Turning my head, I see the blue water of Lake Michigan on one side and the other, sand, lots and lots of sand. Freedom is calling me to run as fast as I can up the dune and to come right back down. The kid in all of us is ready to burst out of you and do you let it? Of course! You are on vacation at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, and it is prime family fun time! Here are the top 7 Family Fun Things to do at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
1. Playing in the Sand Dunes, Water, and Watching the Sunset
You can set up camp right at D.H. Day State Park or bunk at one of the local resorts around Glen Arbor. Look for the ghost forests, where dead trees are poking up from the sand dunes that seem to be in the middle of nowhere. Walk along the edge of the sand and dip your toes in the waters of Lake Michigan. Build sand castles or look for small treasures to take home with you. At the end of the day sit and enjoy the beautiful sunset that mother nature has on display for you.
2. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
This 7.4-mile loop has all the fantastic views you would want for a scenic drive. Twists and turns through the beech-maple forest, overlooks of Lake Michigan and Glen Lake, stops for picnic areas or dune hikes. This road is a great drive with numerous stops that you could spend days taking it all in.
3. Lake Michigan
The Lake Michigan overlook is one of the stops on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. You have to get down a 450-foot steep sandy hill to put your feet in Lake Michigan at the bottom. The thing to remember is that for how easy it looks to get down, it is almost double the time to get back up. There is a deck overlook to wait and watch the most adventurous of your family run down the hill and lobster crawl back up.
4. Cottonwood Trail
The Cottonwood trail is also a stop on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It is a 1.5-mile trail through the dunes. This hike is where you can experience all aspects of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Such as Blow-outs, where erosion has left bowl-shaped areas for kids to run on, up and over; wildflowers, or even wild animal tracks from animals that make the dunes home.
5. Town of Glen Haven
Explore Glen Haven and it will be like stepping back into the 1920’s. The General Store’s shelves are filled with antiques, snacks, toys, kitchenware and of course books regarding the area. The Blacksmith Shop is an interactive experience where you can watch a real blacksmith create amazing things and get to ask him questions. The Cannery Boathouse is filled with restored old boats for you to check out.
6. Maritime Museum
During the summer kids can participate in the re-enactment of saving victims of a downed ship. Raggedy-Ann and Andy are in buoys that kids have to work as a team to bring them to safety. This technique is how the US Life-Saving Station saved over 178,000 people since 1871. After the rescue drill, you can watch them fire the Lyle Gun into the water. This demonstration shows how they were able to get the line to the ships to bring the sailors to land. After or before the demo, you can spend some time in the museum and see how the keeper of the station lived.
7. Dune Climb
The highlight of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is the Dune Climb. Kids will enjoy climbing and running down this hill. If you are interested in continuing over the hill to Lake Michigan, the hike will take approximately 3-4 hours. Remember to take lots of water on the hike. For those that want to stay close to the base of the dune, there are plenty of places to enjoy a picnic. You can spend a lovely afternoon here at the Dune Climb.
Sleeping Bear Dunes is a fun place for a family to explore the outdoors in northern Michigan. Spend a weekend or a week; there is enough to keep everyone busy here!