This spring, we suggest you hop in that minivan and explore our great state as one big ol’ family. You can all wake up to a lumberjack’s breakfast, haggle with Dutchmen down by the windmills or hit up the lakeshore for a day full of brisket and guitar licks from Jonny Lang.
Note to parents: If a vice is something you enjoy that’ll eventually kill you, I guess having kids is a vice. In the meantime, spend your days traveling around West Michigan to enjoy some innocent, all-ages pleasures families can enjoy together.
Behind the colorful, swirling mosaic that lines the exterior walls of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, there lies a whirlwind of activity and education.
Children at play repair car engines, build skyscrapers, perform in rock concerts, travel through jungles and paint masterpieces. They stare in awe at giant bubbles, observe honeybees in a hive, walk across a balance beam and literally climb the walls.
Raising a family is expensive. Braces, XBox and college tuition really adds up. But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find free and cheap things to do as a family that are fun, healthy and educational.
Get in the holiday spirit early by touring a chocolate factory, shopping in a traditional Dutch Kerstmarkt and singing carols in Hackley Park. Then, head over to Ludington to celebrate beauty and scholarships.
Catch the last glimmer of sunshine traveling around West Michigan by boat and other glorious modes of transportation. By Steven G. de Polo
Tomáš Kubínek: Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible
The Mendel Center Mainstage at Lake Michigan College
2755 E. Napier Avenue, Benton Harbor
Saturday; Oct. 3; 7 p.m.
themendelcenter.com; (269) 927-1221
Kick off the month with a certified lunatic, Dr. Professor Tomáš Kubínek, master of the impossible. A refugee from the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Kubínek ran away to be in the circus by age 13. Today he is recognized worldwide as a comic genius, virtuoso vaudevillian and all-round charmer. The 90-minute show is fit for all-ages. The spotlight will struggle to catch the performer, a physical poet and verbal acrobat who does not have to hide behind special effects. There will be needless risks and fantastically useless inventions. A pre-show cash bar will be available in the front lobby one hour before show time.
Beaver Island Ferry Dock, Charlevoix
keweenawexcursions.com; (231) 237-9365
Charlevoix Apple Festival
A relaxing jaunt could be catching the vibrant fall colors in Charlevoix this October. Since 2000, Keweenaw Excursions has been offering sunset and sightseeing tours along Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Charlevoix. You will cruise on the 110-foot vessel capable of carrying 130 passengers with full bar, heated/air-conditioned main cabin, walk-around main deck and open-air top deck. There is plenty of room for the kids to explore and just be kids 10 minutes after the cruise starts. And don’t think it’s too late for the color change.
“The color season ends later up here,” said Captain Jason Funkey. “Everything is dead in Boyne Highlands as we go through mid-October.” Go the weekend of Oct. 9–11 to catch the Charlevoix Apple Festival. Some 30 types of apples will be on hand as well as other fall harvest items like pumpkins, squash, jam, honey, maple syrup, pies, caramel apples, cider and more. “It will be in the 70s one day, then sleeting and in the 40s the next day. Color season will be over for the year,” Funkey said.
Downtown Holland and Holland Farmers Market, Holland
Haul your hellions to Holland for the Fall Fest; it runs Oct. 9–10. Co-hosted by the fine folks at Downtown Holland and the Holland Farmers Market, the two-day event will have professional pumpkin carvers carving onsite, jack-o-lanterns on display and hayrides to and from the Farmers Market. Kids will be able to do competitions like pumpkin painting, pumpkin toss, candy in a haystack hunt, guess the weight of the pumpkin and other activities to win prizes.
Shop downtown’s charming boutiques for cozy sweaters and warm boots for the fall. Stay late to see the pumpkins glowing to perfection. Saturday night features the Down Home Old Fashioned Country-Style Comfort Food Cook-Off with live music and an outdoor beer tent. Cheers!
201 76th St SW, Grand Rapids
americanrv.com; (877) 863-9527
Travel in style in an RV rented by American RV and then head over to the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland. The center’s Wildlife Kayak Tours are family-friendly kayak excursions focusing on wildlife discovery and education. American RV’s Chad Neff recommends a Trek Motorhome, which is made for families with an active lifestyle and plenty of storage for gear including water sports.
Don’t miss the Somewhere in Time Weekend (Oct. 16-18) at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Be prepared to dress the part and even meet cast members like Jane Seymour. Camp out at the Mackinaw Mill Creek campground in your Travel Lite truck camper and then take the ferry over to the island for the weekend. Another must-see is the Fall Color Tour along M-22. It’s a 116-mile stretch of scenic highway through Benzie, Manistee and Leelanau Counties. Tip: Pick a bunkhouse travel trailer, which is easy to pull into campgrounds along the route.
Now is the perfect time to turn the little ones into future cinema and art snobs — but also teach them valuable life skills, like helping locals in need. Here’s where to start on some new life goals.
It’s summer time and the driving is easy. Now that you have a young family, there’s no more crashing with friends at murder motels. It’s time to load up your minivan, grab your kids and let’s drive at the speed limit across this great state in search of some all-ages fun.
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