Vacation in Michigan/Wisconsin Area-need Ideas Please

Updated on May 22, 2014
E.B. asks from Sour Lake, TX
11 answers

We are flying into Chicago this summer and want to explore the Michigan/Wisconsin area for vacation. Have 2 boys, 14 and 12 to entertain and no idea as to the best places to go and see. We would need at least 1 amusement park because we all love them. We are partial to the outdoors as opposed to museums and such. We've never been in this part of the country so any and all advice is appreciated.

Maybe some inexpensive things to do as well?

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answers from New York on

If you will be in Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry is awesome. Not your run of the mill museum. Kids would love it. It is an all day museum! Can't help with Michigan and Wisconsin. A lot to do in Chicago.

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answers from Kalamazoo on

not sure how far you're willing to go??? I'd follow LK Michigan coastline up into Michigan. Warren Dunes, Van Buren State Park Dunes, South Haven, Saugatuck, Muskegan - Michigan Adventure, and then further up also Sleeping Bear Dunes and Traverse City area is very nice. :) feel free to pm if you have questions about these places. It'd be VERY cool if you could do the entire loop - up Michigan coast thru the Upper Peninsula and back down the Wisconsin side!!!!

OR - if you wanna make it over to Ohio, NOTHING beats Cedar Point Amusement Park!!!!!!

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answers from Chicago on

(WI) Lake Geneva is nice, there are trails to hike.

Great America (in IL, but near the border of Wisconsin) That is a nice amusemnt park.

(WI) The Dells, waterparks, camping, you name they have it. . Highly commercialized.

These links can help.

If you have AAA, you can order books and it will highlight some cool places. Also, the library.

Good luck and have fun.

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answers from Dallas on

Mackinac Island is on my short list of places to go in the next few years

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answers from Appleton on

Door County Wisconsin is a Mecca for tourists, but I don't understand why. There isn't a lot to do. It is beautiful up there but no amusement or water parks.
Green Bay has Lambeau Feild and the Packers Hall of Fame. If you are into football it would be interesting.
Wisconsin Dells has water parks but if you don't like crouds it won't be fun. The Area around the Dells is beautiful and good for camping.

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answers from Detroit on

Are you visiting one or the other or both? How long are you willing to drive? Detroit metro area is about 5 hours from Chicago (though there is Amtrak service), Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes are about 6 hours. There are car ferries that cross Lake Michigan between Michigan and Wisconsin if you want to do both. One option is to drive north through Wisconsin into Michigan's UP.

What sort of outdoor activities does your family like to do?

Adding new stuff since I'm not on my phone finally:

Someone mentioned The Henry Ford. It's a great museum just west of Detroit and really deserves a whole day to see it. It also has an outside component, Greenfield Village, which deserves a day on its own. They also offer tours of the Ford Rouge plant. My kids were too young the last time we went there so I don't know too much about it. If you want to stay on the west side of Michigan, Grand Rapids is a nice city to visit. You could look into Binder Park Zoo (small, but nice), Meijer Gardens, or the Air Zoo (if your kids are into planes - not an all-day place but the flight simulators were fun). There are three national forests and a lot of state parks and beaches and, like I said, Sleeping Bear Dunes is really awesome. There's also some good beer and wine being made here but that might not be very interesting for your kids. Depending on when you visit, there are lots of festivals and fairs. The Upper Peninsula has its own state fair in August. Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains State Park in the UP is also quite beautiful. There are about 50 bajillion lighthouses, if that's your thing. is a decent website to get an idea of things to do.

Bring your mosquito repellent and be prepared for some cool evenings, especially the further north you go.

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answers from Detroit on

Michigans adventure It's the largest amusement waterpark in mi. You can always find good outdoor stuff at the metro parks-paddle boating, fishing, bikes for rent. The sand dunes are a big hit. It really depends on where you're going in Michigan. The Henry Ford is a popular destination.

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answers from Chicago on

Can't go wrong with any of the museums, but north of the city is a great America. I'd check out a for rent by owner and find a rental along Michigan, lots of places north of the dunes.

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answers from Detroit on

We were at Michigan's upper peninsula close to Wisconsin last year. It's quite a drive from Chicago but if you have the time, it just beautiful.

Best to do ...kayaking at pictured rocks (This will be about 7 + hrs through Wisconsin)

If you're into camping, Porcupine Mountains is simply gorgeous. There are campsites that rent yurts (not my favorite as far as amenities , too rustic for me) but were glad we got to do it once. Here's one that is actually close to a fully equipped campsite

I can't remember the campsite we were at prior but it had a full hook up and is right next to lake Superior.

If you're able, visit Lake of the clouds. I'm sure they also rent a cabin that overlooks a view of the lake. There's a lot of hiking trails and the locals are very friendly.

We are switching geographies. My family is heading to TX this summer.

Have a great trip!

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answers from Chicago on

Six flags is in gurnee il, 30 min. North of chicago. It's a huge amusement park with huge coasters, rides and shows. It now has a waterpark as well.

Wisconsin Dells is the waterpark capital of the world ( they claim) and have indoor and outdoor water parks, boat rides, scenery. Your boys would love the water parks. You can stay at a big one like Great wolf lodge, Kalahari, or the wilderness or just visit Noah's Ark, a huge water park. They are about a 4 hour drive from chicago. It is touristy, just to warn you, but great fun for kids and teens. We go at least yearly.

