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Recommendations for Western Michigan Trip (Silver Lake/Ludington area)

Recommendations for Western Michigan Trip (Silver Lake/Ludington area)

Jun 19th, 2009, 09:44 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 128
Recommendations for Western Michigan Trip (Silver Lake/Ludington area)

I am planning a trip from the Chicago area to Ludington. Does anyone have any comments/recommendations on this itinerary? I don't think I will stop by the zoo in Grand Rapids since I just went to Brookfield Zoo and the St. Louis Zoo. I also don't think I will stop by the Children's Museum in Grand Rapids since we have gone to a couple of great children's museums recently. I am not sure if there are any other good activities for preschool aged kids which I am missing in the below trip plan.

7/26 - drive from Chicago area to Pentwater
leave Chicago area at 8:00 AM
??? do something on the way to Pentwater?
Arrive at Pentwater around 1:30 PM
Stay at Best Western Pentwater Trace Inn & Suites
Eat at House of Flavors Ice Cream

7/27 -

Mac Wood’s Sand Dune Ride
Silver Lake State Park
Go back to hotel for nap (3 yr old takes naps)
Eat at The Brown Bear

7/28 -
Ludington State Park
Go back to hotel for nap

Check out of hotel
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (Grand Rapids, MI)
Drive back to Chicago area
shorty68 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2009, 11:56 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 404
After your toddler's nap in the Silver Lake area...You could head to the town area of Mears. There are go carts (they do have 2 person ones where an adult could ride with each child), paddleboats, putt putt golf, arcade, etc. We ate at the Brown Bear last summer - good burgers, very busy, sit in the back room so it's not so smoky (you have to cut through the bar). Taking a professionally driven dune ride is a good idea, especially with kids. The ins and outs of dune driving are tricky - not to mention getting a pass to get in... (they only give out so many passes daily for individual buggies/sand rails).

You can spend a whole day at Ludington State Park - there's Lake Michigan, Hamlin Lake with it's own beach (the water is warmer) and a lazy river (the real deal not man made) that goes from the dam at Hamlin all the way out to Lake Michigan, the lighthouse. Bring some large inner tubes for this, if you decide to do this. When my DS was younger, we used a raft with a floor so we could ride together. There are concessions and restrooms at both beaches. You day pass gets you access to all above areas. I think the nature center is closed due to some snow damage this winter, but there is a great boardwalk at the very top of the dune with spectacular Lake Michigan views, especially at sunset. The kids might like to see the Badger (car ferry) up close if it's at the dock.

Getting to and from Meijer Gardens is pretty straightforward. There are lots of dining choices in the area, both north and south of the gardens.

There are quite a few lighthouses in the area - http://www.westmichiganlighthouses.com/ -
that might be fun.

Have a great time!
dsgmi is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2009, 01:40 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 16,253
There is a FABULOUS Children's "hands on interactive and historical Museum" (they even had vintage clothing the kids could "dress up" in)venue at Southwestern MI University. One time my 3 year old grandson wanted to stay there for hours and hours, and cried when we left. To me, it is about an hour or hour in a half VERY active for kids up to about 10- place, and not a half day outing. But he didn't think that was the case.

Kalamazoo has an AirZoo that my grandsons are addicted to- including flight simulators. (They are 7 and 9 right now.)

All of this is South of Grand Rapids/South of Kalamazoo in MI lake/fruit/wine country.

Mears and the Silver Lake Sand Dunes area have enough venues
alone to do days of activities. But everything is PACKED.

Paw Paw has a restaurant called "Kevin'" in Warners Vineyards that is good and it is right off I-94 exit.

If you want Dowagiac, Marcellus, Lawton or any of the towns surrounding that area within MI- detail information- just ask. If you are following I-94 home you will need to get off the beaten track to get to them, but not far- and it won't be crowded traffic or a madhouse. In fact, quite the opposite. The end of July is prime blueberry picking time. There are top end for "pick your own" (they'll give you pails and whatever) or product near near Paw Paw's exit and
the kids' might love it. You never pay for what you eat. LOL!

I also know oodles about Three Oaks, Vandalia, Jones, and all the towns along 12 and 60 East- if you want to linger before hitting IN.

New Buffalo has easy, cheap lodging near all the exits now, as 4 Winds Casino is within a mile. 4 Winds is gorgeous and has 5 good restaurants. That entire area- with a day at the beach too- might be a good stop to linger on the way home. It will be mobbed on your dates though. But it might be worth a stop for the tiny ones to see the high end yachts and boats and the marina there. I think you can eat within an old fashioned steam boat. But it will be packed.

