In northern Michigan it sometimes feels like we wait all year long for summer! And when it comes to outdoor activities, our region has so much to offer. A simple walk around the block or to your local park can be an easy morning or evening activity that doesn’t call for much planning. But, with some of the most beautiful, sandy beaches for play, swimming, and relaxing, planning for a beach day will not disappoint. Remember before you head outdoors, whether for that quick stroll or a full day at the beach, apply sunscreen regularly and generously to protect your child’s skin from harmful UV rays.
Fun in the Sun
When planning your beach outing, look for beaches that have public restrooms and changing rooms including showers or an area to spray off. Extra kid-friendly bonus points for beaches with pavilions and playgrounds. Don’t forget your sunscreen and check the water weather conditions. As fun as the water and sun can be, it’s important to take precautions especially with the kiddos. Check out the popular and recently renovated Clinch Park in Traverse City. With a swimming area and lifeguard, this Grand Traverse Bay beach is kid-friendly offering grassy areas along the tree-lined TART Trail as well as restroom/changing areas, a splash pad, and a cafe serving a variety of picnic style foods and ice cream.
You can combine the beach, shady trails, and public art at the Walk of Art, an outdoor sculpture gallery in the Elk Rapids Day Park on South Bay Shore Drive. A collaboration and in cooperation with Antrim County and Art Rapids!, the Day Park is about 15 acres of forest and a quarter mile of beach frontage along East Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. It has public restrooms, a picnic pavilion with handicap access from a 90-car parking lot, numerous foot trails and picnic sites with charcoal grills and tables with views of the water. Warning: there is no lifeguard at this day park and beach. The Lumberman’s Monument in Oscoda is an educational and fun activity with handrail stairs leading to a beautiful view over the AuSable River. With a visitor center and many outdoor exhibits explaining the process of cutting logs and getting them to the mills, Lumberman’s Monument also offers picnic tables and grills in a shady, wooded area.
Riding bikes is an excellent activity any time of year and a great way to maintain health and wellness as a family. The TART Network currently offers more than 100 miles of regional trails in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties as well as cross-town bike routes. With markers along the way, you can plan a bike ride around various landmarks and community amenities. It’s recommended to always wear a helmet and learn the rules of the road. Local resources for urban bike riding skills are available through Norte! Youth Cycling.
Farmers Market Fun
A visit to your local Farmers Market is a summer activity that celebrates community. Kids (and their parents / caregivers) can meet their local farmers, learn where their food comes from, and discover (and taste) a variety of fresh fruits and veggies. Many Farmers Markets are located near a city or community center, offering easy access to trails and sidewalks making is easy to add a walk to the market as well as other amenities like parking and public restrooms. Many Farmers Markets, like the Farwell Farmers Market and their Crispy Crunchy Club, offer special programs just for kids including entertainment and activities.
There are many different kinds of kid-friendly activities that offer stimulation and opportunities to interact and connect with your child. Be sure to check out what’s available and offered in your community and the surrounding area.