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answers from Detroit on


1. Spend at least three nights in Chicago.
*Catch a game at Wrigley Field
*Museum of Science and Industry--this museum is worth it
*Shedd's Aquarium

2. Rent a car after your stay in Chicago and head out of town--perhaps spend the night in Milwaukee.
*Six Flags is just outside of Chicago in Waukegan
*Continue north to Milwaukee
*the art museum is breathtaking, even just to slip inside and walk through the commons area to experience the building's architecture
*nice restaurants along the river--river walk

2.5 Door Peninsula
*Peninsula State Park is somewhat large and has nice camping.
*Whitefish Dunes State Park has interesting rock formations
*take the ferry to Washington Island with your car
*take a ferry to Rock Island for backpacking
*on Rock Island is an old rock boat house built by a millionaire at the turn
of the century --fun to look at

2.75 in between Door Peninsula and the Apostle Islands are small county
parks with many waterfalls (Michigan has a lot of lakes, and Wisconsin seems to have a lot of waterfalls.)
*Dave's Falls

3. Drive to Lake Superior and camp at the Apostle Islands
*Madeline Island allows cars with a ferry.
*or pack your camping gear on one of the other islands
*interesting rock formations
*in Ashland, one hotel has indoor water slides
*boat rentals are available, but be confident of your skills. Lake Superior
storms are nothing to mess with.

4. Drive east to the Porcupine Mountains
*the Presque Isle rustic campground is scenic and away from people
*a lot of hiking trails
*highest mountains in Michigan (it is a rather flat state, but the views are nice)

5. Drive east to the Pictured Rocks - Munising
*go kayaking and hiking
*camp a few nights
*glass bottom ship wreck tour

6. Spend a night or two in Curtis, Michigan, at the Chamberlin Ole Forest Inn. Excellent food and music nearly every night.
*visit the Seney National Wildlife Refuge for eagles, osprey and more
*there is a boat / train ride from the area to Tahquamenon and back (takes the whole day)

7. Drive to Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
*camp at Rivermouth Pines rustic / semi-modern campground. We saw a moose eat dinner across the river from us for over an hour from our campsite here.
*do day trips from here

8. Drive up to Whitefish Point
*visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum -- if you like boat history at all, you will enjoy the visit

9. Drive to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
*visit the Soo Locks

10. Drive to St. Ignace, Michigan
* Visit Mackinac Island via ferry
*all cars stays on the mainland--only horses and bicycles on the
*stay at least one or two nights
*rent a bicycle and go around the island
*have lunch at The Grand Hotel
*go on a horse-drawn carriage ride
*get a pass to swim in The Grand Hotel's pool, even if you stay
* go horseback riding
*look at the lovely Victorian buildings
*golf is available

11. return to your car and drive over the Mackinac Bridge south

12. Drive west to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
*Have one person drive the car to the beach area to the south below the dunes at the top. All the others run down the giant dune. DO NOT run down unless someone is waiting below. You will not be able to climb back up otherwise.
*stay in Glen Arbor
*There is an indoor waterside park in Traverse City
* there is no camping with reservations close to Sleeping Bear - hotel it for at least one night to visit the area or rent a cabin (somewhat late to book a cabin now)

13. Visit Lake Michigan beach area in the mid part of the mitten of the coast
*stay at Best Western in Whitehall
*Go to Michigan's Adventure near Whitehall
*amusement and water park

*try to catch the Scottsville Clown Band at whichever town they are playing
in at night. They could be in Pentwater, Ludington, Whitehall or other
towns nearby. Americana at its best.
*swim and beach time at North Muskegon State Park as it is close to your hotel. This beach is fairly quiet.

*Pentwater's Charles Mears State Park is well visited, but mostly flat
*Ludington State Park is enormous, but the campsites are small. Canoe, camp, visit lighthouses, hike, fish, swim in Lake Michigan. Very populated.
*Silver Lake State Park has a lighthouse you can tour, but as it is on the bend in the lake, the swimming is rougher than elsewhere
*Mears/Hart nearby have a lot of activities that would appeal to teens, like a dune buggy ride

*visit Muskegon and see:
*Silversides submarine from WWII is docked near Pere Marquette Park
*visit the lighthouse pier while nearby
*visit the LST 393 --one of few boats still remaining from the Allied
Invasion at Normandy Beach during WWII--movies on deck outside on
Friday nights --located on Muskegon Lake near downtown

*Further south, P.J. Hoffmaster State Park has beach with dunes behind. There is a walk through the woods that leads to the beach, and then you can hike along the beach on the way back to the parking lot. One of the most accessible beaches with a good view and not too much of a crowd compared to other beaches along the coast.

14. Saugatuck is a small arts community with many cute shops, good food, and ice cream, ice cream, ice cream.
*music at the gazebo on Wednesday nights -free
*take the river cruise out to Lake Michigan
*able to charter a fishing trip in town
*Oval Beach charges money
*Saugatuck Dunes State Park requires a bit of a hike to get to the water. The ones mentioned above are better for bringing the car and getting into the water fast.
*Pricey lodgings. Maybe a day visit.

15. Return to Chicago.

You could drive to Milwaukee and take a car ferry to Muskegon and shorten the loop. If so, take the sunset cruise, sit on the back end of the boat and watch the sun set.

You can also loop from Manitowoc to Ludington on a slower and older boat.

With Lake Michigan as the focal point, you will see many beautiful sites.

Note: Your sons would LOVE Cedar Point, but that is along Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland. It is the best roller coaster park in the country. It's probably five hours from Chicago. The boating crowd stays on North or South Bass Island and Kelley's Island near Sandusky.

The Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland.

The Real Madrid vs. Manchester United soccer game is sold out, so seeing Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is unlikely, though tickets can be had for a price, I am sure.

My DH would want you to know that the Rutherford B. Hayes home and museum is in Fremont, OH. If you are into visiting presidential homes.

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