If you haven’t yet discovered the beauty of the West Michigan shore, you’re missing out! I may be totally biased as I grew up just an hour from Lake Michigan, but nothing beats a day at the beach in Michigan. While there are dozens of towns up and down the coast, one of my favorites is South Haven.
If you’re a Midwesterner who thinks that a beach trip means a drive to Florida, you’re missing out on a fantastic vacation, right in your own backyard, especially for families. South Haven has family-friendly amenities that make it perfect for everything from a quick weekend getaway to big family reunions.
What to do in South Haven with Kids
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1. Visit the Beach
South Haven has several city beaches that are great for families. South Beach is located right down the hill from Main Street and includes a great playground, snack shack and restrooms. You can watch the boats heading out through the channel and take a walk out to the lighthouse. Kids have plenty of room to spread out and parking is nearby for a small fee or free if you’re willing to walk a bit further.
We also love some of the small beaches on North Shore Drive like Oak Street Beach and Packard Beach. Most don’t have restrooms and parking is limited to small paid lots or street parking but they tend to be a little quieter for an afternoon stop at the beach.
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2. Kids Corner Playground
This huge wooden playground is the centerpiece of this park, located just a few blocks from downtown and overlooking the bluffs of Lake Michigan. From downtown, it’s between Monroe St and S. Haven St off of St. Joseph. My kids can’t get enough of the twists and turns in the climbing structures and there’s plenty of room to run as well.
The playground is mostly in the sun but there are big trees nearby for some shade and a picnic pavilion is also onsite. When the kids are worn out you walk across the street and catch the sunset as you look out over the Lake.
3. Pick Your Own Fruit
No matter what time of summer we head to South Haven, we’re always sure to find some sort of pick-your-own fruit. South Haven is famous for their blueberries (and even have their own festival to honor them in August) but we’ve picked cherries, peaches, and raspberries too.
Later in the fall, there’s great apple picking as well. Sampling is totally encouraged and the prices are usually good enough that I can gather up enough to have leftovers for some quick freezer jam or ice cream sauce. Stop by the Visitor’s Center on Main Street for info on where to pick.
4. Grab Ice Cream at Sherman’s Dairy Bar
You can eat the locally-made ice cream at several places around town but for the best experience head across Interstate 196 off of Phoenix Street to the original store, Sherman’s Dairy Bar. Expect to wait in line after grabbing your number on a busy night but the line moves fairly quickly and is totally worth it. Homemade onsite, the butter fat content in this ice cream is probably illegal but oh man, is it good.
Kids will go crazy for the Michigan specialties like Superman and Blue Moon ice cream. Don’t wear nice clothes for this, Mom! A baby cone is plenty, even for me, so make sure you watch the size of the scoops being dished out while you wait, to judge how big your stomach really is.
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5. Go To The Movies
If you’ve gotten too much sun or have a rainy day, I can’t recommend the Michigan Theater enough. Don’t expect a Megaplex. This is a small town theater with 3-4 new release movies showing at a time.
It certainly isn’t fancy and you won’t find any bells and whistles but that’s part of the charm of this place. Plus, you can’t beat the price. Cheap tickets and treats make this a must-do for our family. If you’re staying for a week and think you might return, grab the refillable popcorn bucket to get refills for around a dollar.
South Haven With Kids
Make sure to check out the calendar of events before you visit for info about local festivals, art shows, and the times for the farmers market. The family-friendly vibe of the whole town makes it easy to enjoy with kids and feel like you’re truly getting away.
Rentals book up early for this popular vacation destination! Check out available VRBO rentals in South Haven as early as you can to make sure you find a place you love. There are a few hotels in town but when traveling with kids, I highly recommend renting a house or condo.
Spending a week in South Haven? Make sure to check out my post about nearby St. Joseph for more fun activities for kids.
Have you been to South Haven? Do you have a favorite West Michigan getaway? Need help planning your Great Lake vacation? Leave a comment below!