Three hours from Chicago resides the hidden gem of Muskegon, Michigan. Located on Michigan’s west coast, this lakeside city is an ideal spot for your next family vacation. With plenty of dining, marine experiences, museums and, of course, Michigan’s largest theme park and water park, you and your family will find plenty of activities to satisfy your family’s itch for adventure. One of our producers recently experienced this unique city, and we can’t wait to share with you their recommendations and tips for a top-notch Michigan adventure.
We began our trip with an hour and forty-five minute tour around Lake Michigan’s bay on the Aquastar. This laid-back tour offers guests a chance to enjoy the sunshine and sea air while admiring the lake and vast array of local sail boats. Tickets cost $25 per person, with kids 10 and under free, and should be purchased ahead of time on their website. Now through the end of 2019, you can also use the code 19AQUAS when purchasing your ticket for $5 off! While we took the afternoon cruise which began at 4pm, Aquastar also offers breathtaking sunset cruises Wednesday through Saturday. Be sure to arrive about 15 minutes early to allow time to check in and get settled.
Shoreline Inn and Conference Center
Following our cruise, we checked in at our hotel, which was located just down the street. The Shoreline Inn and Conference Center offers marina views, an indoor pool with two hot tubs, a fitness center, and arcade games for the kids. You’ll also find a variety of dining options here, such as their on-site restaurant and bar, the Lake Effect Bistro, offers meals served from 6am until midnight. Be sure to start your day off right with their hot breakfast for only $8.99 for adults, $3.99 for kids, served daily from 6am – 10am. Children 3 and under eat free!
If you’re looking to go out to dinner, walk over to the Lake House Waterfront Grille, located right next door to the Shoreline Inn. You’ll be able to relish in waterfront views and fresh air while listening to relaxing, live music as you enjoy your dinner. We highly recommend the vegetable panini and sweet potato fries!
We enjoyed our king suite, which included a partially-separated bedroom and a full living area and kitchenette. This option allows families with kids to enjoy their own space, while also spending quality time together in the living area. Use the fridge and microwave to save and heat up leftovers, and enjoy fresh coffee in the morning with their premium Keurig machine. Be sure to bring your laptop and HDMI cable to connect to your TV so the kids (and you) can watch their favorite shows at the end of a fun day of exploring Muskegon.
If you’re looking for adventure, Michigan’s Adventure can’t be missed. This Cedar Fair theme and water park is just a fifteen minute drive from the Shoreline Inn, and a great place to bring your family. Your ticket, which can be purchased on their website, not only grants you admission to their theme park, but also to their water park, which is located within the theme park and can be accessed at anytime throughout the day, as often as you’d like.
Most of the parking is conveniently close to the entrance of the park, so you can easily access your car as well. While you’re unable to drive out of the park without paying the $15 parking fee again, you can leave and re-enter the park as many times as you’d like once you receive a handstamp.
After enjoying some of their rides, like one of their nine roller coasters, or one of their many other rides for kids and teens of all ages, head over to the water park to cool down. With three wave pools, a variety of slides including the largest funnel slide in Michigan, as well as Half-Pint Paradise, a designated area for kids, there are plenty of ways to cool off.
While you can leave your swim bag and towels in your car, we recommend renting a locker. Lockers cost from $10-$30 depending on the size, and are key-free. You can pay with a credit card or cash. Our $10 locker gave the two of us plenty of space for our swim bag and shoes, but those with larger families should consider the bigger locker. Although you can get a locker in the water park, we actually recommend renting one at the several locker stations nearby. You may have to leave the water park area to get your stuff, but you’ll be able to access your locker for the whole day, even after the water park closes at 7pm. You’ll also avoid the lines at the changing room if you head to one of the park’s regular bathrooms to change.
All the rides at Michigan’s Adventure are rated on a thrill-level of 1-5, with 5 being the highest thrill. Teens looking for a little adventure will love level 5 rides like the park’s longest, fastest wooden roller coaster, Shivering Timbers, or the thrilling, free-hanging ThunderHawk, while kids or even grandparents will enjoy level 1 or 2 rides, like the Swan Boats or the Giant Gondola Wheel. Among the other popular rides are Loggers Run and Grand Rapids. We recommend saving these for the end of the day, when you don’t mind getting a little wet.
We opted to bring our own snacks and lunch, which is permitted by the park, but if you’re looking for a yummy, hot meal, check out one of Michigan’s Adventure’s dining options, like Coasters Drive-in. There are also convenient, fresh water bottle refill stations around the park near almost every bathroom, so you can make sure to stay hydrated and reduce plastic waste!
Tips for Visiting Michigan’s Adventure:
- Be sure to bring your own towels for the water park!
- If you get wet on the water rides, you can always dry off in one of the family dryers for $5.
- For those who get motion sickness on rides, we recommend Anti-Nausea Motion Sickness Relief Patches. They last for up to 3 days but take a couple hours to kick in, so put them on before heading to the park.
Love a good theme park? Check out our weekend at Cedar Point here!
Dining in Muskegon
When dining in a coastal town, you want to enjoy those beach-front views as much as possible, which is why we recommend The Deck. Located just beside Pier Marquette Park, a free, public beach with soft sand, stunning views, a snack shop and swimming, The Deck is a relaxed, casual dining establishment with indoor or outdoor seating. Their fish or chicken tacos with chips and homemade salsa was delicious. We also recommend their mouth-watering sunflower-apricot chicken salad sandwich. After lunch, simply walk over to the beach for a swim, or take a walk along the pier to see one of Michigan’s 247 beautiful lighthouses.
