Bavarian-style house in Frankenmuth, MI

This past weekend, I visited the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan. There’s something to be said for the charm of a small out-of-the-way zoo like Battle Creek. The really unique thing about it is that you can get up close and personal with the giraffes. For $5, you can get six pieces of lettuce to feed them. My son was absolutely terrified, but hey, it made for some great pictures.

If you’re planning some summer travel with the kids, why not consider visiting Michigan? I want to share some of my favorite places that are within driving distance of our home base here in Detroit.

Greenfield Village, Dearborn – 20 minutes from Detroit

Are you a history buff? Going to Greenfield Village is like taking a step back in time. It’s home to 83 authentic historic structures, and when I say authentic, I mean Henry Ford literally ripped these buildings from where they were standing and moved them to Dearborn. They have a carousel, carriage rides, Model-T rides, a farm, a steam engine, a glass-blowing factory… I could go on forever. It’s open April through January, and they go all-out for the holidays. They have trick-or-treating at Halloween, and at Christmas, all the houses are decorated in period fashion. This weekend is Civil War Remembrance Weekend, in honor of Memorial Day, and let me tell you, this is THE time to go. They have hundreds of military re-enactors, artillery demonstrations, and more. History comes to life here, and you just won’t find a place like this anywhere else. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Greenfield Village is attached to the Henry Ford Museum? It has a ridiculous amount of cool stuff (like the chair Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in) and a stunning IMAX theater, and both are open year round!

Frankenmuth – 1.5 hours from Detroit

Want a cheap trip abroad? This quaint little Bavarian town offers a taste of Germany right here in Michigan. Frankenmuth has the world’s best chicken dinners. I’ve personally made the 90-minute drive just to have dinner at Zehnder’s or the Bavarian Inn. A family-style chicken dinner here includes cabbage salad, fresh baked bread, cranberry relish, the best buttered egg noodles you will ever taste, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and of course, chicken. At the end of the meal you get a bowl of ice cream, which is always decorated with a little plastic Bavarian man or woman. I adore these, and I’ve become an avid collector of these little plastic Bavarian people. Also worth a stop is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, A.K.A. the coolest Christmas store in the world. They sell absolutely everything to do with Christmas. Frankenmuth also has a historical museum, a great shopping area, a fantastic winery, and carriage rides.

John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids – 2.5 hours from Detroit

This is one zoo where you aren’t stuck behind the glass. At John Ball Zoo, you can feed the budgies, ride the camels, pet a stingray or sea urchin, and hug some farm animals. I don’t think there’s a more interactive zoo out there.

South Haven – 3 hours from Detroit

Nothing is more relaxing than a day spent on the beaches of Lake Michigan. Random fact: South Haven is the blueberry capital of the U.S. They have a blueberry festival every August which attracts nearly 50,000 people. South Haven is a cute little beach town, and there’s no place more perfect to spend a quiet day on a freshwater beach.

Michigan Adventures, Muskegon – 3 hours from Detroit

Michigan’s largest amusement park and water park is the perfect attraction for families with older kids. It has a mix of roller coasters, thrill rides, family rides, and water adventures. For a day of excitement, this is the perfect place to go.

If you live in Michigan, take time to appreciate the amazing things you have around you. If you live somewhere else, we hope you’ll come explore our beautiful lakes and all the other cool things the Great Lakes State has to offer.

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