That's why I love inland fresh water lake country and North-more. Twice the green, kinder and warmer water, great beauty- inland. Also no lines for ice cream- the best in the USA.

But NO ONE has sand like what you are going to see and experience at Silver Lakes. ENJOY! Make sure the little ones have good foot coverings. EVERYBODY. Not flip-flops.

Do the jeeps. You won't regret it. Even with the little ones.

Most of the world will be in Holland (kiddy park is huge, I believe) or in Saugatuck. People literally are pushed off the sidewalk trying to walk. If you like waiting in lines to eat amongst squalor, and tons of fudge and arts and crafts shopping- that's the place to be.
JJ5 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2009, 01:44 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 16,253

That's the museum. It's in Dowagiac as are a large number of top notch restaurants. Dowagiac area centers about 20 or 30 lakes, as does Marcellus.

Believe me, it's cool. The website doesn't do the place justice. Very, very little ones to about 9- it's the ticket.
JJ5 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2009, 01:50 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 16,253
BTW, that Sand Dune ride is AWESOME.

You can also do this with your own car, but you will need to release much air from the tires.

My SO had a bad sinus headache once there and was sick as a dog. But he wasn't too sick to rent one of those jeeps from Mac's and go straight down hundreds of feet in nano-seconds. I couldn't talk for the entire rest of the day- after that 1/2 hour.

Of course, you will be a much "safer" driver! (SMILEY FACE with SMIRK here.)

Kids do some of this on bikes. You won't believe how high and how fast. Mothers just pray.
JJ5 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2009, 02:47 PM
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Posts: 128
Now I am thinking about going to St. Joseph since it will probably be less crowded than the places described in the replies above.
shorty68 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2009, 09:14 PM
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St Joseph is a nice city and there are some nice wineries not far from the area. Nice city beach too.
Cali is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 06:20 AM
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St Joseph is fine and a much shorter drive, but there is nothing- NOTHING like Mears and Silver Lake. It's shallow on Mears' beach area for 50 to 100's of feet too, shorty68- like a huge inlet bay just for little kids- with sand bars between the lapping waves they can walk across. It's very unique.

And there are the jeeps. And 1000 acres for pedestrians of sand dunes. And 1000 acres of sand mountains (hard to explain) for vehicle use. The only place left in the US of A that is West of the Mississippi, that is designated and FREE for this purpose. There was one way out west that didn't hold a candle to this and now is regulated and scheduled. That doesn't count the other MI shorelines and sand areas or Sleeping Bear or any of those other givens, either.

Here's another choice. Not that St. Joseph is bad at all. But frankly, St. Joseph might be pricey and just as crowded.

There's a family resort with its own Lake Michigan beach called "Sleepy Hollow" in South Haven, Michigan's vicinity. I'm not sure if they are booked or possible this late, but give them a gander or check out the website for next year, if not for this year.

Who knows, you might hit a great vacancy for 3 or 4 days?

They have their own Lake MI beach, pool, kiddy park and all kinds of other family summer activities available. South Haven has numerous restaurant choices and quick drives too- to St. Joseph or whatever.

There used to be a place called "Sunnybrook Farm" that is EXACTLY what you need right now. It was near South Haven. Sadly it is no more. (See the long thread here about all our memories of 30-40 years- 1000's of childrens' nirvana on earth where Mom's never cook and Dad's never drive, except for a golf club.)

There will be blueberry picking and other picking opportunities everywhere you go inland from South Haven, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor etc. etc. Also many, many wineries where you still taste free- from Kalamazoo area all the way to the big lake. You will not be able to miss signs for all of the above.

Or fireworks coming through IN. But 1 get 5 free frenzy is on at the three biggest outlets in the USA.

It's going to be crowded anywhere on the big monster Lake Michigan- go for the sand dunes if you stay along the big lake or can't get into Sleepy Hollow, IMHO.

If you don't want crowds you need to go inland to any one of 100's of fresh water lakes in St. Joseph or Cass or one of the rural counties on the way to Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids.
Rentals are available on some of the biggest ones, like Diamond Lake- I believe. All of this is a much shorter drive than going to Mears or Sleeping Bear, btw. But the Northern areas are entirely unique and well worth the drive. The biggest Scouting camp in the USA for nearly 100 years is right there too. Owasippe is it's name and it might be tribal land now. But you can stop and see it. Beyond my description!
JJ5 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 06:26 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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That should have been the only one "East" of the Mississippi. The one West that is now almost unusable to non-pro's and solidly scheduled or regulated for only those in that sport for scheduled stunt events- was the one that I was thinking about when I typed West.
JJ5 is offline  
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