Summertime means fun time in Traverse City, and keeping the kiddos engaged during a trip up north is easy with our top 10 family-friendly activities in northern Michigan. Best of all, these activities can all be done outdoors, and many of them are free! 

For Active Kids: Biking and Hiking

1. Bring the bikes up north or rent some when you get here. Traverse City’s TART Trail system is great to explore by bike, linking up to the Leelanau Trail to run up to Suttons Bay. The Betsie Valley Trail in Benzie County is another biking gem, as is the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail near Glen Arbor.

2. If you’d rather be on two feet than two wheels, you’ll have your pick of hiking trails in northern Michigan. Kids can experience forests, wetlands, swamps, and lake overlooks all on the same walk. If you’re looking for a little extra education, check out the programming from the Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve.

Family Biking on the TART Trail

For Kids Who Want to Relax: Beaches and Picnics

3. Nothing says relaxation like a day at the beach. Whether you want to walk back and forth from downtown at West End Beach, find a remote corner of Sleeping Bear Dunes, or lie back on the sandy shores of Frankfort, there are endless beaches to set up shop. You bring the towels, shovels, and umbrellas, and we’ll bring the sunshine.

4. Picnics and beach days go hand in hand. Pick up take-out from your favorite restaurant and bring it along on your adventure. Better yet, encourage the kiddos to choose the menu to ensure happy tummies.

For Curious Kids: Rock Hunting and Geocaching

5. There are plenty of hidden gems to find along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Show the kids pictures of some of our famous stones—like the Leland Blue and the Petoskey Stone—and see what you can find during your exploration. Be sure to pick up any other fun rocks you find along the way…they could come in handy for idea #9!

6. Geocaching remains a favorite pastime in northern Michigan. Benzie County has over 300 caches hidden in their small county—the smallest in the state! Enjoy an afternoon full of imagination and discovery.

For Kids Who Love Water: Tubing and Canoeing

7. No trip is complete without going tubing on the Platte River. The water may be a little chilly in the early days of summer, but the gentle flow of the river and the contrast with the warm sunshine will have your whole family entertained for hours. Just be sure to wear your sunscreen! 

8. If the kids are a bit more comfortable on the water, rent a canoe or kayak to see northern Michigan by boat. Whether you paddle along a river, explore the shore, or go for a spin around the bay, you’ll find beautiful views and peaceful vibes.


For Creative Kids: Painting and Sand Sculptures

9. Time for some plein air painting! Set the kids up with a sketch book, canvas, or even some of the rocks you found during a trip to the beach. Have them paint their favorite TC scene as you all sit outside and enjoy a beautiful day. 

10. Take playing in the sandbox to a new level next time you’re at the beach. Challenge each member of the family to a sand sculpture contest. That means sandcastles, mermaids, sea creatures, and more!

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