After a fun day at Michigan’s Adventure, we recommend picking up a pizza at Rebel Pies, located in downtown Muskegon, just a few minutes away from the Shoreline Inn. The Jack White chicken alfredo pizza was delicious! They also offer a gluten-free crust option for those with dietary restrictions.
For a nice dinner out, the Hearthstone Bistro is a hidden gem. With patio seating that makes you feel like you’re in a private garden, this is a great option for outdoor dining. If you decide to try Hearthstone, we recommend starting off with the Crispy Warm Panko Breaded Goat Cheese “Fritter” for an appetizer and the peanut butter pie for dessert! Hearthstone also offers a gluten-free menu.
If you’re looking for a quick lunch, head to Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack. Located in the neighborhoods near downtown Muskegon, this unique sandwich shop offers delicious options with fun names like Bert’s Beach, a shaved turkey sandwich with 1000 island dressing, or their homemade egg salad sandwich, E.L.T. Phone Home. Be sure to grab a bag of Zapp’s Chips to go with your sandwich!
While Michigan Adventure may be fun for those thrill seekers, Muskegon also offers something for the history lovers. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live aboard a submarine? If so, then be sure to check out the USS Silversides Submarine Museum! Here guests can check out displays and artifacts dedicated to submarines and the servicemen who helped operate them. Kids can sit at the controls of a submarine or look through a periscope that allows them to look out onto Lake Michigan. But the main prize for visiting this museum is taking a tour of the fully operational USS Silversides. Here you will get a glimpse into the life of the crew who ran one of the most successful submarines for the US during WWII. From the torpedo rooms to the galley, you will get a full access tour that is truly one of a kind.
After you dive into the life of a submariner, set out and explore one of the many lighthouses on Michigan’s Western shores. Besides the Muskegon South Pierhead and South Breakwater lighthouses, there are 7 additional lighthouses all within a 100 mile range. We decided to take a short drive up to the White River Light Station in Whitehall, approximately 20 minutes from downtown Muskegon. This light house, originally established in 1871 to help ships navigate to the lumber yards of White Lake, provides a glimpse into the life of a lighthouse keeper, including the life of Michigan’s last female lighthouse keeper, Frances Marshall. Guests can walk the grounds, get a close up look at a fresnel lens, and climb to the top of the light tower for a view out onto Lake Michigan.
If you are interested in viewing more than one of these lighthouses, then purchase an all access pass from the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association. These passes, $15 for adults and $5 for children, provide guests with the opportunity to climb 4 lighthouse towers including the Big Sable Point Lighthouse and the Ludington Breakwater in Ludington, the Little Sable Point Lighthouse in Hart, and the White River Light Station in Whitehall. And remember to check out their page for events (such as yoga classes or concerts) that are held on occasion at some of the lighthouses.
Tips for Muskegon Museums:
- Before your Aquastar cruise, make a stop right next to the boat dock at the USS LST 393, a World War II, LST-1-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy (only $8 per person).
- The Hackley & Hume Historic Site of the Lakeshore Museum Center is located in downtown Muskegon is made up of two Queen Anne Victorian homes with period deco, as well as a firefighting museum.
- Muskegon isn’t just a summer vacation spot! If you’re visiting in the winter, be sure to check out the Muskegon Luge Track at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex.
Looking for another Michigan getaway? Check out Michigan’s Little Bavaria!
A Relaxing Massage
No vacation is complete without a little rest and relaxation. After all, us parents need a break too! Hear over to East of Eden, a locally-owned wellness spa center that offers a variety of traditional massages, as well as a few more unique options. While we opted for the massage, East of Eden is known for their float therapy treatments. Float therapy is known for helping decrease stress, anxiety, and pain.
They also offer halotherapy treatments. By spending time in their salt room, visitors will experience reduced lung inflammation, helping to alleviate respiratory problems. If you suffer from any of these ailments, we highly recommend one of these treatments. But even if you don’t have any of these ailments, you’ll enjoy the relaxing experience provided by both of these treatments.
In addition to providing excellent service, East of Eden, a proud encourager of local businesses and artists, designates an area of their spa to the work of local artists, with items available for purchase. These handmade, paper flowers that hung on the wall were a true reflection of the local talent. This thoughtfulness is just one of the many ways the friendly and dedicated staff of East of Eden works toward making their clientele feel relaxed and comfortable.
And what trip would be complete if there wasn’t a little shopping? Located in downtown Muskegon is the Farmer’s Market. Here local vendors provide customers with locally-grown food, flowers, baked goods, and crafts. During the summer season (May-November), they are open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8am-2pm. If you like to support local business and receive quality products in return, then there is no better place to shop. Be sure to also make a stop at Century Club Retail Center on Western Ave to cool off with some Mochi, a unique Japanese ice cream treat!
Once you complete your shopping at the Farmer’s Market, head down the street to the Western Market. What makes this shopping experience unique is that each individual boutique is set up in a small chalet. Visitors can stop by Maggie’s Gourmet Foods & Gifts for some snacks, Soap Dude for some cosmetics, or even Book Nook for that perfect read or unique gift for the bibliophile in your life. The Western Market also features a volleyball court, ping pong table, sand soccer, and fowling. If planning to visit these adorable boutiques, keep in mind that the market is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. From the Farmer’s Market to the chalet boutiques of the Western Market, you’ll be sure to find the perfect souvenir to help you remember your trip to Muskegon. We know we’ll never forget ours!