provide you with choices that will enhance your plans and fit your budget.

Plan your stay

St. Joseph Winter Beer Fest

group of people at a winter beer festival in st. joseph michigan

With the St. Joseph Winter Beer Fest happening soon (Sat. January 27, 2024 ), I thought I would share some tips on how to have the most fun at the event.

 

  • The first and most important thing to consider for the event is, how are you getting home. Be sure to plan, designate a driver who will not drink alcohol, have a friend or family member come to pick you up, or hire someone to get you home safely. If you are traveling from out of town, there are many great lodging options nearby.
  • Learn about the breweries and their beers before the event. Many of the breweries at this event are from Southwest Michigan and they all have unique beers and brewing techniques. To learn about the breweries in our area visit the Makers Trail website.
  • Dress for warmth and comfort. Wear comfortable shoes, and a warm jacket, and bring a hat and gloves if needed.
  • Take notes about the beers you try. This way you will be able to remember which beers you enjoyed after the event is over.
  • Be sure to eat a meal before going and do not pre-drink. Starting with an empty stomach will lead to a short and unpleasant day at the event.
  • Eat! Many people who attend beer festivals wear a string of pretzels, cheese, and meat sticks to snack on. Pretzels can also help refresh your palate between beers. There are also plenty of restaurants downtown to stop in for lunch.
group of people at a winter beer festival in st. joseph Michigan
Group of people at a winter beer festival in st. joseph Michigan
  • Be sure to drink water. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Pace yourself. Take time to taste and enjoy the beer and know your limits. It’s great to sample and taste new flavors but be cautious about how much you are drinking. Please don’t overdo it.
  • Keep an open mind and try new breweries and kinds of beer. It is worthwhile to sample beers you generally do not like; you might be surprised by how different similar-sounding beers can be when made by different breweries. If you don’t like the taste, you don’t have to finish it, try something else.
group of people at a winter beer festival in st. joseph michigan
Group of people at a winter beer festival in sSt joseph Michigan

Enjoy the time with friends and make new friends. Discuss the beers and the breweries, learn from others, and ask questions.

  • Don’t rush home. . . Relax and enjoy the local shops, restaurants, and coffee before leaving.

These are good tips to keep in mind for the other upcoming beer, wine, and spirits events coming up, as well.

 

Escape the Chaos and Embrace Tranquility with a Southwest Michigan Staycation

Escape the ordinary and rediscover the beauty of your backyard with a Southwestern Michigan winter staycation.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to overlook the tranquil treasures that lie just beyond our doorsteps. A rejuvenating break doesn’t have to involve venturing far and wide; sometimes, all it takes is a change of perspective and a willingness to embrace the wonders closer to home.

Thousands flock to Southwest Michigan each year for a taste of its vibrant charm. But why should that experience be reserved for visitors? As locals, we often miss out on the very gems that draw travelers from across the globe.

Embark on a refreshing escape without leaving your backyard. Here’s your guide to a Southwestern Michigan winter staycation filled with relaxation, adventure, and rediscovery.

What is a staycation?

A staycation isn’t just a trendy term; it’s a gateway to self-indulgence and a chance to savor the simple pleasures of home—all without the hefty price tag of a traditional vacation. Embrace this budget-friendly escape and discover the joy of rejuvenation within your neighborhood.

St. Joseph hotel

Escape the Chaos and Embrace Tranquility with a Southwest Michigan Staycation

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, finding moments of true relaxation at home can be a challenge. The kitchen table doubles as a makeshift desk, the kids clamor for outdoor adventures after school, and the looming pile of cleaning chores casts a shadow over any attempt at respite. Sometimes, the allure of a rejuvenating escape far outweighs the comforts of home.

Southwest Michigan beckons with its tranquil havens, where someone else takes care of the bed-making and bathroom cleaning, allowing you to unwind and reconnect with yourself. No need to endure the tiresome drive or the incessant chorus of “Are we there yet?” echoing from the backseat.

The charm of Southwest Michigan remains timeless, but our hotel options have evolved to match the modern traveler’s needs. Several newer hotels have graced the region, many of which pamper guests with complimentary breakfast. For families seeking extra space, connected suites offer a haven for both parents and children, ensuring peaceful nights and harmonious days.

