Kid-Friendly Vacation in Upper Peninsula Michigan
Headed to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with the family? Be sure to check out these family-friendly sights while you are there. Your children will love these Upper Peninsula attractions!
AmericInn Wetmore (Munising)
Do your children love swimming in the hotel pools? Mine, too! And, they especially loved the pool area at this AmericInn hotel on the outskirts of Munising.
Why did they love it so much? Because it has waterslides! Not only does it have a large 110-foot waterslide for your adventurous older children, but it also features a wading pool area with a darling little froggy slide.
And, BONUS, there is a nice big hot tub for the parents to relax in as they watch their children swim and play.
Everyone loves waterfalls, right? Children especially enjoy roadside ones because it doesn’t require any walking or hiking. And parents enjoy them because they don’t have to listen to children whine about hiking.
Lucky for us, there are a ton of roadside waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula. Two of our family’s favorite roadside waterfalls are Alger Falls and Scott Falls.
Alger Falls is located in Munising along M-28 (across from the M-94 junction). In the summer months, Alger Falls is best viewed in the evenings. We stopped there to take pictures in the morning, and the sun shined so brightly behind the falls that it almost hurt our eyes to look at the cascading water. Needless to say, our pictures did not turn the best.
Scott Falls is located on M-28 between the towns of AuTrain and Christmas. This small 10-foot waterfall is often overlooked. Many tourists assume the falls are in H.J. Rathfoot State Roadside Park; Scott Falls are actually located across the street from the roadside park.
RELATED: This was not our family’s first waterfall adventure. Read about our experience on the North Carolina Waterfall Byway.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
One of the most popular sights in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
A great way to experience the Pictured Rocks with children is to walk to the various Miners Castle viewing overlooks. From this well maintained short trail, you can get up close to an iconic rock formation as well as see some of the colorful sandstone cliff walls.
Just down the road from Miners Castle is Miners Beach. This sandy beach is also a fun area to visit with children. Take in the beautiful nautical views, watch the cruise boats and kayaks go by, skip some stones, and dip your toes into the cold waters of Lake Superior. It’s a Michigan paradise!
Visiting WITHOUT small children? A Pictured Rocks Cruise is a great way to see the pictured rocks. We choose not to go on this boat cruise tour with our small children. Although I know the tour features beautiful and interesting sights (my husband and I have enjoyed this tour in years past), we feel that it is too long for small children to sit through. We will save ourselves the money and headache by waiting a few more years to take the kids on this particular tour. However, I would highly recommend the cruise if you are there with older children (or no children).
The Munising area is rife with waterfalls, and Miners Falls is one of the area’s most impressive. This powerful 60-foot waterfall can be viewed by following a well-maintained trail to a couple of overlooks.
Before you embark on this short hike (1.2 miles round trip), be sure to grab a trail guide or print a Miners Falls trail guide (PDF) here. Along the beautiful terrain of the trail, you will find numbered markers. Look up these numbers on your trail guide to learn interesting facts. You will learn about the wildflowers and wildlife along the trail, how the ridges and surrounding “lumpy land” was formed, and other interesting facts.
RELATED: Tips on hiking with kids
Da Yooper Tourist Trap
My children are always excited to visit gift shops, and Da Yooper Tourist Trap in Ishpeming is pretty amazing as far as touristy gift shops go.
This tourist attraction features more than just the usual assortment of gift shop novelty items. It also features a wide assortment of fossils, minerals and precious stones… AND it’s a wonderland of oversized roadside attractions like Gus the world’s largest chainsaw and Ernie the world’s largest working rifle.
Additionally, there are displays and photo opportunities that will make the entire family chuckle. (Do your children find flatulence funny? Then, there is a special area of Da Yooper Tourist Trap that they are going to want to see!)
Lakenenland Sculpture Park
What a wonderful (and unusual) roadside attraction! Lakenenland is a privately-owned sculpture park where Tom Lakenen displays his scrap iron creations. It’s free to visit, open 24/7, and conveniently located right on highway M-28 just a little east of Marquette.
From dragons and UFOs to sunflowers and mermaids, the entire family will enjoy this wonderland of whimsical creations! Learn more about this interesting roadside stop in this Detroit Free Press feature.
RELATED: Love quirky roadside attractions? Check out our State-By-State Guide of United States Roadside Attractions.
Chutes and Ladders Playground
Got small children? Then, you need to stop by the Chutes and Ladders playground at Kestner Waterfront Park in Houghton, Michigan!
