3 Fun Day Trips in Northern Michigan for Grandparents and Grandkids

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Summer vacation has started and it’s the perfect time for grandparents to get quality time with their grandkids and have fun being active outdoors. We recommend these three day trips in Northern Michigan to Leland, Empire, and Boyne Falls. Get ready for frame-worthy photos filled with memories for generations to enjoy together!

Day Trip to South Manitou Island

Escape across the Manitou Passage from the Leland Harbor to South Manitou Island for the day. Round-trip day passes via the Manitou Island Transit in Fishtown are $40 for adults and $20 for kids. Spend the hour-and-a-half ferry ride taking in the Lake Michigan horizon while opening up the conversation about South Manitou Island’s history with grandkids. The family-friendly island is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and is a perfect place for an unplugged family adventure.

Once you’ve arrived, your young scientists will love discovering and exploring the beaches and hiking trails. Guided tours are available to learn about the lighthouse and the island’s village. Pack your backpacks with a healthy picnic lunch, as there isn’t food service on the island. But we can guarantee your packs will be filled with memories upon your return to the Fishtown’s docks.

Want to stay longer? Try camping on South Manitou Island!

Adventure Awaits at Boyne Mountain

From treetops to trails, adventure awaits for grandparents and grandkids at Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls. Available to anyone—resort guests and day-trippers alike—is Boyne Mountain’s Adventure Pass. It’s easy to fill up a whole day with diverse activities for all skill levels. Enjoy leisurely chair lift rides to take in the mountain scenery, or try your hand at a game of disk golf (yes, disks are included with the Adventure Pass!). No skills are required to participate in unlimited trips on the Twin Zip zipline. Plus, you can rent mountain bikes and fat tire bikes to travel the trails. Grandparents will enjoy teaching their grandkids how to hit golf balls at the driving range–and in turn, the grandkids may take pleasure in teaching their grandparents how to ride a Segway in the Courtyard.

Pick up your Adventure Pass at Boyne Mountain’s Adventure Center for $49 for adults and $35 for juniors. Same-day reservations are often available for impromptu adventurists, however, it’s recommended you contact the Adventure Center for activity days and hours. Full zipline and Segway tours are available for an additional cost, as are other activities such as horseback riding, kayak rentals, paintballing, and more.

An Empire Excursion

Do your grandkids love the water? A day trip to Empire along the Lake Michigan coastline will have them bragging to their friends once school is back in session! Begin your morning with a 9:30 a.m. surfing lesson. Yes, surfing, on Lake Michigan. Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak offers Great Lakes surf lessons every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. Their instructor to student ratio of 1:4 or less helps teach paddling and pop-up techniques. The hour-and-a-half lesson costs $50 (board rental is included) and reservations are required. Want something a little more relaxing? Head to Empire’s Lake Michigan Beach or North Bar Lake for a morning swim. 

After a lunch break in Empire, six miles from the Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak shop is the famous Sleeping Bear Dune Climb. The walk up is hard, but everyone loves running down! Older children will also enjoy the 3.5-mile round-trip hike from the parking lot to the Lake Michigan shore. The hike can take several hours (there are several hills you’ll want to rest after), so don’t forget to pack some water for the trek. Also remember, you’ll need a park pass for your vehicle. A week pass costs $20 and an annual pass costs $40.


More Active Adventures


Shape Up North is a community collaboration dedicated to helping northern Michigan residents benefit from healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. Living a healthier lifestyle can and should be an enjoyable adventure. Small changes in habits at school, work, and home can have long-lasting, positive effects on your health. With an abundance of great local foods and a four-season playground right outside your door, you and your family can lead a healthy, fit, and fun life.