Depending on your chosen retreat, you’ll enjoy an array of amenities designed to enhance your stay. Onsite restaurants offer culinary delights, while stunning vistas provide a backdrop for tranquil moments. Art galleries stimulate the mind, while spas soothe the body. For those seeking adventure, trails beckon for exploration, and bike rentals await.

Let someone else handle the mundane tasks while you indulge in rejuvenation and rediscovery. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.

Book your stay now!

St Joseph Events

Hotels with Swimming pools

Since it’s too cold to take a dip in Lake Michigan, you and your kids can always make a splash in a hotel pool!

The following hotels in Stevensville/ Benton Harbor/ St. joseph that have onsite pools:

  • Best Western
  • Comfort Suites – Benton Harbor
  • Comfort Suites – Stevensville
  • Country Inn & Suites
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites
  • Hampton Inn & Suites – Benton Harbor
  • Hilton Garden Inn – Benton Harbor/ St. Joseph
  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – St. Joseph
  • Inn at Harbor Shores
  • SpringHill Suites
  • Super 8
  • SureStay Plus by Best Western
  • tru by Hilton

Grab a bite to eat

Speaking of food, take a breather from your kitchen on this staycation. Try exploring the many food establishments at your disposal in our area. There is a cuisine for everyone, including barbecue, classic American eats, seafood, and farm-to-table meals. If you have a staple favorite nearby, indulge! Just make sure to jump out of your comfort zone and go somewhere new, too. Not to overwhelm you, but you can’t go wrong with the food here. Here are a wealth of options.

Several of our restaurants have igloos and warm outdoor seating options, so you can still enjoy the fresh air and a view, too.

 

Staycation ideas for the family

Sometimes it’s hard to find something everyone will like. Not here! There is plenty of room to roam and plenty to do across it.

Play in the snow outside

You can build snow castles at the beaches, fat tire bike several trails, watch the stars at Dr. T.K. Lawless International Dark Sky Park, run on the snowy dunes, or hike — and that’s just the start of it. Explore the fresh-air hotspots with our trail guides and park guide. When you’re ready for something extreme, stop by Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area to hit the slopes. Or race down the 400-foot, icy tubing lanes under the night sky at Five Pines.

Explore our history and culture

If outdoor recreation isn’t your thing, no worries. Your local corner of the mitten has several tours and attractions for history buffs and curious souls. ARS Gallery & Culture Center in the Benton Harbor Arts District is just one place of many where you can find curated gallery exhibits showcasing national and regional talent, plus fun classes. The Arts District is also home to delicious restaurants, The Livery Brewery, entertainment, sculptures, and murals. Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph offers rotating galleries, sculpture tours of the area, plus classes and take-home art kits for you and your children.

The History Center in Berrien Springs can give you some background information you might not know about the area you live in. It is home to the 1839 county courthouse, the oldest of its kind in Michigan! Speaking of history, stop down by the Silver Beach Carousel. Here, you’ll find artifacts from Silver Beach Amusement Park. This isn’t the original carousel, but this decade-old version is magnificent and features replicas of six of the horses from the 1910 original. The hardest thing is picking which of the 48 hand-carved figures and two chariots (one is wheelchair accessible) to ride while listening to the band organ play the happiest music in Southwest Michigan.

Other local favorites to take the kiddos include Curious Kids’ Museum Discovery Zone and Eden Springs Park with its December holiday train rides.

Perhaps you plan to see a play, give one of these art classes a crack, or visit a museum. While you’re at it, play some Creative Connections. Visiting any of the participating places will earn you a stamp. Read more about the prizes for the levels at the link above.

 

Staycation ideas for adults and couples

Are you going on a solo staycation? Getting some time away with your significant other or some close friends? Hit the Makers Trail and visit some of the 30-plus local wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries. You can also download a free Makers Trail passport online to gather a few stamps from September to April each year. Collect 10 stamps by visiting 10 makers and you’ll win $15 toward any Makers Trail destination. Ten more stamps get you a Makers Trail t-shirt and 30 earns you a Makers Trail hoodie. To learn more and plan your route, visit the website above.

Makers Trail Flight

Start planning your perfect staycation

Leave the planning to us! Enjoy this detailed Culture and Romance Tour through Southwest Michigan. If you still need some ideas while planning your staycation, check out our itinerary page! We have 12 itineraries that are geared towards specific plans. Whether you want to bring along your dog, focus just on food or simply get some fresh air the whole time, we have an itinerary for you.

What are you waiting for? Get planning!