Along the shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City offers a scenic area for your family to relax over a long weekend or extended holiday. In Traverse City, vacation rentals are available close to the water where you can wake up each morning and eat breakfast with amazing views, or in the town center in the midst of all the fun. Of course, it’s a family vacation so you want to make sure that you have something for even the smallest members of your family to enjoy doing. As you make plans, check out this list of the top nine things to do with kids in Traverse City.

1. Traverse City State Park

With the summer sun heating the water, Traverse City State Park is the place for a little respite. Pack your beach towels and a picnic lunch for a day on the beach at this local park. In the cooler months, this park’s bike paths offer a safe place for your family to ride bikes away from the traffic so new learners have plenty of space. The picnic shelters offer a place for lunch, and the heated restrooms make it easy to spend the entire day in the park.

2. Clinch Park

Clinch Park is another great park with a beach for summer swimming and playing in the sand. If you have young, inexperienced swimmers, this beach offers lifeguards during the summer for additional safety. Build sandcastles or fly a kite on a windy day. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the tables or grab lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. With 1,500 feet of sand along the lakefront, this park provides plenty of space to spread out.

3. Mt. Holiday

In the winter months, Mt. Holiday is the town’s hot spot with more than five ski runs for your family to try depending on your skill level. You can rent skis at the resort or bring your skis from home and keep them in the garage of your vacation rental. If you have small kids, rent tubes and slide down the dedicated area on them. Each child must ride in his or her own tube and can’t sit on your lap. You can rent helmets to keep your little ones safe.

4. Traverse Tall Ship Co.

Head out onto Lake Michigan on a sailboat instead of a motorboat with the Traverse Tall Ship Co. This company offers a variety of sailing options, including a modern yacht and the replica of a 1800’s schooner. You can enjoy a day of sailing on the lake or leave your vacation rental behind for a night and spend it on board one of these boats. Fall asleep to the gentle rocking of the waves and wake to a full breakfast before returning to land.

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5. Music House Museum

When the day turns too cold for outdoor fun, or the rain comes, hop in the car and drive the short distance to the Music House Museum. At this museum, your family will learn more about the history of the area and the music that’s unique to the Great Lakes region. Your kids will get to see the collection of instruments that span more than 150 years from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. Volunteer docents provide a guided tour and interesting tidbits about the area.

6. Great Lakes Children’s Museum

Your little ones will love learning without realizing it at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum. This museum has a variety of hands-on exhibits to learn more about Traverse City, Lake Michigan, and the surrounding area. At the Fluids 101, your kids will work toward directing the flow of water and then redirecting. It’s a great way to learn about the challenges of engineers working with water. The museum offers The Hatchery for the toddlers so they can work on their small-motor skills.

7. The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

Learn more about the local plants, trees, and flowers at the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park along with some non-native species. The building that now houses the garden’s visitors centers was once the Traverse City State Hospital‘s Granary. Start your visit by looking at the original stone walls that lead to the tunnels between the granary and the hospital in the olden days. This botanical garden offers guided tours, and it’s worth taking one. The guide shares information on the plants along with local stories.

8. Miller Creek Nature Reserve

At the Miller Creek Nature Reserve, your family can take a walk along the wooden walking paths or bring their bikes and ride through the woods. This nature reserve offers a great spot for bird watching or looking for wildlife. While walking along the 3.5-mile path, you’ll see the remains of a plantation, a beautiful meadow, and the beech forest with its towering trees. A creek flows through the park so bring your fishing gear and throw your line in from the banks.

9. Ice Fishing

In the winter months, Lake Michigan freezes and makes tradition fishing impossible. In this neck of the woods, ice fishing is a popular sport. Take your family out on the frozen lake and cut a hole in the ice. Your family can sit around the hole and drop their lines to catch the fish but make sure you dress warmly. When you’re done, return to your vacation rental for mugs of steaming hot chocolate.

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