A Family Trip to St. Joseph, Lake Michigan + South Haven, Kalamazoo, and Frankenmuth – places to stop in the Mitten.
Two years ago, my family and I decided not to head the typical direction we normally go for vacation. We headed north. We don’t do that very often; we traveled along I-65 N into Indiana, driving until we reached the very southwestern edge of Michigan. And we arrived in a town that we fell in love with. We liked it so much we actually talked about, some day perhaps retiring there. This sweet town’s name you ask? St. Joseph, MI. Take a step back and relax readers.
Oh my goodness, when I start remembering this vacation I just melt! We had such a wonderful time in Michigan! We actually visited four different cities in a week’s time, but this piece is highlighting the closest and probably our most favorite as far as beach towns go. St. Joseph, Michigan is a very doable and easy drive to a small little piece of paradise. It is just gorgeous, with plenty of lake views, sightseeing, history lessons, outdoor activities, family-friendliness, and wonderful, affordable, and casual dining for a family.
I like good deals, and yes it would have been absolutely perfect to have found a rental house on the lake and spend our whole vacation there. And you can certainly do that; we saw tons of places that were decked out in perfect lakeside cuteness calling our names. But we wanted to visit lots of places, and we knew we weren’t going to spend our days INSIDE when we were visting Lake Michigan, so the hotel/accommodations really didn’t matter that much. In our eyes, we wanted a comfortable bed and a breakfast in the morning. So we stayed just outside of St. Joseph at the Baymont Inn & Suites in Stevensville, MI, just off the highway ramp on Lakeshore Drive. I booked a room for two nights on priceline.com and landed a great rate. Score #1 for affordability. Baymont Inn had a free continental breakfast each morning, so we had our pick of make-your-own waffles, cereal, bagels and cream cheese, fruit, oatmeal, juice, coffee – the usual spread. Grabbed a few pieces of fruit and muffins=snacks for the trek around the town. Score #2 for affordability. The room also had a microwave and refrigerator which was nice since we needed milk for our then 1 year-old. The hotel also has an indoor pool which my kids thoroughly enjoyed. The second time we went back to St. Joseph, we stayed there again and I was not as impressed. Other options include a newer Comfort Suites and a Holiday Inn Express and Suites right along the beach road.
My family has visited St. Joseph twice in the past three years. Here is a Things to Do Check List/Itinerary for places to go, dining spots, and more from our tried and true experiences:
Curious Kids’ Museum-This is a very fun and affordable smaller children’s museum. Our family spent about two hours there the first time we visited and our kids had a lot of fun. At the time we had a 1 year old and 9 year old-past that age I would say kids much older might be a little bored.
Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone-We have not visited this spot, but it is in conjunction with the Museum and is suited for older children. It’s more like a science center.
Farmer’s Market along the Bluff – in the spring and summer months. There is lots going on with the farmer’s market along main street overlooking the beach/lake.
Horse drawn trolley rides – through downtown St. Joseph district during the “on” season. You can take a free carriage ride through the quaint shopping district of St. Joseph.
Krasl Art Center-Located up on the bluff – free admission and pretty neat local artwork displayed. There is a small area suitable for kids to work on a recyclable creation craft and to write on the wall with a pencil.
Library-Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library-stop in here for some down time. The children’s library located on the lower level is full of books to browse as well as some educational/interactive stations to keep the kids occupied.
Silver Beach Carousel – Beautiful carousel, go at night when it is all lit up!
War memorials along path at the Silver Beach Bluff overlook – there are several memorials to read about and learn about the history of this area.
Outdoor entertainment in the amphitheater-The John E.N. Howard Bandshell hosts many seasonal events.
Walk to North Pier Lighthouse –From Rocky Gap Park we walked 2 miles to this lighthouse and back. It was a wonderful afternoon!
Walk through the Margaret B. Upton Arboretum-there are several public art pieces to see that are really clever and unique.
Jean Klock Park – huge playground, covered picnic areas and restrooms
John and Dede Howard Family Trail -a great walking path/trail system along Lake Michigan and St. Joseph River.
Lookout Park – You’ll find this park on the main street called Lakeshore Drive along the lake going from Stevensville to downtown St. Joseph. Stop and take some breathtaking photos!
Rocky Gap Park – We found this park more secluded and parking is free. We packed picnic for the day and hung out here for lunch.
Silver Beach County Park – This is the main park/beach for St. Joseph and there is an entrance fee to this park. Silver Beach Carousel, Discovery Zone, and Silver Beach Pizza are located near here, as well as Whirlpool Center Park and Compass Fountain.
Tiscornia Park-Another small park along the waterfront and near the river.
Places to eat:
Port St. Joseph
Silver Beach Pizza
Here is a list with several restaurants.
On our first trip to Michigan after staying in St. Joseph for two days, we traveled to South Haven and stayed there for two days. We stayed at Sun’n Sand Resort and it was a very lovely place to stay. It had a heated outdoor pool, a sandbox area with toys for the little ones to play with, croquet sets for families to play along the beautiful grounds of the property, horseshoe pits, fire pits, volleyball nets, and chairs for families to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. We did some sightseeing in the waterfront area in downtown South Haven and walked along another pier on Lake Michigan. After two nights in South Haven, we travelled west toward Frankenmuth. We stayed over night in Kalamazoo and although we didn’t do much there other than venture around a park downtown in the evening, there are some things to do with families in mind. Look for a post all about a family adventure in Frankenmuth to come!
After we returned home and I splathered my pictures all over Facebook, a relative of mine said the town looked like such a beautiful, quiet, small town right out of the 50s. It truly was. It has all the old-fashioned, picturesque and charming appeal you could ask for plus plenty of action-packed adventure with all the hiking and trail walking your active family might also like. Joseph, MI is almost directly across the lake and about 50 miles from Chicago, IL. And Chicagoans are known for flocking to this small beach town for their vacations. You could even throw in a day or two in Chicago! Check out this spot located on the West Michigan Pike. You will not be disappointed.