A few weeks ago, we embarked on a short summer road trip to southwest Michigan. Southwest Michigan is a beautiful part of the state with some amazing beaches on Lake Michigan and inviting small towns. It’s only a few hours away from us too, so it works great as a summer getaway.
We left on July 3rd in the late morning, and drove for a couple of hours to New Buffalo, which is pretty close to the Indiana border. We stopped here and had lunch at a great restaurant called The Stray Dog. The food was great, and we loved all of the dog photos they had on the walls!
An hour or so later we pulled into our hotel parking lot in Benton Harbor— a Comfort Inn & Suites. The staff here was very accommodating and nice. Our boys loved the pool and hot tub, of course, and we all appreciated the hot breakfast they served every morning.
After some Googling, we discovered that this area of Michigan was doing their 4th of July fireworks display tonight! So, we headed over to Silver Beach in St. Joseph in the late afternoon and spent some time there playing, swimming in the lake, and digging in the sand. There’s a great little food stand right on the beach, so we got dinner from there (hot dogs and fries). The boys had a blast playing in the lake. Angie and I took turns with them in water.
The beach started to get really crowded as everyone came to see the fireworks show. About an hour from sundown, clouds rolled in and it became really foggy! We couldn’t see the headland to the south or the pier to the north. We were all concerned we weren’t going to be able to see the fireworks. Luckily, it cleared up right before dusk settled in and we could see a bit a blue sky as the sun went down.
The fireworks show was great! I for one was really impressed. Apparently, the revenue the city or county generates from the beach allows them to put on such a good show. Every time I thought it was the finale, it just kept going. Eventually it did end, and we drove back to the hotel.
July 4th was a bit of a disappointment. We should have realized before the trip— most places would be closed that day! We spent some time in the hotel, going out to get lunch, and then, dinner. After dinner, we decided to go to another beach— Warren Dunes, which is about an hour’s drive south of the St. Joseph area.
There are HUGE dunes at this state park. The boys decided to climb the largest one, which is called Tower Hill. Angie and I decided the climb would be too much so we just watched. The boys had a hard time getting up, but the trip back down was easy for them (and fast!). We all took some time playing in the water and relaxing on the beach. Not too many people were at the beach, so it was fairly quiet and relaxing. Except for one gentleman that kept playing pop music from the early 00’s. That was annoying. We stayed until just before sunset, and then headed back to the hotel.
July 5th turned out to be a fun day. Angie and I were all beached out so we told the boys no beaches today! After breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to the Sarett Nature Center. This is a great place to take a family. We walked through the center first, which has many displays of live local fauna, including birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Then we walked through the butterfly house. It was fun to see all the colorful butterflies flitting about from flower to flower.
Afterwards, we went on an obstacle course in the woods. The boys had a great time on this, although Asher found some parts a bit difficult. Angie did pretty good on it. Then we went a short hike. They have a really neat treetop look out on one path. It’s a very tall structure that takes you about 50′ out above the Paw Paw river’s floodplain. You’re literally in the treetops. We all though this was really cool, except for Asher. Apparently the poor little guy is afraid of heights!
Our trek through Sarett left us hungry so we headed to a little restaurant called Cafe by Country Kitchen in Benton Harbor. The food here was good and the staff was amazing. We had a wonderful waitress who was not only kind but very attentive. We would highly recommend this restaurant for a family.
Later that day, we decided to catch a movie. We went to Celebration Cinema in Benton Harbor and saw Toy Story 4. The theatre was very nice. They serve full meals, which is rare in our area (only one theatre around us does this). The seating was great — very comfortable and spacious (and the seats recline!). The movie itself was pretty good. I won’t give any spoilers away, but it is a bit sad.
That night we were worn out, so we decided to get carryout from Applebees. There was one about 5 minutes from the hotel, so I ran out grabbed the food, and we ate in our hotel room.
July 6th we drove about an hour north to the Kalamazoo/Portage area and AirZoo Aviation Museum. This place was awesome! The kids all loved it. They had a ton of old planes — fighter jets, bi-planes, and even a spy plane! Their exhibits covered early aviation all the way through the space program. There were veterans there to give tours, which was a nice touch. They had a few carnival rides, which Asher liked, and interactive displays that kids could play with. Probably the boy’s favorite aspect were the flight simulators. These were a lot of fun. James and Quinn went in one and Angie and Asher went in another for the first time around. They went upside down and on the side. I was able to see what they saw inside the simulator with a monitor on the outside. Asher and Angie crashed several times. 🙂 James and Quinn did better.
After this we got lunch there. The food was actually really good! Angie and I got fancy grilled cheeses which were delicious. The boys of course just got hot dogs. Culinary adventurers they are not. Once we were done eating, Asher and I went back to flight simulators for another round. I was not looking forward to a wild ride. Luckily, there were 2 sets of controls in the cockpit. One control would control the simulation at a time and a button switched between controls. I made it so I had control of the simulation the whole time. Asher was none the wiser. We emerged from the simulation with only one barrel roll under our belts. Just as I planned!
Later that day we went to another beach. It was our last full day in Michigan so we figured another beach trip was in order. This time we went to Jean Klock Park (which has an interesting , and sad, history). There was a wave and rip current advisory out so Angie and I decided one of us needed to be in the water at all times with Asher. We weren’t as worried about James and Quinn because they are farely good swimmers. This beach was really nice. We got a spot close to the water and spent a ton of time playing in the waves, which were quite intense. It was kind of like being in a wave pool at a water park… except with a very large body of water surrounding you.
Everyone was eager to go home on Sunday. We left the hotel relatively early and got on the road. I was worried we were going to hit bad traffic headed back to Chicago but luckily we missed most of it.
Our last stop for our trip was a candy factory in Merrillville, Indiana. This was about a half hour south of our router home but it was worth it! We went to the Albanese Candy Factory and Outlet. Wow, was there a ton of candy! We stocked up with lots of gummies, and some other sweet treats. Of course, the boys wanted to eat all of it on the rest of the way home. We let them have some of it, but not all! They would have ended up with stomach aches.
The rest of the drive home was uneventful, thankfully. Scout was thrilled to have us home. He missed us all so much! We missed him too of course, and we missed being home. it’s always a nice feeling getting home after a trip. 🙂