You’ve played the board game, right? The game features several levels on the board. You can go up levels when you come across a ladder, but there are also chutes (slides) that will take you down levels as well. Sometimes those slides drop you down a mere one or two levels. Sometimes those slides take you from the very top level all the way to the bottom.
This amazing playground works the same way. Everywhere you look, there are ladders, tunnels, inclines and slides to take you up or down the many levels of this massive wooden structure.
Some of the slides are really long – much longer than any slide I have ever been down! My two youngest children went down every single slide, and they give the Chutes and Ladders playground four thumbs up (2 children X 2 thumbs each).
RELATED ARTICLE: Amazing Playgrounds throughout the Midwest United States
Canyon Falls Roadside Park
Some Upper Peninsula roadside parks are simply a picnic table, a typical picturesque view, and a pit toilet. And, others will surprise you with something really special. Canyon Falls Roadside Park is one of the special ones.
This roadside park contains a portion of the North Country Trail (and you know we are a little obsessed with hiking the NCT). The hiking trail leads back to a gorge with a pretty impressive waterfall. Plus, the trail is child-friendly and exciting. It is about a one-mile hike on pretty level terrain in order to reach this powerful waterfall. Along the way, you will follow alongside a river, see some gentle cascades and some rapids, and walk along some boardwalk area.
The entire family is sure to enjoy this adventurous, easy hike.
Oswald Bear Ranch
The Oswald Bear Ranch in Newberry is advertised as the largest (bear only) bear ranch in the United States. It is home to about 40 bears – many of which had been rescued as cubs.
Be sure to bring your walking shoes. Although the reasonable admission cost is per vehicle, this is NOT a drive thru. Instead, you and your family walk along trails that will lead you around the various large habitat enclosures. Oh, and don’t forget your camera! There are several fun photo opportunities there.
Between the adorable cubs, the nice trails, the many photo opportunities, and the affordable admission cost, it’s no wonder that Oswald Bear Ranch is a family favorite.
Visit Santa Anytime of the Year
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to a merry little town named Christmas. It features some fun roadside attractions. If your children are anything like mine, they are going to want to have their picture taken with the World’s Largest Santa, the World’s Largest Concrete Snowman, and the Old Lady Who Lives in a Shoe.
The entire family will be amazed by the inner workings of the locks in Sault Saint Marie. The Soo Locks allows freighters, barges, and other large water vessels to safely navigate through a 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. It is an amazing thing to see, and your children will watch with awe as these giant boats pass by.
Additionally, the Soo Locks visitor center is a fun (and free) place to explore. Children love seeing the small model demonstrating how the locks work and other exhibits there.
Many tourists even experience the locks by boat. As part of this 2-hour tour, you will get the full experience of “locking through” – ride a tour boat through the locks and experience your ship rising 21 feet in order to match the water levels of Lake Superior. Along the way, you will learn about passing boats, the history of the locks, and more. We haven’t tried these boat tours yet but I think it could be fun for our entire family!
RELATED: Check out our list of other fun family adventures in Michigan.
It would be a mistake not to see the Tahquamenon waterfalls when visiting Michigan’s upper peninsula.
Children and adults alike are impressed by its massive size. This is a big waterfall; sometimes called mini-Niagara, its upper falls is one of the biggest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.
It’s fun to admire the waterfalls, feel its mist on your face, and giggle at its nickname of Root Beer Falls. The falling water resembles root beer in color due to tannins from nearby swamps that drain into the river.
Addtionally, there are hiking trails and interesting wildlife throughout the park.
If you visit the Manistique area, it’s worth stopping over to Palms Book State Park to see Kitch-iti-kipi (the Big Spring). This is the largest freshwater spring in the state of Michigan. Over 10,000 gallons of fresh water pass through fissures in the limestone floor per minute!
Your family will be amazed by the unbelievably clear waters that allow you to see down the entire 40-foot depth. Children enjoy operating the observation raft that is pulled across the spring by a cable. And the surroundings and underwater sights will capture everyone’s imagination.
My eight-year-old son was especially delighted when a ranger presented him with a bucket of fish food to feed the trout while we were out on the raft. There is also a gift shop and snack bar on the premises. (These two things are always popular with my children.)
What are your favorite attractions in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?
Has your family been to the Upper Peninsula? What are your favorite things to see and do there? Please let us know in the comments section below.